Esports Gaming: In one of the most hotly contested tournaments of the year, Brazil’s SK Gaming claimed first place at this year’s BLAST Pro Series at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Six of the Best in Copenhagen
BLAST had arguably the most unique tournament of the year, with only six teams attending and two entering the playoffs. With every team being a top-ten team in the world, the action was sure to be explosive, and BLAST certainly delivered in all facets.
For SK Gaming, their start to the tournament was less than ideal, losing in an incredibly one-sided Inferno 3-16 against Astralis, the latter of whom played this event without superstar AWPer dev1ce, who has been replaced by dennis for the remainder of the year due to the extent of dev1ce’s illness. The next match of the round-robin group stage saw SK Gaming defeat the French “super team” of G2 Esports in convincing fashion; 16-8 on Cobblestone. SK’s key to victory was their prolonged success on the T side, where SK won 13 of the available 15 rounds.
SK continued that momentum into their third match, this time against IEM Oakland champions Ninjas In Pyjamas. SK Gaming took NiP to school on Train, dismantling them in a 16-4 rout. Coldzera went ballistic for SK, acquiring 26 kills in the 20 rounds of play.
The final two matches for SK Gaming were played on Mirage, first against FaZe Clan, and then against the Danes of North. SK dropped their game against FaZe Clan primarily off the back of FaZe’s rain having an absolutely incredible game, securing a “thirty bomb,” or 30 kills, in the 16-8 win. SK bounced back to close out the group stage against North, winning in a close 16-12 affair.
SK and Astralis Meet
Given their 3-0-2 record, SK Gaming moved into the Grand Final, pairing up against their first opponent, Astralis. Given the circumstances, Astralis were a shock to make it so far, particularly due to how deep the field of this tournament was. The first map was Mirage, where Astralis secured an impressive 11-4 T-half. T sides are typically more difficult with a stand-in, as on the CT side a player can essentially just play their spot and adapt on the fly, while more precise timings are needed for the executions of the T side. While SK did secure seven rounds in a row after dropping the second-half pistol, Astralis steadied themselves and gathered the final four rounds necessary for the 16-11 win. Even in defeat, FalleN had a stunning 28 kills, surpassing Astralis’ Kjaerbye (25) for most in the game.
The second map was Inferno; the map Astralis stomped SK on in the group stage. However, SK looked like a completely different team, dominating the T-side for a 10-5 half. After dropping the initial three rounds of their CT side, SK won out the final six rounds for the comfortable 16-8 win. While boltz did top the scoreboard with 22 kills, FalleN was the highest rated player, sporting a 1.67 rating due to his 13 assists with only 9 deaths; incredibly impressive numbers considering the 24 rounds.
Overtime Needed for a Winner
The final map of the Grand Finals was Cache, where each team fought blow for blow. Astralis came out of the gates on fire, securing the first nine rounds of the match. SK Gaming went on a run of their own to close out the half, claiming the final six rounds to keep the score respectable at 6-9. Each team fought tooth and nail in the second half, leading to a 15-15 score and Overtime. SK Claimed two of three rounds on their CT side, meaning they needed two rounds on the T side to claim victory. SK would do just that, claiming the first two rounds of their T side to take home the title of BLAST Pro Series Champions. Once again, FalleN led the way with an absurd 38 kills.
FalleN was the clear MVP of this tournament; if for no other reason his stupendous display during the Finals. While SK were impressive, there’s something to be said about Astralis pushing SK to the brink even with a stand-in who had almost no practice time given the circumstances.
Both SK and Astralis, even with dennis as a stand-in the remainder of the year, will be top dogs, along with FaZe, heading into the final events of the year.