Gambit Take Down Virtus.pro to Win IEM Katowice
The all-CIS region Grand Finals of IEM Katowice 2021 have ended with Gambit Esports taking a 3-1 victory over Virtus.pro. The former Gambit Youngsters squad who were promoted to the main roster in October of last year have brought home the organization’s biggest victory since the PGL Krakow Major in 2017.
Getting to Grand Finals
Gambit’s road to the finals began with a loss in their first Group Stage game against Evil Geniuses. Their early placement into the Lower Bracket was no issue as Gambit were able to beat mousesports, Heroic, and G2 Esports on their way to the playoffs.
When Gambit were matched up against the big dogs of their region and defending IEM Katowice champions Na’Vi, many thought that the Youngsters’ run would be cut short. Instead, Gambit showed up big and crushed their older brothers in two maps: 16-12 on Overpass and 16-6 on Train.
A second consecutive 2-0 sweep against Team Spirit would land Gambit a spot in the Grand Finals of one of Counter-Strike’s most prestigious tournaments. Opposing them was Virtus.pro, another CIS squad who had defeated powerhouses like Astralis and Team Liquid to get here. The trophy was truly anyone’s for the taking.
A Close Start
Map one was Gambit’s pick of Vertigo. Their T side started off with a pistol round victory, bringing them to 3-0. Once VP got their full buy, they took control. Two successful bomb defusals led to winning nine of the next ten rounds in a row. Gambit did manage to take the final two rounds of the half, but being down 6-9 on their map wasn’t ideal.
Virtus.pro looked to compound on their lead with a second-half pistol win. However, Gambit’s force buy stopped the polar bears in their tracks. A similar CT side win streak then occurred for Gambit. With the score at 14-11, Gambit looked to close out their map pick.
Instead, VP went to work on the offense. The next five rounds in a row all went their way. Although two were save rounds by Gambit, VP showed a great game plan by switching up the tempo and pressure. Their three gun round wins came off of a Mid play into B, a fast A site hit, and a last-second A site hit. With a score of 16-14, VP took map one in the Grand Finals.
Awakening a Giant
The next map was Dust2. Gambit chose to start on the CT side. After losing the initial pistol round, they bought up and shut down VP’s momentum. A 5-2 lead was the result. Timofey “interz” Yakushin got off to a hot start, getting kill after kill to help his team take rounds. His efforts culminated in a clutch in the final round of the half, bringing the score to 9-6.
It was expected that VP would be able to bring the score back in the second half of their pick. However, Gambit put their foot on the gas from the get-go. A pistol round win converted into three clean rounds. Virtus.pro tried to get back into the game, but were forced to save in the next three rounds due to decisive attacks from Gambit. With interz on 25 kills in 22 rounds, Gambit found the 16-6 equalizer.
Now on their Train pick, Gambit were forced to start on the less favored T side. They didn’t care one bit, running up the score early. After their initial pistol win, Gambit took hold of the economy thanks to an amazing solo play from Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov.
Gambit’s reign of terror continued as they managed to plant the bomb in 14 of 15 offense rounds. VP never managed to stabilize as Gambit took an oppressive 11-4 lead. As if one second-half clean sheet wasn’t enough, Gambit did it again on Train. Five quick rounds resulted in a 16-4 win for Gambit. Hobbit’s monster performance netted him a 25-10 K-D ratio, 137.3 ADR, and a 2.07 HLTV rating.
Gambit Close Out Katowice
Championship point had arrived for Gambit. They had all the confidence in the world while VP was clearly struggling. Overpass was VP’s final map pick but it didn’t look like it. Their attack plan looked uninspired, allowing Gambit to easily counter them at the point of contact. Even when VP did find the upper hand in a round, Gambit’s confidence was the difference-maker.
Yet another 11-4 first half for Gambit put them in prime position to close out Katowice. VP at least put up decent opposition on the defense, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap. With room to spare, Gambit closed out map four 16-12 and took the IEM Katowice trophy.
This win is a special moment in Counter-Strike history. The Gambit Youngsters team who had only been promoted to the main roster five months prior have shown that they are a true force to be reckoned with. They came into this tournament ranked 19th in the world, but leave as the champions. Only five maps were dropped in nine total matches. MVP Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov has even tied Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev’s record for clutches at an event at 19.
This Gambit squad is something special, and with most of their players being between 18-20 years old, there will be much more of them to see in the future.