They take down Virtus.Pro in a nail-biting 5-map marathon in the Grand Finals.

After coming out of the group stage as the top 2 of their group, the Brazilians from SK Gaming and the Polish players from Virtus.Pro duked it out once again in the grand finals after taking down Astralis and G2 Esports respectively. (G2 Esports placed third after defeating Astralis in the third-place decider match, scoring 14:16 on Nuke, 16:14 on Mirage and 16:11 on Inferno).

Seeing Virtus.Pro make a phenomenal run to the Grand Finals has been quite the surprise – as they have been on such a disappointing slump up until this event, but the tried-and-true roster that is now one of the oldest running full 5-man teams in esports once again proved that they were always capable of standing toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world. Seeing them and SK Gaming slug it out across 5-maps was amazing, and I would recommend anyone who loves seeing some good CS:GO to check out the VODs for themselves – this was one of the best finals matches in a long time, full of nail-biting clutch rounds, incredible comebacks, and very close maps.

The first map of the series was Mirage, SK’s map pick, and it began with a great pistol round for Virtus.Pro, who managed to wipe out SK without losing a single person – this of course led to two successful anti-ecos, and even included the first gun round. Trailing 5 rounds to 0, SK finally took their first few rounds thanks to some impressive play from Marcelo “coldzera” David. VP held on to their lead however, Filip “NEO” Kubski racking up kills for his team as well. Once sides switched over, SK slowly began chipping away at VP’s lead, but Pawel “biyali” Bielinski had other plans, earning key frags and helping his team close out the map at 16:10.

Over on the second map of Inferno, this time VP’s map pick possibly thanks to their impressive performance on it all tournament, began the other way around, with SK taking the first pistol round. The Polish squad took back control during an eco-round, beginning a string of back-and-fourths during the succeeding gun rounds. The second pistol round also went the way of SK and secured them a 10:6 lead thanks to a 4k frag from the team’s “current stand-in but soon to be permanent member” Ricardo “boltz” Prass. This served as an impetus for SK’s continual dominance on the map, eventually evening the series with a 16:6 round score here.

The third map of train saw one of the biggest comebacks in recent history – a phenomenal show of force from SK Gaming. Despite Virtus.Pro starting off strong with an impressive 12:1 round lead, the Brazilians soon mounted their comeback with Fernando “fer” Alvarenga taking the lead in the last rounds of the half – once they changed sides SK came alive, matching VP with a tight defense. A 1v3 clutch from Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski gave VP the map point, but SK’s comeback would not be denied as they pushed into overtime, eventually closing out the map with a 1v2 clutch from Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo himself.

If the format’s Grand Finals called for a best-of-three, then Virtus.Pro’s impressive run would’ve ended right here, and SK would’ve taken the tournament with a close 2:1, but we would’ve been deprived of the amazing Counter-Strike to be witnessed in the final two maps of this Grand Final. The fourth map of Cache began with another early lead of 5:0 for Virtus.Pro on the CT side, a lead in the round score but with SK making them work extremely hard for it, keeping their economy on the edge. Combined efforts from Epitacio “TACO” de Melo and coldzera saw the Brazilians take a 2v5 clutch and the control of the game, ending the first half with a 9:6 scoreline. Once they switched sides, however, VP pulled off an impressive 9-round streak, and eventually took the map, forcing the series to go all the way to a fifth map.

The deciding fifth map of the Grand Finals effectively turned it into a best-of-one, all the clutch plays, highlight-reel-worthy frags, it all came down to this – and what a final map it was. On Cobblestone, SK secured an early 3:0 lead thanks to taking the first pistol round, but VP’s impeccable double-AWP setup in the gun rounds took their momentum for themselves, earning the Polish side a 7-round streak. Some impressive plays on both sides came out from NEO and fer, bringing the scoreline closer and closer, eventually closing the first half 8:7 in favor of VP. The second pistol round came the way of VP thanks again to some hero plays from NEO, allowing them to subsequently also take the following anti-ecos, eventually bringing the game to a 14:9. So close to map point however, SK kept fighting back. Despite a triple-kill from Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas, SK managed to tie the rounds and force an overtime – with each side taking three rounds each, a second overtime ensued, VP unable to close out a third. In double-overtime SK took no chances and got three rounds on a row, winning the map, and consequently, the tournament.

The EPICENTER 2017 Grand Finals in St. Petersburg, Russia, saw SK Gaming take home $250,000 dollars and cement their title as the world’s current best CS:GO team, it saw boltz integrate himself into his new team so well and so quickly. It also showed the world that this long-running Virtus.Pro lineup still had what it takes to stand with the best of them – and most of all, showed some exhilarating Counter-Strike, some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

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