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After the first two weeks saw teams feeling each other out, esports fans were hoping the third week of the Gfinity Elite Series would clear up the playoff picture.
Week 3 did not disappoint.
Saturday’s CS:GO action at the Hoyts Gfinity Esports Arena saw one of the most back-and-forth matches in competition history, as well as a history-making one-sided affair in another thrilling set of matches.
First up, it was the Brisbane Deceptors and Sydney Chiefs taking to the stage, with both sides in search of their first win of the season.
Brisbane started warm favourites after the Chiefs named another understrength line-up, but the late return of experienced duo Iyen and MoeyCQ swung the pendulum in Sydney’s favour.
The fans were desperate for the Deceptors – who’d been extremely close to winning both of their previous matches – to finally get on the board, but they looked set for a disappointing afternoon when they fell behind 9-2 early.
The visitors fought back to 8-9, but the Chiefs were able to keep them at arm’s length in the second half to claim a 16-12 victory.
While the Deceptors would have rightfully felt unlucky to not notch at least one win – and were perhaps a bit stiff to have the Chiefs make some late line-up changes on them – but they only had themselves to blame for today’s loss.
For every demonstration of improvement, such as a sublime eco-rush anticipation by imported players like Doom, there were some inexcusably poor plays and examples of non-existent planning.
Brisbane repeatedly sent players through the middle of the map with no utility to back them up, allowing the Chiefs to simply gobble up early kills.
There’s a fine line between aggression and recklessness, and the Deceptors repeatedly crossed it.
The Chiefs aren’t out of the woods yet, but if Iyen can continue to crack open bomb sites like VBs at a barbeque, they may still have a chance in Season 2 yet.
If fans thought they’d seen Iyen and MoeyCQ dominate, however, nothing could have prepared them for the carnage that was about to take place.
It was no secret that Perth Ground Zero were gunning for the top prize this season – and their top line-up impressed in week one with a 16-2 shellacking of the Chiefs.
It was also no secret that Melbourne Order were very vulnerable with their back-up squad taking to the stage.
But nobody – not even the most one-eyed Ground Zero fan could have possibly predicted what actually went down.
The first whitewash in competition history. Carnage. Destruction. Savagery.
Any aggressive adjective you can conjure applies to Saturday’s second match.
Each round was over so quickly and decisively it was simply impossible to see what Order were doing wrong.
Perth were beyond clinical, putting together a masterclass in controlled aggression. Their adventurous player movement to begin each round allowed them to gather all the intel on Melbourne’s movements and, from there, they just picked off Order players like nobody’s business.
It would’ve been delicious irony for Ground Zero brass, as last season it was their team who copped a rude awakening when Order brought their top line-up back midseason.
But this was the scariest single-game performance we’ve ever seen at the Elite Series.
Season 2’s heavy clashes with prestigious international invitationals may throw another spanner in the works, but if Ground Zero put this team on the stage every week, they won’t lose again.
That obliteration came and went so quickly, it forced Sydney Roar and Melbourne Avant to take the stage half an hour ahead of schedule.
That didn’t phase either team, however, as the day’s last two competitors put together the most thrilling match of the day.
Keen to avoid a repeat of last week’s slow start, the Roar got themselves out to an early 6-3 lead that they were able to convert into a 9-6 half-time advantage.
But the undefeated Avant were able to take over from there, going 10-4 in the second stanza to emerge 16-13 victors. The Sydneysiders did well to get to 13 rounds after it looked like the match was slipping away from them but, in the end, Melbourne were just too good.
It’s still a little bit hard to get a read on Avant despite their impressive 3-0 start.
They’re clear atop the standings right now, so they’re obviously doing something right, but they’re yet to really blow anyone away.
Sydney, on the other hand, would have to be reasonably happy with the fact they pushed a team they look up to almost the full distance.
A big highlight was the play of newcomer Zemp, who had a barnstorming performance for much of the afternoon – including an ace in the final round before the half.
Roar captain topguN spoke to us about his desire to help younger players this season – and his presence seems to be paying immediate dividends.
So, with just two weeks to go until the finals, we now know (mostly) where we stand. Perth are the red-hot favourites and Melbourne Avant look to be the dark horse challengers.
Order should still recover and make the finals although, as they reportedly won’t have their starters available for the playoffs, you can put a line through them. It’ll be interesting to see who out of the awakened Sydney Chiefs, streaky Sydney Roar and talented-but-unlucky Brisbane Deceptors claim that final top four spot.