Natus Vincere punched their ticket to next week's playoff bracket at the ESL Pro League Season 17 with a straight-map victory in Group D on Saturday.
NaVi won their middle-bracket final showdown over Team Spirit 2-0, bumping Spirit into Sunday's lower-bracket semifinals.
In other Group D action, Team Liquid -- losers against Spirit in middle-bracket play one day earlier -- soundly swept Rare Atom 2-0 in an elimination match. On Sunday, Liquid will await the winner of Spirit's battle versus Astralis, who ousted ATK in a 2-1 thriller decided in overtime on the final map.
The $850,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament began on Feb. 22 with 32 teams divided into four groups for the triple-elimination opening round.
The group-stage winners move into the quarterfinals, with the group runners-up heading to the Round of 12 as high seeds. The four third-place teams enter in the Round of 16 as high seeds, and the four fourth-place teams go to the Round of 16 as low seeds.
The tournament champion will receive $200,000 plus berths in the Intel Extreme Masters Cologne this summer and the BLAST Premier World Final in December.
Spirit got off to a strong start Saturday, grabbing a 10-5 edge by the midpoint of their opening map (Anubis). But NaVi roared back to win 16-14, thanks to a map-clinching 5-0 run. Spirit apparently lost theirs, as NaVi scored the second map's first 10 points in cruising to a 16-7 win on Nuke to advance. Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev of Ukraine led all players with 42 kills and a plus-13 kills-to-deaths differential for NaVi.
In the lower bracket semis, Liquid had no problems with Rare Atom -- claiming consecutive maps by 16-7 (Nuke) and 16-5 (Mirage) tallies. Latvia's Mareks "YEKINDAR" Galinskis and Keith "NAF" Markovic of Canada each posted 40 kills for Liquid, with NAF also recording a match-best plus-20 K/D differential.
The wildest win of the day belonged to Astralis, who first scored an easy 16-8 win on Overpass before ATK followed with a win by the same score on Mirage to even the match. ATK then built what seemed an insurmountable 11-2 advantage on Inferno, but Astralis stormed back for a 19-15 win in overtime to avoid elimination. Nicolai "device" Reedtz led the all-Danish Astralis team with 68 kills and a plus-24 K/D ratio.
Group A play finished on Feb. 26 with Cloud9 coming in first, Outsiders in second, G2 Esports in third and Fnatic in fourth. Group B action ended on March 5 with Heroic in first, followed by MOUZ, FURIA Esports and Movistar Riders. In Group C, which concluded Sunday, the top four, in order, were Team Vitality, FaZe Clan, paiN Gaming and 00 Nation.
Group D play continues on Sunday with three matches:
--ENCE vs. forZe (upper-bracket final)
--Team Spirit vs. Astralis (lower-bracket semifinal)
--Spirit-Astralis winner vs. Team Liquid (lower-bracket final)
ESL Pro League Season 17 prize pool and points distribution:
1. $200,000, 3,000 BLAST Premier points, qualification for Intel Extreme Masters Cologne and BLAST Premier World Final
2. $90,000, 2,000 BLAST Premier points
3-4. $50,000, 1,200 BLAST Premier points
5-8. $35,000, 500 BLAST Premier points
17-20. $15,000 -- Eternal Fire, BIG, Ninjas in Pyjamas
21-28. $8,000 -- MIBR, IHC Esports, SAW, Complexity Gaming, OG, Grayhound Gaming, Rare Atom
29-32. $4,000 -- Evil Geniuses, Imperial Esports, Rooster, ATK
--Field Level Media