Both Cloud9 and ENCE pulled out comeback victories in the opening of quarterfinal action Thursday at the ESL Pro League Season 17 in Saint Julian's, Malta.
Taking advantage of their double-bye earned as champion of Group A, Cloud9 claimed a hard-fought 2-1 win over MOUZ, who had taken second place in Group B and had only one playoff bye.
In the day's other match, Group D runner-up ENCE upset and eliminated Group C winner Team Vitality by rallying for a 2-1 triumph.
That sets up a head-to-head clash in Saturday's semifinals between Cloud9 and ENCE, with the winner advancing to Sunday's grand final.
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 moved into the quarterfinals, with the group runners-up landing in the Round of 12 as high seeds. The four third-place teams entered the Round of 16 as high seeds, and the four fourth-place teams went 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.
Thursday action began with C9, which last played in the event on Feb. 26 in their group-stage clincher, dropping the opening map 16-10 on Inferno -- with MOUZ finishing on a 10-1 run. But after falling behind 8-3 on Vertigo, C9 found their game, winning the map 16-11. C9 then jumped to an 11-1 lead on Mirage and held on to win 16-10.
Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov of Russia carried C9 in victory with 69 kills and a plus-14 kills-to-deaths differential.
ENCE'S comeback Thursday may have proved more dramatic. ENCE nearly won the first map after trailing 13-5 before losing 16-14 on Nuke. Down 1-0 in maps, ENCE built a 14-2 edge on Overpass and eventually won 16-11 to even the match. The final map had five lead changes, with ENCE scoring the final five points in a 16-14 thriller on Vertigo to move on.
Poland's Pawel "dycha" Dycha led ENCE with 64 kills while teammate Alvaro "SunPayus" Garcia of Spain led all players with a plus-14 K/D differential.
Quarterfinal action continues Thursday with the other end of the bracket in the Round of 12:
--Heroic vs. Natus Vincere
--forZe vs. FaZe Clan
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 -- MOUZ, Team Vitality
9-12. $25,000 -- Outsiders, FURIA Esports, G2 Esports, paiN gaming
13-16. $20,000 -- 00 Nation, Fnatic, Team Liquid, Movistar Riders
17-20. $15,000 -- Eternal Fire, BIG, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Astralis
21-28. $8,000 -- MIBR, IHC Esports, SAW, Complexity Gaming, OG, Grayhound Gaming, Rare Atom, Team Spirit
29-32. $4,000 -- Evil Geniuses, Imperial Esports, Rooster, ATK
--Field Level Media