Only three teams remain in contention for the title at the ESL One Berlin Major 2023 after the fifth and penultimate day of the Playoffs on Saturday (6 May).
Lima Major champions Gaimin Gladiators are on the cusp of their second Major championship this season, sweeping 9 Pandas in the upper bracket finals to become the Berlin Major's first grand finalists and send their opponents down to the lower bracket finals.
South America's Evil Geniuses (EG) knocked out super stand-in squad OG, only to fall to a rampaging Team Liquid in the lower bracket semifinals.
Read on for a breakdown of all the action in the fifth day of the Berlin Major Playoffs:
Lower bracket quarterfinals
Evil Geniuses 2-1 OG
The day started with South American powerhouse EG taking on Western Europe's OG, who have made a deep run in the Major despite fielding stand-ins. While OG were able to force the series to three games, EG still got the better of them to advance to the lower bracket semifinals against Team Liquid later in the day.
Game one featured very weird lineups on both sides. For one, EG had a mid Anti-Mage for Jean "Chris Luck" Salazar to counter a first-pick Medusa from OG, who were forced to pivot the hero to position 5 for Kartik "Kitrak" Rathi as a result.
Despite their wonky draft, EG still managed to make things work and outlast OG in a 48-36 slugfest that ended just before the hour mark. Despite playing an unusual hero for his role, Chris Luck still showed out with a game-high 19 kills against six deaths.
OG struck back in a back-and-forth game two, taking a 35-minute victory behind the one-two punch of Artem "Yuragi" Golubiev and Bozhidar "bzm" Bogdanov. Yuragi had 10 kills against two deaths on Phantom Lancer while bzm put up nine kills on three deaths on Windranger.
While the first two games of the series were closely-contested affairs, game three ended up a complete stomp. Farith "Matthew" Puenta showcased the power of his support Bounty Hunter, winning all three lanes for EG and letting them snowball to an easy 39-8 victory in 29 minutes.
Even if Crhistian "Pakazs" Savina stuffed the stat sheet as Monkey King with 19 kills on just one death, Matthew's Bounty Hunter was still the key to EG's victory with his five kills and game-high 21 assists on five deaths.
Upper bracket finals
Gaimin Gladiators 2-0 9 Pandas
The second match of the day saw reigning Major champions Gaimin Gladiators take on rising Eastern European squad 9 Pandas for the first spot in the Berlin Major Grand Finals.
While 9 Pandas made Gaimin Gladiators sweat a little in game one, they were still run over in a 2-0 sweep.
9 Pandas had a stellar start to the series, as they absolutely dominated the laning stage of game one. However, Gaimin Gladiators showcased their championship pedigree as they methodically weathered their opponents' aggression and punished their overextensions en route to a comeback.
Game one ended after 39 minutes and with 9 Pandas up 34-23 in kills, but it didn't matter. As that famous saying in Dota goes, "Kills mean nothing, the Throne means everything."
9 Pandas seemed tilted after they let game one slip from their hands, as the Gaimin Gladiators were the ones to get a flying start and ride it all the way to victory. Anton "dyrachyo" Shkredov on Terrorblade led the way, notching 10 kills against two deaths to pace his team's 27-16 kill lead.
Lower bracket semifinals
Team Liquid 2-0 Evil Geniuses
EG's phenomenal run in the lower bracket was finally put to a stop by Team Liquid in the lower bracket semifinals in a resounding 2-0 sweep.
Michael "miCKe" Vu put on a show as Alchemist in game one, as he was able to farm freely and become a nigh-unstoppable force that gave his team the victory after 40 minutes. MiCKe notably ended the series opener with 13 kills against one death as well as a net worth of 40,000.
Game two was even more one-sided than game one, as Michał "Nisha" Jankowski took the spotlight as Ember Spirit. He had 11 kills against two deaths to fuel a 29-7 kill lead in 33 minutes for Liquid that saw them advance to the final day of the Berlin Major.
With the day's results, Gaimin Gladiators have guaranteed themselves at least a second place finish as well as US$100,000 and 450 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) points. Of course, they have their sights set on a second Major championship this season as well as the grand prize of US$200,000 and 500 DPC points.
Team Liquid have also guaranteed themselves at least a third place finish as well as US$75,000 and 400 DPC points. Should they manage to defeat 9 Pandas in the lower bracket finals, then they will have a rematch of the Lima Major Grand Finals against Gaimin Gladiators.
Meanwhile, EG and OG bow out of the tournament in 4th and 5th-6th place, respectively. EG will take home US$50,000 and 350 DPC points while OG will have US$25,000 and 300 DPC points in consolation.
The Berlin Major Playoffs follows a double-elimination format where all matches are a best-of-three except for the Grand Finals, which will be a full best-of-five series.
The Berlin Major will take place from 26 April to 7 May and will feature 18 of the best teams in the DPC battling for their share of the US$500,000 prize pool and 2,700 DPC point pool. Those DPC points will go towards securing all-important direct invites to this year's iteration of The International, Dota 2's annual multimillion dollar world championship tournament.
For everything you need to know about the Berlin Major, check here.