Western European juggernauts Team Liquid have become the second Grand Finalists of the ESL One Berlin Major 2023 after they defeated Eastern Europe's 9 Pandas, 2-1, in the tournament's lower bracket finals on Sunday (7 May).
With their victory, Team Liquid have secured at least a second place finish as well as US$100,000 and 450 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) points in winnings. They now look ahead to a rematch of the Lima Major Grand Finals against Gaimin Gladiators, this time with the Berlin Major championship as well as the grand prize of US$200,000 and 500 DPC points at stake.
Meanwhile, 9 Pandas bow out in third place and with US$75,000 and 400 DPC points in consolation. It's still a commendable result for a team that played without captain Alexey "Solo" Berezin due to visa issues and with Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosian as a stand-in.
Liquid were one of the biggest favourites entering the Berlin Major, though it took them a while to get into form. On the other hand, 9 Pandas exceeded expectations all throughout the tournament.
Liquid and 9 Pandas both played the Group Stage in Group A and finished with 10-6 records apiece. However, 9 Pandas took their group's second seed by virtue of not losing a series and relegated Liquid to third, who lost 0-2 to first seed Gaimin Gladiators.
Both teams' paths then diverged in the Playoffs. 9 Pandas defeated North American powerhouse Shopify Rebellion and The International 11 (TI11) champions Tundra Esports to meet Gaimin Gladiators in the upper bracket finals. The Lima Major champions then swept 9 Pandas to become the Berlin Major's first Grand Finalists and send them to the lower bracket finals.
Meanwhile, Liquid were knocked down to the lower bracket in the first round of the upper bracket after getting upset by OG. Liquid then went on a rampage through the lower bracket, knocking out Xtreme Gaming, Team Aster, Tundra Esports, and Evil Geniuses to meet 9 Pandas in the lower bracket finals.
9 Pandas had a flying start to the series, as Gleb "kiyotaka" Zyryanov put up a game-high 13 kills against one deaths on Queen of Pain to lead his team to a 26-16, 38-minute game one victory.
However, Liquid were quick to strike back in game two behind a nigh-unstoppable duo of Alchemist for Michael "miCKe" Vu and offlane Medusa for Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg simply swatting 9 Pandas aside. The team's support duo of Samuel "Boxi" Savahn on Skywrath Mage and Aydin "Insania" Sarkohi on Shadow Demon notably had 10 kills apiece to pace Liquid's 39-20 kill lead in 41 minutes.
If game two was one-sided, then game three was an absolute stomp. Liquid pulled out a beastly midgame lineup that had both damage and healing in spades.
MiCKe on Alchemist and Michał "Nisha" Jankowski on Lone Druid brought the damage while zai on an offlane Witch Doctor and Boxi on Io provided the healing. Insania brought up the rear with some anti-heal as Ancient Apparition.
Liquid simply took the lead from get-go and never looked back, even diving into 9 Pandas' base just 11 minues into the game and somehow got away with four kills without a single member dying.
With all the momentum in the world behind them, Liquid bulldozed through 9 Pandas in one last fight to secure the 2-1 series victory in 21 minutes and with a 23-7 kill lead.
For everything you need to know about the Berlin Major, check here.
Team Liquid roster:
Michael "miCKe" Vu
Michał "Nisha" Jankowski
Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg
Samuel "Boxi" Svahn
Aydin "Insania" Sarkohi
9 Pandas roster:
Roman "RAMZES666" Kushnarev
Gleb "kiyotaka" Zyryanov
Matvey "MieRo`" Vasyunin
Vladislav "Antares" Kertman
Vladimir "RodjER" Nikogosian (stand-in)