For Vitality, the fifth time was the charm.
The French team, bloodied and bruised after losing four straight finals in the last five months (two to Heroic and one to both Complexity and BIG), came back from two maps down to beat Natus Vincere 3-2 in the grand final of IEM Beijing-Haidian and pick up their first title of the year.
And what a reverse sweep it was.
Vitality looked dead and buried just two maps into the series. With the team down 8-14 on Dust2 and 0-1 in the series, coach Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam and in-game leader Dan “apEX” Madesclaire were rubbing their forehead in frustration. That was not how their map pick — or the series, for that matter — was supposed be going, but there was little that they could do to stop the onslaught from Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev during those first two maps, where the Ukrainian prodigy averaged a 2.05 rating.
But against all expectations, Vitality moved into high gear, using their six-man roster to perfection to equalise the series with dominant and aggressive displays on Overpass and Inferno. The final map, Mirage, was also a one-sided affair, but it could have been a completely different story had Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut not pulled off two absolutely stunning aces in the first five rounds to leave NAVI’s players distraught and doubting themselves for the rest of the game.
“We had a plan for this best-of-five but it didn’t work out, we were playing a bit scared on Dust2 and Nuke,” apEX said after the match. “He [XTQZZZ] just said: ‘Forget about everything, let’s just play our own game and let’s focus on ourselves.’
“I think that is why we had lost those finals before, because we hadn’t been ourselves. He is a big part of our win, without a doubt.”
NAVI came out all guns blazing on Nuke, setting the tempo from the outset as they brute-forced their way to a 7-0 lead, showing the same attacking intent that had earned them the victory against G2 the day before. Vitality tightened up and put together a few rounds, but their respite wouldn’t last: NAVI kept the pressure on their opponents, with s1mple putting the team in complete control during the final stages of the half, during which he pulled off a 1v3 clutch.
After an indifferent T performance, Egor “flamie” Vasilyev came to life in the second half as he picked up four kills in the pistol round to keep NAVI in the driving seat. s1mple held off Vitality in the first gun round with a trio of AWP frags, with Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy ending the game in style with a quad-kill of his own just two rounds later.
Vitality brought Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom on for Dust2 and they looked a different side during the early stages as they raced to a 5-0 lead on the T side. It seemed that NAVI would receive the same treatment that they had given Vitality on Nuke, but then the s1mple show began. The Ukrainian star spearheaded NAVI’s comeback with a stellar CT performance that saw him end the half with 26 frags, a 167 ADR, a 6-0 opening duel record and seven multi-kill rounds, including a stunning ace.
NAVI’s domination continued in the second half as they lost just one round en route to map point. Nivera stepped up to the plate and kept Vitality in the game with some stellar AWPing, but their recovery ended in the 28th round, when Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov landed the finishing blow with a quad-kill.
Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier was brought back on for Overpass, where Vitality finally showed their true colours. They took the fight to NAVI’s doorstep and picked up 12 rounds on the CT side, with Richard “shox” Papillon leading the charge with a 1.86 rating and a 133 ADR. The CIS giants still attempted a response after finding themselves facing map point, but their comeback efforts were buried when Cédric “RpK” Guipouy put the game to rest with a clean 4K.
Inferno followed the same pattern as Overpass, with Vitality dictating the pace of the game during a one-sided first half in which they cut through NAVI’s fragile defence with ease. In the second half, it was time for Vitality‘s young guns to shine as misutaaa and Nivera combined for 21 frags to carry the team over the finish line and fend off a late comeback attempt from NAVI.
ZywOo lit up the server on Mirage with two stunning aces in the opening stages, setting Vitality up for a 6-0 lead. After a much-needed tactical pause, NAVI were finally able to put some rounds together, bringing the scoreline to 5-10 with some key plays from the team’s star duo, s1mple and Denis “electronic” Sharipov.
Now playing on the T side, NAVI bagged the first three rounds of the half to keep their comeback hopes alive, but the landscape of the game changed once Vitality had money to work with. The French side won six rounds without response to put the game away and end their long wait for a title this year.
IEM Beijing-Haidian Europe final standings:
1. Vitality – $60,000 + IEM Global Challenge spot
2. Natus Vincere – $30,000
3-4. Complexity – $12,000
3-4. G2 – $12,000
5-8. Heroic – $5,000
5-8. BIG – $5,000
5-8. Astralis – $5,000
5-8. FaZe – $5,000
9-12. NiP – $2,500
9-12. mousesports – $2,500
9-12. MAD Lions – $2,500
9-12. Spirit – $2,500
13-16. ENCE – $1,500
13-16. North – $1,500
13-16. fnatic – $1,500
13-16. OG – $1,500