Apeks earn last ESL Challenger Atlanta spot
The European combine completed a run through the lower bracket with a win over FORZE.
Apeks have secured the last spot at ESL Challenger Atlanta after emerging victorious from the European closed qualifier, beating FORZE 2-0 (16-13 Mirage, 13-10 Inferno) in the grand final of the double-elimination bracket.
Damjan "kyxsan" Stoilkovski's side completed a heroic run through the lower bracket of the qualifier after suffering a loss to FTW in their opening matchup, a journey that included victories over Pompa, PERA, and Movistar Riders.
FORZE, meanwhile, went undefeated in the upper bracket and beat out Space, PERA, and FTW to make the grand final, with the Portuguese team forced to forfeit their subsequent consolidation final match against Apeks due to internet issues.
That forfeit allowed Apeks through to the qualifying match, and it was there that kyxsan's calling proved crucial in earning his team an opening map victory. A 3-1 start on the CT side of Mirage for the European combine gave way to a 7-5 half in favor of FORZE, with the Russian team extending their lead to 10-6 after the break.
FORZE newcomer Erkhan "gokushima" Bagynanov had impressed throughout the event and the team had him to thank for their lead, but it was one they struggled to hold on to once Apeks were on the offense.
kyxsan led his team to win five rounds in a row to steal away the lead, and though FORZE kept things close to force overtime, a 3-0 sweep on the attack in the extra set of rounds saw Apeks close things out, 16-13, on the Russian team's map pick.
The 23-year-old's leadership wasn't the difference-maker on Inferno, however, with a woeful T side leaving Apeks with just three rounds to their name after the end of the first half.
Instead, a masterclass defense allowed the European team to pull off an immense comeback to close out the series, winning nine rounds in a row to reach match point before closing out the game, 13-10.
|FORZE||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|37 - 37||0||71.8||1.07|
|34 - 42||-8||73.2||0.92|
|34 - 42||-8||72.0||0.88|
|31 - 40||-9||70.3||0.88|
|30 - 40||-10||68.8||0.81|
|Apeks||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|48 - 37||+11||96.3||1.36|
|38 - 33||+5||90.6||1.32|
|42 - 31||+11||68.6||1.17|
|37 - 34||+3||74.2||1.17|
|35 - 31||+4||78.0||1.09|
ESL Challenger Atlanta will take place from December 15-17 with the following teams in attendance: