As THOR Open had to delay the semi-finals until Sunday, HLTV.org were presented the perfect opportunity to preview the playoffs, and we obviously ran with it.
Opening day at THOR Open saw NiP unsurprisingly go undefeated in group A, while Curse had a rough way into the playoffs through a three way tie, with their deciding game going down to a single round's difference versus Copenhagen Wolves.
In group B it was much different, as both Anexis and Lemondogs won the first two games, setting up their meeting as the decider for the first place. In the end, it was Anexis who got to avoid meeting NiP in the semi-finals.
NiP (f0rest, Fifflaren, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt)
While NiP have certainly matched everyone's expectations in terms of their overall results so far as they boast a record of three wins, you have to question their match against gosu a little bit, even if it meant little to nothing for them. You could argue it was a usual slip up by the better team where you still come through in the end and you wouldn't be wrong, but the fact is we haven't seen those slip ups from NiP yet in CS:GO. It could either mean they're losing focus or not.
NiP would obviously be favorites no matter which one of the final four teams they faced in the semi-finals, but especially Lemondogs seem like an easy match up for them. I think the younger Swedes, much like VeryGames, respect Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg & co a tad too much, and therefore find it hard to play their usual game against the best team in the world. I think it's possible Lemondogs gets hot while NiP isn't on their game and even wins the map, but I wouldn't count on it.
Regardless of who wins the second semi-final, I don't see either one beating NiP in a best-of-three series. I think that especially Anexis could pose a threat and win a single map against them, which would be a massive surprise to a team currently holding a 44-0 map record since CS:GO's inception, but this still won't be the tournament where the Ninjas are dethroned.
Predicted finish: 1st
Curse (allu, naSu, natu, reflex, ScurK)
Curse's tournament has been a terrible experience so far, not the least because of the event's title sponsor CDON's THOR computers. They have suffered from so many crashes it really makes it hard to even judge them on their losses. Crashing over five times a half basically means you play one third of it four-on-five - just let that sink in for a minute. How the organizers allowed this to go on, I have no idea, but I hear it's always a good idea to blame the players for your faulty equipment.
The Finns did however prove they are still the better team in a head-to-head matchup over Copenhagen Wolves, whom they defeated easily this past week online, which allowed them to make playoffs with some help from NiP. They are very streaky and certainly are prone to making some mistakes they should have been able to rid themselves of by now, but like I said so many times at DreamHack Winter; they have a high ceiling, and a low basement.
Anexis is without a doubt better match for Curse who definitely do stand a chance against the Danes, especially with a night of sleep after their group stage horror. I think the series will be close and unless more crashes occur will go the distance of three maps, but although Curse last defeated Anexis online, I have to give Anexis a slight advantage simply based on how promising they looked here. I think LD match up well against Curse, who might not be very motivated for a third place decider, and will knock them out of there, too.
Predicted finish: 4th
Anexis (coloN, MSL, Nille Pimp, ruggah)
Anexis have finally gotten over their group stage hump, partly thanks to n!faculty not being present in Stockholm after knocking them out of the last two big tournaments after the infamous exchange of words from Jacob "Pimp" Winneche made it clear the two Central European teams did not get along. Ironically enough, the Germans are also doing well at EPS Finals, so it looks like separation really is healthy for these two. Tomorrow we'll see just how healthy.
Morten "coloN" Johansen is yet to be really tested at this tournament and I'm surprised to see Winneche AWPing over him quite a bit so far, especially on de_inferno_se. However, I wouldn't still say adding him was necessarily an improvement, as René "cajunb" Borg has proven to be a strong player for the Danes in the recent months. Anexis has looked solid so far as a team though, and getting over that mental issue of getting knocked out early will surely help the Danes.
As I mentioned in the Curse paragraphs, I think Anexis are slight favorites to make the grand final, although the series should go to all three maps. They have lost against Curse online in the past, so we all know they aren't a safe bet by any means, but if I had to pick one based on their play in THOR Open so far, it would be Anexis. The Danes have the best chance to take a map off of NiP, but it will not be enough in any case, and they will leave Stockholm with a second place finish at most.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Lemondogs (beRg, cype, Spitfire, twist, zajp)
Lemondogs scored an easy win over fellow Swedes Western Wolves, but had a close call with Absolute Legends before being knocked into second place in the group by the strong Danes in the final match. It's becoming increasingly difficult to tell what is going on in the team without being on-site to observe the squad, as the huge loss versus Anexis simply didn't seem like something on the cards based on everything we know about the team.
They are nevertheless in the playoffs, but the bad news is that they will face the one team I don't think they stand any chance against at this tournament, NiP. Simon "twist" Eliasson can make a huge impact for this team when his AWP is on, and that is something that simply must happen if they wish to stand a chance at even winning a map against NiP. Isak "cype" Rydman saved them in the aL match, but it is Eliasson who has the highest potential in terms of individual performances.
The Swedes can play very well, but it seems as though they still lack some of the experience required to develop a real killer instinct, which will keep setting them back as a team. Although I think they may as well start directly in the third place decider, they do have a good chance at getting third. I don't think the 3-16 loss was a realistic indication of their level compared to Anexis, and they are surely more motivated then Curse to finish on the lowest podium. Time will tell if they can step up to the plate.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Both semi-finals will kick off simultaneously at 10:00 tomorrow morning, with the third place decider and THOR Open grand final starting shortly after at 12:30.