Virtus.pro and GODSENT impress at ELeague Major Day 1

The 2017 ELeague Major kicked off Jan. 22 in Atlanta. Kevin D. Liles for ESPN

With a $1 million prize pool on the line and months of fine-tuning rosters and in-game strategy finally taking shape, the 2017 ELeague Major kicked into action Sunday in Atlanta. With the tournament taking place stateside, expectations for North American teams were high, especially with OpTic Gaming and Team Liquid winning the ELeague Season 2 championships and placing second at ESL One Cologne, respectively. However, North America got off to a rough start in Atlanta.

In the fourth match of the Day 1 docket, OpTic squared off against Russian powerhouse Virtus.pro on Cobblestone. The match tilted in their favor after a 1 vs. 3 clutch play from Keith "NAF" Markovic won them the first pistol round. OpTic got their economy rolling and raced out to an early lead, but Virtus.pro's AWPer Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski kept chipping away at the lead with brilliant shooting and game sense, until the half ended in favor of OpTic, 9-6.

The slim margin immediately collapsed, as Virtus.pro, now playing T-side, tore OpTic to pieces after the money reset for both teams. When OpTic stormed back to retake the lead, it was Snax again who clutched a vital 1 vs. 2 round to tie the map at 13 rounds apiece. OpTic would not mount a second comeback, as Virtus.pro ran away with the momentum.

Shortly after Virtus.pro's victory, Team Liquid found themselves in a dogfight with Team EnVyUs on Cache. Despite recording a critical 1 vs. 2 clutch play in the opening pistol, round thanks to the efforts of Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer, the action remained close throughout much of the first half. The second half went exactly as nV envisioned, with legendary AWPer Kenny "kennyS" Schrub locking down the B-site with his signature array of impossible headshots.

Staring down a nearly insurmountable 15-9 deficit, Liquid's AWPer Josh "jdm64" Marzano pulled off the miraculous ace clutch, saving his team from sure defeat. Liquid stormed back, re-energized from jdm64's play, and extended the game to triple overtime, but eventually fell to nV.

Perhaps the most shocking result of the first day was perennial contender Astralis' loss at the hands of Swedish up-start GODSENT. Astralis has a history of dominating competition until the final hurdle, including finishing in second place at ELeague Season 2. But that success never carried over to Day 1 of the ELeague Major, as it was demolished by GODSENT on Train, arguably their most impressive map.

Astralis put up little resistance after GODSENT snowballed a Jesper "JW" Wecksell 1 vs. 2 clutch in Round 4 to take a 9-0 lead. Without their star player, Nicolai "device" Reedtz, on his best weapon, the AWP, GODSENT completely blew Astralis out of the water.

The other results from the day: G2 Esports defeated Fnatic 16-10 on Cache, SK Gaming beat HellRaisers 16-7 on Mirage, Na'Vi destroyed Mousesports 16-3 on Cobblestone, FaZe defeated FlipSid3 16-9 on Nuke, and Gambit defeated North (previously Team Dignitas) 16-8 on Cobblestone.