The first day of the ELeague Major playoffs, taking place in Atlanta, kicked off Friday with six teams eager to advance to the semifinals in an effort to win their share of the $1 million prize pool. Natus Vincere, Astralis, Fnatic, North, and Gambit partook of the Day 1 action, with Astralis, Fnatic and Virtus.pro winning their quarterfinal matches.
Natus Vincere and Astralis kicked off the action Friday with an emotional roller-coaster ride from start to finish. Natus Vincere entered the matchup with a perfect 3-0 record in the group stage, but it was Astralis who jumped out to an astonishing 12-3 lead in the first half thanks to Nicolai "dev1ce Reedtz's AWP skills, leading the team with 109.3 ADR. Natus Vincere started off the second half winning the pistol round but lost three of the ensuing seven rounds to fall 16-7 in the first match of the series.
After enduring a tough loss on Map 1, Natus Vincere looked to bounce back on Mirage. The CIS-based team jumped out to a quick lead in the first half of Map 2, but Astralis managed to hang around, only trailing 9-6 at the half. The second half favored the Danes until Natus Vincere came back to send the match to map point. A near double kill by Astralis' Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth missed by a pixel, resulting in a series-extending Map 2 win by Natus Vincere.
The deciding map, Dust2, went back and forth as each team traded a handful of rounds in the first half, with Natus Vincere taking the 8-7 lead into the second. Natus Vincere took the second pistol round and tied the score 10-10 but was stopped dead in its tracks in the subsequent six rounds as Astralis would earn a 16-10 Map 3 win and a trip to the semifinals.
The second best-of-three came between the Swedes of Fnatic and the other CIS-based team, Gambit. Fnatic started the series on its map pick Cache and promptly put together a dominating 16-7 performance in Map 1. Gambit would turn right around and even out the series, laying a smackdown of their own to finish Map 2 with a commanding 16-3 win. Again the deciding map became Dust2, with Fnatic racing out to a 9-6 score at the half. The second half wouldn't fare any better for Gambit, as Fnatic would go on to earn their spot in the semifinals with a 16-7 Map 3 win.
The last quarterfinal matchup of the day came down to the Polish Plow of Virtus.pro taking on the Danes of North in a thrilling best-of-three series. Virtus.pro was another team who had earned a perfect 3-0 outing in the group stage and looked to continue its undefeated record into the playoffs.
North began the series on their Overpass pick that went south in a hurry. Virtus.pro brought out the Plow early, earning a dominating 14-1 lead at the half. North was only able to respond with three in the second before falling 16-4 in Map 1.
Looking to put the series away, Virtus.pro would stumble out of the gates in Map 2, trailing at the half 9-6. Riding its first half momentum, North managed to lose just three rounds in the second half to secure a 16-12 Map 2, sending the game into yet another do-or-die Map 3. In the deciding match, North took lead in the first half thanks to Emil "Magisk" Reif's impressive first half performance, putting together a nearly insurmountable 12-3 lead. However Virtus.pro would rally together a string of 13 consecutive round wins to earn the stunning 16-13 Map 3 come-from-behind win, joining the likes of Astralis and Fnatic in the semifinals.