Season 3 of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive North American Esports Championship Series has now reached its halfway point with the conclusion of Week 4. While the top four teams in the standings remain the same, three of the four teams have changed positions to add a bit of intrigue as the league moves into the second half of the campaign.
Cloud9 had a busy week as just one of four teams to play two separate series. Opening against NRG Esports on Tuesday, C9 bungled its first chance to gain some ground in the standings. Despite getting a 7-1 lead in Game 1 on Inferno, Cloud9 allowed NRG to battle back for the 16-12 win. The loss inspired C9 as it then came out with renewed energy in the second game on Inferno to pick up a 16-7 win to split the series.
Cloud9 was back again on Wednesday for a showdown with Counter Logic Gaming in a series that ended up having major implications in the standings. Knowing that this series could catapult the team into the top of the standings, C9 shot out the gate to of a 6-0 lead. C9 was in control all the way to a 15-8 map point before CLG tried to make things interesting with a few round wins. However, C9 recovered and secured the 16-13 win. The second game was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team gaining much of an advantage until the late stages of the matchup. After taking a narrow 8-7 lead into the half, C9 outlasted CLG to pick up the 16-14 win to lock up the top seed in the NA ECS.
OpTic Gaming only played one series, but it made that series count against Luminosity Gaming. OpTic dominated the late rounds of both games to pick up six points on the week. While LG did manage to keep things close early on in the first half of Game 1 on Nuke, once OpTic found its groove, there was nothing at all that LG could do. OpTic's Keith "NAF" Markovic was the driving force in the team's 16-9 win in the first game with his 28/15 KD (kills/deaths). Moving on to Mirage for Game 2, OpTic was in control from the start, owning a 5-2 lead from the outset. While LG managed to pepper in some round wins here and there, OpTic's massive eight-round run spanning the first and second halves was enough for a 16-9 win.
SK Gaming was back at it this week after taking last week off for IEM Sydney, and it didn't have the best of showings against some midtier teams. SK matched up against Renegades on Cache and the Brazilians started out strong enough with an 11-6 lead. But the team completely fell apart from there. Renegades used some big runs to battle all the way back and pick up the 16-14 win. Sticking with the same map, SK came out flat in the second game, falling behind 5-0 early on. It then regained its footing with the help of Epitacio "TACO" de Melo, who posted a 28/15 KD, to go on some incredible runs in the first and second halves to split the series with a 16-11 win.
Despite splitting its earlier series on Thursday, SK still had a chance to crack into the playoff positions with a 2-0 series win against NRG to close out the week. After the first game on Cache, that looked like a sure thing. SK was it expected, dominant form in the first half, pushing NRG all over the map with a strong 12-3 showing. While NRG opened with three wins in the second half, SK easily secured the final rounds needed for the 16-7 win. For all the good that SK did in the opening game, it was all unwritten in the first half of the second game on Inferno where NRG took a 10-5 lead into the break. SK didn't back down, though, as it went on a 9-1 run in the second half to tie things at 14. NRG showed up in the clutch, however, to completely shut down SK and pick up the 16-14 win.
As the halfway mark is now upon us, the playoff picture still isn't extremely clear. Cloud9 sits atop the standings with 24 points, but from there the table gets complicated. Counter Logic Gaming and OpTic Gaming are tied for second with 18 points, while Team Liquid rounds out the top four with 15 points. SK Gaming and NRG Esports also have 15 points, though, which means five of the top six teams are within three points of each other. The last four weeks will certainly be exciting as those teams compete for a spot in the finals.
Week 5 will get underway on Tuesday, May 16 at 6 p.m. ET with Cloud9 taking on OpTic, which will be followed by Team Liquid and Renegades at 8 p.m. ET.