In the inaugural match of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive semifinals today at the Intel Extreme Masters in Oakland, California, perennial Swedish faves Ninjas in Pyjamas got off to a rough start. After losing their first pistol round to SK Gaming—the number-one ranked team in the world going into this tournament—the Ninjas proceeded to lose four more rounds consecutively due to some aggressive flanking maneuvers from SK’s fer.
Round six appeared to be heading in a similar direction, with NiP’s Xizt left alone at half health to defend the bomb against two opponents. All signs pointed to an unstoppable-looking SK continuing to dominate the match, but Xizt proved why he’s been an instrumental part of the NiP lineup for half a decade now with a beautiful AK-47 spray into A bombsite that eliminated both surviving SK players.
Despite SK Gaming winning the next two rounds, bringing the score to 7-1 in their favour, the momentum had shifted out from under the Brazilian team. Ninjas in Pyjamas found new strategies to shut down SK’s aggression, and won every round for the rest of the half, leaving them at 8-7 going into their CT side.
The second half of the map was similarly lopsided, with SK Gaming only winning 2 more rounds before NiP closed out the first game of the best-of-three series 16-9. For a match against ostensibly the best team in the world, on the map that SK had selected to play on, this was an impressive result for a NiP squad that has struggled to produce results at recent LAN events.
Compounding the impression that they were finding their formerly world-beating form once again, Ninjas in Pyjamas went on to win the semifinal match 2 maps to 1, losing on Cache courtesy of a massive 32-frag performance from SK’s coldzera, then coming back to close the match out on Inferno.
NiP’s GeT_RiGhT put on a show of his own in the final rounds of the third map, with a flanking maneuver so good that he surprised even the announcers.
Ninjas in Pyjamas will now move on to face the winner of the other semifinal match between Cloud9 and FaZe Clan, attempting to add one more championship trophy to their already impressive mantle tomorrow afternoon. If they pull it off, it will be a ringing reminder of their potential to a viewership that had begun counting them out of this tournament before it had even begun.