Dota 2 Riyadh Masters: Liquid, Talon, Spirit, BetBoom advance to upper bracket semis

Meanwhile, Gaimin Gladiators, Quest Esports, Team Aster, and 9Pandas have been knocked down to the lower bracket.

The opening day of the Dota 2 Riyadh Masters Playoffs saw Team Liquid, Talon Esports, Team Spirit, and BetBoom Team advance to the upper bracket semifinals. Pictured: Talon Esports 23savage, Team Liquid Nisha, Team Spirit Yatoro, BetBoom Team Pure. (Photos: Talon Esports, Team Liquid, Team Spirit, BetBoom Team, Gamers8)
The opening day of the Dota 2 Riyadh Masters Playoffs saw Team Liquid, Talon Esports, Team Spirit, and BetBoom Team advance to the upper bracket semifinals. Pictured: Talon Esports 23savage, Team Liquid Nisha, Team Spirit Yatoro, BetBoom Team Pure. (Photos: Talon Esports, Team Liquid, Team Spirit, BetBoom Team, Gamers8)

The Dota 2 Riyadh Masters 2023 Playoffs kicked off on Tuesday evening (25 July) with the first round of the upper bracket.

Across four matches between the tournament's heavyweights, the day's biggest highlight was another showdown between the two best teams in the world: three-time Major champions Gaimin Gladiators and three-time Major finalists Team Liquid.

After losing in the last three Major Grand Finals to Gaimin Gladiators, Liquid finally got some measure of revenge as they knocked their rivals down to the lower bracket early into Riyadh Masters.

Meanwhile, Southeast Asian powerhouse Talon Esports as well as Eastern European heavyweights Team Spirit and BetBoom Team also advanced to the upper bracket semifinals after they defeated Quest Esports, Team Aster, and 9Pandas, respectively.

Here's how all the matches in the opening day of the Riyadh Masters Playoffs went down:

Upper bracket quarterfinals

Talon Esports 2-1 Quest Esports

The playoffs kicked off with Talon pulling off a huge upset over Quest, who were the top seed of Group A, in a hard-fought 2-1 series. The Southeast Asian squad showcased their late game prowess as their two wins came in games that went past 50 minutes.

Game one saw Talon get off to a flying start and dominate come the midgame. However, Quest put up a stubborn defense that extended the game to the 52-minute mark. But in the end, Talon took the first game of the series behind Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon's Lifestealer, who finished with 13 kills against two deaths to pace his team's 35-21 kill lead.

Quest were quick to strike back in a 38-minute stomp in game two, Omar "OmaR" Moughrabi on a position 4 Mirana led in kills with 10 on two deaths to help his team force the series to a decider.

Game three was a rollercoaster, where Talon and Quest repeatedly traded blows in a 58-minute slugfest. Despite Quest's best efforts, Talon were able to outlast them to secure the 2-1 series victory behind Rafli "Mikoto" Rahman's Snapfire putting up 14 kills against four deaths to fuel his team's 33-20 kill lead.

Team Liquid 2-1 Gaimin Gladiators

The highly-anticipated second match of the day between Liquid and Gaimin Gladiators delivered on its top billing, as Liquid scored a rare victory over their biggest rivals to advance to the upper bracket semifinals.

Game one started out as a tight contest, but Gaimin Gladiators were able to edge Liquid out come the midgame to eventually take the 42-minute win. Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard on Broodmother led the way with 13 kills on three deaths as his team got the win despite being down 29-24 in kills.

Liquid were quick to tie things up in game two behind a show-stopping performance by Michał "Nisha" Jankowski on Templar Assassin. Nisha keyed a dominant laning stage for Liquid, from which they were able to snowball to a 39-minute win.

Nisha had 15 kills on two deaths to pace Liquid's 37-16 kill lead in game two, with Michael "miCKe" Vu on Monkey King also pitching in with 11 kills on just one death.

Game three must have been very cathartic for Liquid after their many losses to Gaimin Gladiators in the past. Another spectacular performance from Nisha on Templar Assassin fueled Liquid as they stomped Gaimin Gladiators in 42 minutes to secure the 2-1 series victory.

Nisha had a perfect 13-kill, 16-assist performance to fuel Liquid's 44-12 kill score while Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg on Legion Commander added 10 kills and a game-high 25 assists on two deaths.

Team Spirit 2-0 Team Aster

The third match of the day saw Spirit score the first/only sweep of the Playoffs so far, as they made short work of China's Aster.

Game one saw Spirit survive a strong start from Aster to take a 39-minute comeback win to start the series. Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk led the way for Spirit with an off-meta carry Bristleback pick, putting up eight kills on three deaths to pace his team's 18-13 kill lead.

Spirit then quickly closed out the series by soundly stomping Aster to the tune of a 15-4 kill lead in just 25 minutes of action. Denis "Larl" Sigitov on Leshrac and Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov on Enchantress fueled Spirit's dominant showing in the closeout game, combining for a clean 13 kills and 12 assists.

BetBoom Team 2-1 9Pandas

The fourth and final match of the day was an all-Eastern European affair between BetBoom and 9Pandas, with the former taking the series 2-1.

9Pandas started the series in the driver's seat in game one, but questionable moves from Gleb "kiyotaka" Zyryanov on Windranger gave BetBoom multiple chances to secure key pickoffs and mount a comeback. Despite 9Pandas' best efforts to regain momentum, BetBoom eventually stole the game one win from under their noses after an hour of action.

Egor "Nightfall" Grigorenko on Monkey King led the way for BetBoom with 13 kills and 13 assists against four deaths. Danil "gpk" Skutin on Storm Spirit and Ivan "Pure" Moskalenko on Dragon Knight also pitched in with nine kills apiece.

9Pandas were able to right the ship in a 38-minute game two behind a last-pick Meepo for Kiyotaka, who had eight kills and 11 assists on three deaths to help force the series to a decider.

BetBoom were quick to shake off their game two loss and simply ran over 9Pandas in a 36-minute game three to secure the 2-1 series victory behind standout performances from their three core players. Pure on Axe led the way with 12 kills on five deaths, Nightfall on Gyrocopter pitched in with 11 kills on just one death, and gpk on Storm Spirit had 10 kills on two deaths.

With the above results, Talon, Liquid, Spirit, and BetBoom have secured at least a Top 6 finish as well as US$800,000 in winnings. Those four teams will next face off in the upper bracket semifinals on Thursday (27 July) for a spot in the Top 3.

Here are the matchups for the upper bracket semifinals:

  • Talon Esports vs Team Liquid

  • Team Spirit vs BetBoom Team

Meanwhile, Quest, Gaimin Gladiators, Aster, and 9Pandas drop down to the first round of the lower bracket in day two of the Playoffs on Wednesday (26 July).

Here are the matchups for the first round of eliminations:

  • Quest Esports vs PSG.LGD

  • Gaimin Gladiators vs Tundra Esports

  • Team Aster vs Evil Geniuses

  • BetBoom Team/9Pandas vs Team Secret

The Riyadh Masters Playoffs will take place from 25 to 30 July with a double-elimination format. All matches in the Playoffs will be best-of-three series except for the Grand Finals, which will be a best-of-five.

The Riyadh Masters 2023 is the biggest Dota 2 event this year outside of the 2023 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) season, featuring a massive US$15 million prize pool. The champions of the Riyadh Masters will go home with a handsome US$5 million grand prize.

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