Dota 2 Riyadh Masters: Spirit first to Grand Finals, Liquid and Talon round out Top 3

For the first time this season, Gaimin Gladiators have lost a tournament after Talon knocked them out of the Riyadh Masters in fourth place.

Only Team Spirit, Team Liquid, and Talon Esports remain standing after the penultimate day of the Dota 2 Riyadh Masters Playoffs. Spirit await in the Grand Finals while Liquid and Talon will face off in the lower bracket finals. Pictured: Team Liquid Nisha, Team Spirit Collapse, Talon Esports 23savage. (Photos: Team Liquid, Team Spirit, Talon Esports, Gamers8)

Only three teams remain standing in the Dota 2 Riyadh Masters after the penultimate day of the Playoffs: The International (TI) 2021 champions Team Spirit, Western European juggernauts Team Liquid, and Southeast Asian powerhouse Talon Esports.

Spirit became the first team in the Grand Finals after they defeated Liquid, 2-1, in the upper bracket finals.

Meanwhile, Talon notably earned their place in the final day of the tournament by doing something that was previously thought to be impossible this season. After sweeping 9Pandas in the lower bracket quarterfinals, Talon overcame three-time Major champions Gaimin Gladiators in a 2-1 slugfest to hand them their first loss in a tournament this year.

Here's how all the action went down in the penultimate day of the Riyadh Masters:

Lower bracket quarterfinals

Talon Esports 2-0 9Pandas

Talon kicked off the day with a sound 2-0 sweep over 9Pandas to advance to the lower bracket semifinals and face Gaimin Gladiators at the end of the day.

Game one saw Talon overcome 9Pandas in a 61-minute marathon behind stellar performances from Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon on Medusa and Rafli "Mikoto" Rahman on Windranger.

Mikoto fueled Talon's 35-18 kill lead with an excellent 15-kill, 12-assist performance on just one death. 23savage also pitched in with 11 kills on three deaths.

9Pandas seemed discombobulated by their previous loss, as Talon routed them in 30 minutes to complete the series sweep. 23savage and Mikoto once again figured prominently in Talon's victory with perfect showings on Medusa and Storm Spirit, respectively.

Out of Talon's overwhelming 28-4 kill lead, Mikoto had a clean 12 kills and 11 assists while 23savage put up 10 kills and assists apiece and also did not concede any deaths.

Even after their resounding victory over 9Pandas, Talon could not let up quite yet as they still had to prepare for a difficult match against Gaimin Gladiators to end the day.

Upper bracket finals

Team Spirit 2-1 Team Liquid

The second match of the day saw Spirit upset Liquid by pulling off a 2-1 reverse sweep to become the unexpected first team in the Grand Finals.

Liquid started the series strong with a methodical 49-minute win behind Michael "miCKe" Vu's Medusa and Michał "Nisha" Jankowski's Dragon Knight, who combined for a clean 10 kills and 18 assists to pace their team's 25-10 kill lead.

Spirit then struck back in a hard-fought 54-minute comeback thanks to Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk's Slark, who put up 13 kills on two deaths to help his team force the series to a decider.

Carrying their momentum from game two, Spirit bulldozed through Liquid in a 32-minute rout in game three to complete the reverse sweep. Yatoro on Faceless Void and Denis "Larl" Sigitov on Windranger were key in leading the TI 2021 champions to the Riyadh Masters Grand Finals.

Spirit's 23-4 kill score in the closeout game was paced by a combined 15 kills on Yatoro and Larl, with both players also only having one death apiece.

Lower bracket semifinals

Talon Esports 2-1 Gaimin Gladiators

The highlight of the day is definitely Talon finally vanquishing the Goliath that is Gaimin Gladiators in a 2-1 thriller in the lower bracket semifinals.

The action was intense from the get-go, as Talon got their first win of the series by overcoming Gaimin Gladiators in a 50-minute marathon behind strong performances from their core players.

Mikoto on Ember Spirit led the way with a stellar 15 kills and 16 assists against just one death. Anucha "Jabz" Jirawong on an offlane Razor pitched in with 10 kills on three deaths while 23savage on Terrorblade added nine kills on one death.

The Major champions were quick to strike back, however, as they tied up the series at 1-1 in a 47-minute game two behind an off-meta Bristleback pick for Anton "dyrachyo" Shkredov. Dyrachyo paced his team's 23-18 kill score with 13 kills and six assists on one death.

With everything on the line in game three, Talon came out swinging to dominate early into the decider. However, Gaimin Gladiators were able to slow the game down and steadily chip away at their opponents' lead. But when it came time to fight in the midgame, the Southeast Asian squad came out with the edge.

The Major champions then stalled things out once again, only for Talon to best them in the deciding clash for Roshan. Despite a valiant last stand from Gaimin Gladiators, Talon finally broke through their defenses after 52 minutes to hand them their first tournament loss and survive to the final day of the Riyadh Masters.

With the day's results, Spirit have guaranteed themselves at least a second place finish as well as US$2.5 million in winnings. Of course, they have their eyes set on the US$5 million grand prize and will await their Grand Finals opponent between Liquid and Talon.

Talon also locked in at least a third place finish as well as a US$1.7 million prize. They will look to exact revenge against Liquid in the lower bracket finals for the chance to challenge Spirit for the championship.

Meanwhile, Gaimin Gladiators and 9Pandas have ended their runs in the Riyadh Masters.

Gaimin Gladiators bow out of their first tournament loss this season in fourth place and with US$1.2 million in consolation. While this loss definitely stings, their payout from Riyadh is notably double the prize money they earned from all three Majors they won this season.

On the other hand, 9Pandas exit in 5th-6th place and will take home US$800,000 for their efforts.

The final day of the Riyadh Masters will begin with the best-of-three lower bracket finals between Liquid and Talon. The winner of that match will then take on Spirit in the best-of-five Grand Finals.

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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