Kevin 'Strenx' Baeza has only defeated Anton 'Cooller' Singov once, recently at that, but the Russian just was too strong today in the semi-final of the IEM World Championship.
That's not to say the games weren't close, though. DM13 opened up with the two feeling each other out for over a minute, until strenx broke the deadlock with a well-timed attack. This immediately made Cooller turn on the aggression, and he quickly pulled a frag back and began taking control of items.
Cooller cratered shortly after picking up a second frag, and the score stayed at 1-1 for the full regulated 10 minutes. Neither player wanted to concede the crucial first map for the game's - and mentality's - sake.
But the overtime was one way traffic, Cooller continually threw rockets at strenx to which he had no answer, and the map ended 6-1.
Furious Heights saw the appearance of a determind strenx, clearly down after dropping the first map. Once again the game was a stand off after the two shared frags, and battles for mega went both ways.
Strenx hit a fancy, and important, rail from the mega platform, dodging Cooller's rocket after he bizarrely appeared behind him. Cooller continued to do unorthodox pushes, often attacking from what seemed to be the obvious angle yet something that the elite players rarely do.
Another mega fight proved to be the turning point of the game, as Cooller's escape was poor, and strenx literally pummeled Cooller against the wall with his LG to pick up the winning frag, 4-3.
The third map went the way of Cooller, despite strenx's impressive Furious Heights performance, even pushing it into overtime. It was strenx's turn to be the aggressor, pushing Cooller into uncomfortable situations for which he had no answer.
Eventually, Cooller found some much-needed help via a railgun, and started hitting shots that kept him in the game. As overtime began, Cooller made a dash for mega and picked it up, ultimately giving him the advantage into the immediate battle with strenx, which he capitalized on.
A tense minute or so passed, with strenx looking for a way in, but Cooller played it out and took the win 7-3.
Strenx had it all to play for on Aerowalk, and he opened it up perfectly. Hitting stunning rails, he stormed to a 7-2 lead and looked to be in full control. Cooller got a couple frags back, but it seemed as though strenx was eying up a fifth and final map.
But Cooller's couple frags turned into three, then four, and ultimately seven as the game's momentum massively swung in his favor. Strenx couldn't find a way back in after Cooller picked apart his routes, cutting him off with some fine rocket and LG work.
A minute was left on the clock before strenx sought out an attack, and all Cooller had to do was run away. He managed to score seven frags to strenx's zero, and has turned a likely defeat (7-2) into a victory (9-7) that propelled him to the IEM V World Championship Grand Final.
There, he awaits Shane 'rapha' Hendrixson, the man who defeated him at last year's IEM World Championship. Is redemption on the cards, or can SK Gaming's dueler make it two in a row? Catch the game at 11:30 CET tomorrow.
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