Adam Boothe provides his expert insight into The Pinnacle Cup, analysing which challengers could cause an upset, the contenders that might compete to win it all and where the value may lie in the market. Read on to find out more.
The Pinnacle Cup has carefully and methodically narrowed down a field of 32 to just eight competitors. Close to half of them are household names for those who follow the professional scene. The others could very well become some of the greatest legends we’ll see over the next decade. The eight represent a very diverse picture of the European and CIS regions, so it promises to be an electric final seven matches ahead. Today we preview two of the four quarter-final matches taking place this weekend.
Gambit vs. Wisla Krakow
Wisla Krakow had a very strong 2-0 showing in their last Pinnacle Cup match against Godsent. The Brazilians brought with them one of the more standout attacks on several maps, however it ran into an impressive Wisla CT-side on both Overpass and Inferno with just five rounds to speak of on each. However, Godsent does not compare to the gargantuan roster waiting for Wisla on Saturday. This series represents the biggest disparity between any of the quarter-finals pricing. In fact, it features the shortest price of any best-of-three in this event.
Wisla Krakow now have the unenviable task of deciding on which maps they wish to take on the recent Katowice champions. Overpass or Train would not be the worst thing for the Poles in this spot. You would assume that Gambit will continue to ban Nuke, which leaves an opportunity to test the Russians on their best map by a good amount. Gambit should be picking Vertigo here if they are wise, though I am sure they could get away with playing their worst two maps and still have a good likelihood to close it out 2-0.
If you are looking to play the Gambit side, you hardly need justification to look at a -1.5 or some map Handicaps. They have been hovering in the +80% on 2-0's, for matches they win, for quite a period - meaning when they win, they win rather convincingly. This speaks to a depth of map pool that is difficult to maintain even while in superb form, due to constant turnover in form, anti-stratting, and variance.
The price on this match has held pretty steadily at 80-20 since opening. Getting at least one strong Wisla map into the mix will make the 20% side seem more compelling than it might be otherwise. And even if you were to assess the value of a strong map pick from Wisla, or a mistaken Overpass selection from the CIS squad, would it be enough to justify the Money Line bet?
Ninjas in Pyjamas vs. HAVU
Both teams are in form coming into this weekend, which should result in an exciting match. NiP are fresh off a 4-1 run, topping an absolutely stacked Group B in the ESL Pro League which held four top-20 teams and four of 2020's top-20 players. Additionally, the Swedes went up against slightly different French-based squads in Vitality and G2, both containing top-five calibre players (Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut and Nikola “NiKo” Kovac), and split their series. Given NiP's pricing coming into day one of the event, it was a bit unexpected that they would post the best record of these squads and drop just four maps in doing so.
On the other side of the server is a Finnish team that has absolutely run amok over every manner of competition, posting an 80% map win rate and losing just two of the 24 best-of-threes they have played. Additionally, out of their nearly 50 map wins in 2021 HAVU were covering five rounds or more in over 75% of them.
The obvious point to make is that the level of opposition is clearly a step below NiP; however, looking at the price offered, at the time of writing, HAVU have taken more of the money than the Swedes to move the line approximately 2% over the last couple of days. It now sits at 56-44 favouring NiP.
HAVU was favoured against ENCE (about 60-40) on March 12, where they played Nuke, Overpass, and Inferno. ENCE was the better team through that series though, suggesting that through the 90 rounds played, HAVU’s true probability likely sits somewhere closer to the 56 – 44 we see in their head-to-head against NiP. ENCE played the Ninjas in Pyjamas two days later and were originally priced similarly at 40% before moving significantly over those two days to close as a marginal favourite. They played Nuke, Mirage, and Inferno and, unlike the Finnish derby, all three maps here were entirely lopsided. The match ended with a 2-1 NiP victory.
The suggestion here would be that the mispricing was in putting HAVU at 60% against ENCE. Following along that theory, NiP sitting at 60% against HAVU or even a pick'em would suggest they are the undervalued team coming in. One criticism of NiP (or at least most of the roster, since Erik “ZTR” Gustafsson has only been with them a short while) is their inconsistency - since Hampus “Hampus” Poser came in, NiP have alternated between placing fifth or lower or placing in the top four.
We are still waiting for this roster to string two strong finishes together so that we can resoundingly say they are progressing. Therefore, should we assume they will not be ready to play a HAVU team they are justifiably favourites against? If the line moves any further against NiP, then the value that will present will make it difficult to talk oneself out of backing them.
BIG vs. Team Endpoint
No matter how you slice it, Endpoint are getting the benefit of the doubt in the pricing for the upset here. It is not unjustified though, given BIG's latest outing; and while Endpoint’s roster has not quite been surging, it’s at least been taking care of a field they ought to. BIG have won just one series in the past five weeks (a 2-0 against Complexity) – a series where we saw some truly off-point aiming from the Juggernaut, most especially on their CT sides.
However, BIG’s most recent loss to Renegades – who are undoubtedly the worst team in the ESL Pro League we have seen thus far - is the one that sticks out most notably. Further, it has likely affected the German's price more than anything coming into this new event. BIG and Endpoint have only met once in the last year, and it was a very tight best-of-three when BIG was at the top of their game. They may have even been as high as number one in the world at that moment and very narrowly avoided a 2-0 loss before crushing Endpoint on map three.
We know that this German squad, with Ismail “Xantares” Dortkardes, has all the capabilities of playing at a top five calibre level. The real question is what is happening within the roster to cause results like we saw so recently in the Pro League. This series screams out for either an Endpoint straight upset or a convincing victory from BIG. Pricing BIG here at 75% or greater favourites is really not surprising, even with their recent decline.
Nemiga vs. Team Spirit
These CIS rivals will hit the server for a sixth time in the past year. Through those previous five bouts Spirit has bested their counterparts in three, and three of the series have gone to a map three decider - with Spirit once again getting the victory in two of three of those contests. However, the notable differENCE coming into Sunday's match will be the addition of budding superstar, Abdulkhalik “Degster” Gasanov. He represents a significant improvement of firepower from Artem “iDISBALANCE” Egorov, who was no noob either; however, “Degster” is anticipated to be a future top 10 player.
Team Spirit is liking entering the quarter-finals with one goal: to see their fellow countrymen, Gambit, out of the event. At 51-49 in their last match, the semi-finals of IEM Katowice 2021, Spirit were eliminated 0-2, and witnessed a trophy that may have been theirs passed over to squad they are very familiar with.
Facing them is the top Belarusian roster in the world, Nemiga. If it were not for NAVI, Virtus Pro, Gambit, Winstrike, and Spirit, we would probably be talking about this talented and plucky roster coming in to challenge for upsets at events this year. Nemiga reminds me very much of the “we show up for a few big tournaments every year before fading into oblivion” type roster.
Last year they scored some excellent upsets and were relatively consistent through the biggest CIS contests. They scored fifth at the Road to Rio, ahead of Navi, Forze, and Gambit; fourth at Clutch Island, ahead of Gambit and Winstrike; and second at IEM New York, ahead of Spirit, Navi, Gambit, Forze, K23, and Winstrike. This is not a team to be brushed aside, as they do hold they ability to upset Spirit.
Both teams have excellent series win rates in 2021. They both hold legitimate map pools and they both enter this meeting on the back of excellent form through March. On the Spirit end, their only best-of-three losses have come at the hands of pesky Gambit. For Nemiga, they have dropped a number of series, while also not scoring a victory against a team of Spirit's calibre - and that of course plays a role into their pricing for Saturday at 75-25.
We are likely to see six of the eight remaining teams perform at or above the numbers we will see at the end of the 2021 circuit. Gambit are my front-runners to lift another title, which I do not think should surprise anyone. That does not mean I like their pricing though. The most undervalued favourite is BIG Clan, while the most undervalued non-favourite is Nemiga, based on their quarter-final opposition.
Assuming all the favourites go through, you should expect to see NiP as a marginal favourite against Big and Gambit as a marginal favourite against Spirit. Even this comes with a caveat, given the nature of the wins and the updated map results will impact opening price and the market’s reaction to it. Regardless of how the Playoffs stage breaks down, we are likely to see some brilliant CS:GO for the remainder of The Pinnacle Cup.