In the first round of the first game of the first stage of VALORANT Champions Tour EMEA 2022, something improbable happened. Gambit Esports’ team captain Igor “Redgar” Vlasov got a melee kill on Team Liquid’s Travis “L1NK” Mendoza.
REDGAR KNIFED SOMEONE ON PISTOL ROUND WELCOME BACK TO EMEA BABY
— Yinsu (@YinsuCollins) February 11, 2022
The match between the two top seeds in Group A marked the start of another exciting year for what is currently the strongest VALORANT region in the world. Both Gambit and Liquid auto-qualified to VCT due to their strong performances and circuit points from 2021. They were widely considered to be each other’s main group stage opponent heading into the series.
There was a lot of pressure on both teams’ shoulders heading into the match-up. Gambit had come in second at VALORANT Champions 2021, while Liquid weren’t too far behind with a semifinal exit. Whoever won this match would likely be the top team out of the group.
Things started out contentious on Icebox, with both teams going up 3-3 at first. Gambit, however, quickly pulled ahead and fully seized control of the series after that, winning the rest of the rounds in the first half and closing it out 13-9. They did even better on the next map, Breeze, despite it having been Liquid’s map pick. It ended at a 13-8 scoreline in favor of Gambit.
“We always knew that Gambit would be the toughest out of everyone in the group,” Liquid player Dom “soulcas” Sulcas said of the loss. Gambit certainly proved that they were a formidable opponent, and their victory against Liquid has solidified them as the “final boss” of Group A.
After Gambit’s close loss to Acend in VALORANT Champions 2021 finals, Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov said the only thing that mattered to him was “playing for [his] team and [doing] everything to win every match.” It was a mindset on full display in their opener against Liquid as Chronicle dominated the lobby in both maps, first on Viper and then on Chamber. His clutch potential and oppressive ability to block off entire sites by himself were a huge boon for Gambit, especially on defense halves, where Liquid constantly struggled to find a way in.
— VALORANT Champions Tour EMEA (@valesports_emea) February 11, 2022
Chronicle is only one part of what makes Gambit both so successful and so entertaining to watch, though. The team, composed of the exact same roster as 2021, is a now a terrifyingly well-oiled machine. If the pistol round knife kill is any indication, Gambit are always playing the game at their own pace, and the impetus is entirely on the opposing team to either adapt or lose.
After Champions, Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin called 2021 a “historical” year for Gambit. It’s clear that they’re looking to make even more history in 2022.