Year 4 Match of the Year: SSG vs NiP - Six Invitational Grand Final

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The best and most important match of the year, when Spacestation took on the Ninjas with a hammer on the line!

A North American team had not won a tier-one tournament in three years. The last man to do it was SSG's new team captain: Canadian. At the time he was one of the stars of Continuum (later Evil Geniuses). 

Spacestation had looked so strong. Surely, the hammer was theirs to lose. After an initial slow start since adding Canadian, they had been on fire the last couple of months, with a second-place finish at the OGA PIT Minor, a victory at the US Nationals Finals, strong online performances where they had historically struggled, and finally a dominant run through the groups and upper bracket, with a 10-3 overall map record. 

Ninjas in Pyjamas had a different story. Like SSG they had managed to top their group after wins over both Team Liquid and MIBR, but then in the first playoff match dropped 0-2 to TSM. In each of their proceeding lower bracket matches, the other team was favored to win. Nevertheless, they managed a spectacular run to the grand final by scoring wins over G2 Esports, Darkzero, BDS Esport, and finally by getting revenge over TSM in the lower bracket final. They played the most games an R6 team has ever had to play at an international tournament, and they were on fire heading into the big game. 

NiP heading into the grand final of SI 2020

The Ninjas' momentum continued through the first two and a half maps of the grand final, with the team looking unstoppable with 7-3 and 7-2 wins on Villa and Border (the former of which they hadn't played competitively in months). SSG looked flat, unlike anything they had previously shown at the tournament, and fans all over North America feared they would be in for yet another disappointment in a major final.

Map 3 was Club House. SSG's home map and one they were famous for a 17-0 active winning streak at the time. It did not start well, with the North Americans going down 0-4 to start the game, but managed to rally and close their attacking half 2-4. 

The next critical moment would come at the end of round 9. The score was 5-3 to NiP, another round at this point would be devastating to SSG's cause, who would then need to win three consecutive match points in order to force overtime and avoid elimination. ThinkingNade, who until then had been having a quiet game, stepped up huge with a 1v1 clutch against Kamikaze when both opponents were on a single bullet's worth of HP.

After this, the momentum truly shifted in SSG's favor. They won the next three rounds in a row to clinch Club House, sending the series to map 5: Bank. SSG would continue to roll on the last map, eventually taking the win 7-3. 

The grand final of the Six Invitational, if not the most impressive in terms of the plays made in the server (though there were still many spectacular plays made on both sides), it certainly had the most narrative weight behind it. EU had been cast by the wayside, NA and LATAM were fighting to win either their first trophy in three years or ever. Canadian was looking to join the G2 core as a two-time world champion. NiP was looking to redeem themselves after being unable to show their strength in Japan (now one of the great what-ifs of Siege history). It also had one of the best stage environments, with a passionate crowd that continued to buoy SSG even when the match seemed hopeless. Finally, it came down to a final deciding map, a best-of-1 to decide the world championship. What could be more exciting than that?

SSG posing with the Six Invitational hammer

Aside from the storylines, there were also many impressive individual performances and highlights. Pino especially put on a show, earning grand final MVP honors in the process. Perhaps his most memorable play was his 'fadeaway' shot on Club House where he got a kill midair while falling down into Oil Pit. 

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