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APAC North Stage 1 Week 1: Giants Leads, Fnatic Struggles with Ping

With Stage 1 of the APAC North Division 2020 Season underway, SiegeGG has a look at what happened in the previous week and what to expect in the upcoming play days.

With the new-look APAC North Division finally underway and the top 12 teams from Asia pit against each other, there was just as much new to see as there was the old.  Find out what happened and what to expect from this second week below!

Day 1

The first day of the league saw a variety of interesting matchups -- some unexpected and some utterly unexpected. While all of the matches filled up their regulation round quota, two games in particular stood out.

The first was the titanic battle between two of the oldest teams in the region -- Giants Gaming and Fnatic. Prior to this match, the record had stood at a 4-1 in favour of Fnatic, with the sole victory for Giants Gaming having come in their most-recent matchup at the Season 10 APAC Finals. Now, however, the situation was a lot more different.

Not only were the two teams not in an offline environment and were playing a Best-of-One rather than a Best-of-Three, four-fifths of Fnatic was also having to play from Australia. This was after their planned move to Japan for the APAC North Division had been put on hold thanks to COVID-19, meaning that their Australian players had to play from Australia with latency ranging from 80ms to 140ms.

One thing that was not different, however, was the rivalry or the hard-fought victory. This time around, the match started off on Clubhouse, with Giants on defense. Initially, the Singaporean roster -- playing with a mere 9ms of latency -- started off strong, winning all three attempted defenses in a full rotation of their preferred objectives. However, as is customary in matches between the two, Fnatic began pulling things back, taking two dominant rounds. Much to the Giants' relief, though, their final defensive round would be a victory, meaning they had a 4-2 lead at the half.

This lead would soon evaporate, however, as Jason "Lusty" Chen would shrug off the drag of latency to pull of a staggering 1v4 clutch before successfully waiting out the timer in the next round. Giants recovered, however, pulling out a two-round lead yet again but true to form Fnatic pegged them back, with Patrick "MentalistC" Fan masterminding a 1v3 against his former team to give his new one a second chance in overtime. Unfortunately for them, the Australians could not hold on and the Giants completed a hard-fought 8-6 victory to open their account strongly.

The final game of the night would also see jaws drop, as it seemed that Electrify Esports -- with most of its players never even having played a top-flight game before -- would be steamrolled by Season 11 Korean Pro League winners SCARZ. Sure enough, at the start it seemed that this would be the case despite Electrify Esports having the defensive start on Clubhouse.

Not only did the first three rounds go to SCARZ, they were all flawless, with the first kill for Electrify Esports in the fourth round that was nearly flawless save for that one kill. Up 5-0, Electrify would then finally get a round after a triple-kill by "Triplelift", sparking a true-to-name electrifying comeback. 5-1 became 5-3, but it seemed that with an ace clutch by SCARZ captain Wonil "iLeven" Cha would shatter the Electrify momentum.

Unfortunately for the Koreans, the Taiwanese were inexorable in their efforts, and after three successful defuser plants in a row, things were tied up at 6-6. While Round 13 would see SCARZ deny Electrify the comfort of a defuser plant, it would not be enough to stave off a round loss. The 14th round would then be the final one, as Electrify would shut SCARZ off and not only pull off an upset win, but do so while completing a stunning comeback.

Elsewhere, Cyclops Athlete Gaming took down FAV Gaming 7-5, Cloud9 beat Talon Esports by the same margin, and GUTS Gaming and Qconfirm beat their opponents of Xavier Esports and NORA-Rengo with 7-5 scorelines as well.

Day 2

While proceedings were not as close on the second day, the excitement was still very much present. Both the games between Xavier Esports and Fnatic as well as GUTS Gaming vs Cyclops Athlete Gaming (CAG) were ones to watch, and they certainly delivered.

Fnatic returned to Clubhouse after losing it narrowly in overtime to Giants Gaming, touted as the strongest team in the region. Given their new opponents, they were likely feeling more hopeful as Xavier Esports had only finished third in Season 11 of the Pro League in Southeast Asia. The Thai started off the match with a near-flawless attack round, but the Australians were matching them blow for blow despite the ping disadvantage.

On the defensive side and having a wealth of experience, Fnatic equalised the score at 2-2 with a superbly played 'ninja-defuse', before pulling ahead thanks to a chaotic pinching Finka-led rush through the Dirt Tunnel and Blue Hallway. Lusty, though, was ever their equal, pulling off a 1v3 clutch that was helped along by an unfortunate grenade team-kill. Soon enough, the lead was at 4-2 and as the sides swapped and Fnatic flawlessly cleaved through the Xavier defense, it seemed victory would be going to the Aussies.

But so began the comeback from Xavier Esports, starting with a basement defense followed by a nail-biting 1v1 win on time from Thiti "redsun00" Chairoek. Things soon swung back firmly in Xavier's favour and at 6-5 match point, it seemed nothing could stop their momentum. Pulling back a 2v3 into a 2v1, it seemed that redsun00 had done the job, but Lusty stood tall once again and pulled off another clutch with a mere three seconds left to force overtime. However, just like against Giants Gaming, Fnatic's opponents swept ahead and claimed both overtime rounds, consigning the Australians to another 6-8 loss.

Immediately after, the Japanese derby between CAG and GUTS Gaming would also get hearts racing on Villa. The Season 11 champions CAG took the early lead with two strong attacking rounds, with GUTS seemingly struggling to find a footing. However, this was only temporary as it roared back with a near-flawless defense and followed it up with a flawless one to equalise the scoreline. With red dot sights attached on guns with suppressors on both attack and defense, operators like Kapkan hardly raised an eyebrow when the detonation of one helped GUTS go up 4-2.

Now on defense, though, CAG began demonstrating their strength, equalising things with two strong lockouts and then taking the lead thanks to a ninja-defuse coming about from a critical mistake by Hikaru "Li9ht" Osawa. GUTS finally struck back on the next round with another successful defuser plant and then got onto match point with a flawless round, but a flawless defense from CAG would then send things to overtime.

There, faced with a 1v4, Taiyo "Ayagator" Hirayama very nearly pulled of the clutch and post-plant retake, but Li9ht made no mistake this time in the final 1v1. Kazuki "Lily" Yamane was then the hero, getting all three kills in the final 2v3 to win the match for his team and secure the three points.

Elsewhere, FAV Gaming demolished Talon Esports 7-2, with NORA-Rengo doing the same to SCARZ in disappointing performances from both Korean teams -- especially SCARZ. Cloud9 would surprise all as well, returning to its vintage style and strength with a 7-4 win over Qconfirm, while Giants Gaming would give Electrify Esports little quarter after the comeback win against SCARZ the previous day.

Keep an eye out here on SiegeGG for further updates from each region as the games continue for the next four weeks, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for instant updates.

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