FPX’s Shao breaks down what ended up being a very close series against Gambit Esports in the EMEA VCT Challengers week 2.

Funplus Phoenix sure know how to make a name for themselves. After an absolutely nailbiting series that involved several overtimes on multiple maps, FPX managed to come out on top over the former Masters champions Gambit.

Pride after a hard fought victory

In the post-match interview, FPX's Andrey "Shao" Kiprsky broke down the elation his team felt at coming out on top. This was a match, after all, that analysts had called for Gambit ahead of time. Given Gambit's pedigree, this shouldn't come as a surprise. But it was a great source of pride for Shao.

"I'm very proud of my team. It was a great comeback on Icebox, I'm just damn happy."

Overtime slugest on Fracture

The victory was fraught with hardship for the team, however. Gambit certainly didn't go down without a fight, with the scoreline reflecting that: 17-15 on Fracture (that's 4 overtimes, folks), 13-6 for Gambit, then 14-12 to close things out on Icebox with another overtime.

That first map was looking like it was all FPX, all the time. That is, until Gambit managed to close a 12-3 deficit to take the map to multiple overtimes. It would have been one of the biggest blown leads in VCT thus far this year, but FPX managed to not have that particular honor this time around, closing out Fracture in the fourth overtime.

"I think we just relaxed and forced the map, tried to do as we did in practices," Shao elaborated. "We just didn't win any pistol rounds. Against Gambit we took both pistol rounds. They just happened to come back. Well done to them. It was a great map, great best of three overall."

Breach pick backfires

With the second map, FPX raised some eyebrows from fans when IGL Kirill "Ange1" Karasiow rolled out a Breach pick for Bind. This pick was considered a bit unorthodox, especially given the prolific nature of the other duelists. Breach isn't necessarily an agent we see very often, with pick rates supporting that theory. Breach had a 0% pick rate on Bind at Champions, and only a 27% pick rate overall.

"To be honest we just tried to outstrat them," Shao explained. "We decided that Breach was a good counter for them. We thought they were going to play Judge, but it didn't happen. We had to adjust our preparation for it."

That bit didn't exactly work out. On that map, ANGE1 went 9/18/4, with only 97 ADR.

Good defense can be the best offense

The third map was a bit more competitive, however. FPX got out to an early lead, but Gambit started to pull back. It began to look like it could be Fracture all over again when Icebox heated up and headed to Overtime. But it seemed like FPX went to another level and shifted into another gear, closing out the series in two quick rounds that ended overtime, and gave FPX the series win.

Of particular note here, FPX used no duelists in their lineup. Instead, they relied on a Chamber pick, choosing to mirror Gambit for the most part, but hoping a more defensive setup would catch them off guard. And it did for the most part - ardiss' Chamber pick had a 20/17/4 scoreline with 166 ADR and 240 ACS.

"Here we had the same comp with Gambit, but we had Chamber in our lineup instead. This was to make our composition more consistent on defense. It covered middle sights and looks well. As you can see, Chronicle played middle a lot on Viper. There's no paranoia for the enemy there, but Chamber covers this well."

FPX in good shape at EMEA Challengers

Now FPX sit atop their group, despite having a negative round win count at -2, but a 2-0 scoreline none the less. Gambit, meanwhile, drops to 1-1 and third place. This is a good omen for the team, and while things can still fall apart with three matches left to play, a 2-0 start gives them a bit of breathing room.

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