Western European Dota 2 juggernauts Gaimin Gladiators and Team Liquid have previously faced off a total of 12 times this season.
Four of those matchups came in the grand finals of the Lima, Berlin, and Bali Majors as well as DreamLeague Season 19, where Gaimin Gladiators continually denied Liquid a championship as they dominated the final 2023 Dota Pro Circuit season.
Unfortunately for Liquid, Gaimin Gladiators has once again proven to be their kryptonite as they knocked them out of The International (TI) 2023's Finals Weekend in 5th-6th place.
Heading into the second day of TI 2023's Finals Weekend, Gaimin Gladiators have been on a rampage through the lower bracket, scoring three-straight sweeps over Evil Geniuses, 9Pandas, and Nouns Esports.
Meanwhile, Liquid were coming off a loss to TI 2021 champions Team Spirit in the upper bracket semifinals.
This 13th and final showdown of the year between Gaimin Gladiators and Liquid went to a full, three-game series, but the three-time Major champions left no doubts on who was the superior team.
How the games went
Game one saw both teams look to take the opening win of the series with high-sustain lineups.
Liquid on Radiant picked up Luna for Michael "miCKe" Vu, Invoker for Michał "Nisha" Jankowski, an offlane Kunkka for Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg, a position 4 Weaver for Samuel "Boxi" Svahn, and Pugna for Aydin "Insania" Sarkohi.
Gaimin Gladiators on Dire went with Bloodseeker for Anton "dyrachyo" Shkredov, a mid Necrophos for Quinn "Quinn" Callahan, Centaur Warrunner for Marcus "Ace" Hoelgaard, a support Muerta for Erik "tOfu" Engel, and Phoenix for Melchior "Seleri" Hillenkamp.
The three-time Major champions started out hot, with Quinn notably shutting down Nisha on the mid lane to spark an aggressive romp through the early-to-mid game for Gaimin Gladiators.
However, Liquid were able to turn the tables in a fight for Roshan at the 27-minute mark, where zai landed a huge three-man Torrento-Ghost Ship combo on Gaimin Gladiators' cores. With their opponents' momentum ground to a halt and the Aegis of the Immortal in their hands, Liquid proceeded to snowball out of control.
Despite Gaimin Gladiators' best efforts to regain their footing, Liquid gave them no quarter and took the opening game of the series after 43 minutes. MiCKe paced his team's 24-19 kill lead with eight kills and 10 assists on two deaths while zai added six kills and 13 assists on three deaths.
Liquid looked to exorcise their demons in game two on Dire with a strong midgame teamfight lineup. MiCKe once again had Luna, Nisha was on Kunkka this time around, zai had Tidehunter, Boxi shifted onto Pugna, and Insania picked up Enchantress.
Meanwhile, Gaimin Gladiators on Radiant threw some curveballs in the draft with Razor for dyrachyo and Lone Druid for Ace. The rest of the lineup was rounded out by Quinn on Pangolier as well as tOfu and Seleri on Muerta and Phoenix once again.
Game two followed a similar script as game one, only with the teams swapping roles. Liquid enjoyed an early lead as Nisha slowed down Quinn's progression while the rest of the team made moves across the map, including a nice turnaround on a gank by zai at the 17-minute mark.
At the 22-minute mark, the entire series — not just this game — was flipped on its head.
Liquid had Aegis on miCKe and were looking like they could close out the series in a sweep as they marched up Gaimin Gladiators' bottom lane of barracks. However, the three-time Major champions put up a masterful defense of their high ground and got four huge kills to spark their comeback.
With momentum firmly in their hands, Gaimin Gladiators dominated the ensuing teamfights. With Ace reaching critical mass, he tore through Liquid in the clashes while dyrachyo and Quinn dived into the enemy lines to cause chaos. Meanwhile, tOfu and Seleri provided crowd control from the backlines.
A hapless Liquid squad could do little to stop Gaimin Gladiators' onslaught and were eventually forced to call GG after 41 minutes. Dyrachyo fueled his team's 26-14 kill lead with eight kills and 11 assists on three deaths. Ace also pitched in with seven kills and 12 assists on four deaths while tOfu added six kills and 15 assists on just one death.
With their tournament lives on the line in game three, both teams went with comfort picks.
Gaimin Gladiators on Radiant went with dyrachyo on Weaver, an offlane Wraith King for Ace, a third-straight support Muerta pick for tOfu, and a support Nature's Prophet for Seleri. They then pulled out the last-pick Void Spirit for Quinn, much to the everyone's suprise.
Meanwhile, Liquid went with Terrorblade for miCKe, Puck for Nisha, Centaur Warrunner for zai, Skywrath Mage for Boxi, and Pugna for Insania.
While many expected game three to be a hard-fought and exciting series decider, it ended up being anti-climactic as Gaimin Gladiators absolutely dominated Liquid to knock them out of TI 2023.
Quinn notably bodied Nisha in the mid lane while zai was heavily shut down by dyrachyo and Seleri on the bottom lane. Meanwhile, Ace shook off a death before the horn sounded to top the net worth chart, getting a Radiance in just 13 minutes then following it up with a 15-minute Blink Dagger purchase.
With such a stellar start, the three-time Major champions easily overpowered their rivals in one teamfight after another.
Despite Liquid's best efforts to claw their way back into the series, Gaimin Gladiators was simply unstoppable. After a 27-minute, 33-8 rout, the three-time Major champions once again claimed victory in their final showdown of the year with Liquid to knock them out of TI 2023.
Dyrachyo led the way for his team with 10 kills and nine assists, Ace had nine kills and 10 assists, while Quinn put up six kills and 13 assists. All three of Gaimin Gladiators' core players also had just one death apiece to close out the series.
With their victory, Gaimin Gladiators have guaranteed themselves at least a 4th place finish as well as US$171,962 in winnings. They will next face the winner of the other lower bracket quarterfinal match between BetBoom Team and Azure Ray in the lower bracket semifinals to determine who will make it to TI 2023's final day.
Meanwhile, Liquid bow out of the tournament in 5th-6th place with US$101,685 in consolation.
TI 2023's Finals Weekend will be hosted in the Climate Pledge Arena from 27 to 29 October in Seattle. There, the eight remaining teams will be battling to decide who will be crowned as this year's Dota 2 world champions.
For everything you need to know about TI 2023, check here.