SK Gaming, C9 advance to IEM Oakland semifinals

SK Gaming standout Marcelo "coldzera" David celebrates a round victory against Team Liquid during the ESL One New York semifinals in September. His SK Gaming team advanced to the IEM Oakland semifinals on Thursday. Patrick Strack/Provided by ESL

With the group stage offering up two of the semifinalists of IEM Oakland, it was time to decide who their dancing partners would be with two very different quarterfinals series on Thursday. At the ESL studios in Burbank, California, SK Gaming and Cloud9 prevailed to book their ticket up north to Oakland for the semifinals.

SK Gaming dominates OpTic Gaming

OpTic Gaming came into this series looking to prove that this new roster can work on a consistent basis. While it took the top spot in the North American side of the ESL Pro League, its offline performances have been less than stellar. Unfortunately for them, not much changed in this tournament.

OpTic is likely wishing that it was playing golf and could have called a mulligan after its performance on the opening map of Overpass against SK in this quarterfinal series. SK came storming out the gates with a 13-2 lead at the half that rolled right into a 16-2 trouncing to give the Brazilians a 1-0 lead early on. OpTic tried to put that loss out of its mind in Game 2, but it just couldn't shake off a red-hot SK squad.

When the teams moved onto Inferno for the second map, OpTic looked rejuvenated with a 6-1 lead on the T-side. That rejuvenation turned right into despair in a matter of a few rounds as SK went on a 15-6 run to take the map 16-12.

When looking at this OpTic roster go up against a team like SK, it is clear that it's missing the spark that separates the good teams from the great teams. While Adam "friberg" Friberg is one of the best in-game leaders in the world, he's been unable to bring this team to prominence right out the gate.

SK, meanwhile, now moves on to the semifinals where it will face off against Ninjas in Pyjamas on Saturday at Oracle Arena.

Cloud9 completes the comeback against Gambit

At the outset of the quarterfinals, Gambit looked poised to get back on track after a 19-16 overtime win on Overpass. Cloud9 fought back with the help of RUSH's ace in the final round of regulation to force extra rounds, but it was all Gambit from then on. Once the teams loaded up for the second map, however, the balance of the series shifted a different way.

Over the last few months, fans have watched as Cloud9 has developed into a powerhouse in its own right. With a steady mix of aggression and poise, the team has waded its way through trial after trial to put its name in the running for one of the best teams in the world. That was the Cloud9 we saw on Cobblestone and Mirage, as the team battles back to take both maps by 16-11 scores. Tarik, in addition to being the one leading this team on the comms, was always at the top of the scoreboard, finished with a 74/57 KD (kills/deaths) in the three-game series.

The true test will come on Saturday, however, when the North Americans come face-to-face with the widely regarded best team on the planet right now, FaZe Clan.

The action will resume on Saturday at the Oracle Arena in Oakland at 4 p.m. ET with Ninjas in Pyjamas taking on SK Gaming. With two matches featuring four of the best teams in the game, this certainly won't be one that any Counter-Strike fan will want to miss.