The general trend in any given season is to have fewer and fewer upsets with each successive tournament. In the season opener, teams such as Storm Ventures in 2006 and 5K in 2007 tend to come out of left field and really surprise fans and competitors alike. These teams make their presence known after a long off-season of dedicated practice and cause a ripple in the brackets.
Others, such as The Agency, are established teams who simply exceed expectations. Sooner or later, things have a tendency to settle down, as teams earn seeds representative of their collective season-long performance. While they entered the season with the 22nd seed, 5K have taken home fourth- and fifth-place finishes. Similarly, The Agency caused quite a few upsets in Charlotte by riding their ninth seed to a third-place finish. With the effort, they claimed the Pro Circuit’s third seed and have earned nothing but third and fourth place prize checks since. Generally, teams and players tend to settle into their place among the ranks. While upsets can and inevitably always happen, they usually become more uncommon as the season progresses.
Chicago’s exception to the rule was completely astonishing. With only a brief four weeks separating Dallas and Chicago, one would expect any shifts in the rank to be relatively tame. Such was clearly not the case: upsets completely littered the Championship Bracket. Nearly every team placing in the Top 16 was involved in a match where the lower-seeded team emerged victorious over the higher-seeded favorites. The only exceptions were Final Boss and 5K.
While the monumental performances of Str8 Rippin and The Agency have been well documented, several other teams also made impressive runs from lower seeds. The Top 8 alone saw three surprise finishers. Few would have thought that Perfect Balance, after suffering a loss to Versus in the first round of competition, could have clawed their way into prize contention.
While many thought the team was done after losing to an Open Bracket squad, Perfect Balance came forth with a dream run through the Losers Bracket, spoiling the hopes of a trio of pro squads. Legendz were the first to fall, as Mack swept his former team out of the competition. Next up was an improbable 3 – 1 victory over sixth-seeded Nice Like Rice, sending the usual Top 8 finishers home with a Top 16 placing. The following round, for Top 8, Perfect Balance pulled out an incredibly close 50 – 49 victory over Perfect Storm on Sanctuary Slayer. Not yet finished, the team went on to give Pain X a run for their money, pushing the series to a critical Game 5.
The two teams that topped Perfect Balance had quite impressive tournaments as well. Pain X reached a franchise best Top 6 finish after two consecutive 3 – 2 victories. Pain X topped their biggest hurdle of the tournament in Losers Bracket Round 4, where they bested eighth-seeded FBI Icon to reach the prize pool. For Pain X, the achievement was a crucial part of the season-long points race, as they currently hold the sixth-highest point total. On the other side of the bracket, 20th-seeded Versus put together a string of three victories over higher-seeded squads, only to fall to Carbon.
The brackets held a quite unfortunate draw for FBI Active Rush, who took home ninth place, despite only falling to Final Boss and Carbon. While impossible to say just how the team would have fared with a different draw, they are unlikely to face either squad early in Orlando. The team’s Chicago performance earned them Pro Status and the tour’s 14th seed, potentially giving them a more-favorable road to the Top 8 next month.
While the likes of Str8 Rippin and FBI The Agency may have made the biggest headlines over the weekend, Perfect Balance, Pain X, Versus and Active Rush earned the respect of many people with their solid performances in Chicago. These four teams made impressive improvements late in the season and will look to shake up the ranks once more in Orlando’s regular-season finale.