As VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) has reached its historic conclusion, the 2021 championship came down to a showdown between Acend and Gambit. The final score was 3-2 in Acend's favor, crowning the squad as the first-ever VALORANT World Champions. But just who are Acend and how did they get to the pinnacle of international VALORANT pro play in its inaugural year?

Acend's VCT 2021 run to qualify for Champions

Hailing from the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, Acend's roster consists of Santeri “BONECOLD” Sassi, Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt, Mehmed “cNed” Yagiz Ipek, Patryk “starxo” Kopczynski, and Vlad “Kiles” Shvets. cNed is touted as the best—if not the best—Jett main from the region. He also has excellent skills on the Operator and on his day can be a hard-carry for the team.

Acend has had a rollercoaster of a season. They are considered one of the top teams in Europe, but have had somewhat mixed results. Earlier in the year, they had won Europe's Masters 1, edging out a 3-2 victory over Team Heretics. Moving on to Stage 2, Acend reached the quarterfinals of EU Challengers 1, but lost 1-2 to Ninjas in Pyjamas. Challengers 2 netted a similar result as the squad fell to Team Vitality, 0-2, in the quarters.

They had a much better run at Europe's Stage 3 Challengers, taking home the crown after beating G2 Esports, 3-1, in the Grand Final. Acend's had looked very promising, nearly sweeping all their opponents, except for dropping one map to FunPlus Phoenix in the Upper Bracket semifinals.

Acend also had a lackluster showing internationally in Stage 3 Masters Berlin. In the group stage, they dropped a series against Korean squad Vision Strikers. But they still managed to advance to playoffs in the Decider lower bracket matchup against SuperMassive Blaze. Acend crashed out in the first round of knockouts, though, losing their quarterfinal matchup against 100 Thieves, 1-2. It was Gambit who took the Masters crown then and cemented themselves as the top team out of the region.

That said, Acend had also taken down Gambit twice before heading to Champions Berlin. The most recent encounter unfolded during the Red Bull Home Ground tournament, where Acend swept Gambit 2-0 during the quarterfinals. They went on to the Grand Finals, but ended as runners-up to fellow EMEA squad Team Liquid, 1-3.

Prior to that, at the Stage 3 EMEA Challengers playoffs, Acend had defeated Gambit, 2-1, in the Upper Bracket semi-finals. However, they lost the next round to SuperMassive Blaze, falling to the Lower Bracket Finals where they had to face off against Gambit yet again. This time around, Acend took the loss, 1-3.

How Acend claimed the inaugural VALORANT Championship

Acend thus became one of the four EMEA teams at VALORANT Champions. All four also made it out as the top seed from their respective groups. Coming into the tournament, many fans regarded Acend as a strong contender, but perhaps not in the top echelon of teams, compared to favorites Gambit and NA's Sentinels.

For Acend, the squad had an interesting start to group stage, to say the least. In the opening round of the double bracket, they initially lost to Vivo Keyd. But Riot officials decided to overturn the result after discovering a Cypher exploit in the third map. After the ruling for a third map remake, this time Acend took the win.

They went on to sweep Team Envy—another strong team from NA and one of the contenders to win the entire competition—on Ascent and Bind. Over the series, zeek and cNed put up 225 and 221 Average Combat Scores (ACS) and 30+ kills, respectively.

After booking a spot in the playoffs stage, Acend started off against Southeast Asia's Team Secret in the quarterfinals. The EMEA representatives took down Secret handily, up 8-4 by halftime in both Icebox and Breeze. They didn't let their opponents try to mount a comeback, with cNed again showcasing his Jett prowess with 43 kills and an ACS of 305.

Advancing to the semifinals, Acend again put on a surprisingly dominant performance, sweeping Team Liquid, who were also another favorite to win the competition. Based on number of rounds alone, TL had a worse showing than Secret, with the European squad only managing six and five rounds on Bind and Split. On Split in particular, Acend took the series by the reins, taking 11 rounds by the half. Starxo had a fantastic series on Skye and Sage, racking up 20 kills on both maps.

Now they were set to face off against Gambit in the Grand Final, vying for the first-ever world championship trophy. The series was very close, as the two took a map each and had an even scoreline after Breeze and Ascent. On Fracture, though, Gambit dominated, 13-3, as Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin carried on Cypher with a 394 ACS. Gambit moved to series point, but Acend would not go down without a fight.

On the verge of elimination, Acend fought tooth and nail to drive map 4, Icebox, to overtime. They had a slim advantage at the halfway mark, 7-5, but as Gambit switched to the more favored defensive side, they pushed Acend to the edge, to 12-11. But Acend strung together three straight rounds to get the 14-12 win and push the series to a map 5. It was a team performance with cNed, zeek, and starxo all contributing 24 kills each.

Edging out the win on Icebox, Acend rode the momentum to take Split. They again built an early lead, 7-5, then this time did not let Gambit try to mount a comeback on the defenders side. As the attacking squad in the second half, Acend pulled off four consecutive rounds to take the series—and the VALORANT Champions 2021 trophy—once and for all.