With the second million dollar major in CSGOs history done and dusted, it’s time to look back on the historic major and see the events that led SK to repeat their major championship and retain their title of best team in the world in front of a sold out Lanxess Arena and hundreds of thousands more watching online.
Group A started the tournament on a solid foot, Astralis with their stand-in gla1ve defeated their fellow Danes Dignitas who were fielding the newly acquired cajunb in a close 16-12 on Overpass. The CIS squad Gambit also defeated the Americans of CLG 16-13 on Dust2 leading to a winners bracket match of Astralis and Gambit.
The match-up between Astralis and Gambit was predicted by tournament analysts and fans alike, excluding only the most die-hard CLG fans. However, the upsets began early with Gambit dismantling an Astralis without their newly acquired star player Kjǣrbye 16-6 on Dust2 despite Device and Xyp9x’s best efforts. Things would get worse for the Danes when Dupreeh tweeted that he was having stomach problems and would be having surgery, sidelining him for the rest of the tournament. This forced Astralis to use their coach zonic as well as their stand-in gla1ve versus Dignitas in a best of 3 to make it out of the group stage. Dignitas came out guns blazing and won Cobble 19-16 in overtime but Astralis rebounded with two close wins (16-10 on Mirage and 16-14 on Cache) to retain their legend status as well as Device and Xyp9x’s status of elite players who have made the playoffs in every major in CSGO history.
The group that many wrote off as the easiest to predict, group B was home to one of the biggest upsets of the entire tournament. Group B started off with the CIS powerhouse Na`Vi taking out fellow CIS residents FlipSid3 16-7 on Train. The Swedish squad NiP fielding pyth at his first major swept away the Americans of OpTiC 16-4 on Dust2.
In the winners bracket Na`Vi defeated NiP in a close 16-12 on Cobble to reach the playoffs as first seed from their group. FlipSid3 defeated Optic in a very close 16-13 on Train where OpTiC led for a majority of the game but could not close it out. This led to a best of 3 between NiP and FlipSid3 where FlipSid3 managed to stomp NiP 16-2 on Cache (NiP’s map pick) and clutch it out 16-11 in the decider on Mirage, sparking Blad3’s teams first entrance into the major playoffs.
Dubbed by many analysts as “Group D Lite”, group C was a mixed bag of middle of the pack teams in Mousesports and Team Liquid, and former legends in Virtus.Pro and EnVyUs. The group started off with The American super team of Liquid taking out the French aimers of EnVyUs 16-7 on Train where EnVy came out guns blazing but were stopped dead in their tracks by a Liquid who never lost control of the game after the first 7 rounds. Following that the Poles of VP defeated the Germans of Mousesports 16-10 on Train. The winners bracket match of VP and Liquid was a close 16-12 on Cobble where VP managed to edge Liquid out despite the Americans leading for most of the game. In the loser bracket Mousesports pulled off an upset on EnVy to send them packing in last place for the second major in a row. Liquid made quick work of NiKo’s team with a 2-0 victory on Cobble and Mirage to come out of their group in second place.
Group D, dubbed “The Group of Death” by fans and analysts alike, lived up to its name in full. With one of SK, G2, and Fnatic going out in the group stages, this group was the epitome of a poor seeding system put in place by Valve in an effort to reward teams who made it to the playoff stage at majors. To make matters even worse the mixed all-star of FaZe defeating the Swedes from Fnatic in a very close 16-14 on Dust2 to send Fnatic to the losers bracket.
The Brazilians and defending major champions, SK, defeated the French squad of G2 16-11 on Cobble to send them into the losers bracket as well. G2’s major run was cut short due to a poor seeding system as they fell to Fnatic 16-13 on Train and were eliminated in group stages for the second major in a row. FaZe was slapped by SK leading to a best of 3 between FaZe and Fnatic which Fnatic won with ease on Cache and Mirage, stopping FaZe from getting double digits on both maps and sending the Swedes into the playoffs for their 9th straight major.
The quarter-finals kick off with VP facing a weakened Astralis and despite Device’s best efforts to keep the Danes afloat. The Poles could not be stopped as they beat the Danes in back to back overtimes, 19-17 on Overpass and 19-15 on Train. What was more impressive than VP winning the series 2-0 was the Danes ability to keep the matches so close without 2 of their key players Kjǣrbye and Dupreeh. In the end Astralis managed to do what they came to do, which was get legend status and an invite to the next major where they would be able to field their full lineup.
In the second quarter-final matchup SK was seemingly going to run away with the series with a 16-7 win on Mirage to start until FlipSid3 stirred up quite a scare in the Brazilian side with a pocket pick of Nuke. The CIS squad managed to bring Nuke into overtime after falling behind early but were unsuccessful in winning the map and FalleN’s men eventually overpowered them to take the series 2-0 off a 19-17 win on Nuke.
The most exciting of the quarter-finals also happened to be the only one that went to 3 maps between Na`Vi and Liquid. After Na`Vi started out strong with a 16-11 win on Train, Liquid struck back with a pocket pick of Nuke. With both teams being relatively inexperienced on the newest addition to the map pool, Nuke was the closest map of the series and despite Edward going insane, the duo of s1mple and Hiko carried Liquid to a map win tying the series 1-1. The final map of Cobble wasn’t even close with Liquid absolutely destroying Na`Vi with a 13-2 T half to start the map. Na`Vi was able to grab 4 more rounds before Liquid finished off the map 16-6 and the series 2-1 to bring them to their second straight major semi-final.
Following the closest quarter-final series was one of the largest blowouts in major playoff history featuring Gambit and Fnatic. Fnatic completely smashed Gambit 16-5 on Train and 16-3 on Cache, stopping the Russians from getting double digits across the whole series. This complete and utter stomp led Fnatic’s in game leader flusha to say that he “didn’t even need to call strats” during the series and that was shown in full with their 5 AWP round that managed to work out for them.
The first semi-final was a series between 2 former major champions with the exact same winning lineups, the Poles from VP winning Katowice 2014 and the Brazilians from SK winning the most recent Columbus 2016. VP and SK have always played a great series and this series was no exception, with a 19-17 overtime win prompted by NEO and TaZ going complete 1.6 godmode on SK leading the Poles to a 1-0 series lead. Unfortunately for NEO and crew, their pocket pick of Nuke did not work out for them and SK quickly cleaned them up 16-5 to tie the series and force the randomly generated Mirage to decide the first finalist. Despite VP having a solid 9-6 CT side they could not get their T side going and SK finished off the map 16-12 and proceeded to their second straight major final.
The second semi-final was a match-up between the red hot Liquid and a beatable yet still scary Fnatic. Liquid came out guns blazing on Cobble and led at halftime 10-5, Fnatic mounted an 8-1 comeback which saw Liquid staring down an 11-13 deficit, one that would have crushed the earlier iterations of the team. However, this Liquid was able to grind out rounds and took the first map 16-13, a feat which many thought impossible of a team that dubbed the famous “Liquid Choke” after multiple chokes in past lineups.
Cache started out much the same as Cobble, with Liquid jumping out to a strong 11-4 lead at halftime and Fnatic mounting a 9-0 comeback to make the score-line 11-13 yet again. Liquid took a page out of NiP’s playbook and created their own “Liquid Magic” to clutch out the game yet again and topped it off with an unbelievable 1v2 clutch by s1mple and without winning a single pistol round. This was the first time a North American team had ever made it to the major finals and what was more impressive was that Liquid had no easy series in the playoffs, beating both Na`Vi and Fnatic who are both top 5 teams in the world.
After the incredibly intense semi-finals the major final between SK and Liquid was hyped up beyond belief. People had hope that America could bring home a major title for the first time in CSGO history as long as Liquid could beat SK. Much like Columbus however, Liquid were unable to defeat SK and unlike Columbus, Liquid never led on a single map. SK’s pick Train started out okay with an 8-7 half in favor of SK but as soon as Liquid stepped on the T side they were in trouble and SK finished the map 16-7 without dropping a single round on the CT side. On Liquids own map pick, Cobble, it got even worse. Liquid won their first pistol round of the series but were quickly reset in the first gun round and SK finished the half 10-5. Liquid only managed to get 1 CT round as SK finished off the map 16-6 to win the major for the second time in a row, a feat only accomplished by Fnatic up until now.
Now that ESL One Cologne is done, Liquid has a tough decision to make regarding s1mple, a topic that I will go into further detail with in a future article. Make sure to stay tuned to BC-GB for all your entertaining CSGO content.