Whilst there might not have been a packed out audience greeting every shot, timeout and flashbang, this year’s Intel Extreme Masters Katowice delivered stunning bits of gameplay and intense storylines by the bucketload. With the year’s first major in Rio creeping on the horizon, we thought we would take a look back at Counter-Strike’s first S-Tier competition of 2020 and go through five of the key things we learned.
Liquid On The Ropes
Having dominated throughout most of 2019, romping to the Intel Grand Slam in a record sixty-three days, Team Liquid ended the year having lost their number one status to Astralis once again. A string of disappointing performances at StarLadder Berlin and DreamHack Malmo had led to a few eyebrows being raised about the North American side heading into 2020, and they struggled once again here.
Having put together a couple of shaky wins against Virtus.pro and an out of form Evil Geniuses side, Twistzz, Stewie, EliGe, Nitro and NAF fell to pretty comprehensive back to back losses against G2 and NAVI. Going ahead into Rio, the former number one side need to rediscover their form if they are to have any hopes of climbing back up into the top three.
Having failed to qualify for the New Legends Stage at StarLadder Berlin last year, Fnatic have embarked on a massive rebuilding process that has seen them climb back up into the top five world rankings. JW, Krimz, Flusha, Brollan and Golden not only romped to the title at DreamHack Malmo back in September, but have now reached the top four in their past five events.
They’ve begun their march to ESL One Rio through the closed qualifiers and could be a real interesting pick in the CSGO odds for the tournament.
Vitality In Trouble
Ever since losing out to Fnatic at DreamHack Malmo and 100 Thieves at IEM Beijing, Team Vitality have looked shakier and shakier. They had an impressive rise throughout 2019, climbing up to second in the world at one point, however they’ve increasingly looked like a side devoid of creativity on maps they haven’t picked and are consistently reliant on the individual talents of superstar Zywhoo.
The team’s stacked calendar proved too much for IGL Alex, who stepped down following the tournament and left the side at a standstill over their leadership options going forward, with plenty of Vitality fans rightfully concerned over rifler Shox taking over the reigns again.
G2 Here To Stay
G2 might have come into Katowice as heavy, heavy outsiders for any sort of stage success, however it quickly became apparent the French side were on the scene to cause some damage. The only side on the stage to have had to qualify for the event, they only dropped one map in their first three games against 100 Thieves, Mousesports and Team Liquid before a thrilling semi-final against Fnatic. The form of KennyS, Hunter and IGL Nexa throughout the tournament was key for G2 and their quest to be the best French side in the game is well and truly alive. It looks like this rejuvenated team could be here to stay.
S1mple Is God
S1mple and Zywhoo both arrived at Katowice with credible arguments for being the world’s best CSGO player, however there can be no debating where the NAVI superstar ranks after his performance at the event. NAVI have constantly been a side blessed with immense individual talent, but an inability to work together as a side has cost them some silverware, something that was finally blasted away at Katowice. Whilst Boombl4 and Electronic both had absurd tournaments, S1mple’s passionate playstyle and freakish reactions came to the front in the matchups that mattered the most.
His takedown of Astralis in the semis was brutal and one of the truly great plays of the last year or so.