IEM Katowice Challengers Stage Round-Up
It was heartbreak for the Asian teams on the final day of the Major Qualifier, as TYLOO and Vici Gaming both lost close decider games, whilst pre-qualifier favorites - and former Major winners - Fnatic were also left disappointed as they failed to make it out. French Counter-Strike made a semi-revival, as both Vitality and G2 sneaked through with a scoreline of 3-1 and 3-2 respectively - with the latter besting Fnatic in an elimination game.
TyLoo started the event on fire, smashing Vitality 16-8 and former winners Cloud9 16-3 in best of one games, but as soon as the Qualifier switched to best of three, they struggled. Despite Hansel ‘BnTet’ Ferdinand’s heroics, their late round and clutch situations generally let them down, as they fell 0-2 to both AVANGAR and NRG, who both made it through, and then to the French team G2. Vici shocked the world with a first game victory over Swedish powerhouse Fnatic on Overpass, as in-game leader Zhuo ‘advent’ Liang chewed through the shell shocked Swedes with 26 frags. Despite a loss to American side NRG - who went flawless - they beat fellow NA hopes Cloud9 convincingly. Vici sadly would fall 2-0 and then 2-1 to Vitality and Ninjas in Pyjamas, despite being up 14-7 against eventual winners Vitality on the first map, ending up falling in overtime and unable to recover.
NRG and Renegades were the two flawless teams, with NRG being one of the favorites beforehand, many expected a simple route for them to the New Legends Stage of the Major, but far fewer expected Australian outfit Renegades. The side had often struggled in the Major, but with new blood Sean ‘Gratisfaction’ Kaiwai and Jay ‘liazz’ Tregillgas, Renegades beat top Finnish side ENCE Esports 2-0 in a winner’s best of three match, whom many expected to stroll through uncontested. Despite the new blood, it was Renegades royalty Justin ‘jks’ Savage who dropped 51 frags over two maps to put, seemingly, the entire Oceanic region in pandemonium.
NRG player Vincent ‘Brehze’ Cayonte utterly obliterated TYLOO with an almost unprecedented 72 kills over two maps, with his nearest competitor managing just 46 on the TYLOO side. NRG swept aside Vici and Winstrike earlier to assuage any doubts that they would choke qualification again - last Major they failed in the NA Minor to everybody’s surprise.
ENCE were surprised by Renegades, but made no mistake as they took on Winstrike and won 2-1. Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen was the unlikely hero in that series, but Aleksi ‘allu’ Jalli mowed down G2 on Overpass in a best of one game, before leaving for the birth of his first child - an impressive performance with so much more on his mind.
Cloud9 snuck through by beating Winstrike in a game many saw as a potential banana skin, as Winstrike had shown a lot of promise with earlier results and boasted Major veterans Jan ‘WayLander’ Rahkonen and Georgi ‘WorldEdit’ Yaskin, who often seem to make it through against all odds. The American side also beat newcomers Furia, despite losing their own map pick 16-1 - followed by then beating the Brazilians 16-1 on Furia’s map pick. Confusing, I know. C9 had only taken 10 rounds in three maps, but with elimination on the line, smashed Furia in two maps and then Winstrike in two to guarantee their qualification for the Legend's Stage.
Fan favorites Ninjas in Pyjamas survived a massive scare against Vega Squadron, the Russian team who embarrassed them so badly a few Major cycles ago. Despite a huge comeback on the CT side of Overpass, NiP lost 19-17 before roaring back on their opponents’ map pick, Train. The legendary Patrik ‘f0rest’ Lindberg killed it with 78 frags over all three maps, top-fragging on the deciding map Mirage. Even at the age of 30, f0rest was still dominant in the whole event and was a large reason for NiP making it through the qualifier. The Swedes also needed a 16-10 win on third map Mirage to get past Asian side Vici Gaming, but this time with Jonas ‘Lekr0’ Olofsson putting the team on his back with a huge performance.
Fnatic fell to G2 with a 2-1 scoreline, and it was another veteran - Richard ‘shox’ Papillon - showing up in a big way. With a +18 Kill/Death Ratio and 62 frags total, the frenchman showed why his return was so awaited. It was more of a team effort as they reverse swept TYLOO, with much maligned Alexandre ‘bodyy’ Pianaro finding himself at the top of the scoreboard.
Team Spirit and Grayhound were the two 0-3 teams, to little surprise. Spirit were something of an unknown despite cruising through the CIS Minor and performing decently at the previous Major, and a disappointing loss to fellow CIS side Vega Squadron really echoed their disappointment. Grayhound’s overtime loss to Vitality will haunt them, as with a 13-2 half-time lead, they let it slip and lost, with the french wunderkind Mathieu ‘ZyWoo’ Herbaut taking over the server. ZyWoo was also too much for Vici in Vitality’s decisive match, with 65 frags in 75 rounds.
AVANGAR were something of a dark horse entering the tournament, and they proved that moniker correct. A first day loss to Renegades wasn’t enough to stop them, as they won two best of ones against Furia and G2 before smashing TYLOO 2-0. Despite a horrible start to the tournament, Bektiyar ‘fitch’ Bahytov went from strength to strength and his entries into sites were key for AVANGAR in the games they won.
Furia can hold their heads up high, as they had a good showing in their first Major, and it’s always nice to get at least one win. A 2-0 win over Team Spirit was important for them going forward, and taking a map convincingly off of Cloud9 should give the team confidence for the next few tournaments they qualify for.
The next stage for the Major - the New Legends stage - will start on Wednesday, where FACEIT Major winner’s Astralis will join the other legends - Natus Vincere, Complexity, BIG, FaZe Clan, Team Liquid, HellRaisers and Made in Brazil - with the qualifying teams.
The line-up of teams will be:
Made in Brazil