The Fnatic organization might be based in London and their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team might be entirely made up of Swedes, but their home turf seems to be Poland. That’s because, three years after winning the Katowice Major, Fnatic returned to the city to be crowned the season 12 champions of the Intel Extreme Masters.
Looked at by many as huge underdogs at the event, Fnatic made a surprisingly strong run through the group stages by defeating Heroic, G2 Esports and FaZe Clan to advance directly to the semi-finals. A win in the playoffs over Team Liquid was good enough to set them up in the finals, where they rematched FaZe for the top prize.
The first map, Cache, was an absolute rout in favor of FaZe. After taking the first two frames, Fnatic’s economy was savaged by a third-round loss and simply never recovered. FaZe gave them no opportunity to build momentum and never allowed them to amass a winning streak, resulting in a lopsided 16-5 win.
Things swung in a big way on the second map as FaZe continued to build its new tradition of taking games to double overtime on Inferno. For a brief time, it seemed as though things were going to go the way of Cache, with FaZe amassing a huge 9-2 lead but the momentum swung hard at the end of the first half, and into the start of the second with Fnatic pushing its way to a 15-13 score. The Swedish squad couldn’t quite put FaZe away in regulation, twice coming up short in match point situations and did the same in the first overtime series, coming within a fingertip of victory only to let FaZe back into the game. Ultimately, though, FaZe ran out of comeback magic in double overtime, and fell 22-20.
That seemed to suck some of the life out of Faze, which was on full display on Overpass. Fnatic broke off six easy wins to start the game and while it looked like FaZe was set for another huge comeback on the heels of a stunning 1 vs. 5 clutch ace by Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovacs (make sure to check it out, thanks to ESL’s Twitter team), Fnatic returned to form and closed out the map with 10 consecutive wins.
It felt like FaZe was doomed then and there with that loss as Map 4, Mirage, is historically one of Fnatic’s best. A white-hot start by FaZe, however, saw the team advance to a 13-4 lead. Fnatic battled back when it took over the terrorist side of the skewed map but ultimately couldn’t overcome FaZe’s early lead, and were forced into a deciding fifth map, Train.
While the first four maps were lopsided in one way or another, Train was intensely competitive throughout, with either team trading a handful of wins at a time en route to the second bout of overtime in the series. The tit-for-tat trading ended there, though, as Robin "flusha" Ronnquist delivered clutch round after clutch round to seal up the map, the match, and the entire tournament for Fnatic.
Even at a time where the CS:GO world is still being sorted out from the post-ELEAGUE Major shakeups, this is still a colossal upset and a potentially star-making performance by Fnatic. Though this doesn’t cement the team as an elite, and doesn’t necessarily set them up as the favorites for any upcoming events, this sent a loud-and-clear message to the scene; Fnatic’s back.
Team Liquid is Looking More and More Legitimate
Team Liquid stunned many CS:GO fans when it won the CS Summit 2 last month, defeating the heavily favored SK Gaming and ELEAGUE Major champions Cloud9 along the way. There were many different potentials takes when it came to this turn, and many came to the conclusion that it was something of a fluke.
Liquid, surely, wasn’t a top-end team. The CS Summit 2 was just a smaller tournament. SK Gaming and Cloud9 were just having off days. There was no way Liquid would be able to have that kind of success in a bigger tournament!
Well, while Liquid didn’t win ultimately win season 12 of the Intel Extreme Masters, it showed that its run at the CS Summit 2 was no fluke with an impressive third-place finish.
Kicking off its run with a clean win over Gambit Esports, it once again defeated Cloud9 in order to secure second-place in its group (falling short 2-1 against Astralis in the finals). From there, Liquid moved on to the playoffs and advanced to the semifinals by defeating Ninjas in Pyjamas 2-1 in a hardfought series.
Its run at the Intel Extreme Masters ended outside the grand finals, falling 2-0 to Fnatic but it still accomplished a great deal. Between the CS Summit 2, StarLadder Season 4 (where it finished third) and now the Intel Extreme Masters, Liquid has posted top-four finishes in three consecutive tournaments.
There’s a long way to go before the FACEIT Major in September but Liquid should be regarded as a legitimate contender in any tournament through the end of Spring.
European Hierarchy Remains Unclear
Who is the best team in Denmark? Has G2 Esports returned to elite status? What does the future hold for Ninjas in Pyjamas? There were a whole lot of outstanding questions about the European Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene heading into the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship.
Unfortunately, we didn’t really get any answers! That’s because the crowded field at the tournament, some surprising results, and the multiple still-settling rosters leave it up for debate where almost any team ranks.
Granted, things aren’t completely muddled. FaZe is impossible to deny as the top team right now with its recent top-four finishes at the ELEAGUE Major and StarLadder Season 4. Fnatic is also up there now, and IEM’s third-place team, Astralis, didn’t disappoint in Katowice. Past that, though, there are a slew of teams that could be shuffled together and ordered in any way.
That’s a great problem to have, mind you. Upcoming CS:GO events will be incredibly interesting as it’s anyone’s guess what will happen, and who will win.