While it wasn’t necessarily a surprising outcome, it was most certainly a deserved one; Fnatic is the WESG CS:GO tournament champion.
Despite entering the event as the clear favorites, the Swedish team had to fight tooth and nail to get to the top in a surprisingly competitive eight-team playoff. Working its way to the grand finals with hardfought wins over South Korea’s MVP PK and Brazil’s Team One, Fnatic earned first place with a win over Space Soldiers in a back-and-forth grand finals.
Fnatic set the pace early on Cobblestone, bouncing back from an early deficit to amass a strong 10-5 lead over SS by halftime. While the Turkish team would keep things competitive on paper in the second half, that lead was functionally insurmountable, resulting in a clean opening map for the favorites.
With its back against the wall in the best-of-three series, it seemed as though SS was doomed as Fnatic opened Map 2, Inferno, with six wins in a row. A technical pause, however, gave way to a huge momentum swing that saw the underdogs roar back and take a big lead. Fnatic is nothing if not resilient, though, and managed to force overtime with four wins in the final six rounds. SS, however, refused to cede the map, taking the first three OT rounds and ultimately closing things out 19-16.
That brought things to a deciding Game 3 on Mirage.
SS opened in scary fashion, staggering Fnatic with a strong 7-1 run. Robin "flusha" Rönnquist and company fired back by putting 6 wins on the board by halftime, but things seemed out-of-hand when SS surged early in the second half.
Up 14-8 at one point, it would have been poised for a dominant win against almost any other team. But against Fnatic the stage was instead set for an epic collapse as the Swedish team stole the map, match and the $800,000 top prize by breaking off eight consecutive rounds.
Just two and a half months deep into 2018, Fnatic has already notched two huge LAN victories and over $1 million in winnings. With how strong the team has looked of late, and how many of its constituents seem to be struggling, it’s now worth asking whether Fnatic might just be the best CS:GO team there is right now.
Is SK Gaming Done as a Top Team?
SK Gaming was one of the favorites to win the WESG Counter-Strike event. And how could it not be?
The Brazilian team has been operating at an elite level for two years now, and won a premiere event in the ESL Pro League just a few months ago. No matter the tournament and no matter the competition, SK Gaming should be looked at as a serious contender for first-place. In a tournament that included a slew of tier-two contenders and one-and-done stacks, the team’s floor at WESG was supposed to be in the top-eight range.
That made the squad’s early exit from the event a bona fide stunner.
In Phase 1 of the group stages, SK Gaming dropped best-of-one matches to Germany’s BIG (Train, 16-11) and a Russian stack that included talent from four different CIS organizations (Overpass, 16-10). While that was one of the most stacked groups in that portion of the tournament (which also included Chinese team that did not compete) there’s no doubt that this should have been a slam dunk for a top-tier team.
While this could be chalked up as an anomaly for the team, the early exit puts a microscope on its recent struggles. Despite initially posting respectable performances at the ELEAGUE Major (finishing 3rd-4th place) and CS_Summit 2 (3rd place), it washed out early from both StarSeries season 4 (5th-8th place) and IEM Katowice (7th-8th). Though each of those tournaments saw SK Gaming bumped by either fellow heavyweights or the white hot Team Liquid, WESG was its first time struggling against second-tier competition.
For what it’s worth, the players seem to know how disappointing this outcome is. “Nothing to say, very embarrassed on (sic) ourselves,” said Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo on Twitter. “We are putting the effort but results are unacceptable. 0-2 GGWP team Russia and BIG.”
SK Gaming has fielded the same four players since rising to the top of the CS:GO scene in 2016 and seem to be closely knit, despite struggling. Still, things need to turn around in a hurry in order to stick together.
New Stars Shine
The biggest stories of WESG, naturally, revolved around established top-level teams like Fnatic, SK Gaming and Cloud9. Those teams weren’t necessarily the stars of the show, however, as some of the contender-level squads competing in China posted some of the most memorable performances of the week.
South Korea’s MVP PK, for example, was among that lot. Working its way into the playoffs with an impressive 7-2 record in the group stages, the squad acquitted itself well in a quarterfinals matchup against Fnatic. Despite the second game being a 16-2 rout for the eventual winners, MVP PK looked like a legitimate world-class team in a wild, back-and-forth Game 1 that ended in double overtime.
The team seems to have learned a lot since its tough run at StarSeries season 4 and if it can bottle up that lightning, it could start working its way into bigger tournaments in the near future.
Team One, meanwhile, looked like a group that deserves to compete under brighter spotlights today.
Long trapped in the shadows of Brazilian heavyweights like SK Gaming, Luminosity Gaming and Immortals, Team One was the sole survivor from the nation after an early group stages exit by its countrymen. While it seemed as though Team One was doomed to be bumped in the quarterfinals after being matched against ELEAGUE Major winners Cloud9, it instead rose to the occasion, beat the reigning world champions and settled into a a fourth-place finish.
The list, believe it or not, goes on.
While not all of the overachieving underdogs of WESG will pan out long-term, there was still a massive amount of under-the-radar talent on display in China. Hopefully some of those teams can make a splash later this year.