CS:GO: How Things Stand
ESL One Cologne was an exhilarating tournament and it highlighted precisely why CS:GO is so popular within the blossoming esports scene right now.
15:48 29 July 2019
Fans were treated to a steady stream of brilliant matches, a number of individuals dazzled with their brilliance and the tournament delivered a number of major talking points. Here are five things we learned at ESL One Cologne:
Astralis in Freefall
Astralis’ fall from grace over the past couple of months has been nothing short of spectacular. In March the Danes cemented their outrageous dominance over the CS:GO scene by romping to a second consecutive Major at IEM Katowice. They won 15 events in 2018 and scooped a $1 million bonus for completing the Intel Grand Slam, and their dominance looked set to continue long into the future. But the wheels have since come off in remarkable fashion for Astralis.
Their defeat to FURIA at ECS Season 7 in early June shocked the CS:GO scene to its core. Team Liquid knocked them off the top of the world rankings for the first time in 14 months, and many proclaimed it to be the end of an era. Yet others pointed out that dev1ce, dupreeh, Xyp9x, glaive and Magisk were merely rusty after sitting out so many tournaments this year and argued that they would soon be back with a vengeance.
However, Astralis suffered a symbolic defeat to Liquid in the quarter-finals of ESL Pro League 9, and they were swept aside by Team Vitality in the semis at ESL One Cologne. The Danes are now on a long winless streak, their confidence has seemingly taken a knock and the air of invincibility that once surrounded them has now utterly dissipated. The situation has done wonders for the competitiveness of the CS:GO scene and it points to an extremely healthy future for its esports scene.
Team Liquid Are on Fire
Team Liquid have gleefully seized Astralis’ mantle as the best team in the world and they are on fire right now. The signing of Stewie2K has had a transformative effect on this team, allowing them to emerge from Astralis’ shadow, and ensuring they’re always a popular selection in the esports betting markets. They have already won the iBUYPOWER Masters IV, IEM Sydney, DreamHack Masters Dallas, ESL Pro League Season 9 and ESL One Cologne this year, vanquishing Astralis in the process and storming to the top of the world rankings.
Now they have become the second team to secure the $1 million Intel Grand Slam, and they achieved it in the space of just 63 days by delivering four consecutive victories. NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson was among the big names to congratulate the team on their achievement after they completed the Grand Slam with a dominant win at ESL One Cologne.
Team Liquid secured a 2-0 clean sweep of Natus Vincere in the semi-finals and they were the clear favourites in to win the final. They came up against Team Vitality, who were full of endeavour and aggression, and they needed to be at their very best to wrap up a 3-1 triumph.
“Last year, we just lived in their [Astralis’] shadow, and that gave us all this drive,” said Liquid star Twistzz. “We knew we were going to be the best this year, and we are living up to it.”
Attention will soon turn to the next Major, which takes place in Berlin in September, and it will be fascinating to see if TL can convert their dominance into further silverware. Liquid is the most successful esports franchise of all time, and it is on fire within League of Legends and Dota 2 right now, but its CS:GO team is currently the jewel in its crown.
S1mple is Mortal After All
The Ukrainian superstar has long been regarded as the best player in the world, but even he can have an off day. S1mple was left with egg on his face during a group stage match against TL at ESL One Cologne, as he botched an attempted knife kill on nitr0. That proved to be the turning point in the match, as TL secured a comeback victory.
He apologised on Twitter after the match: “Easy 2-0. Oops I mean 1-2. GGWP Team Liquid next time it won’t happen. Sorry all fans for knife attempt, wanted to give them a chance.”
It was a high-profile gaffe, but s1mple quickly recovered and emerged as Na’Vi’s best player throughout the tournament. He led them into the semi-finals, where they lost 16-12, 16-12 to TL. It is clear that he is streets ahead of his teammates, and he is unlikely to clinch much silverware unless he moves to a different team.
But perhaps s1mple is simply content to luxuriate in his status as the world’s greatest CS:GO player and to keep dazzling fans with epic plays like this.
Team Vitality Look Promising
Vitality were hugely impressive at ESL One Cologne and their run to the grand final has seen them leapfrog Astralis into second place in the HLTV rankings. The French upstarts are very much a team on the rise and they did well to beat ENCE, Heroic and Fnatic in the group stage before destroying NRG in the quarters.
Next up they claimed the biggest scalp of all by toppling the mighty Astralis in the semi-finals. It was a brilliant, pulsating match. They began by cruising to a 16-8 victory on Dust 2, but they then fell to a 22-19 overtime defeat on Inferno. Rather than let that loss affect their confidence, they bounced back with a 16-9 victory on Overpass to clinch the series.
At the heart of everything was the phenomenally talented 18-year-old ZywOo. The wonderkid delivered 25 kills to 12 deaths on Dust 2 and then went 20-12 on Overpass to lead his team to victory. In the final he pulled off an amazing 1v3 to hand Team Vitality the second map, although they could not get the better of TL in the end.
Yet this young man looks to have a glorious future ahead of him. He is already achieving similar stats to s1mple, and he could soon be considered one of the world’s best players. The likes of FURIA and MIBR both flopped at ESL One Cologne, and both lack consistency, so Team Vitality are arguably best placed to take down TL and Astralis in big tournaments going forwards.
Cologne is Becoming CS:GO’s Spiritual Home
It was the fourth consecutive year that Cologne has held this tournament and the 15,000-seater Lanxess Arena was sold out on all three days. The event has a modest prize pool of just $300,000, but it punches well above its weight in the CS:GO calendar. Many see it as a Major in everything but name, and it is an extremely prestigious trophy to win.
“It’s less money than some events we’ve gone to, but it’s one we really want to win,” said FaZe Clan head of esports Erik Anderson.
No city has hosted a CS:GO tournament for so long and a passion for the game seems to run deep among the good people of Cologne. ESL’s headquarters are located there and it is fast becoming the spiritual home of CS:GO.