IEM Katowice Challengers Stage

IEM Katowice Challengers Stage Review

From day one of the Challengers Stage, the participants put on an excellent show. The favorites (according to seeding) losing turned everything upside down.

The early results were more than surprising. But, really, only several teams which were expected to proceed to the Legends Stage, failed.


Let’s go over which teams were victorious, and which left disappointed.






“I have never been so wrong in my life” ( ̶T̶h̶o̶r̶i̶n̶ ̶O̶a̶k̶e̶n̶s̶h̶i̶e̶l̶d̶, 25% of Pick’Em Challenge participants)

It was surprising to see one of the favorites to go 3-0 leaving the tournament here with a dismal record of 1-3. FACEIT Major London 2018 was the tournament in which Fnatic didn’t make it to the playoffs for the first time in history. Today, their progress in London looks like an overachievement.


Everything looked pretty good on paper before the start of the tournament, but a quick loss to ViCi Gaming must have stupified the team and the fans. However, a loss like that can have two different knock-on effects: it either invigorates or immobilizes. The second effect was, sadly, the one Fnatic embodied, as they fell in their second match to Winstrike as well. Yes, eventually they won a bo3 against the lowly Grayhound Gaming, but they were then given a spanking by G2, knocking them out, mercifully.


The Swedes didn’t look like a team who was one step away from beating Astralis at IEM Chicago. It seemed like only KRIMZ prepared for the Major, while everyone else struggled. In Brollan’s case, it could’ve been his lack of experience or nerves a Major tournament brings. But what happened to Xizt, JW, and twist? That question has no obvious answer.


Three words: a disappointing result.






NRG is cruising! And their perfect 3-0 record and shortest path to the Legends Stage is the strongest proof of that. Their battle vs. the big dogs is still yet to come, but I am convinced that they have a strong chance to reach top 8 in the Major.


Brehze is playing insanely well at the moment. In a very interesting and close match against Tyloo, in which the winner advanced to the next stage, he had an almost 2x K/D ratio.


He was strongly supported by CeRq and Ethan. It seems that playing in a Major hasn’t had any negative effect on the young Bulgarian. He even pulled off a 1v2 vs. Tyloo with 2hp.


I’m looking forward to seeing NRG performing against the best teams in the world in the Legends Stage.






That was nervewracking.


Would you expect a team to recover after 3-16 and 6-16 losses to Tyloo and ViCi Gaming, leading to a 1-2 record? And, still make it to the Legends Stage? Tack onto that their elimination decider started with a 1-16 loss to FURIA.


Well, somehow Cloud9 overcame all of that, defeating FURIA (they fought back winning the two next maps 16-1 and 16-10), and beating Winstrike in their second elimination decider, outlasting them in overtime on the second map.


Frankly said, there’s nothing to signal any reason to get excited about the NA org in the Legends Stage – the teams waiting for them will capitalize on their mistakes. Unless there’s significant improvement between now and midweek, expect C9 to get eliminated quickly.






I am happy.


It happened before, but still, it would’ve been weird not to see f0rest and GeT_RiGhT on the “Legends” list.  


After beating FURIA, NiP lost a tough match vs. Renegades (13-16 on Mirage) and were blown out of the server by Winstrike (6-16 on Train). But, on the edge of elimination, the team got help from someone who has saved the team for so many times before. It was time for f0rest to step up, and he was there right when they needed him most.


Patrik’s 1.3 and 1.6 K/D ratio in elimination matches vs. Vega Squadron and ViCi Gaming were pivotal in NiP’s victory.


NiP reached the Legends Stage. Nothing else matters.


I am happy.






Yes, ENCE had a 3-1 record, but they had to sweat it out. Their first two games were won quite easily, but the last step to the Legends Stage was a hard one. Finnish fervor was unexpectedly tempered by Renegades, and then an exhausting match with WInstrike followed.


After showing flawless CT sides on the first two maps, the teams moved to train to settle who’d be the one that would advance to the next stage. Applying their usual, aggressive style as CTs, ENCE managed to close the first half 14-1, and the matche seemed to be decided. But the Finnish squad made it closer than it should’ve been with some costly errors before eventually winning the game 16-13.


It’s impossible not to mention that a wonderful thing happened: a photo of Sergej smiling was leaked online. Joking 🙂


Having led his team to the Legends Stage, Allu returned home to be present for his first child’s birth. Soon after, he posted a touching photo of him holding his child on Twitter. Congratulations, Papa Aleksi!


Nothing much to add here: the first stage was successful in every possible way for ENCE and their captain. Keep it up!


Team Vitality




Surviving a rollercoaster – that’s what I’d call the French team’s story from the Challengers stage.


Their first-round defeat at the hands of Tyloo was a rude awakening.


It seemed like they were on their way to an 0-2 record after their abysmal 2-13 first half in their match vs. Grayhound Gaming. But the team showed their vitality as ZywOo and apEX stepped up and forced overtime, eventually winning it. What a comeback it was!


Dismantling Vega Squadron 16-1 proved the team was back on track and got them just one step away from the Legends Stage. However, ViCi wasn’t about to just roll over. The Chinese side sill lost 0-2 but in a close affair (22-25 on Inferno, and 12-16 on Nuke).


Team Vitality rolls on, but there’s a lesson the team must learn: ZywOo, probably, won’t always be able to carry the team. And the further they get in the tournament and the stronger the teams they face are, the less likely it is for someone to be able to carry his team singlehandedly.






While writing a preview about G2. I just couldn’t get rid of the thought that something was wrong. I just couldn’t see them overcoming their form in the Challengers Stage. The whole year-long story about unsuccessful substitutes, transfers, and replacements made me think they were primed for disappointment. I was wrong.


After a win vs. Vega Squadron and two defeats to ENCE and AVANGAR (16-6 and 16-10 respectively, both on Overpass), they were just one map away from being eliminated from the Major by Fnatic. But, after losing on Mirage, they won two maps in a row and repeated that same trick in their next elimination match vs. Tyloo.


Well, okay. They won the first stage of the Major. Shox, Lucky, and kennyS looked pretty convincing. But, at this point, they’ll need a lot more to go any further.






AVANGAR is just a workhorse. The team is not the sexiest team in the tournament, but they can upset anybody on any given day.


After losing to Renegades, AVANGAR struggled vs. FURIA, but pulled away in the end. Quite surprisingly, they got past G2 quite easily, and then won a tight match vs. Tyloo, reaching the Legends Stage with a 3-1 record.


It’s hard to understand how Jame handles leading his team during matches and performing at such a high level with his AWP. Luckily, he has great support from Krizzen and fitch.






Renegades’ performance was definitely a surprise for me. Not only did I not see them having a 3-0 record, I didn’t even put them on my top 8 list. And, they sure shut me up!


First, they, along with NRG, went undefeated, despite having first-time major attendees (Gratisfaction and CeRq respectively) on their teams.


Second: they beat opponents like NiP and ENCE (yes, they are a big deal now). In fact, they demolished ENCE on their map pick (Nuke) 16:7, having only played it once during 2018.


It makes you wonder if they have any more surprises hidden under their cowboy hats. I’m looking forward to finding out soon.


Vega Squadron


Vega squadron


I wanted this CIS squad to make it through more than anything. Their style makes CS such an amazing esport. Their controlled aggression and individual skill makes for a fantastic viewing experience, because they can beat, literally, anyone.


JR and chopper willed Vega to new heights at the last Major in London, but they fell just short this time losing to G2, Vitality, and NiP, all of which qualified for the Legends Stage. Unfortunately, as the 10 seed, they were always going to have a tough road to hoe.

It’s sad to say, but I think this team has reached its limits. They may need to add a new face to the roster or the management and get these guys participating in more tournaments.






No one knew what to expect from Tyloo, and they surprised a lot of people.


Their impressive performance vs. Team Vitality and Cloud9 (16-8 and 16-3 wins, respectively) put them at 2-0 and silenced some naysayers. Unfortunately, they crumbled in their next three matches, so we won’t be seeing the team in the Legends Stage.


There’s no doubt Johnta’s arrival has had a positive effect on the team’s performance. The results Tyloo had at IEM Katowice Major were the best in their history, and came after only a month of practice. I’m looking forward to seeing them in other tournaments throughout 2019.


Team Spirit


Team Spirit


Unfortunately, my faith in the CIS roster didn’t translate into results.


Yes, close scores like 14-16 vs. Vega Squadron and FURIA Esports showed that Team Spirit is capable of competing with Major contenders. But in matches like these, it all comes down to which team makes fewer mistakes. In both, Spirit faltered. Who knows how the things would’ve gone if S0tF1k hadn’t gone in vs. Chopper in a 100% winning situation with the bomb not planted and just 2 seconds until the end of the round…


Well, it’s already in books, and the team needs to think about what’s ahead. As Rocky Balboa said, “…[life] is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done…” This hit was hard. Your move, Team Spirit.



FURIA Esports




This is where dreams met reality.


The guys from FURIA tried hard to convert the combination of their skills and mass support into success and nearly pulled another rabbit out of the hat.


Their insistence on choosing Mirage in each of their four matches was fascinating. They went from getting wrecked, to dismantling their opponents on the map (6-16 vs. NiP, 14-16 vs. Avangar, 16-9 vs. Team Spirit, 16-1 vs. Cloud9). However, their outstanding performance on the first map of their bo3 elimination decider vs. C9 was quickly forgotten. Their fall back to earth was swift and comprenhesive, with C9 returning the favor on Inferno, obliterating a hapless FURIA 16-1, before finishing them off on Cache 16-10.


It would have been interesting to see kscerato and co. play against MIBR, but the Brazilian derby, at this tournament, isn’t going to happen. The clock struck midnight and the Cinderella story ends here.


Grayhound Gaming


Grayhound Gaming


If, after the London Major someone told me that I wouldn’t be seeing Mousesports in Katowice, and would instead see an Australian team (other than Renegades) taking their place, I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.


But winning the qualifier and winning matches against the strongest teams in the world at a Major are totally different things. So, in my opinion, everything happened the way it was meant to.


Three matches, three decent opponents, three defeats. Against Team Vitality, GhG were close to shocking the world. But no matter how “hard Dick pushed” (c), it wasn’t enough to carry the whole team, as each member finished the tournament with a K/D ratio below 1.


Nevertheless, taking part in an event as significant as the IEM Katowice Major, playing against strong opponents on LAN, and gaining some much-needed experience make Greyhound Gaming’s performance a huge step forward for Australian Counter-Strike.




Winstrike Team


No one should’ve expected last year’s miraculous mindblowing results from Winstrike to be repeated, as they are a totally different team now. BoombI4 and Kvik, the experienced wayLander and WorldEdit, and the unpredictable n0rb3r7 looked decent, but it wasn’t enough.


The CIS squad, who was 15th, only faced teams from the top 5 seeds.


The Swedish powerhouses of Fnatic and NiP were dispatched by BoombI4 and co, but the Frenchmen from Team Vitality, and the North Americans from NRG and Cloud9 stopped Winstrike from reaching the New Legends Stage.


Did they play well? Yes. Should they keep the roster? Definitely. A strong performance is a foundation from which they continue building.




Vici Gaming


ViCi were another underdog from Asia who impressed.


Seeded 16th out of 16 teams, they didn’t tank 0-3 but played all five matches possible. Incredibly, all of these matches were played against teams in the top 6 seeds.


ViCi upset big names like Fnatic and Cloud9 and were very close to beating Vitality (they lost 25-22 on Inferno and 16-12 on Nuke, playing a fiercely aggressive style). NiP were the ones to end ViCi’s participation at the Major, in a highly competitive bo3.


It was a hell of an experience for such a young team, both going to the Major and competing with strong teams on LAN.

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