Last night we saw ESL One’s swiss stage at come to a head with a tense set of games. The day jumped straight into the action with elimination matches from the outset. With the chance to play in front of one of the biggest crowds in Counter-Strike at the LANXESS arena on the line, the stakes are high and it’s now or never.
There was surprises from the very outset, with Turkish side Space Soldiers taking down tournaments favourites SK Gaming in close 16-14 fashion. FaZe, surprisingly, also struggled in the early rounds. Both of these teams came in to the event as favourites to take the reins after their fiery clash at ECS Season 3 Finals, however both ended the day 1-1. The next day both teams appear to stabilise improving their scores to 2-1 before later missing out on playoff spots, with SK losing to G2 and FaZe losing to an elated OpTic.
Both teams later made good on their previous form, however, eventually delivering the goods to seal their spots in the playoffs. These wins saw North and fnatic sent packing far earlier than either team would have hoped for. Already secured in their playoff spots though were the two teams who went 3-0 with relative ease early in the tournament, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Team Liquid. Whilst both teams have talent in their rosters, their unbeaten passage through the swiss came as something of a surprise.
Star individual performances played a big part. For NiP, it was one of the veterans of the scene Patrik ‘f0rest’ Lindberg who came up big. He topped the scoreboard against both mousesports and G2 with scores of 29-17 and 27-11 respectively. Teammate Fredrik ‘REZ’ Sterner also stood out from the crowd, with an exceptional 26-16 performance against Cloud 9, as well as an incredible ace against mousesports.
For Liquid, Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz stole the show. The Canadian took the top spot in two of their three victories, and second in their other. Usually you would expect fellow Canadian Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken, or American Jonathan ‘EliGE’ Jablonowski to lead the way in frags, and whilst both put in strong performances, Jarguz was on another level.
The list of final eight and knocked out eight are as follows:
Final eight: NiP, Liquid, Cloud 9, OpTic, SK, FaZe, G2 and Natus Vincere.
Knocked Out: fnatic, North, mousesports, Space Soldiers, Heroic, Immortals, Virtus Pro and TyLoo.
Looking toward the Quarter Finals now, the draw seeded the teams with the best swiss stage result and placed them against those with the lower swiss stage results. This system has left us with the following best of three Quarter Finals;
10:00 Natus Vincere vs G2
13:50 Ninjas in Pyjamas vs Cloud9
17:40 FaZe vs Liquid
21:30 OpTic vs SK
The first matchup of the day has the potential be a very close game, with both teams having star potential. It will in reality come down to which team can work best together, as consistency over a best of three often comes down to more than just raw aim. This may be an issue for Natus Vincere as they lack a strong in game leader after the coaching rule change.
For the second game of the day: a repeat matchup, between NiP and Cloud9. NiP came out on top in their first encounter, however Cloud9’s form has improved over the course of this event and they will come into this fixture with a point to prove. Two factors will play a key role in this game: map pool and individual performance. NiP, with their new-look roster, could well pack some surprises on many maps, as they have had a considerable break from the competitive scene to practice with their newest edition. Meanwhile, the performances of f0rest and Jake ‘Stewie2K’ Yip look likely to heavily influence the outcome of the game, as either one of those players on top form could cause big problems.
Third up is FaZe vs Liquid, two teams in dramatically different form. Based on previous results, you would have to give FaZe the edge. So far, however, this event has told a different story. Liquid strolled through the swiss 3-0, whilst FaZe left it to the last minute to secure qualification. For me, though, Liquid’s roster are still finding their feet in international tournaments. And whilst a strong team performance COULD take FaZe down, it will be difficult for them to reckon with the game-changing potential of stars like Nikola ‘Nik0’ Kovac.
On paper, the final playoff of the day looks to be a straightforward affair. The current best team in the world, SK, should be able to use their incredible star power to overcome Optic, the hopeful North Americans. However, seemingly playing with no fear and full of fun, OpTic could take advantage of SK’s shaky form and come up with an unlikely upset that would throw the whole tournament off balance.
This is not an event you want to miss. All that’s left now is to watch and enjoy the competitive spectacle that is ESL One Cologne.