Despite the challenge of Finnish underdogs ENCE, the stellar Danish squad delivered a flawless performance in Poland.
Intel® Extreme Masters Katowice 2019 marked the end of a four year wait for the Spodek Arena to host a CS:GO Major once again. This anticipation was palpable throughout February as fans from across Europe and the entire globe turned this relatively small Polish city into the epicentre of esports little by little as the Grand Final approached. It was a magical month filled with epic action on the servers, cheeky memes on social media and pure emotion on the stands.
This is how the Major played out:
The first week of competition saw the teams qualified through regional Minors take stage center with the top five spots going to NRG, Renegades, ENCE, Vitality and AVANGAR. Ninjas in Pyjamas, Cloud9 and G2 carried the flag for the old guard by taking the final three spots for the Legends Stage on the very last series. Swedish powerhouse Fnatic booked an early flight home with a disappointing 1-3 record that prevented them from even dreaming of a title defense at IEM Katowice.
In contrast to the Challengers stage, The Returning Legends left little room for the newcomers to shine. Astralis and Liquid validated their status as the top two teams in world CS:GO with commanding 3-0 records that saw them easily through to the Champions Stage. Na’Vi and MIBR also delivered an expected performance by following the undisputed top dogs.
The other usual suspects, FaZe Clan and NiP, had to wait until the very last day of the competition to book their ticket to the final stage. Renegades put in an inspired performance to qualify in the top five, while ENCE started showing signs of what was yet to come by turning around an 0-2 win/loss deficit into a Champions Stage appearance.
While everyone was bracing for yet another Liquid-Astralis final, with both rivals on opposite sides of the bracket, Finnish underdogs ENCE stole the show in Katowice by taking down the best team in NA with a resounding 2-0 victory.
Their fairytale carried on into the semifinals, where a heavily-favoured Na’Vi couldn’t handle the inspired Finns. Allu and co. defied all odds to reach Championship Sunday of a CS:GO Major to the tune of “EZ4ENCE”, a song born out of a meme that slowly climbed on the Finnish Spotify charts as the Land of a Thousand Lakes caught the CS:GO bug.
Astralis’ road to the Grand Final was an absolute display of strength by the Danish superstars. So much so that we’ve run out of words to describe their excellence.
The decider had all the ingredients to become a classic. The Spodek was full to the brim as the CS:GO community gathered to celebrate the very best their sport had to offer and the crowd roared with excitement as the squads took to their battle stations. Despite having most of the arena on their side, ENCE’s star would cease to rise at the hands of the best team in the game’s history.
Astralis left no doubt of their alpha status in the Counter-Strike ecosystem with clinical victories on both maps to lift their third Major trophy. This victory also means that the Intel® Grand Slam Season 1 winners have kicked off their title defense in the best possible way. Rival squads who wish to get their hands on the Season 2 million-dollar payday will have a chance to catch up with the Danes at IEM Syndey between April 30 and May 5.