ESL One: Cologne wrapped over the weekend with some of the best players in the world competing in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for a chance to win their share of a $300,000 USD prize pool. There were some big names at this event, along with a few upsets as sure-things were knocked out in the playoffs, but when it came down to the semi-finals, it could have been anyone’s game.
The tournament kicked off with the various groups tackling one another in an effort to proceed to the playoffs. One team who absolutely dominated the group stages was Astralis, who managed an incredible run through the brackets. Astralis’ first snack was ENCE eSports, a relatively new face at this level of the CS:GO scene. The one and only game played during the first round was Nuke, and Astralis showed ENCE what it means to be a world-leader in CS:GO as the boys secured a 16-5 victory over the Finnish team.
With their first victory in hand, Astralis climbed another rung up to face Cloud9, a team known for their prowess in the CS:GO field. The format shifted to best-of-three, but much like how Astralis performed at ESL Pro League Season 7, they only needed two wins to secure the victory. The first map was Mirage, and although C9 put up a good fight, Astralis snatched it 16-12. Overpass was next, and Astralis showed their deep understanding of the map and their expert teamwork as they claimed victory, 16-1.
G2 Esports stood between Astralis and a slot at either the quarterfinals or the semifinals, and again Astralis proved that given the chance, they only need two of the three potential maps to claim victory. Dust II was first off the ranks, and it came exceptionally close as the two teams fought back and forth for control. The match was pushed into extra rounds as both teams landed at 15 wins, but it was Astralis that claimed the 19 needed for the victory, while G2 Esports stalled at 16.
The second map was Nuke, and after Astralis’ performance against ENCE, the team was ready to do it all again. Despite their performance in the first round, G2 couldn’t find a good rhythm and couldn’t break into the double-digits. Astralis capped off the group stages against G2 Esports 16-4 and secured their slot in the semifinals.
The playoffs began with Astralis facing Natus Vincere, a team who had gone entirely undefeated during the group stages. First map off the rank was Overpass, and although Astralis dominated Cloud9 during groups, Na`Vi had other ideas. The match was a nail-biter, as both teams pulled for a lead, but it was Natus Vincere that eked out some room to pull ahead, taking the first round 16-13. Nuke was up next, and Astralis started off at a sprint, securing the first 7 rounds in a row, but Na`Vi started to catch up, though it wasn’t enough as Astralis brought the round to 1-all.
It all came down to the final map, Inferno. Natus Vincere and Astralis were both on tenterhooks as they traded tags and picks. Too often players would escape with a sliver of life or a round would come down to an intense battle. The final round ended as quickly as it started, and although there was an impressive push by Astralis into NaVi’s base, Edward secured a double kill and then it was over within a few seconds. Na`Vi had secured their spot in the grand finals of ESL One: Cologne 2018.
The grand final was between Natus Vincere and BIG, two major players in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive scene. Being a best-of-five format, endurance is key to success, and both teams were ready for the marathon.
Overpass started the grand final and both teams were quick to find their pace, but it was Na`Vi who clawed their way ahead, claiming the round 16-10. Dust II was up next, and BIG took the opportunity to secure a win, bringing the scoreboard to 1-1. The third map was Train, and BIG managed to control the first moments of the map, taking the round score to 4 before Na`Vi could secure their first victory. After this point, the rounds were traded back and forth until Natus Vincere decided they had enough and proceeded to win the final nine rounds in a row. All that was needed for Na`Vi to claim the tournament was one more victory, and that’s what they did.
What was to be the final map took place on Inferno, and after their impressive skills displayed against Astralis on the same map, Natus Vincere were in an excellent position for a repeat. The first three rounds were Na`Vi’s, but a few rounds later BIG went on a four-round winning streak that shook the audience. The trading continued back and forth for a couple of rounds until, much like the previous map, Na`Vi pushed themselves to the limit and won all but one round, securing an impressive 16-8 victory over BIG, and claiming first place at ESL One: Cologne 2018. Congratulations to Na’ Vi! We’re looking forward to many more intense clashes to come!