By: Joe Dorn
The 2019 Starladder Counter Strike: Global Offensive Major Tournament in Berlin really was a spectacle to behold. Beginning on August 23rd and lasting up until September 8th, 32 teams play it out to determine which team is the best. Also with a $1,000,000 prize pool plus extra from crowdfunding, teams bring all they got, resulting in some of the best performances and craziest upsets you won’t see at any other small tournament.
The qualifiers for the tournament, ending on August 26th, went almost exactly as expected, with the majority of the favorites moving onto the New Legends Stage to play with those teams who had also qualified to move onto the next stage. The only exception to this was Brazilian favorites FURIA, who dropped out in the qualifiers. Instead, the little known Russian team Dreameaters qualified, and proceeded to exit from the New Legends Stage without picking up a single win.
Coming into the main tournament, the favorite to win the entire thing was North American powerhouse Team Liquid, who had won 6 out of their 9 previous tournaments attended, and were runner-ups in the three they lost. That is definitely no small feat. They also held the number one spot for over 2 months prior to the tournament, according to hltv.org’s rankings. Halfway through the New Legends Stage, however, Liquid’s dominance began to falter, with them sitting on a less than stellar one win against two losses scoreline, and at three losses, you’re eliminated. Although, as expected, Team Liquid proceeded to win their next two matches and move onto the playoffs stage.
The playoffs stage consisted of the top six teams at the time, which were (in order of rank), Team Liquid, the French “Vitality,” Finnish “ENCE,” Danish “Astralis,” American/Canadian/Bulgarian “NRG,” and Russian/Ukrainian “Natus Vincere.” Along with them came the number seventeen team, Australian/Kiwi/Norwegian “Renegades,” and the number twenty team, Kazakh/Russian/Uzbek “AVANGAR.” Not many people expected Renegades or AVANGAR to qualify for the playoffs, and were doubted by both the community and big name analysts.
The quarter-finals is where everything gets crazy now, with three of the four matches being regarded as upsets. In the upper bracket, Renegades proceeded to blow ENCE out of the water, beating them in two maps in the best of three matchup. Even though ENCE was clearly the better team, some analysts and many of their fans from down under had faith in them, and they managed to pull off the upset. Next up was a matchup between AVANGAR, who were the clear underdogs, versus Vitality, who sports arguably the best player in the world, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut. Despite a fantastic performance from ZywOo, AVANGAR pulled off the upset on the back of an even better performance from Dzhami “Jame” Ali. This resulted in the upper bracket semi-final being a matchup between the two clear underdogs of playoffs, Renegades versus AVANGAR.
The lower bracket of the quarter-finals played out differently, with all four of the teams having potential to win the whole major. The first matchup was NRG versus Natus Vincere. It went as most people expected, with NRG beating their opponent in two maps. This could in part be due to a surprisingly shallow performance from Natus Vincere’s star player and hltv.org’s best player of 2018, Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. This came along with, of course, mediocre performances from the rest of the team too. The final matchup was between Astralis and Team Liquid. With Team Liquid being the current favorites to win the whole tournament and Astralis being the winner of the previous two Majors, this match was the highlight of the entire tournament thus far. However, to some people’s surprise and others’ expectations, Astralis managed to beat out the number one team in the world in two maps to reach the semi-finals.
The first match of the semi-finals was a rather even but low-tier matchup between the two underdogs, AVANGAR and Renegades. In the end, AVANGAR came out on top, resulting in one of the biggest Cinderella stories in CS:GO Major history. Even if Renegades one out over AVANGAR, it would still be a big surprise for everyone. The second matchup was between Astralis and NRG, and it seemed like whoever won this matchup would win the entire tournament. Astralis took an overwhelming victory over NRG, which puts them on track to win not only their fourth Major win ever, but their third Major win in a row.
The grand final went exactly as everyone expected, with Astralis blowing AVANGAR out of the water in the most decisive victory in Major history, only allowing AVANGAR to win 11 rounds out of the 43 played. With this win, history was made, with Astralis, consisting of Major MVP Nicolai “device” Reedts, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, Emil “Magisk” Reif, and Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, being both the first team to win four Majors overall, beating the previous record holders, Swedish “fnatic”, and being the first team to win three Majors in a row. Nicolai “device” Reedts also becomes the second player ever to hold two Major MVP awards, joining Marcelo “coldzera” David, who did not attend this Major. Congratulations to Astralis on their fourth Major win, and considering their unrivaled consistency, they may be on track to win their fifth in Spring 2020.