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At the IEM Katowice Finals we witnessed emphatically, CS is more than just a game

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Intel Extreme Master’s latest event at Katowice featured a CSGO Major. The $1mn event had boats loaded with moments sailing through our emotions.

It is often & frequently debated that genre of fighting & action games applauds violence and creates serious impacts in the brains of developing children. Concluding, videogames are dangerous. Perhaps, the eccentric media never urges to look around the brighter side.

The rise of ENCE as an organization with individual skillset & commitment is just another story of the day at the IEM this year. That apart, moments such as s1mple’s disheartening exit with his team. NiP’s reignited chilly machine & Dupreeh’s overwhelming performance should act as an inspiration. We also learn how MIBR has now been sidelined by the powerful Astralis side.

ENCE – The Storm No One Saw Coming

The six year old Finnish organization had a rough sprint in its early days of foundation in 2013. Moreover, the tussle between the management and players forced the organization to retire pretty soon.

The European scene of CS:GO was scrambling with players when the then 22-year-old Aleksi ‘allu’ Jalli made news with his AWPing. The Finn had first rendered its services to NiP. Following his departure, he moved to Liquid, ENCE, FaZe & Optic Gaming for the next three years.

The return of Allu to ENCE was the history in making. Perhaps, just an year ago, allu had returned to ENCE eSports. Having said that, ENCE’s only significant victory in the recent past was the Minor qualifiers to IEM Katowice.

The journey of ENCE at IEM Katowice began with stumping victory against Spirit & G2 Esports. Further, advancing to further stages amidst of multiple defeats against Renegades.

ENCE qualified for the playoffs by beating AVANGAR 2-0 convincingly. Therefore, facing Liquid, Natus Vincere in quarters and semis, beating them both in best of three’s.

The grand finals of IEM Katowice was more of a stampede for the beginners. The battles of the best where experiences win. Thus, leaving no margin for heroics for the underdogs. A team like Astralis who did beat mibr, Natus Vincere, FaZe & other mammoths of the game, mercilessly. ENCE’s defeat was no surprise, though, expectations had leveled higher for the Finns.

The journey is still pronounced remarkable & takes us back to the era, the rise of Luminosity.

Ninjas in Pyjama’s Forthcoming Future After IEM Katowice 2019

The last time NiP was in a Major playoff was three years ago at the MLG Columbus Major in 2016. After that event, it was all downhill for the legendary roster.

With no other option left, they began rebuilding their team from the core. That process has finally paid off. Three years later, NiP made it to the playoffs of a CS:GO Major.

Where it all began- the fading of the NiP touch

NiP is a legendary name. Their dominance dates from the beginning of CS:GO to 2013. They conquered the scene, became the world’s best, and set the record of the longest unbeaten run (the 87-0).

The lineup that achieved this was: Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson, Richard “Xizt” Landstrom, Adam “friberg” Friberg, Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, and Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg. They were the first to scale the heights of CS:GO competition and in this way set the standard for what it means to be the best in the world.

Post 2015, NiP were slowing down. They were still the juggernauts, but faced competition from new  guns like Fnatic, LDLC/EnVyUs, Virtus.Pro and TSM/Astralis were in the race for the #1 spot

After IEM Oakland 2016, the team had dropped to the utter pits and there was no coming back for the legendary roster. The team began cutting players from their roster and added two new players called Fredrik “REZ” Sterner and William “draken” Sundin.

This did work well for the team but was no where close to their old level. The team finally understood what was on the cards; another roster change

The Rise

In early 2018, the team announced Faruk “pita” Pita as their new coach and the arrival of  Dennis “dennis” Edman from Fnatic. Lastly, NiP traded draken for Jonas “lekr0” Olofsson to Fnatic and had rebuilt their roster with lekr0 being the IGL. The changes got NiP back to life, the lekr0 and pita partnership was successful. The team finally began seeing some light at the end of the tunnel      

IEM Katowice 2019

The IEM Katowice 2019 Major is the first tournament in the 2019 circuit. For NiP, the run to the Major playoffs shows their efforts in coming back from scratch . In the Challengers stage, NiP came strong and qualified for the Legends Stage by going 3-2.

In the Legends stage, NiP made it to the top 8 but were knocked out in the semi-finals by Astralis thus putting an end to the fairy tail.

S1mple’s Thirst For The Major

It is not often that you come across a player like s1mple. The Ukrainian has transformed himself from a one-eyed monster into a wise dragon that breathes fire on the server and freezes the viewers’ eyes with amazement.

Talking about the one-eyed monster, s1mple had sights for kills and kills only early on in his career, with the then-youngster almost always going for flashy plays. To his credit, his eccentric style worked more times than not, perhaps a testament to his prodigal talent.

Highly toxic in the initial stages of his career, his former IGL at Flipside Tactics and one of the best minds in CIS Counter-Strike – Blade highlighted the same, stating that s1mple has the talent to achieve great things if not for his toxic behaviour.

The trend continued at HellRaisers under ANGE1. The one moment or event that changed s1mple’s career trajectory for the better is Hiko standing in for Flipside Tactics at ESWC Montreal in 2015.

Flipside placed Top Four but s1mple slammed his teammates, stating that he is likely to seek newer pastures. Hiko had seen the youngster’s talent from up close and possibly recommended the hybrid AWPer when he joined Liquid. The organization soon came calling and s1mple duly obliged.

In a new environment altogether, Hiko sought to use s1mple’s ability to create carnage in the server to catapult Liquid into a new tier. The Ukrainian was brilliant on the server as usual but could not help disassociate from his toxic mentality, which saw a clash egos brew between him and the other golden boy of Liquid – Elige.

A semi-final finish at MLG Columbus featured an unfortunate turnaround from Luminosity (now the mibr stack) and soon after s1mple departed the roster. He was soon brought in to act as a stand-in at ESL One Cologne and that is the event where the Ukrainian let himself loose, also earning the infamous Cache graffiti for the audacious 2k he achieved jumping down from the heaven area.

The graffiti gave him wings and he received the most positive news of his career. His dream of representing Natus Vincere, his local giants, came to fruition. They even won the first event they played together, with the s1mple-Guardian duo already labelled as one that would usher in an era of success and dominance for the organisation.

But, it wasn’t meant to be. As has happened with other lineups that featured s1mple, tempers started boiling over, with Guardian later explaining that he had lost the will to practice and prepare for events in the latter stages of being part of the lineup.

Zeus was brought back in, with many hoping the equally eccentric IGL would be the man to tame the dragon that is s1mple. Early signs were far from positive, with seized just unable to recover from his period as the IGL when Guardian was part of the roster.

seized soon departed and Natus Vincere made their most important acquisition till date, the much-awaited addition of electronic to their roster from Flipside Tactics. An instant upgrade in terms of firepower, his addition saw s1mple being handed support from more than just flamie, which started showing in terms of results for Natus Vincere.

Na’Vi were a force again and despite their regular quarrels, the presence of skilled players alongside him made s1mple a calmer and wiser person. Over the period of the lineup, the Ukrainian has shown immense growth as far as the mental aspect of the game is concerned.

electronic could go toe-to-toe with just about any player in the world in terms of firepower and with support, s1mple began playing more as a team-player rather than thinking about kills and flashy plays.

One could say the episode with Guardian and the aftermath humbled him. But, we feel it was the opposite. It was the advent of an equally skilled player in the form of electronic that eased the pressure off s1mple, who could then concentrate on things more than just kills.

Faltering at the FACEIT Major was a heartbreaking thing, but Natus Vincere was down the right path. Undeniably, Astralis was the Ukrainian organisation’s final boss. Na’Vi prepared for the Katowice Major, but some things seemed off.

Their performance in the ICE Challenge right before IEM Katowice 2019 had alarm bells ringing. And the Zeus interview, where the Na’Vi IGL said they were really treating the major as any other tournament really got people wondering.

Na’Vi had a good start at the Major and soon breezed into the Returning Legends Stage, confirming their presence at the StarLadder major to be held in Berlin. Everything seemed to be clicking for the lineup. Flamie looked like his 2016 self, Edward and Zeus were chipping in with important rounds and Na’Vi were winning without s1mple really leading the charge in terms of kills. The Faze match saw Natus Vincere persevere through and with ENCE their semi-final opponents, the stage was set for another showdown with Astralis.

Two 16-14 losses either side of a Dust 2 demolition saw Natus Vincere bow out but it was the manner of defeat that perhaps left s1mple more frustrated than ever. While all the players except electronic had stepped up so far, only Edward provided any sort of support to s1mple against ENCE.

The fact that s1mple posted a +34 K/D over three maps, with 73 kills to his name – one less than Flamie and electronic combined – was what was heartbreaking. At a juncture where he needed his teammates the most, they shut down instead of providing any support, perhaps only reassuring s1mple that he is alone in his quest to win the Major title.

He streamed hours after being eliminated in what was arguably the most damning assessment of how bad he felt about the defeat. The stream was mainly to vent his frustration but as we witnessed, it was more than that. It was like s1mple was intent on making himself even better, with the ENCE defeat and the manner of defeat showing him he needs himself to be on a tier higher than he already is.

Whether that is humanly possible is debatable. But, s1mple is unrelenting in his quest to win the Major – the only title that the mega star is yet to lay his hands on. The Ukrainian wants the forbidden fruit and is willing to go to any lengths to do just that. With the way he is going, it seems to be question of when, not if.

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Deepak Ojha
Deepak Ojha
Founding Editor, TalkEsport

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