TECHLABS Cup preview
ESC Gaming, Natus Vincere, NiP and Virtus.pro, four of the world's best teams, are set to gather in Moscow, Russia on Saturday for TECHLABS Cup.
TECHLABS Cup is a four team invitational tournament to be held in the Russian capital with a cash only prize purse of $15,000 up for grabs with the winners going home with $8,000 of it and everyone guaranteed a slice.
Each match will take place in a best-of-one with each team removing two maps from the standard five map pool. Matches will start early in the morning with the grand final slightly later in the day:
|08:00||ESC Gaming||vs. Virtus.pro||BO1|
|09:30||Upper bracket final||BO1|
|10:30||Lower bracket final||BO1|
* team coming from lower bracket will have to win two maps to win the grand final
We haven't seen Virtus.pro on LAN since SLTV StarSeries IV finals and NiP has recently lost online against both ESC Gaming and Natus Vincere, setting up a highly interesting event.
Can Natus Vincere defeat NiP on LAN as well? How good is Virtus.pro after such a long break from LANs? What can we expect from ESC? Continue reading to find out!
NiP (f0rest, Fifflaren friberg, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt)
Despite some shaky online results in the past week or so, Ninjas in Pyjamas are once again the clear favorites to end up on the highest part of the podium when it's all said and done on Saturday evening. They were given a wake up call courtesy of Natus Vincere on Wednesday in SLTV StarSeries V, but that's all it was - a wake up call. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
I don't know if it was just pure bad luck or maybe there's actually something going on, but NiP's in-game leader Richard "Xizt" Landström struggled in both the loss versus Na`Vi and their nail-biting 16-14 win over fnatic last night. Landström has received a lot of praise over the last six months for his play, and for NiP to stay dominant in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive he will also have to hold up his end of the bargain.
With teams seemingly getting closer and closer to NiP I actually think that they very well might be delivered a full loss on LAN at Copenhagen Games (or at least wouldn if it wasn't all BO3), and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if NiP lost a map at TECHLABS Cup. What's worse? TECHLABS Cup is actually best-of-one double elimination, so the Swedes losing a map could have some consequences.
I think the first match versus Na`Vi will, in the end, define NiP's tournament. If I were NiP I would make sure I'm well prepared for the Ukrainians, as underestimating them and relying purely on skill (as they did in the loss' terrorist side) is a bit risky, even though Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg and Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund tend to deliver.
In the end I do think NiP's win margins have been big enough that I think they will still grab the first place and the $8,000 check that comes with it. It's getting dangerously close for them and one of these events, whether it's TECHLABS Cup, Copenhagen Games or RaidCall EMS One, they will eventually lose, I just don't think it will be in Moscow.
Will we see GeT_RiGhT celebrating once again this weekend?
ESC Gaming (kuben, Loord, NEO, pasha, TaZ)
ESC Gaming have shown heaps of promise at times, but just when you think they've finally figured it all out and are about to break through as an absolute top three team in the world, they will drop a map against a team you'd never expected to really be in competition with them. It's how it is, and it's how it has been since the team saw the light of the day years ago.
Unlike Na`Vi, ESC Gaming were able to make it to the semi-final of RaidCall EMS One Cup #4 and qualify for the main round. The Poles also made it to SLTV StarSeries V finals despite a three-way-tie and were invited to ESEA Invite Season 13 playoffs as a replacement team for Virtus.pro who ran into visa problems. It's safe to say things are looking up.
As I tweeted this week, Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas has been an absolute monster in CS:GO so far. A case could be made that he was playing better than the team's marque player Filip "NEO" Kubski already in late 2011 when he led his team to a win at SEC 2011, but now he has definitely become the most productive member of the squad in the fragging department.
IEM 6 World Championship MVP Jarosław "pasha" Jarząbkowski has also been, well, strong in CS:GO, with a 0.82 FPR so far in the game's limited history. If Kubski is able to get back to his CS 1.6 level in CS:GO, ESC Gaming could compete for titles even at the biggest CS:GO events, but right now it does seem as if the team is still missing something.
They have proven to be stronger than Virtus.pro, so I think ESC Gaming will win the first round match. However, I don't foresee them taking down NiP or Na`Vi in the upper bracket final, and just going by the odds it seems like a third place finish is their faith this weekend. Just don't be surprised if the Poles go to the grand final.
IEM 6 WC MVP pasha & co have their work cut out for them in Moscow
Virtus.pro (AdreN, ANGE1, Dosia, Fox, KucheR)
Virtus.pro are in a weird place as a team. Their results point towards them having improved from the form we saw at SLTV StarSeries IV, their last and only CS:GO LAN event where they lost against ESC Gaming in December, but with them having missed all the events since then it's hard to gauge their level as a team.
Skipping Mad Catz CS:GO Invitational, regardless of the reasons, seems like an odd move from the Russian organization. Virtus.pro were also unable to secure visas needed for Russian citizens to visit the United States, so fans hoping to see Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov & co in Dallas will be disappointed with yet another CIS-based team's hopes of traveling to North America smashed.
On the plus side, Virtus.pro basically has a homecourt advantage this weekend and they will travel to Copenhagen next weekend, so they are finally getting their shot in the coming weeks to show what they are really about. Oddly enough they never took part in RaidCall EMS One qualifiers, but they have some CS:GO coming up in the next months regardless.
Virtus are 8-1-1 in their most recent ten SLTV StarSeries V games with a loss versus NiP and a tie against fnatic. They took down Natus Vincere last night and have proven to be a force to be reckoned with at least on de_nuke_se. However, I still think they are outmatched this weekend, although Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow has been playing extremely well at times.
I think their lack of playing tournaments together in recent months will come back and bite them this weekend. ESC Gaming are not only favorites over Virtus in the opening round but also have a history of beating them, and I think on LAN when there's more on the line you have to favor Na`Vi over them. Good news is they will be better in Copenhagen.
ANGE1's Virtus.pro returns to LAN play after a three month hiatus
Natus Vincere (ceh9, Edward, markeloff, starix, Zeus)
Natus Vincere's trajectory as a team has been all upwards ever since they finally took the plunge and switched to CS:GO. Despite early struggles in last December's SLTV StarSeries IV when they clearly weren't ready to compete, they never gave up and their recent bootcamps in Kiev have clearly worked out for the team who are now in the conversation of being a top five team in the world.
In Vienna they topped their group over ESC Gaming and n!faculty, and were figuratively within a hair from knocking VeryGames, who went on to place third, out in the quarter-finals. The multiple overtime loss on de_mirage_go combined with a 14-16 loss on de_inferno_se, where they lost a save round, must have been hard to swallow, but neither stopped the team. And we saw Yegor "markeloff" Markelov's AWP arrive.
Although they missed RaidCall EMS One finals due to a loss versus LDLC.com, they have also shown promise in SLTV StarSeries V, where they have clinched a spot at the finals with wins over the likes of ESC, ALTERNATE, Imaginary, Anexis, mousesports and most recently, and importantly, NiP, who they overcame with a 16-12 score despite a mistake-filled 5-10 terrorist side on de_dust2_se.
While we obviously shouldn't overvalue a simple online win, Na`Vi has over the years proven to be very consistent with the way they play, and obviously outperform themselves on LAN, so a win against a team like NiP who were (aside from Landström) also playing from LAN (as were Na`Vi) definitely holds some value. Seeing Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev with a great performance against the best in CS:GO is also promising to say the least.
Na`Vi's odds are stacked against them in the opening round as they have to face off against NiP right off the bat, but I do think regardless of the SLTV loss versus Virtus.pro (after already having qualified for finals) they are favorites to overcome both ESC and Virtus.pro for a second place in Moscow. It will require all of their players to play well, but with how well in-game leader Danilo "Zeus" Teslenko is playing, sky is the limit for Na`Vi if the rest of his team follow suit.
Can starix & co ride the momentum from NiP win to a TECHLABS victory?
HLTV.org will provide you with hot matches, GOTVs and statistics this weekend with TECHLABS Cup set to kick off tomorrow at 07:00 in Moscow, Russia.