SL i-League Invitational #1 preview
The first SL i-League Invitational tournament is taking place from May 19-22 with eight teams battling for a total of $100,000 in prizemoney. Here is our preview of the event.
Less than 24 hours are remaining before we get to see the kick-off of SL i-League Invitational #1, a $100,000 tournament which will have eight teams in attendance, including the likes of Natus Vincere and Virtus.pro.
The Olimpiyskiy Football Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, will play host to the entire event played from May 19-22.
SL i-League Invitational will not start with a group stage for a change - the teams were placed into a best-of-three, double-elimination bracket, whose upper quarter-final match-ups can be seen above.
Let's delve deep into each team's recent history, results and placings, to see who has the best chance to make it far in the bracket and how the event could play out in the following preview.
|Egor "flamie" Vasilyev||19||1.13|
Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács
|Denis "seized" Kostin||21||1.05|
|Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev||28||1.02|
|Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko||28||0.93|
That, combined with the fact that ESL Pro League's regular season came to a close in April, gave Natus Vincere a much-needed break, spanning for nearly a month since their last Pro League match against mousesports on April 26th.
A case could be made for the Ukraine-based team to be a bit rusty following the long break from competing. However, in this case it could also help GuardiaN get back to his previous form, for which he earned a short-lived title of the best player in the world.
Na`Vi are coming back after a month-long hiatus
Considering most elite-level teams are missing from the list of attendees, Natus Vincere are considered clear favourites. However, there are a few dangers lying in wait they should be aware of - especially the match-up with Virtus.pro. Despite the Poles' recent form, they were still able to give Na`Vi a run for their money in Counter Pit Season 2 semi-finals.
Then there is the improving HellRaisers roster, which could very well be the other team reaching the upper bracket final. However, they seem to be too top-heavy for a team of Natus Vincere's caliber not to be able to deal with them.
Expect Natus Vincere to burn through most of the competition but hit a few bumps on the road as they face rustiness following a month-long hiatus.
|Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný||24||1.24|
Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk
|Martin "STYKO" Styk||20||1.04|
|Patrik "Zero" Žúdel||17||1.01|
|Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow||26||0.98|
As mentioned above, HellRaisers have been improving steadily since revamping the roster with the Czech-Slovakian trio, reaching the top at the first EU Minor, Copenhagen Games and ESEA Premier Season 21 Europe Finals. Recently they have also acquired the services of bondik, balancing the aggressive style of play with more of a supportive role-player.
Despite their steady rise to prominence, there are a few worrying signs surrounding the European mixture, which seem to be in place even with the former FlipSid3 player in the roster.
First of all, it's the extreme reliance on oskar - mousesports comes to mind as another team with the same issue. While he is quite reliable and has been delivering, seemingly even improving, from the get-go, he can't be the sole super-carry to take down elite-level teams such as Natus Vincere.
STYKO is a player to watch in pistol rounds
What does help HellRaisers' case is having a great pistol-round player like STYKO, who has so far been one of the best pistoleers across LAN events in 2016 with a 1.48 PR rating (provided, against inferior competition compared to the likes of Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and Dennis "dennis" Edman). However, that gets negated by their frequent losses to forcebuys in the following two rounds, something they should definitely analyze and fix.
Looking at the match-ups, it's hard to dismiss SK, who they'll face in the upper quarter-finals, as a dangerous opponent. Their previous encounter was supposed to go in favor of HellRaisers, but the Danes managed to come out with a decisive 3-0 at CEVO Gfinity Season 9 Finals.
Further on there is Virtus.pro, a challenge ANGE1's team was able to overcome at the aforementioned event, and Natus Vincere, the only team I don't see HellRaisers matching up. The rest should be at least slight underdogs when facing HellRaisers.
|Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||22||0.97|
Filip "NEO" Kubski
|Paweł "byali" Bieliński||22||0.94|
|Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||29||0.92|
|Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||28||0.88|
Virtus.pro, now where do we start? No matter how hard the Poles were trying to deny being on poor form, their online results have been horrible all year. I do have to give them some credit for ECS, where they beat fnatic, Envy and NiP, which is so far significantly better than their infamous Pro League run.
Provided, it's been blown out of proportion considering they were never a great team in online competitions, but the LAN finishes over the entirity of 2016 do not give their avid fans much hope either.
Again, they deserve credit for some of the results versus other elite-level teams at these offline events. At Counter Pit Season 2 Finals, MLG Columbus and DreamHack Masters Malmö they went out at the hands of Natus Vincere, Luminosity and NiP, respectively, each of which after a close series.
Which Virtus.pro will show up in Kiev?
But then we take a look at the other events they attended this year, and see losses to teams significantly below the elite level, especially at CEVO Gfinity Professional Season 9 Finals. There they began with a two-map loss to HellRaisers in the group stage, and Tempo Storm then took them out in the best-of-five semi-finals.
It's quite hard to judge where Virtus.pro stand right now, even among the poorer competition, but it looks like they are realizing what kind of position they are in. Now it's up to them to fix the mistakes and try to regain some of their former glory, starting with the SL i-League Invitational.
|Emil "Magisk" Reif||18||1.14|
Jacob "Pimp" Winneche
|Michael "Friis" Jørgensen||27||1.00|
|Andreas "MODDII" Fridh||26||0.99|
|Asger "AcilioN" Larsen||19||0.90|
The Danish-Swedish team surprisingly finished dead last in Tours following a one-sided loss to Orbit and a narrow Overpass with underdogs Epsilon. That could be accounted to them not being able to field their full lineup and next-to-zero preparation with the stand-in.
Can MODDII keep up with his CEVO Gfinity S9 performance?
Merely two weeks before their disappointing run in France, SK attended CEVO Gfinity Professional Season 9 Finals, where they upset domestic rivals Dignitas in groups and took out HellRaisers after a fairly convincing 3-0.
As they are set on a collision course with the Ukraine-based team again, that should give them some confidence, however this time HellRaisers have a chance to learn from their mistakes, while the Danes don't have as much to fix. I don't expect the series to be as comfortable as before this time around.
Whoever SK meet from that point on, it will be a tough opponent, maybe with one exception in the uproven Worst Players. It will come down to whether MODDII, Pimp and Magisk can go back to being the triple-threat that we saw in London a few weeks ago.
|Georgi "WorldEdit" Yaskin||24||1.16|
Yegor "markeloff" Markelov
|Jan "wayLander" Rahkonen||22||0.97|
|Oleksandr "Shara" Hordieyev||23||0.91|
|Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy||29||0.88|
Following bondik's departure, FlipSid3 signed wayLander shortly after he parted ways with Gambit. While they haven't attended any LAN events in the past month and SL i-League Invitational will be their debut with the Finn, they played several online matches.
Interestingly, the teams they met during that time are also attending the Kiev event, and so we can take a look at the results - provided, with a grain of salt, as the disparity between online and offline competition is often immense.
What will wayLander bring to the table in FlipSid3?
Their Uprise Champions Cup Season 4 run ended in group stage following a complete whitewash by CSGL and a very close couple of maps in the decider against GODSENT, whom they'll meet first at the Invitational.
If they beat one of the two aforementioned teams, then the most likely candidate they'll meet is either HR or SK, the latter of which they defeated in the event's first round of qualifiers on three close maps.
|Simon "twist" Eliasson||21||1.16|
Andreas "znajder" Lindberg
|Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson||22||1.07|
|Mathias "pauf" Köhler||19||0.99|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||24||0.88|
pronax's GODSENT made headlines at DreamHack Masters Malmö in mid-April with a semi-final run on home turf. In the group stage they advanced over G2 and CLG against the odds, and topped it off by sending mousesports home in quarter-finals.
After not being able to advance to the final, as they put up an amazing performance against NiP in semis but eventually fell short, many had high hopes for the team's future.
twist and znajder have to perform if GODSENT want to go far
However, those hopes were recently squashed at DreamHack Tours, which hosted the European Minor. The Swedes couldn't overcome ENCE - who attended with a stand-in - in either of their matches in France (initial round and the best-of-three decider).
GODSENT are now left with a reputation to repair, which they could very well do if they manage to reach at least the top four here at SL i-League Invitational #1. They should realistically be favoured over the former CSGL squad, as much as anyone apart from Worst Players, and at least match SK and FlipSid3.
Whether they have what it takes against Natus Vincere or Virtus.pro, should they meet either of them, or even HellRaisers, is going to depend on their form. They won't get far if they show up at the same level as at the Minor.
|Mikołaj "mouz" Karolewski||20||1.07|
Michał "MICHU" Müller
|Grzegorz "SZPERO" Dziamałek||24||1.00|
|Paweł "innocent" Mocek||22||0.97|
|Jacek "MINISE" Jeziak||22||0.96|
Dobry&Gaming have recently parted ways with CSGO Lounge and are looking for an organization to represent at future events, in the meantime they will be using the name Dobry&Gaming.
The Poles have proved that they can qualify for events like the SL i-League Invitational, but time and time again they couldn't make it deep into said tournaments.
Dobry&Gaming can't have much confidence after Tours
In the past couple of months Dobry&Gaming attended two LAN events, the first of which was DreamHack Masters Malmö. Their run in Sweden ended up in flames after they lost to Astralis and NiP in group stage, finishing in last place quite expectedly.
The former CSGL side doesn't seem to be improving whatsoever, and while they do have a chance against some of the attendees, on paper they are above only Worst Players and below the rest.
|Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev||18||1.18|
Vladyslav "arch" Svistov
|Igor "crush" Shevchenko||20||0.89|
|Ilya "fix" Golovko||18||0.89|
|Ivan "AiyvaN" Semenets||19||0.88|
s1mple has reunited with arch after nearly three years, as they broke out together at ESWC 2013 Ukraine, where they finished in third place, before s1mple was picked up by Courage (B1ad3's team) later on in early 2014.
Interestingly, the team was supposed to field Dmitriy "Dima" Bandurka originally, but the Russian was left out in the cold for an unspecified reason, while AiyvaN, formerly of eXplosive, came in instead.
s1mple's new team are looking to gain much-needed experience
When looking at Worst Players there isn't really much to go off of except for a single series versus CPH Wolves, which almost finished sooner than it started as the Danish squad went on to win 16-3, 16-3 in Operation: Kinguin #3.
The team are very much in their early days, having been put together a little over a week ago, which should speak for itself in terms of what chances they might have at the event. Any victory, even on one map, should be taken as a successful journey, which should be used as a bit of a learning experience, as they'll get to play at least two best-of-three's versus solid competition.
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