PGL Major Krakow came to an end on Sunday with Gambit lifting the trophy after beating Immortals in the final. Read on as we recap the event and take a look at the winners and losers of the tournament.
The Major began with the semi-randomised Swiss stage, which brought a wild batch of upsets, the first of which being FaZe, the No.2 team in the world, being sent packing after just three matches, with Natus Vincere following suit.
The knockout stages began with a mouth-watering clash between SK and Astralis, which turned out to be a one-sided affair as the Danes ran out 2-0 victors. Gambit and Virtus.pro moved past fnatic and North, respectively, also on two maps, while Immortals had to work hard to fend off the threat of BIG.
In the semi-finals, Gambit overcame Astralis' challenge in a three-map thriller, while Immortals dismantled Virtus.pro in front of a crowd largely made up of Polish fans. The title decider saw Immortals take the lead following a comprehensive 16-4 victory on Cobblestone. Gambit then equalised the match by winning Train before sealing the deal on Inferno.
|Swiss group stage||Map (VOD)||Stage|
|mousesports||19- 15||FaZe||Train||0-1 pool|
|SK||16- 8||Astralis||Inferno||1-0 pool|
|Astralis||16- 14||fnatic||Nuke||1-1 pool|
|BIG||16- 14||SK||Inferno||2-0 pool|
|North||16- 14||Virtus.pro||Mirage||2-1 pool|
|Immortals||16- 14||BIG||Train||Quarter-finals (Map 3)|
|Gambit||16- 12||Astralis||Train||Semi-finals (Map 3)|
|Gambit||16- 11||Immortals||Train||Grand final (Map 2)|
It would be impossible to look at the winners from the Major without looking at Gambit first. After winning some smaller events, the Kazakh team defied the odds and topped the biggest competition on the planet after an intensive practice regime that saw every player put in well over 100 hours of practice in the two weeks leading up to the tournament. Gambit’s journey becomes even more interesting if you consider that the team had lost "every online match and practice" before the Major, according to Abay "Hobbit" Khasenov, only to ramp up their performances when and where it mattered most.
The 16-6 thrashing of G2 in the second round of the Swiss stage had raised eyebrows, but it was only when Gambit defeated fnatic in the quarter-finals, this way getting their revenge on the Swedes for the defeats at ESL One Cologne 2016 and at the ELEAGUE Major, that the community truly saw the dark horse potential of the Kazakh team.
Gambit's ability to crank up the pressure against Astralis on Train at 13-12 was a testament to the team’s capacity to dictate the pace of the games in Krakow, whether they needed to go all-out or be a bit more cerebral. They put in all-round performances throughout the event, with the biggest surprise being Rustem "mou" Telepov. The 25-year-old had shown too many flaws to be genuinely considered a top AWPer, but in Krakow he punched above his weight and acquitted himself really well, averaging a 1.14 Rating and totaling 116 AWP kills, only losing out to Henrique "HEN1" Teles’s 129.
It is hard not to feel happy for Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko, who had promised that he would not stop until he won a Major, but also for Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev. The Kazakh veteran is at the peak of his career at the age of 27, almost 12 years after he played his first international final, against Team 3D at WCG 2005. There is definitely something special about Gambit. Let’s just hope that the upcoming roster changes in Na`Vi will not ruin that.
Reaching the final of a Major is no small feat, but doing so the first time you attend an event of this caliber makes it all the more impressive. Immortals’ success story becomes even more interesting if you remember that, at the start of the month, the Brazilians had barely made it out of the Main Qualifier, where at one point they were standing on the edge of a cliff, facing elimination against GODSENT.
Perhaps that sensational comeback changed something in the Brazilian team. It is a fact that Immortals’ did not have the hardest of routes to the playoffs, beating three teams who were unable to make it past the Swiss stage, but doubts about their merit were erased once they dismantled Virtus.pro in front of a Polish crowd.
Vito "kNgV-" Giuseppe played really well in Immortals' double AWP setup, while HEN1 improved significantly as the tournament went on. Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles, too, had moments of brilliance, even though he fell off the pace in the final two maps of the final, where the team struggled to keep up with Gambit’s pace.
Stepping out of SK‘s shadow is a huge success for Immortals. The future looks bright for the Brazilian team, but they will still have to work hard to be less emotional during matches. Immortals’ passion makes them one of the most interesting teams to watch, but as coach Rafael "zakk" Fernandes pointed out, it leads to inconsistency, which remains one of their biggest flaws.
Heading into the Major, no-one really knew what to expect from Virtus.pro, following a terrible slump in form that had thrown the team’s future into doubt. But as the event came to an end, the Polish players were all smiles as they had proved that they were not quite done yet and that there was still some fight left in them – even if they had been simply outclassed by Immortals in the semi-finals.
Perhaps more important than the results in Krakow is the fact that Virtus.pro’s players were able to find a way to have a proper bootcamp ahead of the event and work as a unit to overcome adversity. Reaching the semi-finals at the Major has given the Poles one more chance, which is a lot for a team that had looked all but dead before the event.
With Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski taking over as ingame leader, it was very important to see Paweł "byali" Bieliński and Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski step up and provide big numbers. It is too early to say that Virtus.pro are out of the woods, but the Major has given them plenty of breathing room. Like a cat, they have used up one more life. Just how many more do they have left?
BIG were the surprise package of the Major, securing a top-eight finish at their very first tier-one event, which is a huge accomplishment for a team created only at the start of the year.
Critics will say that BIG were a one-trick pony, having survived the Swiss stage by playing Inferno only and by abusing the "crouch jump" bug in the matches against FaZe and Cloud9. However, the way in which they beat SK in the next match and made Immortals work hard to get the victory in the quarter-finals shows that there is a lot more to the Germans that one favourable map and that Fatih "gob b" Dayik had plenty of tricks up his sleeve before the event.
The 30-year-old has been praised for his ability to read opponents and to find new strategies, and he surely is helping to make veteran ingame leaders look 'sexy' again. Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz and Johannes "nex" Maget both put in big numbers, with Kevin "keev" Bartholomäus also holding his own with the AWP, even in tight situations.
There were plenty of positives for BIG to take from the Major. They are currently ranked 14th in the world and clearly look a strong contender for the final events of the year.
Ahead of the PGL Major Krakow, everyone had high expectations for FaZe, who had made four grand finals in a row until two weeks before the big finale of the season in Poland, when Finn "karrigan" Andersen's squad finished third-fourth at ESL One Cologne following a loss to SK in the semis.
It all came crashing down in Poland, where the European squad went 0-3 and bombed out in the group stage, failing to beat BIG, mousesports, and FlipSid3, three teams that weren't favored to make it out from the group stage by any means — and two of them didn't.
It's easy to point fingers at the underperforming players and assume that's the main reason for FaZe's disappointing campaign. Only three of FaZe's players turned up at the Major — Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, Håvard "rain" Nygaard, and Aleksi "allu" Jalli made a solid effort, but it was a no-show for karrigan and Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey, who finished the tournament with 0.62 and 0.61 ratings, respectively.
However, it's also possible that FaZe simply underestimated the group stage and figured they wouldn't have to bring their A game to advance as we saw their players overextend and take unnecessary duels time and time again.
What this run means for the European side is unclear. After all, this was FaZe's first group stage exit with this lineup. After the off-season comes to an end, in three weeks, we'll know for sure whether they came to the conclusion that their mistakes are fixable or decided to change the roster again.
After disappointing runs at DreamHack Open Tours and ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, Denis "seized" Kostin's squad seemed to be on the right track with a good run in Cologne, where they defeated G2 in the quarter-finals before losing a tight series to Cloud9.
And yet, at the PGL Major, Natus Vincere only managed one win throughout the Swiss group stage, against a clear underdog in FlipSid3, with the losses to G2, Immortals, and fnatic putting an end to their three-year long Legends status.
The CIS-based team has acknowledged that changes are indeed necessary after a year-long struggle with their current lineup, although there is little confirmation as to who will be on the chopping block.
seized, who was forced to take over leadership after Valve's coaching ruling, seems like the prime candidate at the moment, although there are few in-game leaders available, given it would likely have to be a Russian speaker. We'll get our answer soon enough, as Na`Vi only have about three weeks to come up with a solution before the ESL Pro League roster lock kicks in.
As seized said ,it's gonna be changes in the team— Sasha Kostyliev (@s1mpleO) July 20, 2017
The Frenchmen were largely expected to at least make playoffs at PGL Major Krakow, but their players will have to prolong their excruciating wait for the all-important Legends status a bit more.
G2 only won two tight matches against two teams that ended up missing out on the playoffs (16-14 against Natus Vincere and 19-17 against Cloud9) while losing to three teams that clinched a spot in the end, Gambit, Astralis, and fnatic, in convincing fashion.
As Richard "shox" Papillon put in our interview, G2 simply didn't bring the level that was necessary to do well at the Major, and they'll have to go back to the drawing board and come back with a fresh mind after the off-season ends.