Winners and Losers of ESL One Cologne
The dust has settled in the LANXESS Arena in Cologne, Germany, which means it's time to reflect on one of the most stacked tournaments of the year and find out who its winners and losers were.
It wouldn't be much of a list of winners without the champions of ESL One Cologne, Liquid. The North American side had been favored to win the tournament since the start, so it comes as no big surprise, but it is a historic run coming to completion as Nick "nitr0" Cannella & co. got their hands on the biggest prize in CS:GO; the $1,000,000 Intel Grand Slam. They have done it in style, earning the huge handout with four trophies in a row at the fifth tournament of IGS' second season and looking nothing like the team that had struggled in finals and lacked big titles for the whole of 2018.
With a total of five wins and three more grand final appearances, much of the first half of the year was Liquid's without a doubt, and now they set off into the latter portion of 2019 looking ahead in hopes of immortalizing themselves as one of the most dominant lineups in CS:GO history. The NiP and fnatic of old, the SKs of 2016-2017, and the Astralis of last year are the kind of company amongst which Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken & co. could find themselves soon, should they keep up with this form when the next Major approaches.
Vitality had an impressive run of their own in Cologne, which began with a shaky group stage showing, in which the Frenchmen lost the opening battle to NiP and had to go through the lower bracket gauntlet, surviving a couple of scares from fnatic and Heroic. Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt's team improved as they reached the playoff bracket, however, passing NRG and Astralis convincingly before ultimately falling at the final hurdle to Liquid.
Comparing the level of competition that they faced in Cologne from the one during the cs_summit 4 and ECS Season 7 Finals title runs, this silver medal might just be Vitality's most valuable showing so far and a promise that they are aiming for the skies after beating all of the other current top-five teams, including a first win against Astralis. That has pushed them to the No. 2 spot, where a French team last resided nearly two years ago, after a continuous climb through the rankings.
Natus Vincere come in as our third and final winner of ESL One Cologne thanks to a promising top-four placing in their debut tournament with Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov, who replaced Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev on the roster at the end of May in the team's first lineup change since late 2017. Although he lacked more consistency, the newest addition looked like a decent upgrade and he is likely to improve with more time in the aggressive role Natus Vincere have put him in and, more importantly, at this level, which he is still adjusting to based on some rookie mistakes and overaggression.
Throughout the German event, the new Na`Vi only lost to the No. 1 side, Liquid, whom Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko & co. likely would have defeated 2-0 in the first out of their two encounters had it not been for Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's ill-advised knife attempt and the team's subsequent loss in overtime on Dust2. Meanwhile, the CIS-based team beat mousesports on two separate occasions, FURIA, and NiP – a good set of teams for their first official showing.
FURIA and MIBR
Both Brazilian teams had a rough go in Cologne as they got eliminated early on in the group stage. A disappointing Moche XL had certainly been a warning sign for FURIA, who have now given the theories on Andrei "arT" Piovezan's team's readability more fuel with a second consecutive sub-par showing following deep runs at the ECS Season 7 Finals and DreamHack Masters Dallas. However, at least they lost to two eventual playoffs teams en route to a 9th-12th placing at ESL One – NRG and Natus Vincere.
That cannot be said for MIBR. Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo & co. bombed out in last place on their debut with Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles after losses to fnatic, a struggling team, and BIG, who were on the outskirts of the top-30 and ended up falling to Heroic immediately after their triumph over the Brazilian squad. Things are bad enough that Marcelo "coldzera" David has asked to be placed on the bench and is seeking a new challenge in the middle of a busy schedule, which will see his team attend BLAST Pro Series Los Angeles and IEM Chicago before the Major comes around.
When Filip "NEO" Kubski joined FaZe, the jury was out on how far he could take the European side. Their debut in Dallas ended with a promising semi-final placing, but a shaky run at ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, where Nikola "NiKo" Kovač & co. only had to beat TYLOO and North to get to the playoffs before getting a tough beating from mousesports and G2, set them back again ahead of Cologne.
They weren't able to find the answers in Germany, winning just one close map against Renegades out of five in total after series losses to NRG and their new rivals in mousesports, which saw not only NEO put in one of his worst performances ever but also NiKo continue to struggle with finding some of his form from earlier in the year, making this FaZe's worst result thus far with this lineup.
ENCE, on the other hand, had looked nothing short of impressive ever since their miraculous run at IEM Katowice, reaching two more big-event finals and winning one of them at BLAST Pro Series Madrid, which put them in the position of one of the favorites of ESL One Cologne. The Finns didn't live up to that status, however, suffering their first group stage exit this year and a dead-last placing at that.
That looks worse than it actually is, mainly because it was the opening best-of-one loss to Heroic (combined with Vitality's loss to NiP on the same side of the group) that put ENCE in a bad spot into a matchup against the Frenchmen, who have now defeated Aleksi "allu" Jalli's side in three series in a row. Nonetheless, it is a big disappointment deserving of a place among the losers.
BIG have been struggling all year long after their addition of Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş, facing poor results and continuous issues with the lineup, which saw Johannes "nex" Maget go in and out of the team, and more recently, Denis "denis" Howell replace him to take up AWPing in Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz's stead. That hasn't done much to change the outlook of the team, who couldn't deliver a good result this time around at their home tournament despite beating MIBR, losing to Astralis and Heroic.
That might look like an expected result for Fatih "gob b" Dayik & co., and it is, but the main reason why they have found themselves in the loser category are the disappointing numbers in almost all facets of their game, especially in utility ADR, in which they had previously been able to rival even the likes of Astralis, whether their results had been good or not. That could in part be a result of changes in leadership, as tabseN has taken the reins from gob b.
Unlike DreamHack Masters Dallas, for which Renegades had just come back together in full force last-minute following months of disturbance caused by visa issues, ESL One Cologne was a tournament for which fans of the Australian team had some high expectations.
With a month between the two tournaments, they had enough time to catch up with practice and return to the kind of form they had showcased at IEM Katowice and StarSeries i-League Season 7, but Renegades were still far from that level when they came to play again in Germany. Losses to FaZe and FURIA resulted in immediate elimination from the stacked event, which leaves us wondering whether Aaron "AZR" Ward's team will ever be able to regain their former status now that other teams have taken their place.