Headlines of 2020: A mid-season recap

As we're almost ready to enter the new season once the player break ends, we look back at the headlines of the first part of the year and highlight the biggest stories of each month up to the end of July.

January - Valve replace direct invitations with ranking system for Fall Major

At a time when people had no idea how bizarre the rest of the year would be, in January Valve contacted tournament organizers to share their plans of restructuring the invitation system for what was supposed to be the second Major of the year in the fall. Their proposed new system involved two special tournaments whose prizepool would be co-funded by Valve and that would help create a ranking, used to invite the eight Legends and eight Challengers to the next Major.

NiP lost their last original member in January as the legendary roster reunited in Dignitas

ESL Pro League overhauled and trimmed to 24 teams

Later that month, ESL made headlines with the official announcement of the long-rumored overhaul of ESL Pro League. From the 11th season on, the event was to move from regional divisions to one big league featuring 24 teams, 13 of whom with a guaranteed place in each season as part of the Louvre Agreement. Announced a month later, the team list included the vast majority of the world's best sides at the time, but the move meant that many of those who had had a spot in one of the divisions were left without it, causing a backlash that forced ESL to issue an apology and adjust the qualification system to involve the snubbed teams.

Off-season brings changes in NAVI, Dignitas, NiP, North, BIG

January often brings a plethora of lineup changes for the new season and the beginning of 2020 was no different. Dominoes were set off in Sweden by the reunion of the legendary NiP lineup in Dignitas, with NiP making Björn "⁠THREAT⁠" Pers their new head coach and replacing Patrik "⁠f0rest⁠" Lindberg with Tim "⁠nawwk⁠" Jonasson. Over in Denmark, Mathias "⁠MSL⁠" Lauridsen made his return to North in Jakob "⁠JUGi⁠" Hansen's place, while BIG bolstered their lineup with two new stars in Florian "⁠syrsoN⁠" Rische and Nils "⁠k1to⁠" Gruhne. NAVI couldn't avoid changes either, as their time with Ladislav "⁠GuardiaN⁠" Kovács was short-lived, and after scouring the CIS scene for adepts the team ended up deciding on Syman's Ilya "⁠Perfecto⁠" Zalutskiy.

February - No audience in IEM Katowice playoffs

The first signs of the world grinding to a halt appeared in February, when various mass events were being canceled around the globe during the early days of the pandemic. For CS:GO, it was the Polish government's last-minute decision to withdraw IEM Katowice's license ahead of the tournament's playoffs that marked the beginning of the end of normalcy, and just a few weeks later it was clear that LAN play would be out of the question for some time as international travel was becoming increasingly difficult and tournament organizers were forced to move everything online.

The first sign that things wouldn't be normal for a while

NAVI dominate in Katowice

After a rather shaky group stage, Natus Vincere turned up to the Spodek Arena in terrifying form. With every player pulling off their A-game at one point or another — and more often than not in combination — Aleksandr "⁠s1mple⁠" Kostyliev & co. dominated the bracket, beating Liquid, Astralis, and finally G2 in a one-sided best-of-five title decider to hoist their first trophy with Perfecto, and for a time became the No.1 team in the world.

B Site reveals Flashpoint

The second month finally showcased the long-awaited franchised league with a $2 million buy-in, touted as the direct competitor to ESL Pro League and spearheaded by Immortals Gaming Club and Cloud9. Advertising a better revenue-sharing model, Flashpoint engaged in a tug of war with ESL with hopes to attract some of the top-tier teams, but the more established league won the battle and B Site ended up with just eight member teams instead of the ten they were aiming for and none from the top-ten ahead of the first season: MIBR, Cloud9, Dignitas, c0ntact, Gen.G, MAD Lions, Envy, and FunPlus Phoenix.

March - ESL One Rio Major moved to November

As Covid-19 grew worse, bad news kept piling up in March, as most events were moved online and regionalized, while others were postponed or canceled entirely. ESL followed with the news that the ESL One Rio Major, originally planned to take place in mid-May, would be moved to November, replacing the second Major of the year and getting a $1 million boost to its prize pool instead.

Due to the additional four-month gap since the StarLadder Major took place in September 2019, the original invites were scrapped. The qualification system was changed to one similar to the plan Valve had in mind for the second Major of the year, called the Regional Major Ranking, consisting of four, increasingly important events (including the last Major), with each region being allocated a number of invites to ESL One Rio.

The first part of the confusing Astralis saga came in March

Astralis create extended roster with es3tag signing, foil FPX's deal with Heroic

In the first part of what has become a rather long saga, Astralis made a stunning announcement in March, sharing their plans to create an extended roster as they reached an agreement with Patrick "⁠es3tag⁠" Hansen to join the organisation from July 1. The core message was rather clear — the Danish organization aimed to improve the working conditions of their players and give them the option to take a break when necessary —, but despite Astralis' assurances that es3tag would be on "equal terms with everyone else" in the team, many doubted that the newest addition would be more than a glorified substitute.

The move had direct implications on es3tag's team at the time, Heroic. Their deal to transfer to FunPlus Phoenix seemed like a lock as the squad started their journey in Flashpoint 1 under the new banner, but everything fell through at the last minute, in part due to the sudden loss of the Astralis-bound player.

ALEX leaves Vitality

Another shocker came from the Vitality camp and its in-game leader, Alex "⁠ALEX⁠" McMeekin. The Brit had decided that the relentless travel schedule was too tiring for him to maintain and stepped down after the team was unable to lighten the load in 2020 due to partnerships with BLAST and ESL. Rookie Kévin "⁠misutaaa⁠" Rabier, 17, was brought on to fill in the gap, with Dan "⁠apEX⁠" Madesclaire taking on in-game leadership.

April - SG receives substantial nerf

One of the most impactful updates of the year so far arrived in mid-April, when Valve put an end to the SG553's reign. The weapon had become the popular rifling choice on both sides whenever available and ended up being fearsome enough to change the meta and the fashion in which people took (or rather didn't take) duels when facing it, prompting players to call for its nerf. The SG received an update similar to the AUG's last year, with its rate of fire and accuracy reduced, and, just like the CT-sided counterpart, it would quickly turn into a rarity, used only by a select few players.

Early on fnatic showed no signs of stopping online, winning ESL Pro League Europe

fnatic and Liquid win Pro League, MAD Lions triumph at Flashpoint as scene moves online

By this point, the scene had already moved entirely online, with the long-form ESL Pro League and Flashpoint being the first tournaments played remotely. After nearly a month of play, many of the teams who had been expected to do well delivered. fnatic beat mousesports to the European Pro League title, with Astralis and Natus Vincere rounding out the top four, while in North America, Liquid stood at the top after a dominant win over Evil Geniuses in the grand final. Fresh off replacing Nicolai "⁠HUNDEN⁠" Petersen with Asger "⁠AcilioN⁠" Larsen, MAD Lions triumphed in the first season of Flashpoint, leaving MIBR in second place.

May - Astralis bring in JUGi, while gla1ve and Xyp9x take leave

The Astralis story continued to develop in May, firstly with the announcement of the signing of the seventh player, JUGi. It came as a big surprise at first after the Danes had previously claimed they wouldn't add any more players, but the move started making sense once it came to light that Lukas "⁠gla1ve⁠" Rossander had decided to take a medical leave for the rest of the season to deal with stress and burnout. Less than two weeks later, Andreas "⁠Xyp9x⁠" Højsleth followed suit for the same reasons, but unlike with gla1ve, this was unforeseen by Astralis, forcing the organization to bring in Marco "⁠Snappi⁠" Pfeiffer as a stand-in to fill the gap as es3tag was unable to join the team until the beginning of July.

olofmeister takes another break, FaZe trial Bymas

FaZe found themselves in a similar situation when Olof "⁠olofmeister⁠" Kajbjer stepped down to take time off, recuperate from fatigue, and regain motivation. It was the second time during his time with the European side that the Swede had decided to step away from the game, having done so for a three-month period in the first half of 2018, but this time it looked like his return to the team would be unlikely. To replace the best player of 2015, the North American organisation turned to FPL prospect Aurimas "⁠Bymas⁠" Pipiras, who was picked up on a trial basis.

olof followed in the footsteps of ALEX, gla1ve, and Xyp9x, stepping down from FaZe to recuperate

June - BIG and Complexity take Europe by storm

In June, the unpredictability of the online era culminated in the rise of two hard-working teams. After promising results at the lower tier, BIG's new lineup finally got the chance to show their improvements against Europe's best teams in DreamHack Masters Spring and surprised everyone, with syrsoN and Johannes "⁠tabseN⁠" Wodarz leading the way as the German side won the tournament after an unprecedented reverse sweep against G2 in the best-of-five grand final. BIG soon proved it was by no means a fluke with a second title from the summer Regional Major Ranking event, cs_summit 6, making history as the team reached the No.1 spot in the rankings, where the Berlin-based team has remained to this day.

Complexity decided to stay in Europe in the midst of the pandemic and seized their opportunity in the BLAST Premier Finals. The Benjamin "⁠blameF⁠" Bremer-led side had locked their spot in the tournament way back at the beginning of February in London, and in the Finals four months later the juggernaut delivered again, beating some serious competition in Natus Vincere, FaZe, and Vitality en route to their first big title.

Seven teams handed ultimatum by Valve over ownership conflict

Earlier in the year, Valve asked teams participating in ESL One: Road to Rio to publicly declare their involvement with other teams and tournament organizers in order to promote the discussion regarding conflicts of interest. Initially, it looked as if there would be no repercussions from Valve despite their previous stance against multiple team ownership, but in the end the developers gave seven teams until the beginning of the ESL One Rio Major to resolve their conflicts of interest.

Yeah in particular were entangled with several other parties, as the organization was co-owned by MIBR's Epitacio "⁠TACO⁠" de Melo and Ricardo "⁠dead⁠" Sinigaglia, FaZe's Marcelo "⁠coldzera⁠" David, and Wilton "⁠zews⁠" Prado from Evil Geniuses. Valve also identified conflicts of interest in Dignitas and NiP, with Christopher "⁠GeT_RiGhT⁠" Alesund still having a stake in the latter, as well as between Immortals Gaming Club's (MIBR's parent company) Tomi "⁠lurppis⁠" Kovanen and ENCE, where the Finn was a minority shareholder.

July - nitr0 to step down as Liquid turn to Grim

As the calendar turned to July, the scene entered the off-season and that meant more lineup changes. The biggest of all happened in Liquid, who had maintained the same exact roster for over a year and a half. The last member of the original Denial team that was picked up in early 2015 by American-Dutch organization, Nick "⁠nitr0⁠" Cannella, is now on his way out after more than a five-year-long tenure, just several weeks following the transfer of in-game leadership duties from him to Jake "⁠Stewie2K⁠" Yip. To bring in some fresh blood, the team is looking to add Michael "⁠Grim⁠" Wince, who has been turning heads with Triumph throughout 2020, averaging a 1.31 rating.

nitr0's long tenure with Liquid seems to be coming to an end

Astralis replace JUGi with Bubzkji

Just when we thought changes in Astralis were finally over, the Danes had one more surprise up their sleeves. At the end of July, they brought Lucas "⁠Bubzkji⁠" Andersen over from MAD Lions as a direct replacement for JUGi, explaining that the former Heroic and North AWPer would not have the chance to play the role he is most comfortable with. At the same time, the announcement insinuated that gla1ve and Xyp9x would not be returning for the start of the new season, which means that es3tag and Bubzkji should slot into the starting lineup in August.

The move left the rest Danish scene in an awkward position. With one high-performing star in Bubzkji now locked away in the best team of the country, MAD Lions and North find themselves without a player after the latter lost Markus "⁠Kjaerbye⁠" Kjærbye earlier in the month — a situation they're still trying to find a way out of.

Cologne to be held online

Hopes of a return to LAN play as early as in the summer with ESL One Cologne were dashed when the organizers made the final decision to hold the tournament online. ESL first postponed the staple event to late August with hopes of hosting it at a studio in the German city but ended up deciding against it after realizing that it would remain difficult for the teams to travel to one location.

CSPPA under fire

July was a difficult time for the Counter-Strike Professional Players' Association (CSPPA), which found itself under fire from multiple directions over the course of the month. It is currently in a dispute with Flashpoint over a $165,000 fee from the tournament organizer, who claimed that the association's lack of response cost the league a key monitor sponsorship and made several other allegations, including that the CSPPA operated as an agency in Heroic's transfer to FunPlus Phoenix and played a role in the deal falling apart at the last minute.

HLTV.org later obtained evidence that members of the CSPPA had indeed been acting as agents through the Danish Elite Athletes Association (DEF)., which shared key members with the CSPPA, raising concerns over a potential conflict of interest and the misuse of information obtained by the association. The CSPPA later responded by announcing that it would cease player agency services and that none of their employees would be involved in agency activities by the end of August.

Brazil Marcelo 'coldzera' David
Marcelo 'coldzera' David
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.18
Maps played:
1213
KPR:
0.79
DPR:
0.61
APR:
0.11
Brazil Epitacio 'TACO' de Melo
Epitacio 'TACO' de Melo
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.93
Maps played:
1141
KPR:
0.61
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.12
United States Nick 'nitr0' Cannella
Nick 'nitr0' Cannella
Age:
24
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.00
Maps played:
1323
KPR:
0.68
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.14
United States Michael 'Grim' Wince
Michael 'Grim' Wince
Age:
19
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
582
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.14
Denmark Lucas 'Bubzkji' Andersen
Lucas 'Bubzkji' Andersen
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.05
Maps played:
731
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.14
Denmark Marco 'Snappi' Pfeiffer
Marco 'Snappi' Pfeiffer
Age:
30
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.97
Maps played:
1207
KPR:
0.66
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.13
France Dan 'apEX' Madesclaire
Dan 'apEX' Madesclaire
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.03
Maps played:
1654
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.70
APR:
0.16
Sweden Patrik 'f0rest' Lindberg
Patrik 'f0rest' Lindberg
Age:
32
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.12
Maps played:
1719
KPR:
0.77
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.12
Finland Tomi 'lurppis' Kovanen
Tomi 'lurppis' Kovanen
Age:
32
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.95
Maps played:
28
KPR:
0.63
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.17
Germany Johannes 'tabseN' Wodarz
Johannes 'tabseN' Wodarz
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.07
Maps played:
1489
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.70
APR:
0.16
Denmark Patrick 'es3tag' Hansen
Patrick 'es3tag' Hansen
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.03
Maps played:
1043
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.15
Sweden Björn 'THREAT' Pers
Björn 'THREAT' Pers
Age:
32
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.80
Maps played:
50
KPR:
0.53
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.14
Sweden Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT' Alesund
Christopher 'GeT_RiGhT' Alesund
Age:
30
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.10
Maps played:
1692
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.15
Russia Ilya 'Perfecto' Zalutskiy
Ilya 'Perfecto' Zalutskiy
Age:
20
Rating 1.0:
0.99
Maps played:
351
KPR:
0.64
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.13
Denmark Benjamin 'blameF' Bremer
Benjamin 'blameF' Bremer
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.17
Maps played:
506
KPR:
0.77
DPR:
0.60
APR:
0.15
Ukraine Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev
Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev
Age:
22
Rating 1.0:
1.24
Maps played:
1200
KPR:
0.85
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.10
Slovakia Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Ladislav 'GuardiaN' Kovács
Age:
29
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.12
Maps played:
1484
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.62
APR:
0.11
Lithuania Aurimas 'Bymas' Pipiras
Aurimas 'Bymas' Pipiras
Age:
17
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.96
Maps played:
67
KPR:
0.63
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.11
Denmark Markus 'Kjaerbye' Kjærbye
Markus 'Kjaerbye' Kjærbye
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.05
Maps played:
1400
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.66
APR:
0.15
Denmark Jakob 'JUGi' Hansen
Jakob 'JUGi' Hansen
Age:
23
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.09
Maps played:
913
KPR:
0.72
DPR:
0.61
APR:
0.10
Brazil Wilton 'zews' Prado
Wilton 'zews' Prado
Age:
32
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.80
Maps played:
142
KPR:
0.53
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.13
Denmark Asger 'AcilioN' Larsen
Asger 'AcilioN' Larsen
Age:
23
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.96
Maps played:
1285
KPR:
0.65
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.15
Denmark Andreas 'Xyp9x' Højsleth
Andreas 'Xyp9x' Højsleth
Age:
24
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.04
Maps played:
1675
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.61
APR:
0.17
United States Jake 'Stewie2K' Yip
Jake 'Stewie2K' Yip
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.03
Maps played:
1238
KPR:
0.71
DPR:
0.68
APR:
0.14
France Kévin 'misutaaa' Rabier
Kévin 'misutaaa' Rabier
Age:
17
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.96
Maps played:
126
KPR:
0.64
DPR:
0.67
APR:
0.10
Germany Florian 'syrsoN' Rische
Florian 'syrsoN' Rische
Age:
24
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.10
Maps played:
1271
KPR:
0.74
DPR:
0.64
APR:
0.10
Sweden Tim 'nawwk' Jonasson
Tim 'nawwk' Jonasson
Age:
22
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.11
Maps played:
639
KPR:
0.75
DPR:
0.63
APR:
0.10
Germany Nils 'k1to' Gruhne
Nils 'k1to' Gruhne
Age:
21
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.01
Maps played:
803
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.69
APR:
0.12
Denmark Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander
Lukas 'gla1ve' Rossander
Age:
25
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.01
Maps played:
1335
KPR:
0.68
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.17
Denmark Mathias 'MSL' Lauridsen
Mathias 'MSL' Lauridsen
Age:
25
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.92
Maps played:
1633
KPR:
0.65
DPR:
0.72
APR:
0.15
Sweden Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Olof 'olofmeister' Kajbjer
Age:
28
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.07
Maps played:
1422
KPR:
0.73
DPR:
0.65
APR:
0.13
Denmark Nicolai 'HUNDEN' Petersen
Nicolai 'HUNDEN' Petersen
Age:
29
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.81
Maps played:
1578
KPR:
0.55
DPR:
0.70
APR:
0.14
United Kingdom Alex 'ALEX' McMeekin
Alex 'ALEX' McMeekin
Age:
24
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
1.00
Maps played:
955
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.71
APR:
0.13
Brazil Ricardo 'dead' Sinigaglia
Ricardo 'dead' Sinigaglia
Age:
34
Team:
No team
Rating 1.0:
0.95
Maps played:
6
KPR:
0.59
DPR:
0.63
APR:
0.08
Astralis will win cologne easily! Bubzkji top5 player 2021!
2020-08-01 20:58
cologne 2021 maybe
2020-08-01 21:10
#21
HS | 
Europe nvamov
top1/2 = s1mple/xantares top 3 = syrson top 4 = tabsen top 5 = bubski
2020-08-01 21:51
#23
 | 
Slovakia weedko222
I think lans will comeback in 2021 so.....
2020-08-01 22:18
#42
 | 
Germany Nachofish
I thinks its 2020 so...............
2020-08-02 16:59
forgot ZywOo
2020-08-03 08:56
#44
HS | 
Europe nvamov
who?
2020-08-03 11:46
No chance against FaZe Clan
2020-08-01 21:54
Just a bump for you and because I didn't post in a while
2020-08-01 22:22
thx <3 great name mens :D
2020-08-01 22:22
hahahhaha
2020-08-01 23:06
#37
 | 
Denmark Marcusft07
Say bye bye to the old astralis
2020-08-02 06:48
Liquid top 1
2020-08-01 20:58
#15
 | 
Slovenia Quicker007
Are u in 2019?
2020-08-01 21:10
Nope, I’m in December 2020
2020-08-01 21:27
#19
 | 
Slovenia Quicker007
Is corona still here?
2020-08-01 21:46
Not in Europe
2020-08-01 22:30
#27
 | 
Slovenia Quicker007
Thanks bro enjoy top 1
2020-08-01 22:33
np men))
2020-08-01 23:22
looool
2020-08-01 23:28
#34
 | 
Slovenia Quicker007
XD
2020-08-02 01:08
Laughs in uk being 1st in covid death rates
2020-08-02 07:01
#3
 | 
North America Neshie
May the last half of 2020 will be a lot better.
2020-08-01 20:58
Interesting
2020-08-01 20:58
BIG #1 AHAHAHAHAHA
2020-08-01 20:58
#6
 | 
Romania RunnerB0Y
Nice
2020-08-01 20:58
Good read, till the end of 2020 anything can happen...
2020-08-01 20:59
+1
2020-08-01 23:06
#8
 | 
Europe BIG_BIGFAN
this june was the best month in the history of cs!
2020-08-01 20:59
k bigfan
2020-08-01 21:00
flair checks out
2020-08-01 23:07
#9
2020-08-01 21:00
this is just the beginning #WeAreCOL
2020-08-01 21:01
Interesting read. BIG so strong
2020-08-01 21:01
Didnt lagge do this a lot earlier
2020-08-01 21:02
ok
2020-08-01 21:03
Everytime i see mad lions i remember 12-3 this still hurts 😟
2020-08-01 21:16
thx for the article
2020-08-01 21:50
I mean this year could have been interesting if NiP finally replaced F0rest. But just like forever F0rest is part of Ninjas in Pyjamas
2020-08-01 22:51
valve killed mouz & fnatic with krieg nerf, astralis is ass now, and ENCE era for foreseeable future
2020-08-02 04:37
thank you
2020-08-02 07:11
They make Grim sound cracked when they say he’s averaging 1.31 rating xD
2020-08-02 09:13
The format of qualifiers for the major that is right now is really good for me. The IEM Katowice without audience is just one of the most sad things in this year for CS scene. Also very sad fact is that there is most likely not going to be a Major in 2020. SG nerf was not that bad, I'm still playing SG and it's pretty good still. The changes in Astralis with bringing JUGi and letting take brake gla1ve and Xyp9x are really bad for Astralis. BIG with some changes could create their new era honestly. Complexity with some changes could enter TOP 5. It's very good decision from Liquid to bench nitr0, he has been playing really bad lately. Grim is just so insane that with some experience he might be even the best player in the world, it's a really good change for Liquid.
2020-08-02 12:51
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