Headlines of 2020: An end-of-season recap
With the calendar about to turn to 2021, let's look back at some of the biggest news headlines of the second part of the 2020 season.
August - Liquid, FaZe, mousesports undergo changes
The first two weeks of August and the end of the off-season brought with them changes to several top teams. The moves that drew the most attention happened in Liquid, mousesports, and FaZe, but several other teams, including MAD Lions, Virtus.pro, and North, were also among those who opted for roster adjustments.
The North American side was the first to make headlines, confirming the departure of AWPer and in-game leader Nick "nitr0" Cannella, who had been playing for Liquid since the organization's entry into CS:GO in early 2015. Triumph star Michael "Grim" Wince, one of the biggest prospects in the region, took his place in the squad, and a new coach was brought in as well. Replacing Eric "adreN" Hoag was Jason "moses" O'Toole, who left his long-time broadcast talent role to stand behind Jake "Stewie2K" Yip & co. and bring about the new-look Liquid.
Over in Europe, after Aurimas "Bymas" Pipiras' two-month trial ended unsuccessfully, Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye joined FaZe as the de facto replacement for Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, who had decided to take a break from the game in May. The Lithuanian went on to sign with mousesports, at first as a backup player as the German organization expanded its roster to six players, but shortly afterwards as a full-time player as he took Özgür "woxic" Eker's place in the starting lineup.
ScreaM retires from Counter-Strike
2020's arrival of VALORANT meant different things to different people. For some, it was just another game to play for fun, while for others, it provided new career opportunities and a way to start afresh and try to compete at the top again. Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom belonged to the latter group as one of the first high-profile Counter-Strike figures, alongside nitr0, to make the official switch. The Belgian, a two-time top-10 player of the year, had dropped out of elite competition in 2018 and had been on the sidelines for close to a year following his benching from GamerLegion in 2019.
Heroic complete ESL One Cologne miracle run
The first tournaments of a new season tend to yield surprising results, and that was the case again this year with Heroic reaching new heights on the back of a stunning campaign in August. The Danes kicked off the season early at DreamHack Open Summer, finishing second to BIG, and entered the stacked European side of ESL One Cologne warmed up and ready to take on all the top teams.
Casper "cadiaN" Møller's squad went on an awe-inspiring run to their first big trophy as if climbing an imaginary top-ten ladder, taking down FaZe (#9) and fnatic (#8) in the group stage before completing their title-winning campaign with some hard-earned playoff wins over Complexity (#7), G2 (#5), and Vitality (#3). The monumental success pushed Heroic to the top three in the rankings and helped them make a brief appearance at No.1 after they beat Vitality to another title just two months later at DreamHack Open Fall.
zoneR, HUNDEN, dead handed bans as coaching bug comes to light
In August, it was discovered that a bug in the game had for some time allowed coaches to stay in and view a fixed position on the map in real time, giving them an unfair advantage over their opposition. Before the end of the month, ESL and DreamHack announced that Hard Legion's Aleksandr "zoneR" Bogatiryev, Heroic's Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen, and MIBR's Ricardo "dead" Sinigaglia had been banned from periods ranging from six months to two years for using the bug for competitive advantage in 2020.
September - ESIC issues bans to 37 coaches for bug use
After helping to find the first offenders, Michal Slowinski and Steve Dudenhoeffer, who had taken it upon themselves to investigate the matter, were hired by the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) to find out how long the bug had been in the game and to assess the scale of the abuse. After discovering the most severe cases, some of which dated back several years, the commission issued bans ranging from a few months to three years to 37 coaches, including names such as Allan "Rejin" Petersen, Slaava "Twista" Räsänen, Faruk "pita" Pita and the trio caught in August.
Three months later, we still have not learned the full extent of the bug's use. ESIC originally aimed to close the investigation with the second and final report at the end of October, but the organization has yet to release that statement.
MIBR part ways with fer, TACO, FalleN, dead
The second month of the new season marked the end of an era. MIBR had long struggled to contend for titles, and an atrocious trip to Europe in the latter half of the year put the final nail in the lineup's coffin, as Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's side found themselves hard-pressed by teams outside of the top 30 in the Old Continent and lost to the likes of Wisla Krakow, Galaxy Racer, PACT, and Copenhagen Flames. The horrible results caused the organization to pull the plug on the veteran trio of Fernando "fer" Alvarenga, Epitacio "TACO" de Melo, and dead, with FalleN then stepping down from the team in protest against the decision.
Cloud9 build the 'Colossus'
The grounds of a whole new team were built by Cloud9 in September, with the American organization signing Henry "HenryG" Greer as its new General Manager and Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović as the head coach of the new project. An exciting new approach saw the Brit unveil his players one by one and reveal what each of their deals with the organization was worth as he put together the lineup monikered the "Colossus", now featuring Alex "ALEX" McMeekin, William "mezii" Merriman, woxic, Ricky "floppy" Kemery, and Patrick "es3tag" Hansen.
October - G2 confirm NiKo signing
Following months of whispers, rumors, and reports, Nikola "NiKo" Kovač officially transferred from FaZe to G2 in October in what the Berlin-based organization justifiably called one of the biggest signings in CS:GO history. The Bosnian superstar switched teams for the first time since leaving mousesports in early 2017, getting away from his in-game leadership woes in FaZe to join up with his cousin Nemanja "huNter-" Kovač under the black-and-white banner.
After the massive firepower injection, instead of jumping on the recent trend and trying to utilize a six-man roster, G2 used the following two months to figure out whether to keep Audric "JaCkz" Jug or François "AmaNEk" Delaunay. The team decided to side with the latter, a more versatile option, at the end of the year, after the two players had taken turns playing for the squad.
100 Thieves announce CS:GO exit
100 Thieves announced their withdrawal from CS:GO in mid-October and put their entire roster on the market after realizing that they wouldn't be able to provide the team with enough support if they were in Europe, where most of the North America-based teams had moved to in order to be able to compete at the top tournaments.
Justin "jks" Savage and Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad have since been able to find new teams, with the Australian star moving to Complexity to replace Owen "oBo" Schlatter and the Norwegian returning to his home country to join Apeks, only to find himself linked with the trio of Aaron "AZR" Ward, Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas, and Sean "Gratisfaction" Kaiwai under a new organization just a couple of months later.
MIBR add stand-in trio for BLAST, Flashpoint
Changes to some of the most high-profile teams didn't stop there, as MIBR finally announced their plans for the rest of the year, over a month after their team had been depleted to just two players. The Brazilian side added three stand-ins, welcoming back Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles and picking up Vinicius "vsm" Moreira and Leonardo "leo_drk" Oliveira on loan, and went on to surprise many with the new-look roster as they were able to compete against some of the world's best teams at BLAST Premier Fall and Flashpoint 2.
Astralis back to Major-winning five after Xyp9x's return
The BLAST Premier Fall Series also marked the return of Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth to Astralis' active roster, reuniting the three-time Major-winning quintet in the server for the first time since May. The Danish powerhouse took a couple of tournaments to return to title-winning form, but by the end of the year, they were back at the top with three grand final appearances and two trophies to their name.
November - Vitality push six-man roster boundaries with Nivera
If there is one thing 2020 will be known for in the grand scheme of things other than how the global situation changed the face of the scene, it will most likely be the popularity of extended rosters. Several teams attempted to create six-man lineups, but none were nearly as successful as Vitality, who might not have been the first to jump at the opportunity but were undoubtedly the most effective with Nabil "Nivera" Benrlitom.
The French side was the first to test mid-series player swaps, with Nivera consistently slotting in for Richard "shox" Papillon on Inferno and for Kévin "misutaaa" Rabier on Dust2. It was an instant success on the former map at least, where Vitality went on a nine-map winning streak on the back of inspired play from the Belgian youngster on the AWP.
Two teams soon followed Vitality's example after seeing the fruits of the Frenchmen's unique approach. At the end of the year, Astralis started to utilize Lucas "Bubzkji" Andersen on Nuke instead of Xyp9x, and Natus Vincere tried out Valeriy "B1T" Vakhovskiy in Egor "flamie" Vasilyev's place on Inferno at the end of the season, with varying degrees of success.
aizy, MSL placed on transfer list as North recall Kristou, trial kreaz
North underwent another overhaul in November after having hit all-time lows in 2020 as they dropped below the top-20 mark and never recovered. The F.C. Copenhagen-owned brand decided to shift their focus towards a talent development project and put veterans Philip "aizy" Aistrup and Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen on the transfer list, while recalling Kristoffer "Kristou" Aamand from AGF and picking up Rasmus "kreaz" Johansson on trial.
December - ESIC won't take action on past stream-sniping cases despite widespread use
While ESIC still had yet to publish its final report on the coaching bug's abuse and had a series of other investigations in the pipeline into match-fixing cases in ESEA MDL, the esports watchdog group was also looking into an issue that had arisen earlier in the year after some players and coaches had been caught watching tournament broadcasts during matches.
ESIC released a statement on the matter in early December, stating that it opted not to take action against teams caught stream-sniping, in part because it believed the rulebreaking to be so alarmingly regular that the resulting ban wave would have a devastating effect on the scene. The commission also cited a lack of resources necessary to prove some of the cases at a time when it was in the middle of so many other investigations. Instead, it raised a warning finger, explaining that it would enforce a zero-tolerance policy going forward, and suggested several changes to tournament broadcasts to tackle the problem.
BLAST denied access to teams' voice and video recordings ahead of Fall Finals
The BLAST Premier Fall Finals opening match between Vitality and mousesports was delayed by several hours after the players participating in BLAST, in cooperation with the CSPPA, decided to deny the organizers access to their voice and video recordings in protest against the lack of agreement on how they should be used. The team owners later refuted the CSPPA's claims that BLAST had refused to address the issue, claiming that it had already been resolved ahead of the Fall Showdown, several weeks earlier. An unnamed team owner also heavily criticized the association, saying that it has "no actual interest in making things better" and that it is "up to no good and needs to be stopped."
Twistzz leaves Liquid, FalleN lined up as replacement
Shortly after ending the season with a loss to Astralis in the grand final of IEM Global Challenge, Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken appeared in an interview on the tournament's broadcast to announce that the series against the Danes had been his last with Liquid. Meanwhile, the North American organization was reported to be close to signing FalleN as the Canadian's replacement in time for the 2021 season.
GeT_RiGhT hints at VALORANT switch
In one of the last stories of 2020, Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund posted a video on Twitter in which he hinted at an upcoming switch to VALORANT. The Swede, a two-time player of the year, has been sitting on Dignitas' bench since September, when the American organization decided to make changes to the legend-filled roster after eight months full of lackluster results, replacing Richard "Xizt" Landström and GeT_RiGhT with Haris "H4RR3" Hadzic and Ludvig "HEAP" Alonso.