Celebrating ten years of CS:GO at IEM Katowice
From sideshow to Major to ESL Pro Tour Championship, Katowice has now been the home of CS:GO for ten years.
With the IEM Katowice Play-In done and dusted, it is now time to watch sixteen of the best CS:GO teams in the world go head to head in a tournament that is celebrating its first decade in existence. Now a million dollar affair, CS:GO started out as a $7,000 sideshow in 2013, with three Polish teams and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács’s myDGB.net competing. One of those hometown heroes, Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas, Filip "NEO" Kubski and Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski’s ESC, went on to win the first post-1.6 edition.
The second year of CS:GO at the Spodek Arena, EMS One Katowice 2014, could not have been more different, as it was a Valve-sponsored Major and only the second event in the calendar to boast in-game goodies and what at the time was a very generous $250,000 prize pool, as well as becoming the first Major to feature player signature stickers.
On home soil, the aforementioned three Polish legends and two youngsters in Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski and Paweł "byali" Bieliński made history for their country, as Virtus.pro went on to be crowned Major champions in front of their fans, denying NIP in their second shot at such a title. The Poles won the event without a single loss, leaving in their wakes Titan, HellRaisers, LDLC and LGB before finishing off Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg, Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and company in the grand final.
Rebranded as ESL One Katowice in 2015, the event in Poland was once again picked to be one of Valve’s three yearly Majors and continued to boast a $250,000 prize pool to be distributed among the best teams in the world. Virtus.pro, with the core that won the two previous Katowice events, the small local one in 2013 and the second Major in 2014, started off with a great group stage securing their two matches, but after defeating the Keyd newcomers from Brazil in the first round of the playoffs, they were eliminated in the semi-finals by fnatic.
Robin "flusha" Rönnquist, Jesper "JW" Wecksell and Markus "pronax" Wallsten, the winning core of DreamHack Winter 2013, then went on to face their NIP countrymen and fierce rivals, claiming the title with a 2-1 victory in the series to become the first team in history to win two Majors, doing so alongside Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer and Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson, who tallied their first Major triumph at the Spodek Arena.
In 2016, ESL’s flagship tournament in Katowice — now no longer a Major — once again changed names, this time to its final form, IEM Katowice. That year, fnatic became the first CS:GO team to win two events at the Spodek Arena, doing so back-to-back. The Swedes struggled in the group stage with a loss to Luminosity while beating NIP in the thirtieth round and MOUZ in overtime in their most contested matches, before flying through the playoffs with victories over Virtus.pro, Astralis and last but not least taking revenge on Luminosity in the best-of-five final.
Danish Counter-Strike made a splash in 2017, when Astralis won their first Major title in Atlanta after showing great promise following the addition of in-game leader Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander in late 2016. After that, they went on to solidify their top spot in the rankings at IEM Katowice 2017, but Nicolai "device" Reedtz and company weren’t the only Danes in contention at the Spodek, however, as Heroic finished in 3-4th place and North not far behind, in 5-6th place.
The 2017 event in Katowice is also remembered for an incredible display of late-round abilities by Astralis’ very own clutch minister, Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth, as the Dane won 13 1vsX situations — a record-breaking feat in his team’s championship run.
A new fnatic made an irruption in 2018, with veterans JW, flusha and KRIMZ now flanked by Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson and in-game leader Maikil "Golden" Selim, once again putting the black-and-gold at the top in Katowice and making it the third time the veteran trio of Swedes lifted a trophy in the Silesian city.
Following a clean run in the group stage and playoffs, fnatic were in the grand final against none other than FaZe, the team olofmeister had joined the previous summer, and the two teams battled in a ferocious best-of-five final that went all the way to overtime in the decider map, Train, where the Swedes were able to come out ahead with an MVP-worthy performance by flusha.
IEM Katowice 2019 once again gained the distinction of being a Major, but long gone were the days of the $250,000 prize pool and this time around the purse for the event would be $1,000,000, the largest of any IEM Katowice until then, doubling the previous year’s $500,000.
Half a year after winning their second Major in London, Astralis became the second team to become three-time Major champions, winning two of them back-to-back, when they went all the way in Poland with a 3-0 record in the Swiss group stage before leaving behind NIP and MIBR in the playoffs and quashing ENCE’s dream run in the grand final.
IEM Katowice 2020 had the sad distinction of being the last big LAN before the coronavirus pandemic locked the world down, taking place on February 24-March 1, right on the cusp of the virus’ outbreak. And while it was allowed to take place, the usually crowded and rowdy Spodek Arena remained silent and somber as the world’s best teams faced off on stage in an empty arena.
The matches did deliver the goods, however, and the tournament was premonitory of what was to come when the coronavirus lockdowns were lifted and LAN play returned, as it was none other than Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev’s Natus Vincere who took the event by storm. Their last LAN event with Egor "flamie" Vasilyev, the CIS squad went through the lower bracket in the group stage before taking out Liquid and Astralis in the playoffs, going on the final 3-0 against G2 .
By early 2021 the coronavirus pandemic was in full force and all of Counter-Strike, since the previous IEM Katowice, was moved online. The first ESL Pro Tour Championship of that year was no different, with teams staying at home instead of traveling to Poland with aims of reaching the famed stage at the Spodek Arena.
The victor was none other than Gambit, the team of youngsters that came out of obscurity during the online era to establish themselves as one of the forces to watch out for among the elite teams. The IEM Katowice trophy was the first big win for them, and the first for the Russian organization since 2017 when they won the PGL Major in Krakow, with only Abay "HObbit" Khasenov a member in both of the aforementioned Gambit victories.
Now, nine top 10 teams will be in attendance among the sixteen set to compete at the main event in Katowice this year, with Entropiq the only top 10 team missing out as they failed to make it through the two day play-in, where teams like BIG, Movistar Riders and GODSENT were also left behind.
The most recent IEM Katowice winners and top two teams in the world, Gambit and Natus Vincere, will be looking to continue to leave their mark at the prestigious event in its 10 year anniversary, while squads that have made changes in the recent past such as Vitality, Astralis, FaZe, OG or G2 will be on the prowl to try and upend the status quo.