G2 streak, jabbi's new zenith and other key takeaways from IEM Katowice groups
G2 extend their streak, jabbi hits new heights, and ZywOo breaks his Katowice curse.
The first prestige event of 2023 has arrived, and the competition has already been fierce. IEM Katowice's playoffs start Friday, leaving us plenty of time to take a look back at what has happened so far. Cloud9 and FaZe joined FURIA in booking early flights home, both failing to make it out of a very competitive Group A.
The 'group of death', however, did not affect G2, who added another six maps to their win streak to make it 17 maps without loss. Heroic were knocked off the top spot of the rankings by G2 this week but looked strong in Group B, helped by an exceptional Jakob "jabbi" Nygaard performance with Rasmus "sjuush" Beck in support.
The play-in to the event saw the rise of Felipe "insani" Yuji, the 18-year-old Brazilian who scored a 1.27 rating in his first-ever LAN event on record. MIBR, after losing Marcelo "chelo" Cespedes and Jhonatan "JOTA" Willian to Imperial, were in need of some new blood and insani appears to have provided just that.
Fellow Brazilian Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato was also in stellar form, finishing the play-in as the highest-performing player with a 1.33 rating. That effort was wasted, however, as FURIA were dumped out of the event by IHC. No other Brazilian teams made the main group stage either, in a worrying start to the year for South American CS.
IHC and Complexity surprise — but is it sustainable?
IHC claimed another skull in the form of Cloud9, in a strange series where four of their players finished below a 1.00 rating. The Mongolians lost the opening duel 60% of the time in that series, but won five clutches to tip the balance back in their favour. It was a similar story against FURIA, where IHC won three clutches to FURIA's zero on the decider of Anubis.
Tuvshintugs "Annihilation" Nyamdorj won eight clutches in Poland to make up for his overall 0.97 rating, building up a fearsome reputation in 1vsX situations. IHC were praised for their style, playing a more European brand of Counter-Strike than previous Asian teams have attempted to.
But they still have some more work to do to prove that their Cinderella run is repatable; you cannot rely on improbable clutches forever, with their 30.2% win-rate in 4v5s a band-aid on a fairly poor team-wide 44.1% opening kill success and 66.9% 5v4 conversion.
Complexity were another underdog to impress, and they too were powered by an AWPer with an uncanny knack in the clutch. Håkon "hallzerk" Fjærli won 13 clutches in Katowice, five more than Annihilation in second. Complexity also started 70.9% of halves with the economic advantage provided by a converted pistol round win (50%), or a force buy win in round 2 or 17 (20.9%), another scoreline that might not be sustainable.
Where there is reliable improvement, however, is in the performance of Michael "Grim" Wince. While hallzerk's form dropped off against Outsiders to a 0.88 rating, Grim stood tall with a 1.18 rating overall and 1.31 on the decisive loss on Inferno. He has stood up to everything that has been thrown at him, and another good event in the books is yet more proof that the 22-year-old is back to his best.
Cloud9 struggled in their first event since the IEM Rio Major, sent home after four dismal maps in the group stage proper. Timur "buster" Tulepov, controversially added in place of Timofey "interz" Yakushin, was especially poor with a 0.85 rating and only one map above a 1.00 rating. Vladislav "nafany" Gorshkov struggled too, only two points better with a 0.87 rating. Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov and Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov recorded 173 kills over four maps in the main event; Abay "HObbit" Khassenov, nafany, and buster combined only mustered 165.
Cloud9 were not helped by a poor record at the start of halves, only having the economic advantage in 2 of their 8 halves played in Katowice. They converted only 1 of their 3 pistol-round victories, leaving them with an uphill battle in 75% of halves they played. This seems like as much of an anomaly as Complexity's prowess; pistol rounds over larger samples always veer towards 50%.
So, were they just unlucky? Their two 16-14 losses to IHC, with all those clutches and lost pistols, adds to this argument but luck should not come into a match between a team like Cloud9 and then-ranked #36 in the world IHC. There were enough gun rounds to make up for any bad luck on the day. ESL Pro League Season 17 and IEM Brazil are Cloud9's only scheduled events before the RMR and Major — they need to get back on track, and fast.
A new zenith for jabbi and sjuush
The highest-rated player in groups was jabbi, who powered Heroic run straight to semi-finals. The scale of his over-performance in Katowice compared to his overall time in Heroic is stark, shown by the two radars on the below graphic.
At IEM Katowice he leads in seven of the eight radar categories, with a respectable 1.23 CT side opening kill rating in the eighth. His overall 1.39 rating is simply astronomical, even over his seven map sample size. In only one map did he drop below a 1.30 rating (a 1.19 rating vs OG on Inferno) and he averaged a 1.50 rating against Vitality in Heroic's toughest test opposition-wise thus far.
These numbers are clearly not sustainable over an entire year, or even a whole event for the vast majority of players. Yet, with a bit of momentum on side, jabbi's heater does not need to be turned off just yet. With a strong performance in the grand final of the BLAST Fall Final under his belt it is not completely unlikely that jabbi can maintain a good, even MVP worthy, level in Spodek; just don't expect him to continue to perform like prime Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev.
The same is true of sjuush, Heroic's anchor shooting up to a 1.25 event rating full of powerful CT-Sides. He recorded a 21.5% multi-kill rate in groups, with several highlight-worthy shutdowns on the defensive half.
G2's win streak continues
If jabbi and sjuush are to taste glory with Heroic, it is fairly likely they will have to put a stop to G2's incredible winning streak. The European combine are currently 17-0, with a 10 map winning streak on Nuke and 8 on Inferno.
To put that into context, that is a higher number of consecutive wins than prime Astralis ever managed, and is joint third in the all-time standings. Granted, only four maps in this sample have been played in arena playoffs but that is only a small asterisk on an impeccable record. There has been no easy games, even in the studios. They have beaten FaZe twice, Natus Vincere four times, and Liquid once as well as two wins over BIG, all in 2-0 fashion.
One name missing from G2's record is Heroic, who G2 have not faced since the Danes beat them at BLAST Premier Fall Final. With G2 (#1) and Heroic (#2) on opposite sides of the bracket the stage is set for a grand final showdown, a tantalising prospect. Before we can count those chickens, however, both sides will have to navigate a difficult semi-final.
Early front-runners in the MVP race
It is Vitality and Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut's first-ever appearance in Spodek in their fourth attempt, as well as Dan "apEX" Madesclaire's first appearance there since 2014. Key to that, as always, was the performance of ZywOo: The generational Frenchman delivered a 1.34 rating in his best IEM Katowice to date.
Lotan "Spinx" Giladi, the second star, had more trouble in groups, slumping to a 1.01 rating after a promising 1.32 at BLAST Premier Spring Groups. Vitality will need more from the Israeli if they are to go any further on their debut in Spodek, but if they can then ZywOo will likely be a front-runner for an MVP.
Justin "jks" Savage has stepped up to become G2's highly impactful fourth star, in the mould of a Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy in 2021's Natus Vincere or Håvard "rain" Nygaard in 2022's FaZe. In this group stage he was even better than that, sporting a team-high 1.30 rating with Nikola "NiKo" Kovač (1.21) and Ilya "m0NESY" Osipov (1.23) close behind.
Keith "NAF" Markovic leads Liquid with a 1.17 rating, with Josh "oSee" Ohm in second for the Americans with a much-improved 1.12. Having failed to go above 1.00 for his last three events in a row, oSee's form here is a welcome surprise. Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski and Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis have been more inconsistent, but there is plenty of time to make up for that.
On the other side of the bracket, Dzhami "Jame" Ali's 1.28 rating propelled Outsiders into playoffs — though against weaker opposition than in Group A. Aleksandr "KaiR0N-" Anashkin's debut in Jame's Outsiders has also gone well, a 1.14 rating perhaps more than what was expected on debut.
Heroic traditionally share the frags around, but jabbi's burst into stardom and sjuush's added level mean they are also front-runners for the MVP, though all five players have been at as good a level as ever.
Natus Vincere, meanwhile, will count playoffs as a success already as they rebuild the roster with Andrii "npl" Kukharskyi. Denis "electroNic" Sharipov started the event well, his 1.16 rating being his highest non-RMR event rating since BLAST Spring Final in June 2022. s1mple, meanwhile, is out of the top ten in terms of rating, but there is hope that CS:GO's brightest star can shine under the lights of Spodek arena.
Like any event, the group stage only offers an early look into the MVP race, and no player has truly been ruled out as of yet. ZywOo is the only traditional star in the top five highest rated players, but with plenty of maps ahead the race is still wide open for the first HLTV x 1xBet MVP of the year.