IEM Sydney 2019 saw Team Liquid defeat Fnatic in five games in the grand final of the third year of Australia’s premier Counter-Strike event. Unlike last year, no Aussies would make the playoff stage, but the crowd as usual was one of the best in esports. In this article, I analyze the big winners and losers of ESL’s usual down South classic.
IEM Sydney had a surprising amount of quality storylines, but these are the top three feel good moments from the event down under.
Finally! If you’re a fan of North American Counter-Strike or Team Liquid then you know how much this win means to the team. After coming so close in $250,000 + signature events, Team Liquid has finally killed their choking demons by winning a hard fought best of five against a resurgent Fnatic. While (with good reason) some fans will argue the win rings hollow due to the absence of Astralis, ENCE, Na’Vi, and FaZe featuring a stand-in, Team Liquid has proven they are a contender all year and just needed to prove they could beat an equal in the grand final unlike ESL One NYC: 2018.
MVP: Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken may not have had the most inspired grand final, but he proved his qualities as a star player equal to some of Europe’s finest.
The Caches III
Normally I do not bother to watch show matches because they are by nature meaningless and usually non competitive, but The Caches is arguably the best showmatch in esports and this edition proved how much fun it can be to watch. Is it the best Counter-Strike? No. Yet what it lacks in the strategy and flashy plays of a traditional match it makes up for with WWE like storylines, villains, and involves the crowd in the best ways possible. Very rarely do show matches in esports have this level of slick production (intros for both teams, video production, on screen memes) and hype that does not feel ham fisted or forced.
MVP: Oliver “DickStacy” Tierney was far and away the star of the showmatch even with the likes of traitor Gratisfaction, BadFallen, and Frankie’s sideline reporting. His entrance and fight with HenryG as he approached the stage was pure gold and his performance both in the server and in the post game interview were unmatched.
Going into their match with NRG I assumed that the Swedes did not have what it took to defeat the much improved North American squad, but thanks to a much improved Jesper “JW” Weckel the swedish side looked impressive. Finishing top two with best of three wins against NRG and Ninjas in Pyjamas has to be a massive accomplishment for a team that felt it was lacking identity with the shakiest of starts to 2019. While they were unable to overcome Team Liquid, few pegged them to upset and that is okay as Fnatic looks to continue this momentum into their EPL Pro league matches.
MVP: Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson has been Sweden’s most consistent top performer, and if the versatile veteran keeps his performance up you might see him crack the top five of HLTV’s Top performer list for 2019.
Not everyone can win in the land of the drop bear, and hometown favorites were by far the biggest losers this weekend.
It was their home event. Last year we saw an underpowered Renegades make an inspired playoff run and then team captain Noah “Nifty” Francis drop 50 against Mouz on Inferno. This year the Australian side was expected to make a playoff run after having a strong start to their 2019 campaign, but this was not their event as AWPER Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai was unimpressive and the team would be swept in back to back series by NiP and Mouz respectively. While the team can still impress later in the year as this was most likely an one off, they will never have a chance to impress their home crowd again this year.
LVP: Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai went a combined -27 against Mouz and NiP in what was an underperformance from the usually stable AWPer. This can be contributed to the team’s lack of practice and his own VISA issues for future events, but the numbers result in an LVP award for the traiterous Kiwi.
Losing to Grayhound Gaming and NRG at IEM Sydney, FaZe had a rough go of their time down under as they also were forced to play with their coach as a stand in due to Nikola “NiKo” Kovacs being unable to secure a visa. Even though they were missing their star player, they are still in the Losers category for losing a close series against Grayhound and being blanked by NRG.
LVP: Everyone who picked NiKo as their number one in a HLTV fantasy draft league must hate NiKo right now as he was unable to make an appearance and thus end up as the team’s Least Valuable Player.
All of us
This event was fantastic as per usual, but unfortunately due to the time zone differences many fans were unable to catch the goodness live. While that is what replays are for, the bigger ramification of this means that we will more than likely never be graced with a major in Sydney the home of the greatest crowd in CS:GO. The crowd this weekend in the Qudos Bank Arena was fantastic and would only be improved by giving fans time to plan and fly down under.
LVP: Valve for deciding that European CS viewing times mean more than the rest of us.
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