For a long time $250,000 has been the benchmark prize pool for the biggest tournaments in CS:GO. While most great players have achieved victories at these events, some have yet to get there, and some may even have missed their window of opportunity. These are six great players who have had multiple opportunities to reach the promised land and lift one of these prestigious trophies in the CS:GO world.
This list is not just based on individual skill, but also other aspects of the game like leadership and supportive play. Something these players have in common is that they have come close to winning a $250,000 tournament on multiple occasions, but never quite reached the top.
5 Kirill "ANGE1" Karasov
ANGE1 is a long time face in the CS:GO scene with a rollercoaster for history. Famously he was a part of the Virtus.pro team that ended NiP’s 87-0 winning streak in 2013. While he had success early in CS:GO, there were not any $250,000 tournaments to win, and as a result his first chance was DreamHack Winter 2013 as part of Astana Dragons. The Dragons looked like one of the better team going into the event, but they were defeated in the quarterfinals by the North American compLexity Gaming.
A few months after the event, Astana Dragons parted way with the team, and they would join HellRaisers which has been ANGE1’s home ever since. With his commitment to the HellRaisers organization, ANGE1 has not been on a team favored to win a big event ever since he opted to join. His best chance was perhaps the V4 Future Sports Festival, a tournament that didn’t have a lot of top teams in attendance. HellRaisers wasn’t favored to win the even, and they lost to Mousesports in the semifinals.
ANGE1 has always had the ability to make the most of what he has got. Even when HellRaisers have lost some of their strongest players, he has rebuilt the team and made them perform better than they had any right to do.
If ANGE1 sticks with HellRaisers for the rest of his career, it’s possible that he will miss out on winning a $250,000 event altogether. HellRaisers isn’t a team that is able to attract great players or has the resources to build a tournament winning team. With that said, ANGE1 is one of the most valuable names in the CIS scene at the moment. With both Natus Vincere and Gambit Esports struggling with leadership, ANGE1 should join one of those teams once his contract ends. If that happens, ANGE1 might finally be able to lift a big trophy.
4 Spencer "Hiko" Martin
In the early days of CS:GO, Hiko was one of the biggest stars in North America. His team, compLexity Gaming was one of the very few teams that could challenge European teams and contend for tournament victories. Despite that, Hiko only ever came close. At DreamHack Winter 2013, Hiko and compLexity lost in the semifinals to the eventual tournament winners Fnatic. Even if they had reached the finals, they wouldn’t have been favored to beat NiP. The compLexity Gaming roster would eventually join Cloud9 where they would have one of their biggest opportunities for a big victory. ESL One Cologne 2014 didn’t have a clear favorite going in, and with two brand new maps and a map randomizer, the tournament was very much up for grabs.
In the group stage Hiko and Cloud9 defeated two great teams in the form of Titan and Dignitas, and would advance to the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals they lost a close series to NiP, with the randomizer making Cobblestone the third map. Cobblestone was a map that helped NiP a lot throughout the tournament. If the randomizer had not landed on the brand new map, it’s certainly not unthinkable that Cloud9 could have made it all the way to the final.
It's safe to say that Hiko has always been driven. After being unsuccessful in removing Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert from Cloud9, he left the team, and joined up with the former iBUYPOWER players. Unfortunately for Hiko, three of his new teammates were banned from CS:GO events by Valve after their infamous match-fixing incident. After floundering around in teams like Nihilum, Hiko would eventually join Team Liquid. With Hiko in the squad, Team Liquid would make some ambitious roster changes, and eventually became one of the very best teams in North America.
Hiko had more opportunities to get a big victory after he joined Team Liquid, but he ultimately missed out on his chance at events like MLG Columbus 2016 and ESL One Cologne 2016. His current team, Rogue, is not a team that is going to win a big event anytime soon, and it’s looking like Hiko’s time at the top of CS:GO is over. Despite being one of the more successful players in North American CS:GO history, Hiko never got the big tournament victory to solidify himself among the greats.
3 Sean "seangares" Gares
Being one of the greatest North American in-game leaders in history, you would expect seangares to have a lot of trophies to his name. Despite coming close on several occasions, seangares hasn’t been able to win one of the bigger trophies in CS:GO. Just like Hiko, seangares was part of the compLexity Gaming and Cloud9 lineups that came close to success at some of the earlier CS:GO Majors, DreamHack Winter 2013 and ESL One Cologne 2014. But seangares came even closer to winning a $250,000 tournament. During Cloud9’s run in the summer of 2015, they took three second places in a row, including at the $250,000 event ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals. Cloud9 got the upset victory against EnVyUs in the quarterfinals, off the back of some clever antistratting by seangares. They defeated CLG in the semifinals with relative ease. Unfortunately, they had to go up against the greatest team of all time in the finals, and they lost 1-3 to Fnatic.
Now that seangares is transitioning into becoming an analyst instead of playing full time, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that he will get his big victory. There are some North American teams that could use seangares leadership capabilities, and it’s possible that he could get back to the top if he wanted to. But unless Cloud9 or Team Liquid come calling, we should all be able to enjoy seangares on analyst desks around the world.
2 Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans
From one great in-game leader to another, Ex6TenZ is another player looking for a $250,000 tournament victory. Back in 2013 when VeryGames was the best team in the world, Ex6TenZ earned himself a lot of victories. But the CS:GO scene hadn’t reached a point where $250,000 tournaments were a monthly occurrence. It's safe to say that if there had been large amounts of money in the scene back in 2013, Ex6TenZ would have had his fair share of it. Ex6TenZ and VeryGames were the favorites to win the first CS:GO Major, DreamHack Winter 2013.
As well as the second CS:GO Major, EMS One Katowice 2014. Unfortunately, Ex6TenZ & Co were unsuccessful on both occasions. And that has been the story of Ex6TenZ at the majors. Which is part of the reason he has been gone from the top of the French scene for a long time. Granted, later in his career Ex6TenZ didn’t always have teams with the potential to win big events, but it does hurt his case for being one of the best leaders of all time.
While it seemed like Ex6TenZ career at the top of CS:GO was over, it’s looking increasingly likely that he is coming back to G2 Esports as part of the shox project. With both Kenny “kennyS” Schrub and Richard “shox” Papillon in the team, this should be the time for Ex6TenZ to get the biggest victory of his career, at least as far as the prize pool is concerned. Even the G2 Esports of 2017 that was considered a disappointment managed to win a $250,000 event on two different occasions. Ex6TenZ will not get many more chances, and it's time for him to make the most of what he has got.
1 Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski
It made sense to put #2 and #1 together, as nitr0 and EliGE have played most of their CS:GO career alongside one another. EliGE and nitr0 are the players on the list that have come close the most amount of times. Their first big chances were at MLG Columbus 2016 and ESL One Cologne 2016 when they got Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev into the team. Even though s1mple had some monstrous performances, they were stopped by eventual champions Luminosity/SK Gaming on both occasions. And being close has been the story of both EliGE and nitr0’s career. T
hey’ve finished top four at ESL One New York 2016, ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, StarSeries Season 4, and IEM Katowice 2018. On top of that, they have finished in second place at ESL One New York 2017 and ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals. Unfortunately for them, they’ve been stopped by some of the greatest teams of all time. SK Gaming at ESL One Cologne 2016, the newly formed FaZe Clan with Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs at ESL One New York 2017, and the current Astralis at ESL Pro League Season 7.
Nitr0 and EliGE are both very talented players. EliGE has been one of the biggest stars in North America over the last couple of years while nitr0 has turned out to be one of the most versatile players in the scene. Their one issue has been the clutch factor and crumbling under pressure has become almost synonymous with Team Liquid at this point.
Although they’ve already been at the top of the CS:GO scene for a few years now, nitr0 is still only 22 years old, while EliGE is still only 20 years old. They should both still have a lot of years left at the top, and a lot of time to get at least a few tournament victories. Team Liquid has the chance to get a victory as soon as next week, at StarSeries Season 5. With the likes of Astralis and FaZe Clan not in attendance, nitr0 and EliGE have the opportunity to get the biggest victory of their CS:GO careers.
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