It’s been less than two weeks since the completion of Counter-Strike’s yearly rendition of the acclaimed World Championships in Katowice’s Spodek Arena. Though everyone expected a frenetic and ultra-competitive battle among the best teams in the world, we definitely did not expect the outcome.
For the first time in quite a while, the champions came from Sweden.
To longtime fans of CS it may as well have been a full millennia since the Fnatic Swedes were reigning champions, but against all odds they prevailed against the best the world had to offer. Though there were more than a few moments of weakness along the way, Fnatic deserve to be proud of this momentous occasion, as they’ve once again established themselves as a true Major contender among the game’s elite.
Sitting in Group B, the Swedes dug their way out of the entrance stage with encouraging ease. Round one offered a dangerous Heroic side, but Fnatic’s Cobblestone play was simply too mighty for the young challengers. In the second round of the upper bracket, the French squad G2, led by NBK, was the first significant roadblock for Fnatic. A comfortable win for G2 suggested that Fnatic still had some ways to go, but the Swedes bounced back on Mirage and Cobble to take the series and advance to the playoff decider. The remainder of the upper bracket was no different, and though Fnatic would meet their future grand finals opponent, FaZe Clan, a facile two-and-through would send them straight to the semifinals of the following weekend. Few brackets would have predicted Fnatic to get out of their group in first, and this already promised to be one of Fnatic’s most impressive outings in quite a while.
On the other side of the bracket, Team Liquid continued their string of top tier performances by placing second in their group. Wins against Gambit and Cloud 9 secured their spot in the seeding match, but Astralis proved too strong on the day.
With the final 6 teams decided, the World Championships moved on to the playoffs, where Team Liquid faced the Ninjas in the quarter finals. NAF defended his home turf on Overpass to give Team Liquid the series lead, but NiP drew even on Mirage by narrowly avoiding a comeback. Momentum was clearly on Liquid’s side, however, as the North Americans closed out the series on their signature map, Inferno.
The CS Summit Champions Team Liquid and the old Legends Fnatic both had something to prove in this tournament, yet only one would make it to the finals to face FaZe Clan. In what many expected to be a tight match, Fnatic instead advanced with relative comfort. After taking Liquid’s Inferno, Fnatic cleaned up their opponents on Mirage to earn their first premiere tournament finals since ELEAGUE Season 1 back in July 2016.
From that point on, it was history.
The finale wasn’t flawless by any means, but it provided thrills for the enraptured Katowice audience. The gruesome duel between ten of the world’s best players required two consuming overtime periods across five full matches to determine the winner. In the end, the side that demonstrated more polished team-driven executions and creative play styles ultimately prevailed. When the smoke cleared on the finish line, Fnatic had limped their way across to claim their IEM Katowice trophy.
After a string of heartbreaking losses and early tournament exits, Fnatic can once again call themselves champions. In addition, flusha, JW and Krimz, against all odds, are now two-time World Champions. Few could have expected such an outcome, but everyone joined the applause for Fnatic’s return to prominence.