From the beginning, IEM Chicago 2018 was always going to be an uphill battle for team ENCE as they attempted to topple the reigning North Americans of Liquid. Though their efforts were appreciated, and provided for an entertaining tournament showcase, Liquid has officially mastered the art of utter domination, allowing them to take their 7th win in a row.
With Overpass being map one of the grand finals, TL took zero time to continue their victory campaign, dominating the first half 14-1, and went on to finish 16-2. Though ENCE did manage to open with pistol round success, Liquid did a fantastic job at canceling ENCE’s buy rounds, denying all bomb sites of opportunity, and keeping ENCE’s economy at CSGO’s version of poverty status.
Second up was Nuke. Though we could waste words and give a round by round recap of the bloodbath that occurred, we will do our readers a favor and just mention it was a MIRROR image of Overpass, with the exception that Liquid was kind enough to let ENCE to take an extra round. Just like Overpass, ENCE managed to win the pistol rounds, something that usually leads to early half success, but ultimately Liquid could have cared less. Their high paced aggression put a stop to ENCE with every push and hold they attempted, leading to a 16-3 map finish, and a quick 2-0 series lead.
Though Team Liquid seemed completely invincible during the first two maps, Inferno proved the TL boys did in fact have a weakness in their Avenger-themed armor. So much so, the comeback for ENCE looked convincing for a large portion of the match. For the first time in the series, ENCE made efficient and successful use of their buy rounds and began to string serious rounds together. But, with Liquid having so much prior momentum built up, the series was brought to its ultimate end. A 16-14 victory for Liquid created history, making them the first North American roster to win an IEM event in their own country. 2019 has been a true gift for the scene of Counter-Strike, as it was just a year ago where many believed a true NA roster would never be able to rule the ranks of the best CS:GO has to offer.
PEL Phase 2 and GLL Grand Slam
After what seemed like forever, the eight weeks of PUBG’s PEL Phase 2 has come to an end in spectacular fashion! The PEL series stands as one of the most entertaining, and action-packed series to watch in esports, and even offers a $350,000 prize pool to the lucky chaps that finish high enough.
Na`Vi and Liquid claimed 2nd and 3rd respectively after 8 weeks of competition. The two superteams dominated the tournament and gave fans a great showing, and hundreds of epic nail-biter shootouts. The tournament results came extremely late as FaZe secured their season victory only 15 points ahead of NaVi, and 19 of Liquid, both of whom could have easily taken the title if just a few more things had gone their way.
This lead straight into the GLL Grand Slam where Na`Vi and Team Liquid had qualified after their terrific performance in the PEL. They were tasked with going up against the best teams in the world and once again both squads performed extremely well. Na`Vi started the tournament off with a chicken dinner while TL finished 4th and then found their very own win in the second match of the event. From that point forward Na`Vi and Team Liquid would have different players come in clutch numerous times and finish 3rd and 4th overall, respectively.
Na`Vi ended the tournament with 4 Chicken Dinners and 149 points with TL just behind them at 143. However even with the PEL and GLL just having wrapped up, both TL and Na`Vi will need to strap in for the PEL Phase 3 which will begin at the end of August and rewards the top 6 finishers with a place in the Global Championship.
Low Tier City Ultimate + Melee
Low Tier City is the Texas fighting game tournament looking to show you good games and good production. LTC went as far as to hire a professional designer, Nem, and the work showed. While LTC was looking clean, Team Liquid was looking even cleaner. Hungrybox and Dabuz showed up big in Melee and Ultimate respectively. They both found their way into two grand finals that both went the full 10 games.
Ultimate brackets might just be the scariest in the fighting game world right now. EVO just clocked in their entrants at over three and a half thousand. Within that, there are tons of dark horses and legends alike. At LTC Dabuz would beat his fair share of legends and dark horses.
Getting to top 8 would be all about the dark horse competitors that could easily score upsets on a good day. Dabuz took out Blank, 8bitmand, and Meme. In top 8, Dabuz would have the bad luck of facing Tweek early which ended with Dabuz being sent to the loser bracket.
In the loser’s Bracket, Dabuz would run into Cosmos, one of the best Inkling players in the world. Dabuz picked Olimar and made it look like the Captain had never been nerfed. His confident defensive play stifled Cosmos’s kill moves and let him get extra credit whenever he had a stock lead. Dabuz won 3-0. Dabuz went on to crush the lower bracket all the way to grand finals where he had to rematch Tweek.
This time, Dabuz made his adjustments and would not let Tweek get an easy 3-0. He reset the bracket with a 3-2 win and then took the final set to a game 5. After a brutal run of 5 game sets against top competitors, Dabuz finally ran out of fuel and Tweek beat him in the last game of the tournament.
In Melee, Team Liquid’s Hungrybox would have to make his own exhausting run. Getting knocked into Loser’s early by Texas’s own Falco, Albert, Hungrybox would need to grind through most of the field to win. And grind he did, against pretty much every matchup. He won convincingly against n0ne and S2J, two top Captain Falcons. He’d take out 3 premier Foxes by beating SFAT, Fiction, and Mang0. And of course, he faced Albert’s Falco and get his revenge in a tidy 3-0.
It’s hard to sum up all the good things Hungrybox did at LTC 7. His up-air chains looked revitalized and squashed attempts to platform camp against him. His down air combos looked like a new part of his game no one was ready for. He looked beyond driven and found no true challenge until he met Zain.
Hungrybox and Zain would play for 10 exhausting games. Zain played such clean defense that Hungrybox barely landed a pound in 10 games. Zain’s recovery was nearly immaculate too, forcing Hungrybox to beat Marth’s massive wall of disjoints in neutral. Somehow, Hungrybox did it. Bringing out just about every tool Puff has, he won game 10 and the tournament.
CEO 2019 Melee + Ultimate
CEO is an FGC tournament with the flare of the WWE and Top 8 competitors have their own entrances. It’s one of the biggest fighting game tournaments in the world, where competitors from across the world come to compete in several different games. This year, that was absolutely the case for Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Ultimate saw players coming from Europe and Japan as well as from North America. The bracket ended up massively stacked with top 100 players. For a lot of players, the tournament would take on added importance because it would be the last large one before the PGR would drop its top 100 players list for the first half of the year.
Dabuz came into a bracket full of dangers without a clear main. After patch 3.1, he started to play Olimar much less, focusing on Palutena and Rosalina instead. For some players, refocusing their playstyle and changing their mains would be enough to put them down for months. Not for Dabuz.
Dabuz used mostly Rosalina in the early bracket and tore his way into Top 8 by beating Mr. R, Glutonny, and Wishes. He got sent into the Loser’s Bracket by Ally, one of the best Snake players in the world and a top ten player in general. In the lower bracket Dabuz went on to face and beat many of the world's best players and eventually finished in a very respectable 4th place.
Melee also made a showing at CEO this year. Though some notable names like Leffen, Mango, and Zain were missing, the tournament would still feature top contenders like Plup, Wizzrobe, SFAT, iBDW, and of course Hungrybox. In many tournaments, no Leffen or Zain would mean a fairly easy bracket for HBox. However, in recent tournaments no matchup has seemed tougher for the Puff main than Wizzrobe’s Falcon.
Throughout CEO, Hungybox would not drop more than a game to anyone but Wizzrobe. After a few disappointing placements, Hungrybox had returned to form. He beat La Luna, SFAT, and Plup in 3-1 sets before facing Wizzrobe in Grand Finals. There was no challenge in the bracket greater than the recently sponsored Falcon who was earning top 3 finishes left and right.
The two defensive masterminds of Melee squared off in a tense Grand Finals set where Hungrybox had to come back from a full stock deficit in Game 5 to win it all. After the tournament Hungrybox would commentate Top 8 in Ultimate with Smash 4 legend Zero and later announce his plan to go into esports full time, not just as a competitor but a commentator and personality.
The Summit 10
The Summit has always been a unique tournament in Dota 2. The pros cast, they take part in skits, and they put their skills on display in a much more laid-back environment than they have to deal with at other events. For the 10th installment of the Summit viewers were introduced to Insania from Alliance and his mannerisms on the couch as well as his insight into the games and sense of humor made him the star of the broadcast. The reaction from viewers to Insania is exactly what makes The Summit such a great concept. We get to see a side of the pros that we would never normally get the opportunity to see, even more so for players from China where the language barrier often stops people from getting invested in those teams.
Insania wasn’t just gaining new fans with his couch conversations though, Alliance as a whole was tearing through the competition as they claimed first place in their group and then defeated Pain Gaming 3-0 in the finals. It was a performance that was to be expected from the only TI qualified team in attendance, but all the same it was an impressive performance. Alliance is firing on all cylinders in the weeks before TI and it’s great to have the winds of success at their backs as the prepare for the most important tournament of the year. Loda said long ago he wanted to build a legacy, and this team is certainly taking the proper steps to do just that.