Starting Dec. 4, the Danish CS:GO super-team Astralis have the opportunity to become the first ever CS:GO squad to claim a $1,000,000 bonus prize if they can win the ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals event. It’s being held in the team’s home country of Denmark through to Dec. 9.
Having picked up three wins in the last eight Intel Grand Slam tournaments, the supremely hot Astralis need just one more win from either of the next two Intel Grand Slam-sanctioned events to claim the prize.
What is the Intel Grand Slam Bonus?
Intel awards the massive $1 million bonus in association with ESL and DreamHack to the first team to win four Intel Grand Slam premier events during a window of 10 consecutive events.
FaZe Clan are the only other team who have had a shot at landing the bonus. But they failed to win the fourth event at ESL One Cologne 2018 and the DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018.
If Astralis doesn’t lock up the prize this weekend, they also have the Intel Extreme Masters XIII – Katowice Major event in February to pull it off.
There’s a hitch though. Should Astralis reach the final of either the ESL Pro League Season 8 or the Katowice Major, the team with a chance to beat them becomes eligible for a $300,000 spoiler bonus.
Astralis’ phenomenal IGS record
So how did we get here with the Danish powerhouse?
Astralis have amassed three Intel Grand Slam qualifying victories starting with their win at the DreamHack Masters in Marseille in April 2018. Then, they lost to FaZe Clan in the final of the Intel Extreme Masters XIII Sydney in May. A fortnight later, they claimed their second win in three tournaments with a victory at the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals over Team Liquid.
The team then controversially sat out the ESL One Belo Horizonte 2018 event and were then defeated in the semifinals of the ESL One Cologne 2018 by Natus Vincere, who went on to win the event. In the sixth tournament since their victory, Astralis once again reached the final of the DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018 but once again fell just short with North claiming an unexpected victory.
The team also refused to play in the ESL One New York in 2018 due to a heavy schedule. Then, at the Intel Extreme Masters XIII in Chicago, Astralis defeated Team Liquid in the final to claim their third victory in eight events. That’s what put them on the million-dollar doorstep.
ESL Pro League Season 8 preview
While Katowice is on the table next year, as we said, this weekend undoubtedly marks Astralis’ best shot at the bonus. Not only does the tournament feature just 16 teams (compared to the 24 in Katowice), but it is also being held in Astralis’ home country of Denmark.
Astralis and the other 15 teams are also chasing the lion’s share of the $750,000 prize pool on offer. The tournament will be played in a double-elimination format. Each group will house eight teams, and the group stage is seeded based on the competing teams Online League Placements.
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The opening matches are best-of-one contests, with the remaining games all best-of-three. Three teams from each group will advance into the playoffs. The winners of the groups earn byes through to the semifinals. The second- and third-placed teams will face each other in the quarterfinals.
All matches in the playoff stage are best-of-three matches apart from the final, which is played over a best-of-five format.
Group A Draw
- Team Liquid
- INTZ eSports
- G2 Esports
- Vici Gaming
Group A Opening Fixtures
- Astralis v Vici Gaming
- Renegades v HellRaisers
- Team Liquid v G2 Esports
- INTZ eSports v BIG
Group A Betting
- Astralis – 7/10 favourites
- Team Liquid – 4/1
- BIG, HellRaisers – 8/1
- G2 Esports – 16/1
- INTZ eSports, Renegades – 20/1
- Vici Gaming – 100/1
As you can see, the bookmakers clearly fancy Astralis to come through what looks like a relatively benign Group A. Team Liquid should join them, but the third spot looks far more open with five of the remaining teams having a decent chance of making it into the playoffs.
Group B Draw
- NRG Esports
- Ghost Gaming
- Natus Vincere
- Sharks Esports
Group B Opening Fixtures
- MiBR v Sharks Esports
- NRG Esports v North
- Ghost Gaming v mousesports
- Natus Vincere v ORDER
Group B betting
- Natus Vincere – 8/5 favourites
- MiBR – 9/4
- Mousesports – 5/1
- NRG Esports, North – 8/1
- Ghost Gaming – 25/1
- Sharks Esports – 50/1
Group B should be a much closer group with both Natus Vincere and MiBR likely to be battling it out for the top spot. That position could well be crucial if the team wants to avoid Astralis until a potential Grand Final matchup. Mousesports, North, and NRG Esports seem to be the bookies’ choices for filling out the playoff ascenders.
- Astralis – 17/20
- Team Liquid – 9/2
- Natus Vincere – 11/2
- MiBR – 6/1
- Mousesports – 6/1
- NRG Esports 19/1
- BIG – 22/1
- North – 25/1
- HellRaisers – 29/1
- G2 Esports – 33/1
- INTZ Esports, Renegades – 50/1
- Ghost Gaming – 60/1
- Vici Gaming – 100/1
- ORDER, Sharls Esports – 150/1
Unsurprisingly, Astralis are odds-on favorites to win the event outright given their stellar recent form and the fact that the tournament is being held on home soil. Can the Danish aces land the win that will secure a massive $1,000,000 bonus, or will one of the other teams step up to scupper their dreams?