After all the speculation about whether they would become the first team to win the Intel Grand Slam bonus prize, Danish super team Astralis answered in the affirmative.
Heading into this past weekend’s ESL Pro League Season 8 in their home country of Denmark, Astralis were the big favorites to land their fourth Intel Grand Slam tournament victory from nine tournaments. That victory saw them claim not only the $750,000 first prize but also the $1,000,000 bonus for achieving four victories within a run of 10 successive Intel Grand Slam sanctioned events.
Starting with victory in the DreamHack Masters Marseille back in April, Astralis then landed the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals in Dallas in May. Then, back at the start of November, they took first place at the Intel Extreme Masters XIII event in Chicago.
That left them with the opportunity to claim the bonus in either of the next two tournaments. Astralis would need only one.
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Sixteen teams qualified for the event, but Astralis who the clear favorites to win the title. The bookmakers’ unshakable beliefs in the Danish team’s superiority were well founded.
Astralis opened up their campaign with a solid, unspectacular 16-8 victory over VICI Gaming in Group A. In the second round of the Upper Bracket in that group, HellRaisers gave them a good test. The Ukrainian team won the opening map 16-8. They then pushed Astralis all the way in the second map, but the Danes triumphed 16-13. That effectively broke HellRaisers’ resistance with Astralis winning the final map emphatically 16-4 to move into the third round.
There, they met their long-time challengers Team Liquid. But once again, Astralis had the Indian sign over their rivals, landing a 2-0 victory (16-12, 16-8) to take the top seed spot in Group A.
Semifinal and final recap
In that semifinal, they faced mousesports but once again proved too strong for their opponents, running out 2-0 victors (16-12, 16-5) to reach the final.
There they would meet, yet again, Team Liquid. The challenger had despatched both Natus Vincere and MiBR on their way to the final. Team Liquid began the final hoping to put an end to their lengthy run of second-place finishes in big esports events. And they began brightly enough, taking the opening map 16-8 in the best-of-five final.
However, that only served to wake up Astralis. The champs then rattled off three map wins in a row 16-11, 16-11, and 16-10 to claim $1.75 million in total.
Astralis’ incredible 2018
It’s been an unbelievable run for Astralis, who came up short when it mattered over and over in 2017.
They brought that malaise into the first few tournaments of 2018 too, making their current positions all the more remarkable. They finished a miserable 12th-14th in the ELEAGUE Major in Boston in January, 5th-8th at the StarLadder & i-League StarSeries Season 4 in February, and 3rd/4th at the IEM XII World Championship in March.
However, victory at the Intel Extreme Masters XIII European Qualifier, which brought in no prize money but did qualify them for that event in Sydney, would prove to be the catalyst for one of the most memorable seasons an esports team has ever had.
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Even outside Grand Slam events, they’ve racked up nine big tournament wins since March. In terms of prize money, including the Intel Grand Slam bonus that the team landed this week, they have picked up $3,552,750 in tournament earnings alone in 2018.
However, the team has a chance to add to that tally. Astralis have been extended one of the six invites to play in the BLAST Pro Series Lisbon 2018 event. It takes place Dec. 14-15 in Portugal with a $125,000 cheque up for grabs for the winner from a prize pool of $250,000. Five other teams — Cloud9, FaZe Clan, MiBR, Natus Vincere and Ninjas in Pyjamas — will be tasked with trying to end Astralis’ near-total dominance of CS:GO esports gaming.
Astralis will likely be in action first in 2019 at the iBUYPOWER Masters IV event at the AVALON Hollywood Venue in California.