Intel Extreme Masters Season XII – World Championship Preview

This week, the 12th Intel Extreme Masters World Championship gets underway in Katowice, Poland. Sixteen of the world’s top CS:GO teams compete for the lion’s share of a $500,000 USD prize pool.

This tournament marks the first time the ESL tries out its new group stage format. Let’s preview and take a closer look.

IEM Season XII – Factfile

  • Venue – Spodek Arena, Katowice, Poland
  • Prize Pool – $500,000 USD
  • Prize Money
    • 1st – $250,000
    • 2nd – $100,000
    • 3rd/4th – £40,000
    • 5th-6th – $15,000
    • 7th-8th – $7,000
    • 9th-12th – $4,000
    • 13th-16th – $2,000.
    • In addition to this prize money, each team earns an additional $1,000 per group stage victory.
  • Starts – Feb. 27
  • Ends – March 4
  • Group Stage – Feb. 27 to March 1
  • Playoffs – March 2 to March 4
  • Current Champs – Astralis

The 2018 tournament added four teams and doubled its prize money.  Last year’s iteration saw Astralis and FaZe Clan reach the final, where Astralis triumphed 3-1.

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IEM Season XII – Competing teams

Invited Teams

Astralis – Astralis return to defend their title.  In the interim, the Danish team saw Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerbye depart to join forces with North. Emil “Magisk” Reif signed up to take his place on the team. Outright Odds – 7/1 with Betway.

Cloud9 – A superb win at the ELEAUGE Major Boston in January sets Cloud9 up nicely for this event. Their longest-serving player is Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, though Tarik “tarik” Celik tends to be their in-game leader.  Outright Odds – 19/4 with Betway.

FaZe Clan – FaZe Clan’s snapping up of top talent in 2017 seems to have paid dividends. The team took a major upturn since the arrival of Niko, GuardiaN, and olofmeister. They were runners-up at the Intel Extreme Masters events in Oakland, in Sydney, and at this event last year. Outright Odds – 15/4 with Betway.

G2 Esports – Hailing in Spain but with a French roster, G2 Esports’ best performance of recent times was winning the DreamHack Masters Malmo in July 2017. They did not play in last year’s event but are always consistently strong performers. Outright Odds – 11/2 with Betway.

Ninjas in Pyjamas – Now in their 18th year, the Swedish team Ninjas in Pyjamas made a big change by benching one of their longest-serving players, Xizt, prior to this event to make way for Dennis “dennis” Edman. Earlier in the month, THREAT resigned as head coach, with pita returning to the team to replace him. Outright Odds – 14/1 with Betway.

SK Gaming – The German/Brazilian team are one of the most consistent CS:GO franchises in the game. They boast an enviable track record, including winning the ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals in December. Ricardo “boltz” Prass will play while on a loan from Immortals in place of the inactive Joao “felps” Vasconcellos. Outright Odds – 13/4 with Betway. – With a roster of Polish players, this Russian-based team will enjoy great support from the home crowd in Katowice. In recent news, MICHU signed on a month’s loan from Team Kinguin in time for the event to replace the benched TaZ. Outright Odds – 29/1 with Betway.


AVANGAR (Farmskins Championship Winners) – An unheralded team from Kazakhstan, AVANGAR defeated AGO Esports in the final of the Farmskins Championship to qualify for this event. Their biggest-ever win was $30,000 in the CIS Minor Championship Boston 2018. Outright Odds – 159/1 with Betway.

Heroic (EU Qualifier) – Heroic signed RUBINO in early February, and he will replace “es3tag” on the active roster for this event. Heroic are always there or thereabouts in the Majors but have struggled to make much of an impact at Premier-level events. Outright Odds – 34/1 with Betway.

Fnatic (EU Qualifier) – The UK-Swedish team are one of the biggest names across Esports with over a million fans on social media. However, their CS:GO team hasn’t enjoyed the best of success of late. They are former winners of this event, though, when they defeated Luminosity Gaming 3-0 back in March 2016. Outright Odds – 12/1 with Betway

North (EU Qualifier) – It’s been a period of change in 2018 for North with a coach and two players drafted into the team. It will be interesting to see how “mertz” and “Kjaerbye” perform under the watchful eye of “ave.” Outright Odds – 8/1 with Betway

Gambit Esports (EU Qualifier) – Based in the UK, but with a squad drawn largely from Russia and Kazakhstan and under a Ukrainian coach, Gambit Esports have signed “seized” in time for the tournament, benching “fitch” in the process. They have already tasted victory in Poland in recent times, winning the PGL Major Krakow last July. Outright Odds – 11/1 with Betway

Team Liquid (NA Qualifier) – Team Liquid welcomed back NAF after an absence of three years. He replaces jdm64 on the starting roster. The team comes into this event in great spirits having just won the top prize at the cs_summit 2 event. Outright Odds – 19/4 with Betway

Renegades (NA Qualifier) – Formerly known as Misfits, Renegades saw NAF depart back to Team Liquid in February. Then,”jkaem” joined the team a couple of days later as his replacement. Their best IEM performance was a second-place finish back in Taipei in February 2016. Outright Odds – 34/1 with Betway

TyLoo (Asian Qualifier) – The Chinese team is one of the pioneers of CS:GO gaming in their homeland. Yet that hasn’t translated into wins at the highest level. Outright Odds – 159/1 with Betway

ORDER (Oceania Qualifier) – Formerly the Kings Gaming Club, this Australian team are newcomers to the CS:GO scene and are ranked as one of the main outsiders for the forthcoming tournament. They defeated Tainted Minds in the Oceania Closed Qualifier to earn the right to play this week. Outright Odds – 239/1 with Betway

How the group stage is organized

In this new IEM format, 16 teams divide into two groups of eight. Rather than playing each team in their group once, the teams in both groups will play through a double-elimination stage. The teams are selected into each group based on their ESL CS:GO World Ranking.

Three teams from each group will qualify for the playoffs. The group winner progresses into the semifinals. The group stage runner-up and third-place team advance into the quarterfinals, seeded accordingly.

The high seed from one group plays the low seed from the other group in the quarterfinals. The winners of these games then take on one of the No. 2 seeds in the semis. Each match in the playoff stage is best-of-three.

Our tip to win

There’s lots of money on SK Gaming and FaZe Clan at the moment, but Cloud9 are in great form. Plus, they boast wins over both favourites in recent weeks. They are a good selection at 19/4 with Betway.

Ian John


A lifelong poker fan, Ian is also well-versed in the world of sports betting, casino gaming, and has written extensively on the online gambling industry. Based in the UK, Ian brings fresh insight into all facets of gaming.

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