With Astralis sitting out the ESL One Belo Horizonte 2018, FaZe Clan and SK Gaming were installed as the favourites over the weekend. And the bookies were bang on the money with that assessment.
From the group stage onward, Belo Horizonte produced a number of very closely contested matches.
FaZe Clan and SK Gaming competed together in Group A alongside the lesser fancied Space Soldiers and Ghost Gaming. An upset occurred right away as Space Soldiers upset the form book by defeating SK Gaming 2-0 in the opening game.
FaZe Clan defeated Ghost Gaming in the second by the same scoreline and then took down Space Soldiers 2-0 in the Winner’s Match, ensuring they finished top of the group. However, the real drama unfolded in the Elimination and Decider matches. There, SK Gaming won both, 2-0 against Ghost Gaming and Space Soldiers to squeak into the next round.
Group B action
Group B was more straightforward. Mousesports won their opening two games 2-0 against Nao Tem Como and Team Liquid to claim the top seed in the group. Then, Team Liquid won their opener and bounced back from that loss to mousesports to defeat BIG in the Decider Match. This saw them move into the second spot.
That set up two intriguing semifinals. In the first, FaZe Clan got the better of Team Liquid, winning 2-1. They won the first game comfortably 16-3, but Liquid bounced back to claim a 16-14 win in the second to send the match into a deciding game. Here, FaZe Clan showed their quality to claim a 16-7 win and a place in the final.
The second semifinal produced something of a shock. Mousesports put on a fine display to defeat SK Gaming 2-0 (16-7, 16-12) to earn a spot in the final at the expense of the pre-tournament joint-favourites.
The best-of-five final ebbed and flowed. It started well enough for FaZe Clan, who ran out 16-6 winners in the opening map, Inferno. However, mousesports showed their form was no fluke, as they then took the next two maps, Cache and Train, 16-14 and 16-12.
Against the wall, FaZe Clan’s investment in top quality, experienced CS:GO professionals last year paid dividends. They clawed back from the deficit, taking the fourth game, Mirage, 16-9. Then, in the decider on Dust II, their teamwork proved vital in securing the 16-10 win and a 3-2 victory overall.
Intel Grand Slam Chance
That victory saw FaZe Clan pocket a $100,000 top prize. Perhaps most importantly, it gives them a chance at the $1,000,000 prize on offer in the Intel Grand Slam. FaZe Clan have now won three out of their last eight ESL/DreamHack Masters events (ESL One New York 2017, Intel Extreme Masters XIII Sydney, and ESL One Belo Horizonte 2018).
The team’s consistency in the Intel Grand Slam events is excellent, as demonstrated by the fact that they have also had three runner-up finishes in those eight tournaments.
FaZe Clan will attempt to land the $1,000,000 bonus by winning either of their next two events — the ESL One Cologne at the start of July and the DreamHack Masters Stockholm at the end of August.
Should FaZe Clan reach the final of either tournament, then their opponent can claim a $100,000 “spoiling bonus” by defeating FaZe Clan to stop them landing the Intel Grand Slam top prize. That may well be of interest to the five other teams that have victories in the Intel Grand Slam event so far, particularly Astralis, who surprisingly chose to sit out Belo Horizonte.
As it stands, Astralis have two wins in their last three events, meaning they have six remaining chances to earn that $1,000,000 bonus by landing two further victories. It is likely they will be in attendance in Cologne and Stockholm.
Who are the long shots?
Of the teams with just one victory to their name, only Fnatic has a slim chance at the bonus. They have five remaining tournaments to claim the three wins they need to land the jackpot prize. Then, SK Gaming and Ninjas in Pyjamas would need to win each of the next three events to land the prize.
The Intel Grand Slam will roll on until one team wins the four tournaments within a 10-tournament streak to claim the top prize. Following Stockholm at the end of the summer, the next two events on the schedule are the ESL One New York at the end of September and the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals, which will take place in early December in Odense, Denmark. This offers the largest prize pool of all Intel Grand Slam events: $750,000 up for grabs for the 16 competing teams.