Part of the reason why Intel offered such a massive bonus as the $1 million prize for its Intel Grand Slam prize was that convention suggested winning four out of the 10 events would be almost impossible to achieve.
Indeed, with the first few events seeing a spread of winners, and just a couple of teams landing more than one win, it seemed that such beliefs were absolutely correct.
However, Astralis became a dominant force in CS:GO gaming toward the end of the Intel Grand Slam Season One, and they rattled off a number of wins in quick succession to take the first-ever bonus prize award.
It is fair to say Intel was probably not expecting to pay out the bonus again any time soon. Then, Team Liquid went on a stunning run of victories, claiming successive wins at the DreamHack Masters Dallas, the ESL Pro League Season 9, and most recently at the ESL One Cologne 2019, to claim the $1,000,000 bonus prize just a short time after Astralis.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Intel Grand Slam team has decided to review how its prize will be handed out. Now, things are trickier.
Previously, a team could win any four of 10 successive Intel Grand Slam-sanctioned tournaments to claim the top prize. In the new rules, a team can win the Grand Slam bonus by landing their four victories in 10 tournaments, but only if they manage to win one (or both) of either IEM Katowice or ESL One Cologne as part of their quartet.
Alternatively, if a team does not win either of Katowice of Cologne, then they would need to win six of the other Intel Grand Slam events in order to claim the top prize.
That is a significant change, although interestingly, it would mean that Intel would have had to pay out both Astralis and Team Liquid for their wins anyway. Team Liquid, thanks to their win in Cologne, would have been paid out the same way. And Astralis would have had to wait until their first win of Season 2 in Katowice.
The official statement
Speaking about the change in rules, IEM manager Michal Blicharz explained the thinking behind the change when he tweeted:
“The team thought that IGS is for the undisputed best team that marks an era. Are you undisputed if you don’t prove yourself in Cologne or Katowice along the way?”
The change reflects the added importance of the CS:GO community places on the events held in Cologne and Katowice each year. These are regarded by many as the blue-ribbon events in the Intel Grand Slam. They tend to attract a greater number of the highest-ranking teams, after all.
Intel has also announced Season 3 of the Intel Grand Slam will kick off this coming weekend with the IEM Chicago 2019 event. Right off the bat, Astralis will not attend. However, Season 2 winners Team Liquid will be in attendance. And after their superb performance at the BLAST Pro Series in Los Angeles last weekend, they could well be the hot favorites to rack up a fifth Intel Grand Slam season victory in a row.
After Chicago, the series moves to ESL One New York, followed by the DreamHack Masters in Malmo, and then the ESL Pro League in Odense, with the fifth event confirmed as the IEM Katowice 2020. A further five events, including ESL One Cologne, will be added to this list over the coming weeks and months.
Looking at Chicago
This weekend, strong North American teams face off against four EU counterparts. Team Liquid are the favorites to win the event, but they will face stiff competition from G2 Esports, Team Envy, MiBR, Team Vitality, ENCE, Heroic, and Renegades.
That said, no team in CS:GO gaming is really close to challenging Team Liquid at the moment, except perhaps Astralis, who have decided to miss this tournament. That seemingly hands Team Liquid a great chance to get Season 3 of the Intel Grand Slam off to a positive start.
Image credit: Cooper Neill / Stringer