The PGL Major in Krakow featured some big surprises for even the most astute Counter-Strike: Global Offensive fans. With upsets left and right and two teams outside the top 10 making the final, more than a few bettors were left scratching their heads at the chaos.
But lessons can be learned from the event in spite of the unexpected results.
Don’t overlook leadership
The single most defining feature of new major champion Gambit Esports is the steady captaincy of Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko. One of the most experienced professionals at the top of the game, Teslenko came to Gambit after spending years with Natus Vincere. Since then, questions as to whether he was past his prime have been resoundingly answered.
Teslenko’s impact is difficult to overstate. He directs his team from the captain’s chair, coordinating their strategies round after round. He keeps his teammates’ emotions in check, providing both motivation and calm when required. Perhaps most importantly, he is Gambit’s unquestioned leader, the point around which his team rallies.
Meanwhile, Teslenko’s former teammates at Natus Vincere have struggled mightily without him.
What’s the bottom line? For a team to come through in the clutch, they need a capable leader at the helm.
Don’t rely on past success
It’s easy to get caught up in the past titles and accolades of a team like Fnatic. Arguably the biggest name in all of CS:GO, Fnatic were a dominant force in earlier major tournaments and could always be relied upon for a deep run.
But times have changed, and other teams have caught up to the Swedish legends. It’s no longer a surprise to see Fnatic drop multiple games in the group stage as they did in Krakow, nor is it a shock to see them swept in the first round of the quarterfinals.
Granted, Fnatic still play host to some of the game’s brightest talents: Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Jesper “JW” Wecksell. Just don’t be blinded by a couple big names when current and overall level of play matters far more.
Don’t get caught up in home-field advantage
Virtus.pro has struggled mightily to regain their form after finishing as runner-up to Astralis at the ELEAGUE Major in January. Many fans and prognosticators believed the team would break through again with the home crowd in Poland behind them.
To the team’s credit, they did manage a respectable showing in Krakow, making the semifinals and nearly making good on those predictions. But against the young Brazilian side Immortals, and with an arena full of fans cheering them on, Virtus.pro wilted under the pressure.
Home-field advantage is real, even in esports. Virtus.pro players like Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas made no secret of the buoying effect the crowd support had on his team. But that support can only carry a team so far. Superior firepower is ultimately a more powerful tool, as Immortals proved.
While bettors can smartly take a tournament location into account, don’t let it be the deciding factor.