After Intel announced it would offer a special $1,000,000 prize to the first team that wins four premier events organised by ESL and/or DreamHack Masters out of 10 in total, the Intel Grand Slam was born. Last July’s first event in Cologne saw SK Gaming come out victorious. They also recorded a win in the ESL Pro League Season 6 finals in December in Odense, Denmark.
Since then however, they have not managed to reach a final of the next two tournaments. They head into this week’s Intel Extreme Masters XIII Sydney 2018 not only chasing an increased top prize of $250,000 but now with just three tournaments left (including this one) to claim the two wins and that million-dollar prize.
Following Sydney, the final two chances are the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals in Dallas, which begin on May 14, and then the ESL One Belo Horizonte 2018 event in Brazil, which begins on June 13.
It seems that after a slow start at the IEM XIII Sydney this week, SK Gaming may well need to put together back-to-back wins in Dallas and Belo Horizonte to stand any chance of landing the million-dollar bonus.
Early IEM XIII Sydney woes for SK Gaming
SK Gaming began the event in Sydney with high hopes. They found themselves drawn in Group A. TyLoo stood in the way as SK Gaming’s first opponents in this new double-elimination format group stage.
Yesterday, the match played out and produced something of a surprise result. TyLoo earned an impressive overtime win 19-16. Of course, in these shorter initial games, there are increased chances of an upset, but it does mean SK Gaming now have just one opportunity to progress in this tournament into the playoffs. That is by winning the Lower Bracket of their group.
Their next opponents in this stage are Grayhound Gaming, an Australia-based team that should not give SK Gaming too many concerns. However, they could then face any of four top teams (FaZe Clan, Renegades, Cloud 9, or TyLoo) in the Lower Bracket Round 2.
With three out of the eight teams in Group A making it to the playoffs (the top two teams from the Upper Bracket as well as the Lower Bracket winner), SK Gaming can now no longer afford any slip-ups.
How the rest of the groups panned out
In the remaining Group A games, FaZe Clan looked most impressive in their opening match. They dismantled ORDER by a 16-4 scoreline.
They now face Renegades, who were equally good in defeating Legacy Esports 16-9. The third game went the way of Cloud9. They defeated Grayhound Gaming 16-6 to earn a spot against TyLoo in Round 2 of the Upper Bracket.
Round 1 in Group B produced some exciting matches as well as one-sided ones. The winners of the last Intel Grand Slam event (DreamHack Masters Marseille 2018), Astralis, were really put to the test by NRG Esports. The Danish team just won, 19-17.
The other three matches in the group saw more one-sided contests. mousesports thumped B.O.O.T-d[S] 16-6. Then, G2 Esports beat MVP PK by a 16-5 scoreline. And Fnatic recorded the most convincing win in the opening round with a 16-3 win over Chiefs ESC.
That sets up some mouth-watering Upper Bracket Round 2 clashes in Group B between mousesports and Astralis. Then, G2 Esports take on Fnatic making for two outstanding best-of-three encounters.
It is worth noting that G2 Esports, Fnatic, and Astralis from Group B (as well as FaZe Clan from Group A) are all searching for their second win of the Intel Grand Slam season.
Can SK Gaming bounce back?
Fans of the Brazilian-German team will be hoping they can secure a win in Sydney to give themselves two chances to win the million-dollar prize over the coming months. The main problem is SK Gaming are just not playing particularly well at the moment.
After a win at the WESG 2017 North American Finals, they finished in third place at the cs_summit 2. But then in a series of Premier events, they finished 5th-8th at the StarLadder & i-League StarSeries Season 4, then 7th-8th at the IEM XII World Championship, and then a dismal 17th-22nd at the WESG 2017, followed by a 9th-12th at the DreamHack Masters in Marseille.
The bookmakers currently have them as the 1/11 odds-on favourite to defeat Grayhound Gaming in their opening Lower Bracket game in Group A. But they then face the prospect of taking on at least one team, maybe more, that finished above them in qualifying for the ESL Pro League Season 7.
That is a tall order for any team, even one as talented as SK Gaming.
Editorial credit: Geee Kay / (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)