IEM Katowice is the unofficial event of the year in the CS:GO calendar. In the past, the energy that the Polish crowd produces has been nearly unmatched in the whole of esports, and the level of play and motivation is among the highest in the CS:GO scene. The best teams in the world will battle it out for what has come to be the holy grail of Counter-Strike.
IEM Katowice 2021: Basic Information
IEM Katowice 2021 is scheduled to take place between February 16th – February 28th. The CS:GO tournament has a prize pool of $1,000,000, with all of the teams taking home a slice of the cake, but only the winners will take home a hefty $400,000 reward. Apart from the massive prizepool, Circuit Points for both the ESL Pro Tour and BLAST Premier will be awarded respectively.
A total of 24 teams will battle it out through three stages in total: the Play-Ins, the Group Stage, and finally, the Playoffs. Teams will be seeded into those stages based on their Road to Katowice placement, ESL World Ranking, and Regional Qualifiers respectively. The tournament could prove to be a springboard for some, especially the regional teams, but with the amount of top tier talent competing, it’s going to be harder than ever.
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IEM Katowice CS:GO
The CS:GO competition will bring together twenty-four teams. All of the strongest teams in the world will be present, which promises a boat load of Counter-Strike fun. Here’s a list of all of them, just so you can get a better idea of just how important IEM Katowice World Championship is.
- Natus Vincere
- Team Vitality
- G2 Esports
- FaZe Clan
- FURIA Esports
- Evil Geniuses
- Complexity Gaming
- Ninjas in Pyjamas
- Team Liquid
- Team One
- Virtus Pro
- Gambit Esports
- Cloud 9
- Team Spirit
- Movistar Raiders
- Wisla Krakow
The IEM Katowice 2021 Play-Ins featured a number of top-tier teams, and a couple of regional hopefuls in the form of Movistar Raiders, Wisla Krakow, Team One, and the new Renegades roster.
The first round of the Upper Bracket went on without many surprises, apart from Team Spirit sending Cloud 9’s juggernaut to the Lower Bracket. OG defeated Fnatic, sending the struggling Swedish powerhouse to the Lower Bracket and jeopardizing their Katowice chances for the first time in team history.
In the first round of the Lower Bracket, we first said goodbye to smooya’s Movistar Raiders who got swept by Cloud 9, with Team One following shortly after in a nail-biter series against Renegades that saw the third map go into overtime. Wisla Krakow put up a valiant effort against Complexity, even managing to take the second map off the international roster, but in the end, got eliminated. In a heartbreaker series for many fans around the world, Fnatic was shown an early exit after getting swept by the rejuvenated MIBR roster.
The second round of the Upper Bracket saw Team Spirit surprise many by eliminated favorites BIG. Gambit went the full distance against mousesports, as did Liquid against OG while NIP made short work out of Virtus Pro despite a heroic effort by VP’s Jame.
In the Lower Bracket deciders, all of the teams from the Upper bracket persevered, with BIG and Virtus Pro sweeping Renegades and MIBR respectively, while OG and mousesports went the distance against Cloud 9 and Complexity, ultimately qualifying for the Group Stage.
Group Stage Recap
Things got heated as IEM Katowice progressed into its Group Stage, marking the stage of the event during which the best teams in the world duked it out for a spot in the Playoffs. With the teams being split up into two groups, it was Astralis and G2 Esports who were seen as the Group A favorites, while Natus Vincere and Team Vitality spearheaded the jam-packed Group B.
Group A’s Upper Bracket was a messy affair, to begin with, as Astralis dominated mousesports on the back of two monstrous performances by device. Gambit put a strong fight against Evil Geniuses but in the end it was the North American side who took the victory with Ethan playing both Overpass and Inferno like a man on a mission. Team Spirit surprised many, showing that their Play-In victory was not just a fluke after besting G2 Esports, and looking like a well-oiled machine while at it. In the Upper Bracket’s final match, Heroic swept BIG, with the Dane’s in-game leader cadiaN playing like he was possessed, while the German’s star player syrsoN was nowhere to be found.
The Lower Bracket saw us say goodbye to mousesports, as Gambit showed us that CIS Counter-Strike was here to play, while G2 Esports eliminated the struggling BIG with the Bosnian cousins of Niko and huNter showing us a real fragfest.
The second round of the Upper Bracket saw Astralis make short work out of EG, while Team Spirit once again managed to shock the world after sending Heroic down to the Lower Bracket.
As we continued with the Lower Bracket, Gambit eliminated Heroic from the tournament, with the third map being a one-sided affair, while G2 Esports sent EG packing in a two-map series which saw both picks go a nail-biting 16-14 in the favor of G2.
In the Upper Bracket finals, it was Team Spirit again that showed us the true meaning of the word underdog, as after a fairly even first two maps they dismantled Astralis, winning Dust 2’s CT side 15-0, before going on to finish the map just two rounds after.
In the last chance qualifiers of the Lower Bracket, Gambit took it slow and steady against G2, eliminating the latter in a clean 2-0 fashion.
Group B’s Upper Bracket started off without any major surprises, with all of the favorites scoring clean victories over their opponents. Team Vitality managed to defeat OG in a close series, with French returnee shox fragging on both maps. Team Liquid showed why the addition of Fallen was the right move, as the Brazillian veteran put on a clinic, ending the two maps with 50 kills and only 20 deaths. In the third match of the Upper Bracket, FURIA outmaneuvered NIP as the Swedes struggled to adjust properly to arT’s relentless aggression. Natus Vincere sent Virtus Pro to the Lower Bracket on the back of none other than s1mple.
In the first round of the Lower Bracket, FaZe Clan surprised many by making short work out of OG as both the new additions in karrigan and Twistzz showed that they are gelling very well with their new teammates. In the second match of the Lower Bracket, Virtus Pro eliminated NiP from the tournament in what turned out to be a true team effort.
Heading back to the second round of the Upper Bracket, Team Liquid managed to surprise Vitality, defeating them in a three-map series on the back of some incredible performances by EliGE, while Natus Vincere proved to have just the right answer to FURIA’s aggression, once again in the form of s1mple.
In a clash of styles in the second round of the Lower Bracket, FURIA persevered against the calm and collected side of FaZe Clan, decimating the international roster on the third map Train 16-4. In one of the biggest surprises of the tournament, Virtus Pro eliminated Vitality from IEM Katowice after two hard-fought maps on Inferno and Overpass.
The Upper Bracket Finals saw the third map of Inferno go into double overtime, with Liquid beating the odds and winning the series against Na’Vi.
In the Lower Bracket eliminator, it was Virtus Pro who persevered against FURIA’s onslaught as both YEKINDAR and Jame had stalwart performances that in the end resulted in Virtus Pro’s place in the Katowice Playoffs.
Playoff Power Rankings and Predictions
If there’s one conclusion to be made out of this year’s IEM Katowice, it’s that CIS Counter-Strike is here to stay. Out of the six teams that have qualified for the Playoffs, four are from the CIS region.
While both tournament favorites, Astralis and Na’Vi, dropped the ball in the Group Finals, the center of this year’s event is Team Spirit’s miracle run. The former AVANGAR squad has managed to defy the odds, going through the Play-In gauntlet and absolutely dominating the best team in the world to win Group A, writing a Cinderella story in their own right.
As we prepare for the upcoming matches, here are our power rankings based on the team’s performance so far.
1. Natus Vincere
Heading into 2021, Natus Vincere has managed to usurp Astralis as the best team in the world. The team’s game-plan is simple, just play around s1mple. Although Na’Vi has capable fraggers in the form of electronic and even the team’s in-game leader Boombl4, it’s s1mple’s aggression that Na’Vi counts on to gain an upper hand in almost every round.
Often considered a one-trick pony in the past, times have changed for the CIS squad. On the few occasions that s1mple does not frag the lights outs, we’ve seen that the rest of the squad can handle themselves well.
The team is capable of playing every map in the pool, but Dust 2 remains by far the strongest asset in their pockets. Any team that tries to usurp Na’Vi will more than likely have to find their chances on Overpass, with it being the only map that Na’Vi relatively struggles on.
Astralis has reigned supreme for the last couple of years, with numerous tournaments and victories to its name. The resurgence of Na’Vi has caused a bitter rivalry as at times, even the Dane’s star played device has a hard time following and outgunning s1mple.
The team has few chinks in their armor, their map pool is second to none, but have shown signs of weakness as of late. A bad showing at BLAST Spring Groups turned many heads as Astralis found themselves without a direct spot at the Spring Finals. Furthermore, the team looked totally stunned after they couldn’t penetrate Spirit’s defenses on Dust 2, and although it might have been a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, Astralis was completely out of it.
If there is one team that can bounce back from everything, it’s definitely Astralis. Teams should try to look for opportunities on Inferno as well as doubling down on freezing out Xyp9x and dupreeh, as both the clutch minister and the world’s best entry fragger have been the biggest factors in Astralis’ success.
3. Virtus Pro
Virtus Pro was one of the biggest surprises of last year, as the CIS squad broke through to the very pinnacle of the CS:GO scene with their victories at Flashpoint 2, DreamHack Open December 2020, and cs_summit 7.
The name of the game for Virtus Pro is teamwork. Although YEKINDAR has emerged as the team’s ace player, he’s still too far inconsistent to be the anchor VP truly needs. Sanji has struggled during IEM Katowice 2021, and his performance in the Playoffs will likely make it or break it for Virtus Pro.
As Virtus Pro is not known as a team that’s going to purely frag their way to victory, open maps like Dust 2 and Mirage could be their kriptonite.
4. Team Liquid
Team Liquid has looked rejuvenated with the addition of Fallen. The Brazillian in-game leader was exactly what the team needed, both as an in-game lead, and to help Stewie focus on what he’s actually good at – killing people.
With the scalps of Na’Vi and Team Vitality under their wing so far in the tournament, Liquid has the capability to go all the way. Although the team has more kill potential than Virtus Pro, it’s the relentless teamwork that has propelled them this far.
Teams looking to counter Liquid should have a look at Fallen’s old playbook, and try to pick maps that are more open.
5. Team Spirit
Opening the CS:GO calendar year with such a Cinderella story was definitely not in the books for many people. Team Spirit came out of nowhere and just started outmaneuvering and killing everyone.
With all of the players on the roster playing their hearts out, Team Spirit is definitely the biggest enigma heading into the Playoffs. Competing teams should try to stick to their own playbooks, but if Spirit continues to play like they have, even Na’Vi will be in a world of trouble.
6. Gambit Esports
Although we don’t fancy Gambit’s chances as much as the teams above, it would be straight-up criminal to write them out entirely. Gambit has not had the cleanest of journeys to the Playoffs, but the team’s main AWPer sh1ro has asserted his dominance, outshining the likes of kennyS in their series against G2.
Gambit has struggled on both Dust and Overpass, which leaves them vulnerable to the rest of the team’s in the Playoffs.
Now just based on everything alone, Natus Vincere are the favorites to win it all. Although Team Spirit’s underdog story is tempting, they are currently the favorites to win it all with odds of 3.5 at GG.bet compared to 4.25 on Na’Vi.
If you’re looking for a good value bet, look no further than Virtus Pro, with the odds for the Russian side starting at 9.5.
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