ESL Barcelona Invitational: Recap
Posted 2016-02-24 Dare_Dev1L
The music booms, the commentator screams, and the audience roars as nothing stands between you and your latest trophy. "Champions", is a title that should never be taken lightly. Fnatic CS:GO won their 5th consecutive tournament in a row and I'm sure that they can’t be more proud of their achievement. Now that the dust has settled and the audience has faded away, let’s take a look at what actually transpired during the event and compare it to what we discussed in our preview. Who delivered in terms of performance and what alliances took form? Before we begin, let's look back at the preview and see what was previously predicted.
The Underdogs & the Favorites
Let’s be honest, there's a very thin line between the favorites and underdogs in competitive Counter-Strike. Any team can have an off-day or a good day but that is the nature of anything remotely competitive. The real difference between teams is the level of consistency. Some teams have the ability to make major comebacks no matter the deficit and have players who can deliver when it's most important.
Let's start with the most controversial statement I've made in my preview: putting Dignitas on my list of favorites even though they didn't receive a direct invite. Why did I do it? The answer was simple: they've accomplished major feats since their lineup change that involved the loss of Philip "aizy" Aistrup, who was widely considered their star player. The same was still true at ESL Barcelona, as the team has somehow been able to put up major numbers against top tiered teams. Most noteworthy and relevant is their loss against Fnatic, a match where they had a major lead and even had the match point at 15-9. If it weren't for Fnatic's prowess during their comeback, it would have been an impressive upset by Dignitas. Regardless of their tough moments closing out matches, they did manage to stay in the top four as predicted and their future looks very promising as a team.
gBots and x6tence didn't end up having the same happy ending. As predicted in the preview, they weren't a part of any major alliance and instead were fed to the wolves. On a positive note, however, gBots did provide good results against Dignitas and Fnatic. In fact, they almost defeated Dignitas in a match where Astralis voted them to be an "easy win" for Dignitas as per their agreement. Although both teams did what they could, neither gBots or x6tence could provide a victory at the event and the Spaniards were the first two teams to go.
EnVyUs did prove to be a major competitor at the event and managed to defeat all of the underdogs that came their way and even went 1-2 in their duels against Fnatic. The fact that they were constantly targeted by other teams and were pit against Astralis and multiple times against Fnatic, was what eventually led to their downfall. Unfortunately for them, they didn't manage to hit the top four due to a betrayal in their alliance, which will be discussed at length later on in this recap.
G2 were sort of the wild card of the tournament. I placed them as an underdog even though I believed them to be capable of being a favorite on a good day and they delivered. They went into overtime in the first match before losing it and ended up 1-1 against Astralis. For the most part, they battled the underdogs until they eventually pit Fnatic against EnVyUs, knocking EnVyUs out and placing G2 in the final four. Here, they had quite an underwhelming performance against Fnatic. It could have turned out differently if they went up against Dignitas instead. They should still be happy with this result and use it as a boost in confidence for future events.
Astralis had the easier path during the event due to their alliance with Dignitas, except for the unexpected loss to G2 and Fnatic setting them up against EnVyUs, in which they were eventually victorious. They mostly cruised to the final four before facing a domestic challenge and then battling Fnatic in the final. I am not sure what to make of the team at ESL Barcelona, they performed as expected and there were no real upsets, except for their comeback in the Dust2 match against G2. At the end of the day, Astralis is one of the top four teams in the world and seeing them in the final against Fnatic was a realistic ending to a great tournament.
Next up is Vexed, which was also considered one of the underdogs. Other than giving a colossal beating to x6tence with a 16-2 scoreline, their results were quite mediocre. They haven't managed to beat any other team at the event, and seemingly only managed to survive as long as they did due to the favorites preferring the Spanish teams as opponents. I had hoped to see them do well because I haven't seen them perform at large events in a very long time but they still have a while to go before they'll be considered a part of the top 15 ranking again.
That, of course, brings us back to team Fnatic, who were not only the victors of the tournament but the team with the biggest target on their back. The boys went up against EnVyUs three times, Dignitas once, and went up against only one underdog during the tournament, which was gBots who performed exceptionally well and pulled off a 13-16 scoreline against Fnatic. Let's not forget that the clash with Dignitas was a massive comeback like mentioned earlier in this article, and ended 19-17 in favor of Fnatic. It's safe to say that if anyone deserved this victory it would be Fnatic, just because of the sheer effort they had to put into their matches to win them. One would argue that struggling against gBots and Dignitas was a bit unexpected from the best team in the world but the final result is what counts and they made it count! Not to forget that KrimZ mentioned in his interview that they've been having a bumpy road due to changes in the lineup, a lack of practice, and a brand new IGL. It's always a good thing to still find the confidence to win an event, even if your current form isn’t 100%.
For The Alliance!
An event with this type of format almost guarantees a lot of drama to ensue and that’s exactly what happened at the ESL Barcelona Invitational! Let’s take a look at the alliances.
Who could have thought this would happen? Actually, most people assumed it would and they were correct. Astralis and Dignitas pulled through with their alliance and made certain that both teams would make it all the way to the final four. They successfully gave each other a ton of matches against the underdogs and, other than a few scares, managed to stay unscathed during the first day. The only real issue with their alliance was when Fnatic placed them against each other and they were forced to battle each other until one of them was out of the tournament. In the end, Astralis came out as the victor. I am not really sure where exactly they would have betrayed each other if at all, but it's safe to say that they didn't see each other as their biggest worry at this event.
EnVyUs, Fnatic, and a side of G2.
This alliance is where the real excitement came from but to be fair, it was sort of dodgy to begin with. Not only are the top two favorites on the same page, but their third member didn't want to be a part of it from the start. Fnatic and EnVyUs initially invited G2 to be a part of their alliance when the event started, but G2 did not want to be a part of an alliance and preferred to stay impartial. It wasn’t until later on in the event that G2 offered their services to the "top dogs" and became a part of the alliance, only to result in G2 placing Fnatic against EnVyUs, effectively knocking EnVyUs out of the tournament. This led to several angry or sarcastic tweets directed at G2 from the EnVyUs players. Whether these tweets were banter or actual anger, no one really knows (except for the players) but the betrayal in the alliance was quite clear regardless.
In the final four, Fnatic was G2's opponent for what would be G2's final matches as they were quite convincingly knocked out of the tournament at the hand of their former ally. Unlike in the Danish alliance, I sense there was no love lost between them. I'm sure Fnatic was more than motivated to take away G2's ambitions of making it to the top two. I would just like to state that regardless of what ensued from the shattering of the alliance, in my opinion G2 made the right decision. If it wasn't for their betrayal EnVyUs might not have gotten knocked out and G2 would not have ended up in the top four.
What does this mean in terms of this type of tournament being used in the future? It’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing tournaments with this type of format being used often.The reason for this wasn’t the organization or the money but the format used. Both KrimZ and Vuggo mentioned in their respective interviews that they don't see the format being used in competitive Counter-Strike other than during a few fun events in between the tournaments we’re accustomed to.
Regardless of how the players see the format, they still gave it their all and the form of the teams still shows. I truly believe there's great promise in how the teams will perform in the future just by seeing how they played at this event. Teams such as Dignitas or G2 have shown that they can play against the top dogs but unfortunately, neither of them will be seen at ESL Katowice on March 4th so we'll have to see them at a later date. gBots have also shown a lot of potential and even though they were initially considered cannon fodder, they didn't look it at the event. They showed great prowess and will be back to show it again I am sure. As long as they keep to whatever they are doing now, we'll be seeing a potential tier 2 team one day soon. Vexed and x6tence had more disappointing performances as neither of them made a major impact at the tournament. They clearly had a gap between them, as Vexed defeated x6tence 16-2, but neither of them secured a victory otherwise.
Fnatic seems to be less of a question mark than the other teams. The team strives to improve on their current dilemmas and they're still winning events. At the end of the day, if you're winning events and you're still not done improving then you're pretty much on the golden path.
The ESL Barcelona Invitational was a really fun event to watch. The idea of creating alliances and having betrayals, as well as pitting the best teams against each other as underdogs struggle to catch up, is something worth watching every once in awhile. The biggest upsets I saw at this event were G2 setting EnVyUs up to drop before the top four and gBots performing a lot better than expected, even if they lost. Otherwise, favorites remained favorites, major underdogs went out first, and lineups with big potential really showed that potential in strides. Oh, and let’s not forget about Fnatic winning their 5th consecutive tournament!