Sixteen of the world's best teams will be traveling to Katowice, Poland, for one of the most prestigious tournaments in Counter-Strike.
Sixteen of the world’s best teams will be traveling to Katowice, Poland, for one of the most prestigious tournaments in Counter-Strike.
There will be a lot on the line in Katowice, as the winner will take home $250,000 in addition to getting one step closer to the Intel Grand Slam, which is a $1,000,000 bounty for the first team that wins four S-tier events in a window of ten consecutive events. Interestingly, ESL has also created something called the ESL Pro Tour rankings, which determines the invites for big tournaments such as ESL One Cologne. Precious points will be up for grabs this week in Katowice, which will be an additional source of motivation for the teams in attendance.
In terms of previous winners, Scandinavian teams have been dominant at IEM Katowice throughout history, with fnatic winning three (2015, 2016, 2018) and Astralis two (2017 & 2019).
In recent years, tournament organizers have made a habit of letting iconic players carry the trophy to the arena for some of the more prestigious events. Previous trophy bearers include Germany’s gob_b, who carried the trophy at the StarLadder Berlin Major, and pashaBiceps, who carried the trophy in Katowice last year. The trophy bearer for this event will be Zeus, who recently announced his retirement after spending 9 years playing for Natus Vincere.
This tournament is absolutely stacked to the rafters, with all of HLTV’s Top 10 teams in attendance. The format has been improved further from last year’s competition and will feature BO3s for all of the matches excluding the final, which will be a BO5. The teams have been split up into two GSL groups of eight, with three teams making it to the single-elimination playoff bracket. The group winner will advance directly to the semi-finals, whereas the second and third place teams will have to start their playoff journey in the quarterfinals.
The groups at IEM Katowice are as follows:
IEM Katowice kicks off February 22, and will run through March 1.
All stats are from big events only.
fnatic have been one of the big standouts at IEM Katowice throughout history, winning three events in total. They last won IEM Katowice back in 2018, where they took down FaZe in a crazy five map series. With Golden and flusha returning to fnatic, the roster now includes four out of the five players that represented fnatic during their tournament run in 2018. fnatic have been very solid since they reunited with Golden and flusha, winning DreamHack Masters Malmö, and finishing as the runner-up at ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals and StarSeries i-League Season 8. These are two stacked tournaments with excellent formats, so these results are nothing to be scoffed at. However, the fact that the Swedes have not played an official for more than two months is worrying, as we have seen plenty of teams fall off and underperform after long breaks before.
Another team that has been excellent in Katowice throughout the years is Astralis, having won this event in 2019 and 2017. The Danes are coming in as overwhelming favorites at odds of 2.85, despite bombing out of groups at BLAST Premier earlier this month. Their #1 seed has given them a pretty favorable side of the bracket in an otherwise stacked group, so they are in an excellent position to make playoffs here, and with a map pool rivaled by few, they will be hugely favored to win if they were to make the BO5 finals.
Things finally started to click for mousesports at the tail end of last year, as they went on an incredible run which included wins at CS:GO Asia Championships, ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals, cs summit, and most recently; ICE Challenge - as well as a second-place finish at a stacked EPICENTER. The European side will have a great shot at making playoffs here considering the opposition in Group B, and with their win at the ESL Pro League Finals, they have proven that they can challenge for the title even at S-tier events like this.
Coming in at odds of 9.20 is Team Liquid. It has been a while since we saw them this far down the betting board. They were convincingly beaten twice by FaZe in BO3s at BLAST Premier last month. However, this was a common trend all throughout the tournament, as all of the group favorites struggled after the break. Unlike Astralis and EG, Liquid actually managed to qualify in the end after beating NiP and MIBR. They have gotten a favorable group draw here and should have a good chance of making playoffs, and at odds of 9.20 they make for a pretty decent outright bet.
The last team that I have chosen to highlight is EG. The North American side has been on a bit of a downward spiral as of late, and they bombed out of their group at BLAST Premier earlier this month. However, the individual skill on this team is still top-notch. One thing worth highlighting about EG is their overall record against Astralis. They actually have a positive record of 3 wins and 2 losses in BO3s against Astralis since the roster was formed, which makes them a pretty solid dark horse to hoist the trophy in Katowice.
Astralis should make playoffs quite comfortably, but at a tournament as stacked as this, 2.85 is a pretty short number on a team that is coming off losses to Complexity and NaVi at BLAST. Personally, I think that Group B is slightly weaker than Group A. Teams like Liquid (9.20), EG (13.50) and mousesports (7.60) are fine outright picks at longer numbers than Astralis.
In terms of longshots, I like fnatic the most at 18.5 to win or 9.30 to make finals. The Swedes have shown that they can make finals at stacked events like this before, with a win at DreamHack Masters Malmö and 2nd place finishes at ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals and StarSeries i-League Season 8.