Some Of The Best CS:GO Moments Of 2020
Past years have been filled with intense offline combat. Huge arenas have usually given thousands of fans the opportunity to watch their favourite players compete live for the greatest prize pools under the toughest of pressure. But this year, there was none of that.
The coronavirus pandemic has kept most stadiums worldwide out of commission for the better part of a year. Bringing together the players, let alone allowing an audience in, has become incredibly difficult and, in some places, even illegal. The risk is just too high and while we completely understand that the esports community, just like the rest, has to do its part in keeping the virus at bay, it still hurts to have missed these countless opportunities for great Counter-Strike moments. However, this year has still delivered in its own little ways. There were great highlights and storylines scattered throughout all those online tournaments, and we shouldn’t forget that there were actually a few events prior to the online transition as well.
NATUS VINCERE WIN IEM KATOWICE WITH PERFECTO
Even IEM Katowice, which was the last offline event to be executed in the CS:GO space at least in Europe and North America, had to be held without a live audience for the playoffs. Back in February, the virus was just starting to spread, but the city officials and ESL made the right call and backed out of the stadium event. While this unfortunately meant that lots of fans had needlessly booked hotels and even already travelled to the venue, this resulted in the biggest online viewership ever for an IEM event.
But most importantly, it marked a very important occasion for Natus Vincere. Throughout 2019, they had been struggling massively to post good results, despite Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Denis “electronic” Sharipov putting up god-like performances. In January 2020, they finally decided to remove Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács from the roster and brought in Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy, a relatively unknown Russian AWPer. Hailing from Syman Gaming, the now 21-year-old player had never competed on this level before, but he quickly found his footing within the team. A second place at the ICE Challenge and a first place in their BLAST Premier: Spring Regular Season Group were great signs for this youngster and NaVi in general. But nobody quite expected them to do what they did in Katowice.
While they struggled in the Group Stage, losing out to Fnatic in a close Best-of-Three, they eventually made their way into the playoffs. Once there, they absolutely decimated Team Liquid and Astralis for a spot in the Grand Finals. G2 Esports, who themselves had mounted a fantastic run to the Grand Finals, were left without a chance. On three quick maps, NaVi outplayed them almost effortlessly. Most importantly, though, Perfecto posted good numbers and definitely proved to be competitive against some of the best players in the world.
THE ASTRALIS AND VITALITY REVERSE-SWEEPS
But unfortunately, Natus Vincere have been on the receiving end of some great performances as well. During ESL Pro League Season 12, they set themselves on top of Group A and swept through the playoffs. Arriving in the Grand Finals, they already had a map advantage over Astralis. After they had won Dust2, there was virtually no way for Astralis to come back in this game. And yet, they did.
NaVi had them with their backs against the wall on Nuke. A 12-6 lead should have been the final nail in the coffin, but Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander of all brought Astralis back on the CT side. Incredibly narrowly, they scraped by on a 16-14 scoreline.
But Natus Vincere had two more chances to close this and weren’t afraid of the Danes at all - that is, until they lost 13 rounds in the first half of Train. Suddenly, Astralis were within an inch of tying the overall score of the Grand Finals. But on the CT side, NaVi got their act together and valiantly fought their way into overtime. An 18-18 scoreline sent the two teams into a second overtime, in which Astralis eventually won out.
So after a confident 2-0 lead and a 12-6 scoreline on Nuke, NaVi had to see their lead wiped away and the match basically reset for the deciding map. Unfortunately, Astralis had successfully broken their spirit. On Overpass, the CIS troops tried their best, but even s1mple was disappointed and demoralised at that point. Nicolai “device” Reedtz outgunned everyone on the server to deliver the perfect reverse sweep on a 16-11 scoreline.
But this wasn't the last Grand Finals stand for Natus Vincere. At IEM Beijing EU, they faced Vitality for the trophy. Once again, they managed to secure the first two maps. But suddenly, Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and his colleagues kicked into higher gear and ran away with the three remaining maps. For a second time this year, NaVi had to suffer a reverse-sweep in an important tournament. While this is obviously a huge stain on their 2020 track record, they have definitely become one of the hottest contenders this year.
HEROIC AT ESL ONE COLOGNE
Before this event, Heroic weren’t exactly thought of as a major contender in the European scene. Sure, they had some solid runs, but they never got into the Grand Finals against the likes of Astralis and Vitality - until Cologne happened. There, they made it through the playoffs beating Complexity and G2 Esports, ultimately landing a Grand Finals spot alongside Team Vitality. The Frenchmen were expected to deliver an absolute stomp. However, Heroic eliminated them within three maps. Not even ZywOo managed to keep up with the might of Martin “stavn” Lund and Nikolaj “niko” Kristensen.
This is a miracle story unlike any other, despite the drama around Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen. Just days after the event, the coach was banned by ESL. As it turned out, an exploit had allowed coaches to jump into free perspective cameras at any given moment in a competitive game. HUNDEN, Ricardo "dead" Sinigaglia, and Aleksandr Anatolyevich "MechanoGun" Bogatyrev were the first to be banned for this. This obviously fueled a lot of speculations on whether HUNDEN had actually used this bug during ESL One Cologne, but one of the leading investigators, Michal “michau9_” Slowinski, quickly put these rumours to rest. The exploit had already been fixed in the lead-up to this event.
So Heroic’s victory at ESL One Cologne 2020 was legitimate, which makes it all the more impressive. To put this into context, Heroic have been through a lot in this past year. The players were close to signing with FunPlus Phoenix, before Patrick “es3tag” Hansen made a surprise move to Astralis and jeopardized the entire transition. Casper “cadiaN” Møller took to Twitter to vent after the deal had fallen through. He and his team had given up their ESL Pro League spot, only to lose their Flashpoint spot as well.
Heading back to Europe with their heads low, the team underwent a major reshuffle. In the end, what they ended up with became one of the strongest teams in Europe, even though it took them a while to show their full potential. All this added hardship puts their ESL One Cologne and DreamHack Open Fall victories into perspective. Even though cadiaN had to go through such a tough year, he still managed to assemble and lead a top tier team into two magnificent tournament victories.
Images via ESL