It’s North America vs. Europe on July 20th-21st in a CSGO battle to see which continent reigns supreme.
This year marks the second Intel Extreme Masters Chicago (IEM), a tournament which serves as a head to head tourney between European and North American CSGO teams. On the line is bragging rights as well as a shot at the $250,000 prize pool. Last year, Europe came out on top thanks to Astralis’ dominant win against Team Liquid, which was part of their impressive run to capturing the Intel Grand Slam.
But this year is a different beast altogether. Astralis isn’t even in the tournament, and their status as a dynasty has quickly been overshadowed by the emergence of the very same Team Liquid team that they beat last year. Instead of taking place at the Wintrust Arena like last year, this year’s tournament will be broadcast live from the United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. From Michael Jordan’s six championship wins to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews’ dynamic Stanley Cup heroics, the arena has seen some of the greatest moments in sports history, and this weekend has a chance to blaze that same trail for esports.
Joining Team Liquid at the United Centre this week are North American teams MiBR, Renegades and Team Envy, as well as Ence, G2 Esports, Team Vitality and Heroic from Europe. The double-elimination group stage kicks on July 18th at 11 AM CDT with MiBR facing off against G2, and Envy facing Team Liquid. Later that day at 2:15 PM CDT, Heroic squares off against Vitality, and Renegades face Ence.
From there the winners and losers of each matchup will square off, with the final qualifiers being played on July 19th. From there four teams will qualify for the semi-finals on Saturday, which will be played live at the United Centre in downtown Chicago. The two winning teams from Saturday will then square off on Sunday in the best of 5 Grand Finals, which kicks off at 2:30 PM CDT.
Each team has had its own journey to qualify for Chicago, but one thing that unites them all is their hunger to win.
As mentioned earlier, Team Liquid is the squad to beat heading into IEM 2019 Chicago. They’re coming off a commanding win against Faze Clan at Blast Pro Series LA and are also riding an 18-match unbeaten record at lan events. Interestingly, their last loss came against MiBR who they could very well face in the semi-finals of the upcoming tournament. Team Liquid is well poised to exorcise their demons from last year’s event and are easily the favourites heading in.
Speaking of MiBR the Brazilian squad is very much trending in the opposite direction as Team Liquid. They are marred in a long stretch of not making it out of the group stage at competitions and will need to rediscover their magic if they want to reach Saturday’s semi-final. The team is also dealing with the recent departure of Marcelo “coldzera” Davi, who left because of the team’s poor recent performance.
The Australian giant has had a bit of a rough go as of late, as they haven’t made it out of the group stage in a tournament since April, when they dropped a semi-finals match versus Navi at Starseries and I-League 7. They’re another team that is looking to turn around their recent play. A potential storyline to watch is that they could very well face-off against Team Envy and their former teammate Noah ‘Nifty’ Francis, who left the team last September. A faceoff against Nifty may just be the spark that the Aussie’s are looking for.
Envy is easily the longshots heading into Chicago. The team has faced more than its fair share of upheval recently and back in March, they signed a trio of new players in Sam ‘s0m’ Oh, Bradley ‘ANDROID’ Fodor, and Jacob ‘FugLy’ Medina. The signings haven’t translated to much success and Team Envy is currently ranked 43rd in the ESL CSGO rankings. That being said, they did qualify for Chicago by winning a closed qualifier in dominant fashion, and this could be the start of some success for the team.
The team with the best shot at defeating Team Liquid has had a bit of a strange couple of weeks. The team played in the recent ESEA Season 31: Global Challenge, where they went with off-meta weapon choices and ended up losing the finals to Furia, as a result. After the match their player Nathan ‘NBK’ Shmidt revealed that the team originally wanted to forfeit their spot in the tournament but weren’t allowed to as they would have had to forfeit their EPL slot as well. The reason why they wanted to forfeit is so that they would be rested for IEM Chicago, and it’s clear that they are extra motivated to win it all.
One of the most exciting teams to watch, Ence Esports is an up and coming squad with some serious potential. They barely lost to Team Liquid at the Dreamhack Masters Dallas and beat Astralis for the title at Blast Pro Series Madrid. The all-Finnish team is led by the scintillating play of Jere ‘sergej’ Salo and could very well capture the whole tournament if they manage to get on a run.
Heroic is lucky to even be competing in Chicago. Russian squad forZe was supposed to represent Europe but couldn’t get VISAS for their players in time. Just being in the competition is a win for Heroic and if they manage to make it out of the group stage then that will be icing on the cake. That being said, they did barely lose to forZe in qualifying, and their skill is very much comparable.
Similarly to the other teams on this list, G2 recently lost to Team Liquid by a total score of 3-1. What sets G2 apart is that they dominated the early stretches of their series against Liquid and simply couldn’t keep their momentum going long enough. Their opening match against MiBR could very well decide which of the two teams advance to the semis and it could very well go either way. If they do manage to make it to the semi-finals then G2 is a great dark horse shot at capturing the title.
CGMagazine will be live at ILM Chicago 2019 with some great interviews, features and insights. Let’s CSGO!