The first two days of competition at the Game Show Global eSports Cup (GEC) have finished in Vilnius, Lithuania. Although the $200,000 LAN event has experienced long delays, subpar stream quality, and absent production value, all scheduled games have been played without issue as of the end of Friday. The following teams traveled to Lithuania for the occasion: Dignitas, EnVyUs, Counter-Logic Gaming, FlipSid3 Tactics, Astralis, G2.Kinguin, Cloud9, and Method.
As the group stage concludes, Method and FlipSide Tactics have both been eliminated. Neither team claimed a single map win in either of the two best of threes they played. FlipSid3 did put up a good fight in their first series against an unexpectedly strong Dignitas, and picked up double digit scorelines in both games played with the Danish team, losing 13 – 16 on de_inferno and 12 – 16 on de_cbble.
After their loss to Digntias, the Ukrainian Flipsid3 squad had a date with North American squad Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) for the elimination game. CLG narrowly secured a win on the first map, de_inferno, taking it 16-14 on the back of some misplays from their Ukrainian opponents. Despite the close scorelines in the first three games, FlipSid3 would crumble on de_cbble, and CLG easily claimed the map and the series with a 16 – 4 blowout.
Method, now sporting an all-Russian lineup after the organization dropped their North American squad and picked up the ex-PiTER roster midway through January of 2016, certainly had a difficult task ahead of themselves at their first LAN event under the new name. For their first series in the group stage at GEC, Method squared off against Astralis. As many predicted, the younger team was shown little mercy–Astralis claimed victory in the best of three matchup without any challenge from the Russian team, who were beaten 16 – 2 on de_mirage and 16 – 4 on de_overpass. In Method’s elimination match against Cloud9, the Russian lineup found more success. However, Cloud9 made short work of Method, and the Americans removed their opponents from the tournaments by winning the series 2 – 0. Method did show signs of life in their elimination match, however, claiming double digit round scores on each map. Although they might be going home empty-handed, a large asterisk should be added to these results since two of the Method players were unable to attend due to visa issues. With almost half of their roster missing, it is unsurprising that the team’s performance was lacking in Lithuania. At the very least, GEC provided the rest of Method’s regular lineup with an excellent opportunity to gain LAN experience.
As the second day of GEC reaches its conclusion, six teams have moved on to the playoff stage. The two teams with the best records in the group stage have been granted a place in the semifinals, while the remaining four teams must battle it out in the quarterfinals to progress. Dignitas, slightly unexpectedly, showed up in Lithuania with their brass knuckles on. After dispatching of FlipSid3, the Danish team now faced EnVyUs, who were considered the clear favorites. But Dignitas apparently had other ideas, absolutely thrashing EnVyUs on back-to-back maps and taking their second series 2 – 0. EnVyUs actually picked up less rounds against Digntias than FlipSid3 did — the French team lost 16 – 9 on de_cbble and 16 – 5 on de_inferno. At any rate, the Danish team are eager to prove themselves, and their impressive showing in the group stage has already secured them a top four finish at the event.
Astralis have also progressed to the semifinals on the back of their first series stomp against Method and a much closer victory against G2.Kinguin. Although the second opponent for the Danish contenders certainly put up a struggle, Astralis have looked dominant and assertive at GEC so far. Astralis are in a favorable position to make the grand finals, if not win the entire event, although they will likely have to battle it out against EnVyUs first in the semifinals–unless Cloud9 or G2 are able to bring down the French powerhouse in the quarterfinals first, of course.
Indeed, EnVyUs have looked surprisingly shaky so far in the tournament, dropping their second series against Dignitas. While beat CLG in two different best of three series, the North American team was able to take a map off of EnVyUs each time they faced each other. The first showdown between the two sides was much closer than the second–the decider match of the first series on de_cache would end 16 – 13 in favor of EnVyUs, but CLG posed a serious threat throughout the entire map, keeping the French side on their toes. James “hazed” Cobb of CLG would write on Twitter:
We lost that game 100% due to communication between players…
— James Cobb (@hazedCS) February 4, 2016
The second encounter between the two was a far more one-sided affair–CLG would win de_overpass 16 – 11, and then fail to reach double digits on both maps that followed. CLG have, however, shown signs of life, and their map victories over EnVyUs are promising. Replacing Puja “FNS” Mehta with Jacob “FugLy” Medina seems to have increased CLG’s overall fragging ability, although the team continues to demonstrate a lack of cohesion and can struggle to close out rounds and games at times.
As of this writing, Cloud9 are set to square off against G2.Kinguin to determine placement in the quarterfinals, where both teams are guaranteed a spot. Whichever team wins the series will play CLG, and the loser will face EnVyUs. It is Cloud9’s first international LAN with their newest pickup, Jake “Stewie2k” Yip, who replaced in-game leader Sean “sg@res” Gares during the offseason. The young star has yet to deliver an exceptional performance for the team, and with longtime veteran Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert assuming the role of IGL, it is difficult to predict how the tournament will shape up for the North Americans.
G2 are more of a known quantity, and the players have a long history together–however, expectations are surprisingly low. While still under the Titan banner, the new G2 team failed to deliver much in the way of meaningful results. With the backing of a new organization, however, perhaps the “Titan curse” has been lifted.
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If Dignitas is able to retain their explosive form from the first day of the tournament, then the Danes are certainly in contention to take the title. In fact, it is Dignitas and their Danish comrades, Astralis, who have fought their way to the semifinals. A grand final between Dignitas and Astralis is a definite possibility–domestic matchups are, historically, often closer fights than one would expect based solely off of team rankings, and it is not inconceivable that Dignitas could leave Lithuania with a large tournament title under their belt.
However, EnVyUs still remains a force to be reckoned with. The French players were caught with their pants down at the beginning of the tournament, and their close matches against CLG are cause for concern. If they are unable to correct their mistakes, EnVyUs could leave the tournament earlier than anticipated. If Cloud9 are their opponents tomorrow, I would expect EnVyUs to progress to the quarterfinal match against Astralis. However, if G2 beat Cloud9 in the placement match, EnVyUs might find themselves tested more than they had hoped for. Again, domestic rivalries produce close games, and the two teams have a long and storied history together–indeed, almost all of the players have been on teams with one another at various points in time.
All told, I anticipate either EnVyUs, Astralis, or Dignitas to bring home first place at GEC. EnVyUs has more experience delivering consistent results in grand finals, and Astralis is still haunted by their history of “choking” in significant games. The chances of a Dignitas upset are relatively low, but it’s not out of the question — the team that faces the Danish squad in the quarterfinals would be foolish to underestimate their opponents.