IEM Chicago 2019 is the 14th event of the Intel Extreme Masters circuit. It was the 2nd IEM event in Chicago lasting from the 18th to the 21st of July, boasting a prize pool of 250,000$ up for grabs. However, this event only had 8 teams competing, in a GSL type group stage with single-elimination playoffs.
The competition had 3 out of the top 5 teams competing and had a few notable dark horses in play. At the end of it all, it was Team Liquid who claimed another trophy and are continuing their march to another Grand Slam.
The GSL Group stage approach is one of the best ways to separate the wheat from the shaft. If a top team loses their first opening game, they have a good chance of bouncing back in the lower bracket. Combine that with no bo1 opening games and just bo3’s, and you should have the best teams move forward.
Envy was, without a doubt, the weakest team at IEM Chicago. They were one of the rosters, alongside Heroic, who qualified via the open qualification system. Without any promising results beforehand it’s unsurprising they got battered by Team Liquid. But the 2-0 loss is somewhat deceiving. There were winnable 2v2 and 1v1 situations for Envy, but they couldn’t close them out. Of course, this is a strength of Team Liquid to have their individuals step up in these situations and secure the victories.
On the other side of the group, MiBR faced-off the Frenchmen of G2. After a stellar showing at ESL Pro League and a victory in Good Game League 2019, G2 was looking nothing shy of a playoff. As for the Brazilians, it was another event, which they’d participate with coach zews. This meant that the ct sides, more often than not, was going to be weaker for MiBR. That was definitely the case on Overpass, as G2 won 12 rounds on their T side and could easily close out the game at 16-6.
As for Dust2, it started out great for the Brazilians. They quickly revved-up to a 6-1 score on the ct side and looked forward to a good half. But the success didn’t last too long, as KennyS was finding crucial opening kills and putting the team in some very winnable situation. It didn’t help MiBR that shox would also have a good game, even acquiring 27 kills at the end of their victory 16-9.
Things didn’t get better for Envy as in the deciding game they had to use Eley, the coach, as Nifty had urgent health problems. This coach vs coach affair delivered a tight game. The first map went in favor of Envy 16-11, with the team having an astonishing first half and the stand-in Eley winning aim duals against the likes LUCAS1 and fer. With MiBR getting the win on Mirage it looked the game was a done deal. But on Train, after some egregious mistakes on the ct side, Envy had a formidable half of 10-5. It took some heavy-lifting from Fallen and fer to eventually win the game 19-15.
The winners match had two heavy hitters – G2 and Liquid. On the first map Dust2, G2 came out the gates swinging. They were able to close out the games, thanks to their individuals stepping up. A caveat to be made was Liquid’s inability to pick more than 4 rounds on the ct side and Twistzz not having a great game. With the Frenchmen picking-up Dust2 the second map was Overpass. Liquid had a stellar start on the second map, by winning 9 rounds on the T side. However, this didn’t stop the Frenchmen from keeping matters close, but it was Liquid who claimed the 16-13 victory. Inferno was a standard affair for the North Americans and they closed out the last map 16-9.
The conclusion of Group A happened between MiBR and G2. In this bo3 series, it seemed the French will yet again dominate the Brazilians. However, the game concluded as the biggest upset of IEM Chicago. G2 was toppled in the first map of Inferno 16-11, but bounced back on their own map pick Dust2. On the third map, it was a vintage Brazilian performance on Train and they won it 16-6 and secured a spot in the playoffs.
The opening match of the group B was ENCE versus Renegades. Australians looked deflated on the first half on the T side, even though they secured the early pistol victory. Afterwards, ENCE responded with a second-round win and had a stellar CT side. The second half didn’t look better for the Renegades and they lost their map pick 16-7. On the other hand, the second map was a closer affair. They had a good showing with a 9-6 half from the ct but the Australians had troubles closing out the important rounds and they subsided with a loss in the bo3 2-0.
On the other side of the Group, it was Vitality playing their bo3 against Heroic. On paper, it seemed Vitality will secure the victory against the Danes, but that wasn’t true whatsoever. Overpass was a standard affair for the Frenchmen with a 10-5 half on the ct side. But it was Heroic’s defensive that surpassed Vitality netting them 11 rounds. A surprising x-factor was friberg having one of his best series since 2017. In Overpass he contributed with 31 kills. On Nuke it would be stavn who’d take on the role of a carry and he’d drop a 30 bomb to allow Heroic to win the bo3.
The Group B elimination match wasn’t a pretty sight for the Renegades. In their attempt to survive in IEM Chicago, they’d have to win against the #2 team in the world – Vitality. For the French, it was a standard affair. They won the opponent's map pick Mirage 16-11 and their own pick of Dust 16-7.
The match of Heroic versus ENCE seemed promising. The question was if the Danes could have another stellar performance to beat out the Finns. To start the series off Heroic won 7 rounds on T side thanks to stavn and es3tag winning a 1vs3 and 1vs2 respectively. It didn’t take ENCE too long to mount a comeback as they were up 15-7 and closed out the game 16-12. Once again, Heroic felt short to ENCE in the second map, even though their 2nd map comeback on the ct of Nuke looked stellar. They gave away 8 rounds for their opponents on the T side, and eventually, the series went to ENCE 2-0.
Heroic, who was at the winner’s match, were now fighting for their chance to stay in the tournament. Their opponent – Vitality. Heroic had a competitive first half on Mirage and picked up 6 rounds on T side. Yet, it Vitality won 7 rounds on their T side and let Heroic to gain only one round. For the second map, we weren't expecting Dust2. The Danes were able to win crucial eco rounds, putting the French on the backfoot. The third map was a big stinger for Heroic. Yet again, they were just 1 map away from securing playoffs and the French didn’t play nice. They won Overpass and secured the bo3 2-1.
The first map was picked by MiBR to be Mirage. The early game, started out well for MiBR as they began wracking up rounds on the T side. Even though ENCE did a better job at finding opening duels (14:11) it was individuals like Fallen and fer who pushed the team to the finish line on map 1. The second map was fundamentally better for ENCE. They looked like a much better unit, whereas the individuals from MiBR couldn’t have the same impact like on Mirage. This was also the case for the last map of the bo3 – Dust2. On the second and third map, the Finns came alive and took the series 2-1.
The second semi-final had a lot going for it. After all, this is the rematch of ESL One Cologne which the North Americans did secure, however, the French had a winning chance. With the first map being Dust2, Vitality started things well on the ct side by winning the pistol. Yet, the French continued their standard practice and lost the following rounds to pistols. In total, Vitality picked up 3 rounds on the ct side. After a comeback attempt on the second half, Liquid closed things out 16-11. The second map had a much more viable start for the Frenchmen, going 6-2 on the ct side. After their brief stint of brilliance, the individuals of Liquid began to deliver their A+ game. They won 14 rounds while Vitality only managed to pick up 3. It didn’t help that Liquid had 4 of their individuals sitting at 85+ ADR. With that victory, all eyes were now on the Grand Final.
The grand final was an absolute stomp by Liquid. They trampled ENCE on the very first map of the bo5 – Overpass. All ENCE were able to acquire were two rounds – the ct and t side pistols. But the actual game, does tell a different story. The Finns were able to even win 8 opening duels and had plenty of winnable 2v4 and 2v3 situations. But it was the individual skill of Liquid which defied the odds and won them the first map.
Nuke didn’t get better for ENCE. Just like previously, they won the pistol but couldn’t convert the second round into a victory. It’s important to note, that the Finns played on the t side of Nuke, making matters that much harder. On this map, ENCE players had a difficult time getting anything done and the game ended in another turbulent scoreline, favoring Liquid 16-3.
Of the three maps which were played out, the last one, Inferno, was the most competitive of the bunch. ENCE finally had their individuals stepping up and some of them were able to win crucial clutches, making a win seem more tangible. As the Finns began to play, it was EliGE who was finding so much impact for TL. With 10 rounds acquired on the t side of Inferno, the North Americans didn’t have a difficult time closing out the series 16-14.
There’s no denying, Team Liquid is the #1 team in the world. To prove their worth, they’ve won 5 big international events, with top teams in attendance. The individual's performances are enough to pull them out of any unwinnable situation. Just like great teams in the past, there doesn’t seem to be a weak link that needs changing. With all this success in the regular season, there’s only one question remaining. Can Team Liquid win the big one, a CS:GO major?
*Odds subject to change