Cologne has been a place where the history was made a number of times and this year. Team Liquid managed to win ESL One Cologne 2019 to claim the Intel Grand Slam prize in the span of just two months. Read more about this historic success here.
Team Liquid and Astralis topped their groups
After a hard-fought battle, Team Liquid and Astralis managed to conclude the Group Stage on top of their groups. Team Liquid faced NRG Esports in the Upper Bracket Final of Group A. The first leg took place on Nuke. The game was going back and forth, but Liquid prevailed in the end with score of 16-12.
Afterward, the teams moved to Inferno. There, Team Liquid had a decent lead at the beginning of the second half (11-6), but NRG was the team who earned map points first (15-13). Nitr0 and co. managed to save these two map points and to take the game to Overtime. After the first Overtime, the map still wasn’t over, so we saw the second Overtime as well. In the end, Liquid outlasted NRG on Inferno (22-20) to top Group A of ESL One Cologne 2019 and secure the spot in Semi-final.
On the other side, in Group B, NiP and Astralis met each other in the Upper Bracket Final after a dominant display in the second round. Astralis completely dismantled Fnatic on Train (16-1) and Nuke (16-6), and NiP convincingly bested Heroic on Overpass (16-5) and Inferno (16-10).
— ESL Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) July 6, 2019
The Upper Bracket Final of Group B kicked off on Dust 2 where Astralis almost choked a huge lead. They won the first half 12-3 and then clinched the second pistol round as well. However, Ninjas in Pyjamas managed to catch up and save three map points. Although it looked like Astralis could easily choke, they somehow stayed calm and composed to win the game in Overtime (19-16). The second map (Inferno) was a much easier ride for Astralis as they defeated NiP with the scoreline 16-8. They ended Group first place to proceed to Semi-final.
Quarter-finals – NaVi and Team Vitality crushed their opponents
In the first Quarter-final of ESL One Cologne 2019, we saw a duel between NaVi and Ninjas in Pyjamas. The match started off on NaVi’s pick, Inferno. The Russian team had a good start (6-1), but NiP bounced back to close the gap (7-8). The Swedes clinched the opening two rounds of the second half, but momentum went on NaVi’s side and Ninjas in Pyjamas couldn’t recover after that. Eventually, the game ended with scoreline 16-12 for NaVi.
The action then moved on to NiP’s pick, Mirage. NiP’s own pick turned out to be less successful for them. After a competitive fight at the beginning, Zeus and co. just dismantled NiP in the continuation of the second map. They won the half (10-5) and the first four rounds of the second half. NiP then broke NaVi’s streak with four rounds in a row, but it wasn’t enough to turn things around. Hence, Natus Vincere advanced to book another meeting with Team Liquid to try to stop them from winning Intel Grand Slam.
In the other Quarter-final, we saw the domination of one man. It was Vitality’s young prospect, and perhaps the best player of 2019 so far, ZywOo. He destroyed NRG almost completely on his own. On the first map (Dust 2), Vitality was in control from the very beginning, which resulted in an easy victory for the Frenchmen (16-7). On the second map (Mirage), NRG achieved a decent advantage at the beginning on the T side (7-3). But, Vitality then won 13 rounds in a row.
Team Vitality completely outplayed Astralis
In the first Semi-final of ESL One Cologne 2019, Astralis faced Team Vitality. Considering that Astralis played so well in Group Stage, they were the favorites in this match despite their poor form in the past several months. However, what we saw on the server was completely different from expectations. Vitality managed to completely outplay one of the best squads ever on two out of three maps.
The match kicked off on Vitality’s pick Dust 2. There, the individual quality of Vitality’s player expressed itself. Moreover, not only ZywOo played well, but all his teammates were performing at the highest level. Astralis just couldn’t stand a chance against Vitality on Dust 2, so the French team clinched the first map in confident fashion (16-8). It looked like Astralis was even scared, which dupreeh confirmed in between-maps interview.
Overpass before Nuke
Interestingly, Astralis had a chance to choose between Nuke and Overpass, but they chose Overpass rather than Nuke. As everyone knows, Nuke is the best map of Astralis, but they have been struggling recently on it, and Vitality is very decent on Nuke. Hence, they chose to play Overpass, but it didn’t turn out to be a clever choice. Astralis didn’t play on CT side good enough as they even lost it with scoreline 8-7. Dupreeh had some very bad mistakes where he was so close to taking multiple frags at important moments but failed.
In addition to that, ZywOo was playing standardly well. Therefore, Vitality had an easy ride on Overpass (16-9) as they completely outclassed Astralis on it to secure a spot in Grand Final.
Liquid vs NaVi – identical maps
In Semi-final between Liquid and NaVi we saw identical maps as they played in their previous meeting, although this time they didn’t play map of decision. Whereas NaVi basically had the whole series in their hands in Group Stage, Liquid was completely in control of the game in Semi-finals. On the first map (Dust 2), Liquid won the first half (9-6) and then concluded the game with conceding six rounds.
On the following map (Overpass), NaVi actually had a good chance to take the map away from Liquid and enforce the third map. They won the CT half (9-6) and the first three rounds of the second half. However, when Liquid finally had a decent buy on CT side, NaVi failed to win a single round. Intel Grand Slam contenders clinched ten rounds in a row to accomplish a comeback and book a meeting with Vitality in Grand Final of ESL One Cologne 2019.
Grand Final – ZywOo cracked under pressure, Liquid showed their class
After five days of competition, everything was set and ready for the most important match of ESL One Cologne 2019. Everyone was eager to see if Liquid was going to win the Intel Grand Slam, or if ZywOo was going to step up once again. It was a perfect chance for young Frenchmen to prove himself as the best player in the world, but he cracked under pressure. ZywOo slightly underperformed and Vitality couldn’t do much without him.
The first map was Overpass. Despite good results of Vitality on this map, they failed to challenge Liquid on their best map. After poor CT side where Vitality clinched only six rounds, Liquid didn’t concede a single round in the second half. Vitality didn’t look anywhere close to Vitality from Semi-final. Twistszz from Liquid had a good game as he pulled out some great plays.
However, the situation didn’t look so well for the Frenchmen on Inferno. The main contenders for the Intel Grand Slam prize quickly set the score on 14-5. NBK and co. closed a gap a little bit, but North Americans eventually put the game to bed (16-10).
Historic success for Liquid and NA Counter-Strike scene
On the fourth map (Mirage), it looked like we were going to see the map of decision (Vertigo), too. After losing the opening three rounds, Vitality clinched seven in a row in T side. Then, their game somehow fell apart. Liquid used an opportunity and the momentum completely switched sides. Nitro and co. took control over the wheel and they didn’t let it go until the end of the game. Out of the following 13 rounds, Vitality didn’t win a single one. Team Liquid secured the final map in dominant fashion to win ESL One Cologne 2019 and claimed the Intel Grand Slam prize of $1,000,000. The full amount of money is distributed directly among players.
Unlike the previous season when Liquid didn’t win a single Intel Grand Slam event, this season, they needed only five events. They won four of them in a row. Last year, they were known as chokers who always lose in finals. They lived in a shadow of Astralis. This year, they accomplished something that is almost equally important as winning Major in the span of just two months.
— ESL Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) July 7, 2019
However, despite the good performance of all Liquid players, MVP award went to phenomenal ZywOo who basically carried his team to Grand Final. Another highlight of this event is another failure of Astralis as they didn’t win a title since BLAST Pro Sao Paulo in March this year.
— ESL Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) July 6, 2019