Although everyone likes champions, people always cheer for the underdogs hoping they can achieve something unexpected. Incredible runs of underdogs are something that creates headlines and makes heroes. Here is our list of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history in no particular order.
1). ELEAGUE Season 2 – OpTic Gaming (2016)
Group of death
ELEAGUE was one of few series that was involved in the expansion of CS:GO in 2016. That year, the prize pool of CS:GO events reached the one million dollar mark at the Majors for the first time. But, prize money at ELEAGUE events were even bigger. There was $1,100,000 US on the line at ELEAGUE Season 2 and such a big prize pool attracted the best teams in the world.
Teams such as Astralis, Virtus.pro, Fnatic, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team EnVyUs, and SK Gaming took part in this big event. Therefore, the favorites for winning the trophy were many. However, SK Gaming had the biggest chances to win the title as they won both Majors that year. However, one North American team stood out to clinch the title.
When OpTic Gaming found out who their opponents in the group were going to be, they weren’t so sure if they were going to reach Playoffs. In Group D of ELEAGUE Season 2, OpTic had to face Fnatic, Team EnVyUs and Dignitas. All these squads were phenomenal back in the day and it was hard to believe that OpTic could advance further. After the initial matches, their chances were even worse as they lost to Fnatic 19-17.
Later on, OpTic defeated Team EnVyUs (16-3, 13-16, 16-8) and got their revenge against Fnatic (16-5, 16-11). Despite all odds, OpTic finished second in a group of death and proceeded to the Play-offs.
Incredible run in Play-offs
After upsetting Fnatic and Team EnVyUs in Group Stage, OpTic pulled off a few more surprises in the Knock-Out Stage. Their first opponents were mousesports who had a couple of very good showings that year. However, OpTic Gaming crushed them on Train (16-7) and Cache (16-11).
In the Semi-final, OpTic Gaming met FaZe Clan who also had some decent showings that year. Even back in 2016, FaZe was kind of the European dream team consisting of rain, kioShiMa, jkaem, allu and karrigan. They were a team to beat at any event. Regardless, OpTic bested FaZe pretty easily on Train (16-3) and Overpass (16-12).
The final obstacle for stanislaw and co. was Astralis who waited for them in the Grand Final. Astralis was one of the top teams back then and it wasn’t easy to defeat them at all. Moreover, Astralis eliminated SK Gaming in Semi-final before confronting OpTic. So, all odds were on the side of gla1ve and co.
Astralis opened the final in a convincing fashion, going (16-9) on Train. OpTic crushed them on Cobblestone (16-6) and finished them off on Overpass (16-11) to clinch the biggest trophy in the history of this organization. They took the trophy and $400,000 home and made one of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history. Just a week later, however, Astralis got their revenge in the Grand Final of ECS Season 2 Finals where they defeated OpTic Gaming.
2). DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018 – North
Topping the group against Astralis
Under “normal” circumstances, this excellent run of North wouldn’t be considered an upset as they were the Top Tier team in 2018. Nevertheless, considering who they defeated, this event definitely featured one of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history.
In a year when Astralis was dominating the field, each loss was a big surprise. To beat Astralis once was a hard task to accomplish; to beat them twice at the same tournament was impossible for everyone.
North played in the same group as their countrymen, Astralis. In the first round, North had an easy ride versus TYLOO (16-7). As Astralis also cruised through the first round, these two teams met each other in the Winners match.
North couldn’t stand a chance against gla1ve and co. on Nuke (16-8), but bounced back on Inferno (16-10). On the final map (Mirage), North had a chance to finish the match in regular time, but Astralis took the game to Overtime. Nonetheless, North prevailed and ended up on top of the group.
Beating Astralis for the second time
North kicked off the Playoffs in dominant fashion. They just cruised over NaVi (16-3, 16-9) to reach Semi-final. There, they faced mousesports who had great results in 2018. North faced an embarrassing 16-0 defeat on the first map (Dust 2), but stayed composed and bounced back on Inferno (16-14) and Mirage (16-12). They booked another meeting with Astralis in the Grand Final.
The first map was Dust 2, but this time, North was the one who embarrassed the other team and almost won the game with a perfect 16-0 score. However, Astralis avoided such humiliation as they managed to clinch at least one round. Astralis convincingly won the second map (16-6), but North prevailed at the end on Overpass (16-11) to take a part in one of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history. They won DH Masters Stockholm and $100,000. This was a shocking result by North and unexpected “failure” of Astralis.
3). PGL Major Krakow – Gambit Esports (2017)
The Krakow Major was definitely one of the most unusual Majors ever, considering which two teams faced each other in the Grand Final.
There were many teams who had good chances to add another Major to their collection. Astralis had just won their first Major at ELEAGUE Atlanta and SK Gaming clinched three big titles prior to PGL Major Krakow. Teams like Virtus.pro, NaVi, and FaZe Clan were in good shape as well. There were many candidates for the title, but no one assumed that Gambit could do much in Krakow.
Nonetheless, they started off in a great way. They defeated mousesports (16-10), G2 Esports (16-6) and the domestic team, Virtus.pro (16-11) to finish the Group Stage on top of the table.
In Semi-final Gambit Esports bested Fnatic (16-14, 16-12) to book a meeting with Astralis. Astralis were favorites as they won the previous Major in Atlanta. However, Gambit Esports, whose lines were strengthened by Zeus from NaVi, outlasted gla1ve and his teammates after a three map series. They defeated them on Overpass (16-10), Inferno (8-16) and Train (16-12) to reach the Grand Final.
Grand Final of two underdogs
The Grand Final of Major was the best result for the majority of Gambit’s squad. But, they faced the team who perhaps had even less chances for doing anything notable at the Major. Immortals, who edged out BIG and Virtus.pro, was one the other side of the map. Although they had some decent results, the Brazilians weren’t anything close to the Top Tier team. Therefore, the Krakow Major featured the Grand final of two underdogs. Accordingly, whoever clinched the title would make one of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history.
It turned out to be Gambit Esports after three map series. Immortals entered the match in such a dominant fashion on Cobblestone (16-4). However, it was all that we could see from the Brazilians as Gambit controlled the wheel throughout the entire game in the remaining two legs. Firstly, they beat Immortals on Train (16-11) and then topped them on Inferno (16-10) to win the first Major title for this organization.
However, after the Krakow Major, Gambit’s squad fell apart and they didn’t record any result close to what they did in Krakow.
4). ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018 – Cloud9
A long way to the title
One of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history is Cloud9’s title at ELEAGUE Boston Major without a doubt. Even though Cloud9 was well-known name back then, and despite all their good showings, no one expected them winning the Major. Their success gains even more weight when we mention their long and turbulent path to the title.
Cloud9 started off in Challengers Stage. There, they defeated Team EnVy, Sprout and mousesports and topped the group together with G2 Esports. It wasn’t surprising to see Cloud9 in Legends Stage, but their unbelievable comeback from 0-2 was unexpected.
Cloud9 lost their first match against G2 Esports on Cache (16-8) and then got upset by Space Soldiers on Cobblestone. Therefore, Cloud9 had to win all three remaining games in order to stay at Major. That’s exactly what they did.
Cloud9 bested all remaining opponents in furious fashion. They bested Virtus.pro on Mirage (16-7) first. Afterward, they edged out Astralis on Train (16-6). Finally, in the last round, Cloud9 dominated Vega on Mirage (16-4) to keep going at the Major.
Cloud9’s miracle in Play-offs
After the first two games in Legends Stage, no one expected to see Cloud9 in the Playoffs. But, they achieved a big comeback and gained a big confidence boost. Momentum was on their side and Americans were riding on it all the way to the end.
In the Quarter-final, they got their revenge against G2 Esports. The American team crushed Cluj-Napoca Major champions on Mirage (16-8) and Overpass (16-7). In Semi-final, Cloud9 had to face two-time Major champions, SK Gaming. Skadoodle and co. demolished SK Gaming on Mirage (16-3), but lost on Cobblestone (16-8). On the map of decision, Inferno, Cloud9 convincingly bested SK Gaming to reach the first Major Grand Final. Also, they became only the second NA team that took part in the Grand Final of Major.
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In the first Overtime, Cloud9 had three match points to conclude the game. However, this time, FaZe bounced back and postponed the celebration of the domestic crowd. Nevertheless, Cloud9 managed to end the game in their favor to conclude the most epic Major final.
5). IEM Katowice Major 2019 – ENCE
Heroic survival in the Group Stage
ENCE’s run at IEM Katowice is the only run on our list that didn’t end in a victory. However, ENCE’s surprising result at IEM Katowice Major is definitely one of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history.
They came to Katowice after winning Europe Minor event. Also, they won DH Open Winter at the end of 2018, so they were generally in good shape. Nevertheless, no one excepted ENCE to go so far in Katowice. In the New Challengers Stage, ENCE defeated Spirit, G2, and Winstrike, but lost to Renegades. Therefore, they secured a spot in the New Legends Stage.
Just like Cloud9, after the first two matches, ENCE was just one game away from elimination. They lost to Renegades and HellRaisers, and they needed three wins a row. It didn’t look like it was going to happen, especially after the first map against BIG where ENCE lost 16-5. On the following map (Train), Finns were just two rounds away from dropping out (10-14). But at that moment, their comeback began. They turned things around on Train (16-14) and then secured the third map as well.
Later on, AleksiB and co. bested G2 and AVANGAR to secure a spot in Playoffs. It was the first Playoffs for ENC at a Major.
Outlasting two giants
ENCE’s ride in the Playoffs was equally miraculous as their accomplishment in Group Stage. In Quarter-finals, ENCE clinched the first map against Team Liquid on Mirage. On the second map, Liquid had seven map points, but ENCE bounced back again and took the game to Overtime. There, ENCE prevailed to make the first big upset at Katowice Major.
— betway esports (@betwayesports) March 7, 2019
Afterward, they faced NaVi, another contender for the title. NaVi dominated ENCE on the second map (16-3), but it wasn’t enough as the Finns took the other two maps. On both maps that ENCE won, NaVi had a convincing lead (14-10 and 12-6), but ENCE showed their fighting spirit and didn’t throw the towel in. They fought all the way to the end and it paid off as they edged out another big name.
Unfortunately, their fairy-tale ended in the Grand Final against Astralis. Although everyone wanted to see ENCE beating Astralis and lifting the trophy, it didn’t happen. The Danes were just too strong for ENCE and the Finnish team couldn’t upset another favorite for the title. Nonetheless, their incredible result will be remembered as one of the biggest tournament upsets in CS:GO history.