Tom B. July 7, 2019
Team Liquid has won ESL One Cologne 2019 and secured the Intel Grand Slam Season 2 prize of $1 million.
The North American squad took out Team Vitality 3-1 in the grand finals of the event. That victory combined with first-place finishes at Intel Extreme Masters XIV Sydney, DreamHack Masters Dallas, and ESL Pro League Season 9 locked up the Intel Grand Slam.
Team Liquid were dominant on Overpass, winning 16-6. Vitality had chances to make the game competitive but any time they sought to string together rounds, Team Liquid would snuff it out. Even when Liquid was forced into eco rounds, they would still find the shots and maintain the momentum to ensure Vitality had no real chance of taking the map.
The second map in the series, contested on Dust 2, was a far better performance from the French side. The first half saw Vitality do a great job of breaching Liquid’s strong defensive play on the CT side while the second half was a back and forth, fast-paced brawl as teams traded rounds. Liquid advanced to map point but Vitality forced overtime thanks to a huge performance from Nathan "NBK" Schmitt. Vitality settled in from there and tied the series off a massive clutch from Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut.
Vitality opened Inferno with a clear game plan in mind, hitting the B bombsite repeatedly. Unfortunately, Jacky "Stewie2K" Yip and Keith “NAF” Markovic were immovable objects and kept pushing Vitality back. Despite winning both pistol rounds and getting boosted further by a couple of massive clutches from ZywOo, Vitality was working from far behind for the entire game. They rallied to some degree to drag out the game, but hopes of forcing overtime were snuffed out by Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken who brought Liquid to match point with a 16-10 win.
Liquid perhaps showed some overconfidence at the start of the fourth map, Mirage.
Vitality were not ready to just hand over the tournament and the Grand Slam. Liquid won the first 3 rounds and then lost 7 in a row. This seemed to frustrate Liquid, who started to miss shots and lose duels that they were winning on the previous maps. Liquid made good use of the tactical timeouts to reassess and came back to end the first half 8-7.
Team Liquid came out strong on the T side giving up only a single round. Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski produced a heroic clutch to advance Liquid to Championship point which the team converted.
In 2018 Liquid were a tragic story of the perennial bridesmaid to Astralis but in 2019 the team is almost unanimously regarded as the world’s best.
Since the IEM Katowice Major, the squad has broken off four live tournament wins and reached the grand finals of three more. The team looks almost unstoppable these days and could be poised to post a historic calendar year.