Nick J. October 23, 2019
Team Liquid announced that its Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team will not attend IEM Beijing in a tweet from the team’s official Twitter account and a press release from the tournament's organizer ESL.
Team Liquid released a video with the tweet featuring star player Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski, head coach Eric “adreN” Hoag and Counter-Strike team manager Steve “jokasteve” Perino to explain the team’s absence from the tournament.
“We’re one of the most traveled teams out of all the teams in the scene. So it’s been taking a really big toll on us. We’re almost [at] 200 days now total travel time for this year. It’s been really hard on us mentally,” EliGE said, explaing the toll the schedule had taken on the team.
Unlike League of Legends or Overwatch, Counter-Strike has no formal franchised structure. This results in near continuous travel for teams while competing in an endless run of tournaments.
It wasn't until 2017 that the players and tournament organizers came to an agreement regarding a standardized break. The tournament organizers and players settled on August as the de-facto player break in addition to the normally light schedule that follows a December run of online league finals.
This year, the player break ended just prior to the start of the StarLadder Berlin Major on August 23.
“Like even though we were just on a break, we get back into it and we’re just like right into like the mayhem of all the scheduling problems that we have in the scene,” EliGE said.
Prior to the player break, Team Liquid was on fire. The North American powerhouse became the second team ever win the IEM Grand Slam title and its $1M USD prize, taking home the multi-event trophy in a record 63 days. Previous Grand Slam winners Astralis took over 323 days to win the four tournaments required to take home the Intel Grand Slam's inaugural title.
Team Liquid faces decline after record Grand Slam win
After Team Liquid’s impressive Grand Slam run, the squad declined significantly from their earlier level of performance. Right after the player break, Team Liquid disappointed at the StarLadder Berlin Major. TL crushed North America fans' dreams of another Major title by losing to Astralis in the quarterfinals.
Team Liquid's poor run continued after Berlin. Even with a home-crowd advantage, the talented team failed to make the grand final at ESL One New York and fared even worse at DreamHack Masters Malmö, finishing in a disappointing 10th place.
ENCE to replace Team Liquid at IEM Beijing
ESL chose ENCE to replace Team Liquid in Beijing. The Finnish team joins seven others to compete for the $250,000 prize pool. Beijing is stacked, with Astralis, Evil Geniuses and Team Vitality all ranked within the top five worldwide. Mousesports, FaZe Clan, ViCi Gaming and TYLOO are also slated to attend the event.
ENCE is coming off its own changes following the Berlin Major. The team replaced in-game leader Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen with former mousesports rifler Miikka “suNny” Kempii. Aleksib left the team shortly after the Berlin major and is currently a free agent.
IEM Beijing goes live on November 7 and runs through November 10 at the Beijing University Student’s Stadium. In an interesting twist, teams are fighting for more than a share of the prize pool. The team that takes first place in Beijing also grabs an automatic seed at IEM Katowice 2020.