Steven R. April 6, 2019
Just two teams remain at StarSeries & i-League Season 7.
In the grand finals of the Shanghai event, tournament favorite Natus Vincere will take on a surging Fnatic in a best-of-five series. The winner will receive the $250,000 top prize.
Natus Vincere’s presence in the grand finals comes as a surprise to few. The Ukrainian squad was held up as one of the world’s best throughout 2018, routinely placing top-four in prominent tournaments, including at the last three CS:GO majors. Though rumors of turmoil between teammates have lingered for months, those issues are yet to consistently manifest in competition.
At the start of this tournament, it seemed as though things were finally set to come to a head when Natus Vincere was handed a shock loss by Vici Gaming in its first game of the group stage. But the team recovered emphatically from there, storming its way into the playoffs with wins over BIG, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and NRG Esports.
Na’Vi started its run in the quarterfinals by exacting revenge on ENCE Esports, the squad that eliminated them from the 2019 Katowice Major. From there, it earned a spot in the grand finals with a strong win over Renegades.
Though Natus Vincere working its way to the grand finals was expected by many, that wasn’t the case for Fnatic.
2018 was a rocky year for one of CS:GO's most storied brands. Though it started strong with a top-eight finish at the ELEAGUE Major and took home an $800,000 check from WESG 2017, it began sputtering in the spring. This led to a number of roster changes including the departure of tenured player Robin "flusha" Rönnquist.
Though many still expected the team to post a strong showing at the 2019 Katowice Major, Fnatic was instead among the first eliminations from the Challengers Stage. It bounced back to some degree at WESG 2018 by taking fourth place, but even that moral victory carried an asterisk as it was embarrassed in the semifinals by the unheralded AGO Esports and lost a third-place decider to G2 Esports.
Fnatic may have limped its way into Shanghai, but they haven’t looked at all shaken at this event. The team sprinted through the group stage with a 3-0 record, beating Ninjas in Pyjamas, NRG Esports, and Team Vitality. Its momentum didn’t slow in the playoffs as it walloped North in the quarterfinals and advanced to the grand finals by besting NRG in a rematch.
Both teams have something to prove heading into the grand finals, and a first-place finish would go a long way. The grand finals will take place on April 7.