It was the 10th grand finals matchup between two teams who had jockeyed for the top spot in the world between 2018 and 2019. World events kept the two teams separate for most of 2020, but Liquid surprised Europe early on at the Intel Global Challenge despite a difficult path to the finals. After facing each other 13 times in 2019, the Global Challenge marked the 10th grand final match between the two teams, but the matchup was the first between the two since IEM Katowice 2020.
Liquid took down Heroic 2-0 before falling to Natus Vincere 0-2. FURA sent them to the lower bracket, but Liquid’s European boot camp showed TL was ready for the pressure. The roster managed a solid lower bracket elimination match win against BIG 2-0, a win that set up a rematch between what used to be two of the world’s top teams. At the same time TL was fighting its way to a grand finals spot, Astralis had troubles of its own. A 2-0 win against an undermanned Complexity was followed by a 2-0 loss to BIG. But in a candidate for match of the year, the Danes managed to take down tournament favorite Vitality 2-1 before putting away Na`Vi to grab the finals berth.
It was all Astralis for the series’ first two maps. There was little that Liquid could do against an Astralis that looked back in peak form after a summer season without in-game leader Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and rifler Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth. Liquid had little room to maneuver against Astralis on either map as Astralis executed pinpoint attacks from CSGO’s offensive side that penetrated Liquid’s passive defenses.
Although TL eventually grew more aggressive as the rounds went on, Astralis adapted quickly and closed both maps 16-11. Both Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken managed solid ratings on Inferno, but struggled on Overpass. Stewie’s .56 rating came with 19 deaths and only eight kills, a low point for the hybrid player that flashed his usual talent earlier in the tournament.
Dust 2 started in Liquid’s favor with a pistol round win. With an 87% winrate on the map over the past three months there were opportunities for Liquid to take control, but another of Liquid’s statistics stepped in and put a stop to that. Since CSGO teams returned from the player break, Liquid has tallied a shockingly bad 69.5% win rate in five-versus-four situations, the sixth worst out of top teams. Liquid had cleaned that up recently, but Astralis’ overwhelming executes were too much for Liquid to handle.
There was also the matter of gla1ve and Astralis AWPer Nicholai “device” Reedtz, both of whom suffocated Liquid with shots and clean, mechanical skill.
In the end, it was device who put up Astralis’ best numbers. The AWPer went +31, averaging a 1.49 rating and 99 ADR over the grand finals’ three maps. Despite a rough game earlier in the tournament against Vitality, device finished the event as its third-best player with a 1.26 rating out of Astralis’ 13 maps played.
Liquid’s impact was minimal but showed that the team still worked well together as a unit in the rounds it managed to win. Unfortunately, a post-game interview with Twistzz came with a shocking announcement. Twistzz revealed that today’s game against Astralis would be his last with Team Liquid.
Astralis’ win at the IEM Global Challenge marks their 21st appearance at an IEM event’s playoff stage, but fans will have to wait for some time before they can see any more exciting CSGO played out on the big stage. The Global Challenge was the final large CSGO event of 2020 and marks the start of CSGO’s winter player break. Competition isn’t set to resume until January 18 with the start of the BLAST Premier Global Final 2020. Complexity, G2, Vitality, FURIA, Evil Geniuses, and Natus Vincere are set to participate. BLAST’s Global Finals are set to kick off on January 18, 2021.