Counter-Strike: Global Offensive returns to China this week with the Intel Extreme Masters Beijing, and another tournament means another chance for CSGO’s top teams to continue to dominate the competition.
IEM Beijing has an interesting assortment of teams in attendance. There are the four European teams in Astralis, ENCE, FaZe Clan, and Team Vitality. Rounding out the list is the new North American 100 Thieves squad signed away from Renegades and two Chinese teams in ViCi Gaming and TYLOO.
ENCE was not originally invited to the Beijing tournament, but instead serves as a replacement for Team Liquid. TL released a video in late October explaining that the team would skip the Chinese tournament due to the number of games and amount of travel preceding it.
Beijing will also count as the fourth tournament of IEM Grand Slam Season 3. The IEM Grand Slam is a series sponsored by Intel that awards $1M to a team that meets specific qualifications. To win the Grand Slam, a team must win six out of ten tournaments from a predetermined list, or four of those tournaments along with either IEM Katowice, ESL One Cologne, or one of Valve’s two annual Major tournaments.
So far Intel has announced seven of the tournaments that are eligible for the Grand Slam.
Astralis and Evil Geniuses lead the teams in the odds of winning the IEM tournament, but some other teams are definitely good enough to play well and sneak past the favorites to win in Beijing.
Astralis are in an interesting place right now for a team that some still consider to be the best in the world. After an intimidating run in 2018, 2019’s Astralis has been a different beast. While the Danish team won the StarLadder Berlin Major at the end of August, they’ve failed to win a tournament since.
While Astralis is hitting speed bumps, Evil Geniuses is on the upswing. EG has placed first in ESL One New York and the StarSeries & i-League Season 8 in the past months after breaking into the HLTV top three by placing third at the StarLadder Berlin Major at the end of August. EG is in a prime position to take first place in Beijing, especially considering Astralis’ recent form and the quality of the rest of the competition.
There are other teams that could make surprise runs in Beijing. FaZe Clan is coming off their tournament win at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen. FaZe was unstoppable as they locked in a finals spot with a 3-0 run before dropping their final game against Team Liquid.
Despite the loss to TL, FaZe looked rejuvenated with the addition of Helvijs “broky” Saukants. The young player is FaZe’s biggest weapon in Beijing. Since FaZe’s BLAST performance came with broky playing, his addition might be the push that this team of superstars needs to again live up to their individual reputations.
Fans know what they’re getting with 100 Thieves. In early November, 100 Thieves signed the Renegades roster wholesale. With it’s reentry into the CSGO space, 100 Thieves will be pushing for a celebratory victory.
Renegades managed to place third at the Berlin Major, so they clearly have the talent to win big. Their coach, Aleksandar “kassad” Trifunovićis, is another huge asset for the team. The trouble will be whether or not players like Justin “jks” Savage and Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai can perform like the star players they are often considered to be. If they can, fans can’t count out 100 Thieves.
Team Vitality was the next big thing after the Berlin Major, but they’ve completely disappeared since then. After a dreadful StarSeries & i-League Season 8 finish and underwhelming results during the ECS season, Vitality is starting to look like just another French team that starts fast and flames out faster.
While they placed second at DreamHack Masters Malmo after the addition of Richard “shox” Papillon, losing to FURIA at StarSeries is both a bad game and a sign of a bad future.
If Vitality can find some footing they’ll have a chance at a top-three finish. They just haven’t shown anything that proves that they can defeat the other major teams attending..
The remaining teams are ENCE, Vici Gaming, and TYLOO. ENCE can upset anyone on a good day, but those good days are fewer and farther between. When ENCE released their in-game leader top player Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen in the beginning of September, they lost the clever plays and aggression they were known for.
ViCi and TYLOO are the kings of the Asian CSGO scene, but years of tournaments have shown that they can’t hold a candle to international competition. Even on home soil, both ViCI and Tyloo probably won’t impress, but one can never count out Asian teams in international competition. Advanced tactics are a weakness of the Asian CSGO region. But occasionally, their different meta can surprise and win against stronger teams.
IEM Beijing is running a GSL group stage format. This means the eight teams are split into two groups of four before playing a double-elimination bracket. Each match is a best-of-three, and the top two teams from each group move forward to playoffs.
Playoffs are single-elimination best-of-threes.The IEM Beijing grand final will be a best-of-five series.
For those in North America, all of these matches will take place late into the night. European and Asian viewers will have an easier time, but North American fans might have to keep away from spoilers if they want to be surprised by the VODs. The opening matchups for Beijing are already set.
Wednesday, November 6
Astralis vs ViCi Gaming 11:00 pm EDT
100 Thieves vs ENCE 11:00 pm EDT
Thursday, November 8
Team Vitality vs TYLOO 2:50 am EDT
FaZe Clan vs Evil Geniuses 2:50 am EDT