G2 and Na’Vi may put an end to their rivalry for the final time at IEM Katowice 2023.
As far as rivalries go in CSGO esports, Natus Vincere and G2 Esports is one of the industry’s oldest. Stretching back to 2019, the two teams have traded wins back and forth for a total match score of 13-8 in Na’Vi’s favor. However, with the end of that team’s era, it may tip toward G2 Esports soon enough.
Here’s a history of the rivalry between the teams and why IEM Katowice 2023 may be the end of it all.
A brief history of the G2 Na’Vi rivalry
The story starts not as a rivalry between teams, but between players. Despite preferring different weapons, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Nikola “NiKo” Kovač are both the faces of their respective teams. Teammate interviews paint them both as the beating heart of the squad whose dedication was matched only by their approachability.
They quickly earned similar roles in their squads, with both stars famed for their explosive moments. However, s1mple’s consistency put him past his rival in many minds. In 2020, HLTV ranked s1mple as the second-best individual CSGO player in the world. NiKo was fourth, which fans hotly debated.
This personal rivalry died down at the end of the online era, but it evolved into what we know today when NiKo joined G2 Esports at the end of 2020. The rivalry was now a team matter, though it a quite a while for G2 to find the right captain for the matchup. In 2021, Natus Vincere snubbed G2 Esports at the $2 million Stockholm Major. The highly-anticipated grand final was a contested 2-0 for Na’Vi. It all ended with an infamous missed Deagle shot from NiKo to s1mple.
But ever since Justin “jks” Savage and Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen joined last August, G2 has figured out how to beat the Eastern European icons. ESL Pro League was the start, with G2 winning game three on Na’Vi’s home turf Mirage. At BLAST Spring Groups just last month, G2 double 2-0ed Natus Vincere right out of the tournament. s1mple still performed quite well by HLTV’s metric at 1.20 for the event. NiKo boasted a 1.48.
G2 is now firmly in the driver’s seat, and Katowice is a chance to prove its supremacy in the game’s most important city.
IEM Katowice 2023 is a breaking point for both teams
There are many reasons why IEM Katowice 2023 matters for the G2 Na’Vi rivalry, and the first is that both teams have a history with the city.
Na’Vi has historically done better than G2 at Katowice, landing on the podium in 2019 when the event was elevated to a major. The 2020 IEM World Finals also took place in the city, where Na’Vi swept the last offline grand final of the year 3-0 from G2. NiKo’s teams has been generally less successful, failing to pierce into the top four until just last year. At the 2022 iteration, G2 defeated Natus Vincere 2-0 in the semifinals. It was the first time in nine tournaments that the mixed European team won the matchup.
In the grander scope, the event also represents a turning point for both teams. Last year was supposed to be Na’Vi’s era, but real-world political issues and some roster troubles ended it before it began. The squad struggled to perform up to expectation at the tail end of the year. Na’Vi’s flawless run at the 2022 Stockholm Major was expected to herald a string of championships for the major winners, but now the team has fallen below the likes of FaZe Clan and Heroic.
As for G2 Esports, 2022 included multiple embarrassments for the organization. A 12th-place finish at Cologne prompted a flurry of roster changes in the first half of the year. Even after stabilizing, the squad ultimately failed to qualify for the Rio Major through the RMR. The World Finals was a poetic end to G2’s 2022 season, but the new year brings a new legacy to create.
For both Na’Vi and G2, IEM Katowice is an opportunity to take control of the new year. It’s the first massive tournament of the season in a city that is synonymous with CSGO. Despite very different recent results, both squads still have plenty to prove, each hoping to establish itself as a team to beat. In the case of NiKo and s1mple, it’s even more personal than that. When Na’Vi and G2 finally face each other in Katowice, it will be the culmination of a storyline years in the making.
Has G2 finally surpassed its longtime bracket demon? Or will Natus Vincere attempt to restart the Na’Vi era in Poland?