Photo: By Damian Gatkiewicz for ESL
‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
The first set of quarterfinals at IEM Katowice 2019 has ended. The second match of the day ended with a huge upset as ENCE beat Liquid 2-0. There were a lot of factors that affected this result so for now I’ll look at the big picture.
When we look at the head-to-head, Liquid should have had almost all of the advantages going into this matchup. Pound-for-pound they are either the first or second most skilled lineup in the world. In terms of tactics and teamplay, the old lineup was among the best in the world and nothing seemed to change that much in their Major run. Finally, all of these players have been to the Major stage before and have experience.
The experience was the big killer for me going into the matchup as you can never know for sure how well a rookie can deal with the pressure. The only possible advantage I saw that ENCE had over Liquid was their tactics and structure, but it didn’t seem to be such a huge advantage that it could overcome all of the different win conditions that Liquid had.
On Mirage, the big differential for me was Aleksib’s calling. He consistently made the rights calls and adjustments in each subsequent round. While Stewie2k was able to anchor the A-site, Aleksib was able to figure out the Liquid tendencies and did one of two things. Either he called for a similar tactic, but had a slight adjustment to it (like respecting the fact Liquid liked to fight through smokes) or a different approach that dealt with what Liquid was doing a previous round.
As for Liquid’s T-side, it fell flat. Their tactics were largely shut down either through bad timing or weird mind games (depending on how you rationalize what happened). The B-splits had no answer as to how to deal with the AUGs. Their A-splits had a strange layering to them that ENCE largely just ignored.
Overall, Liquid had the better players in that first game, but ENCE were the better team.
The second game was more a breakdown of Liquid than ENCE doing something masterful on the T-side. Liquid were up 15-8 with seven match points. Aleksib started to call defaults for the rest of the half and Liquid were unable to adjust or find a play that could clinch them the round. The first half the CT-side was largely carried by EliGE’s winning opening duels. Once that cooled down, they had no answers for ENCE’s default. Outside of that, it was possible to call this a failure to perform under pressure by individuals on the team (outside of EliGE and Twistzz, no one seemed to be having a particularly good game).
While it’s strange to say, I think ENCE going 0-2 in the Legends stage was incredibly helpful for the team as it forced them to play with the threat of elimination on the line. So when they came to the playoffs, they performed well as a team. Liquid on the other hand, cruised through and when their backs were against the wall, they crumbled.