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Photo: By Adam Lakomy for ESL

‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast


The IEM Katowice 2019 Major is set to start tomorrow with the Challengers Stage. This section (formerly known as the Major qualifier) has gotten more competitive in recent iterations as the tier 2/tier 3 levels of the scene have dramatically improved in recent years. Rather than do a raw pick’em, I’m going to categorize each team based on the range of expectation I have for them.


Teams that are a lock


Expected Range of Results: 3-0, 3-1, 3-2


These are the teams that are favorites to make it out of the Challengers stage. If they get eliminated in this section of the tournament, I’d consider it a massive upset. These teams include:


  • Fnatic
  • NRG
  • NiP
  • ENCE


Among those four teams, I consider NRG to be the best, however I wouldn’t pick them to go 3-0. The biggest problem NRG faces is their lack of experience on their star players. They’ll have to adjust to that particular atmosphere, so even though they’re the best team here, they don’t have the best odds to clean sweep. The team that I think does is Fnatic. Every player outside of Brollan has plenty of veteran experience, so I’ll pick them to go 3-0.


Teams that are likely to go through


Expected Range of Results: 3-1, 3-2, 2-3


A tier below the for sure locks. These are the teams that should go through, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got upset on the last day. These teams include:


  • Cloud9
  • TyLoo
  • Vitality


While Cloud9 showed a lot of good things at the ELeague Invitational, it was still a small tournament with a low sample size of teams. I don’t how that team will react to the wide dispora of players and play styles that are coming into this section. Even so, I think the firepower between kioShiMa and autimatic almost makes them a certain lock to get through this stage.


As for my other picks, I think both Vitality and AVANGAR showed themselves to be solid reliable teams in the Minors. Vitality is a bit more on the edge for me as their superstar player is ZywOo and we’ve never seen him play at this level of competition or pressure before.


My final pick is one that is based purely on paper potential. TyLoo have a wealth of firepower so I think they should be able to blow through this stage.


Puncher’s Chance


Expected Range of Results: 3-1, 3-2, 2-3, 1-3, 0-3


These were the teams that have a chance, but it will depend on the form of the day. The four teams I put in this category were:

  • Furia
  • G2
  • Vega Squadron
  • Renegades


G2 has the highest potential firepower with Shox and kennyS, but I don’t have any data on how they’ve been doing since their recent roster change. The last time I saw them, Shox was their best performing player.


Among the teams here, I think the two with the highest level of upset here are Furia and Vega Squadron. Both have a decisive aggressive style that should work for them in the bo1 games. The problem for both is putting them in a bo3 against the better teams. What I like about both is that aggressive styles of play are rewarded in high pressure tournaments like the Challengers stage of the Major.


The fourth team is Renegades. My biggest fear for this team is that the core of this squad has often let the pressure get to them whenever it came to the majors. They have the least potential among the four to make it to the Legends stage. If Renegades do make it, my guess is that it will be off the back of Gratisfaction.


Bottom of the pack


Expected Range of Results: 0-3, 1-3, 2-3


The teams in this category should be fighting to ruin the lives of other teams. They should try to play their best and gain some experience. The final four teams include:


  • Winstrike
  • Spirit
  • Grayhound
  • Vici Gaming


These are the teams who require multiple conditions in order to win. These can include things like having a good day, winning a critical pistol round and breaking the economy, or having the opponent have a bad day. The best example of this was in the play-ins when VG took out North to qualify for the Challengers Stage. If any of these teams make it to the Legends stage, it should be considered a great achievement relative to their skill level.

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