In about 2 hours, the IEM Chicago grand final will begin.

The Teams

The grand final includes: Liquid, and Astralis, who have a lot of history recently in CS:GO. The Danes of Astralis have dominated the matchup lifetime with 28 wins and just 9 losses against the North American squad. Overall, Astralis has enjoyed success as of late, including their major victory in the Faceit Major in England in September. This matchup has shaped up in to a David vs. Goliath situation, as Liquid previously endured an eight-map losing streak to Astralis, including a rough 0-4 in the Faceit Major. Recently, Liquid had finally snapped the losing streak on Inferno, but overall in the past 11 maps, Astralis has won 10.

How They got there

Liquid has not had the cleanest run to the grand final, as each of their Best of three matches have gone the distance, including a loss to a rejuvenated Fnatic squad, who has overhauled their roster, and enjoyed a deep run to the Semi Finals before eventually losing to Astralis. In their Quarter-Final match against LDLC, Liquid dropped Overpass in 16-11 fashion to LDLC. Following Overpass, LDLC started off on the Terrorist side red hot, and stretched their lead to an 11-4 halftime score line. This seemed to snap Liquid back to reality (oop there goes gravity), as liquid dominated the second half 12-3. The decider took place on Mirage, and it was no contest. Liquid rattled off a twelve round first half, and finished it up in convincing fashion to take the decider 16-4. This ensured that Liquid would not fall prey to a new up and comer like LDLC, and pitted them against FaZe in the Semi Final. Faze has been able to handle European competition, as they defeated Astralis earlier in the tournament. However, it seems North America is still a riddle that FaZe is unable to solve. FaZe started hot, and stole Liquid’s pick of Inferno, 16-7. Inferno seemed like Liquid’s number was up, as Niko dominated with a 27-10 score line. Every player for faze was positive in the K/D stat, and Liquid was all negative. However, Liquid was not ready to be finished, as they completely dominated FaZe’s pick of Mirage 16-1. Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken is making a strong case for being the best player in NA. The kid is blossoming in to a superstar, as he dominated the top talent of FaZe with a 23-3 score line on Mirage. (Yeah, he did that….. he died 3 times total in 17 rounds) Twistzz also boasted a 127.6 Average Damage per Round, and an HLTV rating of 2.35 (out of 2). Nitro also hit form as we saw him achieve a stat line of 20-5 with 106.3 ADR. NAF-FLY recovered from a dreadful inferno that saw him go 8-20 with a 41.3 ADR, to go 17-7 with 103 ADR. The air seemed to leave FaZe’s sails, as they were never able to recover, and Liquid would go on to finish them off to advance to the final boss, with a score of 16-4 on Cache. Nitro continued to put on a clinic, but the ADR was more balanced out. Nitro went 17-9 with 80 ADR. Twistzz fell back a little in terms of statistics, but Jon “EliGE” Jablonowski was ready to step up with a score of 18-9 with 85 ADR.

Astralis had an interesting run to earn their way in to the grand final. They dropped a best of three against FaZe 2-0, in what seemed to be convincing fashion for FaZe. FaZe won their pick Mirage 16-7, and then beat Astralis on Inferno in overtime 19-15. A flawless victory in overtime seemed to give FaZe a one way ticket to the finals. Astralis had no answer for the likes of NiKo. Nikola “NiKo” Kovac enjoy a 56-35 score line with 111.9 ADR in the series. Every player for Astralis was negative for the series, which rarely happens for the Danish squad. The domination at the hands of FaZe seemed to light a fire under Astralis, as they snapped out of the funk they were in and went on the play Mousesports to earn a spot in the Semi-Finals. They finished the series strong, 2-0 in map count. This time all but Magisk were in the green for Astralis, a particularly strong showing in fragging power against Mouse, who seem to be in a bit of a free fall situation as Robin “Ropz” Kool has Kooled off. (Ha, I did that.) The next series pitted the Danes against an old giant, Fnatic. Fnatic went on a legendary run in 2015 that continued in to 2016 where it seemed the Swedes won everything they entered. They seemed to have rejuvenated the roster with the loan of Flusha to Cloud 9. They pushed Astralis to the breaking point on every single map, in an exciting Semi Final that was worthy of the grand final slot. The first map was Astralis’ pick, Dust 2. It went the distance, as Astralis needed all thirty rounds to finish off Fnatic 16-14. Simon “Twist” Eliasson led Fnatic and the server with a 31 frag effort, and 92.4 ADR. This fantastic effort from a newer Fnatic player fell short thanks to a uniform effort from Astralis. Peter “Dupreeh” Rasmussen led the way in terms of ADR with 93.6, and 21-19 K/D. Nicolai “device” Reedtz, had a 23-22 K/D (78.3 ADR), and Emil “Magisk” Reif had a 22-19 K/D (77.1 ADR). Mirage brought excitement, as Jesper “JW” Wecksell seemed to channel his inner 2015 JW. Freddy “Krimz” Johansson also seemed to hit another gear as he and JW dominated the server, with Krimz going 28-15 (99.2 ADR) and JW going  27-13 (91.7 ADR). Astralis struggled as each player went negative in K/D but the score ended up closer than you would think, as it was 16-12 when the dust settled on the battlefield of Mirage. This fantastic series would be decided on Inferno, and it would require overtime. This time Astralis would not fall short in OT, as they claimed the final map 19-17. To force OT Xyp9x pulled off an INSANE quad kill clutch to keep Astralis alive 14-15. Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth turned out to be a worthy hero, as he enjoyed success on Inferno to a tune of 33-20 (93.4 ADR). The next closest  Astralis player was Magisk at 26-20 (78.6 ADR). The run for Fnatic was over, but many CS:GO fans are excited for what Fnatic had accomplished at IEM Chicago. The landscape could be shifting as LDLC and Fnatic both made surprising runs.

 

Preview

The match up is an exciting one, as many North American CS:GO fans are waiting for Liquid to break out of their shell. Every tournament feels like Liquid get so close to going on this huge run, and each time they’ve run in to the juggernaut of Astralis. There’s no denying that currently Astralis is the #1 team in HLTV.org rankings in the world. They have an incredibly deep map pool, and they rarely lose Best of Three series. Liquid comes in ranked #3 in the world, and a win against Astralis would certainly leapfrog them in to second over Natus Vincere, who did not have a welcome stay in Chicago. There is no shame in losing to Astralis, as everyone seems to lose when the lights get brightest on the stage in the grand finals. However, this is an event that is a bit different than most, as it sports a Best of Five in the grand final. Most players agree that the Best of Five format is a welcome change, but they would not like to play a Best of Five for a Major Championship. Fatigue begins to play a role, and if the map count gets higher towards the game five decider, the gameplay will get sloppy. However, that benefits young talent like Twistzz, as I believe he will be having a great grand final today. It is almost impossible to believe that Liquid will win this grand final. Best of Five hurts the North Americans, as a team like Astralis with an incredible map pool will be an advantage for Astralis. They boast one of the deepest map pools in the world. Win conditions for a Liquid victory would be every single player clicking today. We saw liquid advance through this tournament with some players have an off game here or there, or even an off series. Today, obviously, every player is going to have to play at the top of their potential. Nitro having such a great Semi Final does bode well for the Liquid side. Astralis win conditions are different, as they are the juggernaut here. I believe if Astralis can get their maps, they could potentially not play their best, but execute better tactics than Liquid. Their playbook is extremely deep, and they can afford to have a player not playing their best by using their tactical prowess to overpower Liquid. That’s not to say Liquid doesn’t have tactics, because they are the most tactically sound team in North America. You can’t rise to #3 in the world by just Scrimming around or pugging out. They have a system in place with help from their coach, to put players in the best positions possible for success.

Prediction

I really want Liquid to win this, as an American, it would be great to see this young team overcome this dominant Astralis team. However I believe they will be overwhelmed by the deep tactics and map pool from Astralis. Astralis will be pushed and tested often, but they will prevail ultimately. The map veto is not as important in a best of five series, as there will be maps selected by the opposite team in which your team does not want to play. However, I believe Liquid will get some maps, and surprise Astralis at times with tactical depth. This is going the distance today folks, be ready for a long one. IF there is a sweep, and the chance of that is VERY VERY VERY low… Liquid would be the ones to snowball out of control and just sweep Astralis away, Astralis can struggle with dominating players, if Twistzz, and EliGE just show up fragging like monsters; and Nitro Naf and Taco are along for the ride as helpers, and not passengers; a sweep could happen.

Final Score: Astralis wins (3-2) Inferno is map five, and Astralis wins Inferno 16-12 off of a strong T side.

 

For the followup article concluding a wild weekend in Chicago, and for more CS:GO coverage, follow us on Twitter at @BonusAccessory

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