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ESL One Cologne: Our Wrap Up Of The Action

The most exciting event in Counter-Strike has come to an end, ESL One Cologne shut its doors for another year on Sunday evening. Overall the event seemed to be nothing but an improvement over those that came before, I have no complaints from this side of the stage and hear good things from the other. The Quarter-Finals had mostly expected results with Natus Vincere taking down G2 2-0, FaZe slicing through Liquid 2-0 and Cloud9 coming out ahead 2-1 in a close affair with NiP. Meanwhile SK did manage to overcome OpTic 2-1, but not after a shock first map which saw them 13-2 down on Mirage before ending 16-10. The Semi-Finals pitted Cloud9 against Natus Vincere first, North America’s final hope in the tournament against the European team trying desperately to find a result that they can build from. First came Mirage, on which Na’Vi took a three round lead on the CT side. Cloud9 proceed to answer back with seven rounds in a row of their own before the half ends 10-5 in favor of the Americans. Na’Vi appeared to be fighting their way back into the map before finally being shut out 16-13. Over to Overpass and the story is much the same, however this time in much closer margins. The American side this time taking the first half pistol round, this time however they turn it into six straight rounds. The first half ends 9-6 in favor of the Americans, which suggested Na’Vi may have a chance of taking this to a third map. However it was not to be as while Mike ‘shroud’ Grzesiek was the consistent super star of the map, it was Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert who brought out the clutch play. The score is 15-14, Cloud9 need one more round to reach the Grand Finals, Na’Vi need to survive. A chaotic assault on the B bomb site sees Cloud9 get the opening picks before Egor ‘flamie’ Vasilyev appears to shut down their hope with a triple spray down leaving n0thing alone versus two. He quickly replies onto flamie, but with 16 health and no bomb, he has but one chance to beat the full health Ladislav ‘GuardiaN’ Kovacs. n0thing proceeds to flank the entire way around the map and the A bomb site before shooting Guardian in the back with a single bullet to thrust his team into the Grand Final. The next matchup was one that many expected and wished had been the Grand Final, a repeat of the intense games at ECS Season 3 Finals, SK Gaming vs FaZe Clan. The first map between the two didn’t quite have the expected nail biting atmosphere. The Brazilians lay waste to the FaZe side in a simple 16-4 fashion with Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David showing why is considered possibly the best player in the world, finishing 22-8. The second map however brought about a much more entertaining game, with both sides trading 9-6 halfs taking us into overtime. However the story of the map was not so much two teams performing at their absolute best, but one man performing at an incredible individual level. Havard ‘rain’ Nygaard all but single handedly dragged FaZe through the map with kill after crucial kill. Despite being 39-21 at the end of overtime, a full 18 kills ahead of his next closest teammate and 8 ahead of SK’s top fragger, he could not pull them through and they fall 16-19 to the Brazilians. Anybody could have predicted one of the finalists, but I’d be willing to bet not many people would have put their money on Cloud9 making it this far especially after their 0-2 start. Yet there they were, standing against the best team in the world SK, with five potential maps ahead of them. All that remained to be seen was could they do the unthinkable? You see, the difficult thing about SK is, whilst most teams can either have an entire team work together or one star player turn up, they have a rotation of game stopping superstars who at any given minute can turn the game on its head. The first map, Cobblestone, had a lackluster feeling to it. C9 started off well, taking a convincing pistol round on the CT side. Enter coldzera, alone against three with a kill already to his name, wielding nothing but a cz-75 and 45 health. One long range headshot against n0thing in middle and he’s down to his final 12 bullets and the CTs know his location. One more kill and he drops Timothy ‘autimatic’ Ta, falling to five bullets and 17 health with one left to find and 15 seconds on the clock. He is challenged by shroud, dropping to four health, he finds the kill with his last bullet and turns the game around in the second round. This one incredible round took what would normally be a minimum of a three round lead away from C9 and turned it into a 7-1 lead for SK. Finally the half ended 10-5 in favor of the team from Brazil. Once more C9 win the pistol round and this time don’t let the economy advantage slip out of their hands bringing the score back to 10-8. From this point on however, they only manage to find themselves one more round via a Jake ‘Stewie2K’ Yip ace, and fall 16-9 in the first map of the best of 5. The next two maps were similar to a series of books or movies, each had their own exciting storyline but in the end, Potter lives and there is only one winner. Train started off promising for Cloud9, taking a 10-5 lead into their CT side, which would normally be a solid lead on such a tough map to execute from the T side. But this isn’t a normal game and they were not playing against a normal team. This is the Grand Final of ESL One Cologne and they are playing against SK Gaming who apparently didn’t get the memo, sweeping them aside with a second half score of 2-11 and an overall 12-16. Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo decided to take the lead in this map with a score of 34-16 all whilst being the in game leader and the AWPer, by all accounts and incredible performance. As stated earlier, unfortunately for Cloud9, Inferno started out the same as Train, taking a 10-5 lead. But it also ended all to similarly for the North Americans, and whilst they did gain an extra two rounds in the second half, 4-11 is not enough as they fall 14-16 and crash out of the Grand Final in three straight maps. The Brazilian machine does it again taking their third trophy in a row and making their intentions for the upcoming Krakow Major absolutely clear. Even with the absence of Astralis taken into account, I believe we are absolutely in a time where SK are the undisputed best team in the world and it is now up to the rest of the Counter-Strike scene to figure out a way to consistently challenge them. The game is their playground and they don’t look likely to give up their place on the swings.