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NAVI Win PGL Stockholm Major in Flawless Fashion

Zakaria Almughrabi

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s long-awaited return to the Major has officially come to a close. It had been over two full years since the last one at StarLadder Berlin. Now, history has been made in multiple ways at PGL Stockholm. NAVI has completed the first flawless Major run in the history of CS:GO. This is also the first Major title for one of Counter-Strike’s legacy organizations and for CS:GO’s greatest player of all time in Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev.

NAVI Win PGL Stockholm

NAVI has completed their flawless run at PGL Stockholm, winning their first ever Major title. (Image Credit PGL)

Creating the Dream Team

NAVI were undoubtedly the best CS:GO team in the world coming into the first Major in two years. This organization had already made the finals of two back-to-back Majors in 2015 and 2016, but had no trophy to show for either. The NAVI roster is entirely different now. Their longest-standing player is s1mple. With NAVI, s1mple has solidified himself as the most likely candidate for the greatest player of all time. While s1mple has always had the skill to take him towards a Major title, the cast surrounding him is just as important.

Aside from Denis “electronic” Sharipov who joined in late 2017, the rest of NAVI is made up of a new generation of CIS superstars. Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov joined in mid-2019 and has truly come into his own as an in-game leader. Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy was picked up as NAVI’s new Support player in 2020. The final piece to the puzzle was young star Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi who was moved up from NAVI Junior at the start of the year.

NAVI 2021

It took a long time for this NAVI roster to come together and rise to these heights. (Image Credit ESL)

Frontrunners from the Start

Natus Vincere rolled into the PGL Stockholm Major with all of the momentum in the world. They had just completed their Intel Grand Slam a month ago. Three of their four ESL and IEM tournament wins needed for this achievement came between May and now. In addition to the Intel Grand Slam, NAVI lined their trophy cabinets at IEM Cologne, DreamHack Masters Spring, ESL Pro League S14, and the BLAST Global Finals just in 2021.

NAVI’s consistently high placements in the CIS Regional Major Rankings (RMR) events throughout the year earned them a top two seed at PGL Stockholm. This meant that they got to start in the New Legends Stage as part of the top 16. NAVI’s first two matches were best-of-ones against Heroic and These were quick and easy, 16-11 on Ancient versus Heroic and 16-4 on Overpass versus VP.

A best-of-three for a spot in the top eight as an undefeated 3-0 team awaited. Ninjas in Pyjamas were NAVI’s opponents. Nuke and Overpass were the maps, and both were one-sided affairs. Back-to-back 16-9 wins for NAVI booked them a ticket to the PGL Stockholm playoffs.

The Domination Continues

NAVI’s first opponent in the knockout bracket was Team Vitality. The French squad has been on a massive resurgence in recent months, even meeting NAVI in the ESL Pro League S14 finals and early besting them. Even so, NAVI made quick work of Vitality. The CIS squad took VIT’s map pick of Dust2 16-11 before returning to their home of Nuke for a 16-13. That 2-0 victory led them to the semifinals against Gambit Esports.

Gambit had been NAVI’s foil for the entirety of 2021. The year began with NAVI’s CIS brethren stealing their spotlight at IEM Katowice, a tournament that NAVI won the year prior. Both teams have had amazing years, winning a combined seven international events. With the first Major final in two years on the line, NAVI exerted their will over their regional rivals. A 16-8 on Overpass led to a 16-3 crushing on Mirage. Just like that, NAVI found themselves in the Grand Finals without dropping a map.

A Storybook Ending

From the start of 2020 until now, CS:GO has only seen three international LAN events. The first two at IEM Katowice 2020 and IEM Cologne 2021 culminated in a NAVI versus G2 Esports Grand Final. Both of those matchups ended in 3-0 sweeps in favor of NAVI. G2 Esports would get their third shot at the throne here at PGL Stockholm.

G2 were one of three European teams to earn a starting spot in the New Legends Stage from their RMR performance. Much like NAVI, G2 also earned a 3-0 finish and a top two playoff seed. They then rolled through NiP 2-0 before narrowly beating Heroic in a third map overtime tiebreaker. No team was better equipped to challenge NAVI’s era than G2.

G2 went into the map veto with a curveball planned. They chose Ancient, the newest map in the rotation in an attempt to catch NAVI off guard early. The first half showed this idea in full force. Despite losing the pistol round and going down 0-3, G2 stormed back to a 7-8 half from T side. Sparks flew between these two teams as clutch plays defined the map.

The score stayed tight in the second half. At 12-10 with G2’s economy on the line, the rookie b1t pulled off composed 1v2 clutch to put NAVI in the driver’s seat.

NAVI would win four of the next five rounds to complete the 16-11 and earn Major Championship point. Additionally, s1mple had shown up in full force to the biggest game of his career. He earned a 32-17 KD ratio with 107.9 ADR and was the driving force for NAVI. G2 would need to perform some magic to keep the series alive, especially considering Nuke was next.

Closing It Out

NAVI held a 17 map win streak on Nuke coming into this game. The score line did not reflect that dominance. NAVI’s usual fire on the T side was being stifled by the raw aggression of G2. Audric “JaCkz” Jug was repeatedly crushing NAVI in lobby, earning 21 kills in the first 15 rounds alone. A 10-5 halftime lead was the result.

However, NAVI was not about to be shut out of their playground. NAVI fired back with a force buy victory after losing the second pistol round. The next eight rounds were traded evenly, bringing the score to 15-10 with G2 on map point. From here, NAVI strapped in for a five round win streak to keep the flawless Major run alive. G2’s star player Nikola “NiKo” Kovac had a chance to end the map early, but it was not to be.

Overtime ensued. NAVI earned two rounds on their CT side plus the first round on their T side, giving them two match points. However, key rounds from the Kovac cousins kept G2 alive. The second overtime also started with two rounds for NAVI, but this time on offense. NAVI swapped back for two final rounds to complete the 22-19 victory and secure the Major title.

Fittingly, the Major MVP Award went to s1mple. In addition to his monster Ancient performance, s1mple earned 40 kills on Nuke. The king of Counter-Strike has finally earned his crown, and in MVP form to boot.

The NAVI era of Counter-Strike is in full swing. No team has been as dominant as them in the past two years. Not only that, the majority of this roster is still very young. While many teams will be going through roster shuffles and growing pains, NAVI are here now in full force. They are the best CS:GO team in the world.