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Stories to Watch at IEM Summer Playoffs

Zakaria Almughrabi

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s IEM Summer Playoffs are just around the corner. Of the sixteen teams who entered the fray, only six remain. A $250,000 prize pool as well as a ton of ESL Pro Tour and BLAST Premier circuit points are on the line. Some favorites have survived to this point, while some were trumped by surprising arrivals. The trophy is truly anyone’s for the taking.

IEM Summer Evil Geniuses

EG has managed to reverse their fortunes seemingly overnight. Will they be able to keep up the pace? (Image Credit ESL)

Two Favorites on the Same Side

After the ruckus of the Group Stage, only two teams left in the running currently hold a top 5 ranking worldwide. The favorites to take IEM Summer at this point are G2 Esports and Gambit Esports. Both teams were members of Group A, but never ended up meeting. G2 had an easy time on their side, crushing Extra Salt 16-1 in round one before taking down FunPlus Phoenix to earn their playoff berth. While they did lose a map to FPX, it was on the newest addition to the pool in Ancient.

Awaiting G2 in the Group A Finals was shockingly not the number one team in the world. Gambit was upset by a recovering Team Vitality in pretty decisive fashion. The French squad took a 16-13 and a 16-8 on their way to the surprise victory. Although G2 ended up sweeping them back in the Finals, the effort was enough to put Vitality through to the playoffs in second seed.

Gambit, on the other hand, had to run through the Lower Bracket without losing a match. They started off incredibly strong, stomping another tournament hopeful in Astralis with a 16-8 and a 16-7. In the last chance qualifier, Gambit nearly met their match in Complexity. After trading maps with comfortable score lines, the final map would decide who earned the last playoff spot. Thirty rounds of Vertigo later, Gambit managed to deny overtime with only Desert Eagles to clinch the win.

Gambit and G2 now both reside in the upper half of the playoff bracket. G2’s first seed has bought them a ticket straight to the Semifinals, so they’re on the waiting end. Gambit have been inconsistent so far at IEM Summer. It is unknown which version will be showing up for their remaining matches, the one that sweeps Astralis, or the one that loses to Vitality and nearly Complexity. Their first-round opponent won’t be a walk in the park either.

EG’s Resurrection

One of the last teams on anyone’s mind at IEM Summer was Evil Geniuses. The North American powerhouse that had held the world’s attention throughout 2020 has been on a downward spiral for months now. After the loss of star player Ethan “Ethan” Arnold in late February, EG has had problem after problem.

Their first event after pickup up replacement Owen “oBo” Schlatter ended with a last place performance at ESL Pro League S13. Results didn’t improve in April as they suffered embarrassing losses against the likes of Dignitas and Entropiq. Long-time player Tarik “tarik” Celik was replaced by Michał “MICHU” Müller in the meantime. Even still, EG’s fortunes didn’t reverse. They got last place in the first RMR event of the year at cs_summit 8, failing to get out of a group with paiN Gaming and O Plano. All of these terrible performances added up and the squad fell to their lowest ranking under the EG banner ever at 38th.

Needed to continue making changes, EG parted ways with their legacy coach, Wilton “zews” Prado, a day before IEM Summer began. Strangely, playing coach-less has seemed to be the answer EG was looking for. Their best-of-one against Team Spirit ended in their favor. Surely the faltering squad would be outclassed by the second-ranked team in the world, Heroic.

Instead, the unthinkable happened. Evil Geniuses pulled out a 2-1 upset against the Danish giants. The first two maps were decided by one round with the picking team barely pulling them out. Even making it to make three against Heroic was a surprise, but EG were hungry for more. The entire team came alive on Mirage with three players breaking 20 frags. In-game leader Peter “Stanislaw” Jarguz then put Heroic into their grave.

We know what Evil Genius’s players are capable of. They have shown us in the past that they can all be world-class if the situation is right. The fact that they can hit these heights isn’t a surprise. The surprise is how quickly they’ve appeared to turn things around. If EG can pull off this run and take home their first trophy in 10 months, they’ll have gone from their lowest low to one of their highest highs at the IEM Summer Playoffs.

A Wide-Open Bottom Bracket

The final two playoff contenders not yet mentioned are and OG. Both teams hail from Group B and have actually met in a match. In that Upper Bracket Semifinal, OG came out on top as the less favored team in convincing fashion. Afterward, they took a 2-1 win over EG to secure first seed. Of all the teams in Group B, OG was not predicted high on the list for a first-round playoff bye.

OG has been going through a rebuild for a while now. They finally established their new full roster in mid-April and have expectedly taken time to ramp back up. OG managed to qualify for IEM Summer with wins over FaZe Clan and Movistar Riders. However, a last place finish at Flashpoint 3 put a damper on their return party.

In reality, their matchups were absolutely brutal. OG was forced to play Astralis and Team Vitality before exiting the tournament winless. When IEM Summer started up, OG were determined to show their improvement. Their wins over NiP and VP were definitely notable, and the two maps they beat EG on were very dominant. Now, OG have the opportunity to go all the way. They await the winners of Vitality versus VP.

Neither team has been having the best results as of recent. Vitality and VP don’t have a single top 6 finish between them since late February. Vitality especially have been on a surprising slip that had no real visible cause. Their struggles led to the benching of veteran Cedric “RpK” Guipouy in April. Two months later, Vitality looks to have healed considerably.

Taking down Gambit 2-0 is no small feat. Even if they did get swept by G2, Vitality narrowly lost their own map 16-14 and could have easily forced a tiebreaker. The French squad will be looking to continue their rebound and break back into the spotlight.

The IEM Summer Playoffs begin on June 11th at 10:45 A.M. EST with Evil Geniuses vs Gambit Esports.