No one wants to be on the wrong end of a highlight, especially one that can decide the outcome of a pivotal match. It doesn’t get much worse than Gambit losing a one-vs-four to cadiaN and Heroic that won the Danish side ESL Pro League season 13. But Liquid’s one-vs-five collapse in the quarterfinals of season 14, also to Heroic, is a strong contender.
Trailing 12-3 at halftime on Inferno, map three of a playoff series, Liquid pulled off a tremendous comeback on the CT side. They won 12 of the next 14 rounds to take a 15-14 lead going into the final round of regulation. Stewie and FalleN’s AWP duo had eliminated four Heroic players in that round, leaving Ismail “refrezh” Ali as the last one alive. Then, chaos ensued.
The one-vs-five clutch from refrezh sent the map to overtime, where Heroic’s momentum carried them to victory, delivering a gut-wrenching loss to Liquid after they spent so much energy fighting back in the second half. But Liquid’s Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski isn’t concerned that something like this will happen again soon.
“In terms of talking about that stuff [happening] in the future, it’s so irregular that we probably won’t be in a situation like that for another couple of years,” he told Dot Esports. “It feels just like everything that could have went wrong, went wrong.”
EliGE mentioned that the refrezh play reminded him of a similar clutch from current Team Vitality player Richard “shox” Papillon against Luminosity in 2016. This was a one-vs-four with the CT/T sides switched, but it was at the same site on Inferno and also during a pivotal round late in the series in an important ESL Pro League event—the grand finals of season three.
With no grenades and no time to spare, shox dropped four players from that legendary LG roster to get the defuse and keep G2 alive in overtime of map five. Five years later, Liquid lost their round in a strikingly similar fashion. And like LG, they recognized what else could have been done only with the gift of hindsight.
“We didn’t double-peek on the guy, but it’s hard because there’s a very real possibility that refrezh is sitting in pit,” EliGE said to Dot. “And if they double-peeked, then he could have isolated the guy at triple and killed that guy, and then it’s another one-vs-one in site and he knows [Stewie] is in emo (dark). My mistake is a lot easier [to learn from], I could have just been more patient instead of running toward the smoke.”
The notion of everything that could go wrong did is an apt description of Liquid’s online era over the past two years. After a slow start in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic moved all of CS:GO online. And outside of winning the NA division of ESL Pro League season 11, Liquid didn’t add any new trophies from half a year of strictly regional competition.
Then, in October 2020, the team began traveling to Europe to compete in the more prestigious international events. EliGE said traveling back and forth between Europe and NA has been mentally taxing, and that’s been made worse by some less-than-stellar results and continually having to play online—something that the Liquid veteran says the team has never been good at.
“I think that is just very difficult for our team in particular because we’ve never been very good at playing online,” he said. “Even in 2019 when we were winning a lot, we won like two [offline] tournaments in a row, got owned in an ECS qualifier online, then won another tournament the next week after. It’s been tough for us to have good intensity levels when we’re online. That’s where most of our problems come from.”
The online competition continues for them heading into BLAST Premier Fall 2021, where they kick off the first set of group play action against Vitality, Astralis, and Evil Geniuses. Vitality are coming off an impressive showing at ESL Pro League after what’s been a down year for the team. Both EG and Astralis are playing short-handed, with EG’s stanislaw and Brehze taking a step back to focus on their mental health and gla1ve taking time off ahead of the birth of his first child.
EliGE said if Liquid don’t make it out of this group, it “would be one of the worst tournaments of the year” for them. But he’s less concerned about putting on a strong showing just a month or so ahead of the PGL Stockholm Major. He just wants to lighten the Liquid travel schedule.
If they finish top two in the group, they go straight to the BLAST Fall Finals in late November. But Liquid have to fly back to NA after group play to compete in the IEM Fall NA RMR event. And if they don’t finish top two in their BLAST group, they have to fly back to Europe for the BLAST Fall Showdown, which starts just two days after IEM Fall NA ends.
To avoid that situation, which EliGE believes would be “a huge mental hit” on the team, they’ll have to get off to a strong start against arguably the toughest team in their group in Vitality. That match takes place on Sept. 16 at 12pm CT.
But while Liquid are still ironing out their travel plans and working on their online play, they’re not lacking in something that could be pivotal to deep runs at BLAST, IEM, and the Major—intensity.
“Since we started traveling in October, going to Europe for month-long spans to play in the online tournaments, we’re all together in person,” EliGE said. “The intensity is definitely back.”