One of the most surprising upsets in Counter-Strike in months happened far away from the game’s biggest stages in Europe and North America over the weekend. Mongolian side MongolZ took home first place at IEM Taipei late Sunday, winning $30,000 prize and, perhaps more importantly, a spot at IEM Katowice.
The Mongolian side weren’t considered contenders from from the outset. But the team had recently moved to Vietnam for better training conditions, similar to what Australian team Renegades did when they settled in Las Vegas a few months ago. Still, Renegades, Chiefs Esports Club and the Chinese side CyberZen looked likely to fill out two of the finalist spots. Outsiders TyLoo were disqualified after it was discovered one of their players, Quanqing “qz” Wu, had a previous VAC ban that prevented him from competing.
MongolZ kicked off their run with a victory over the favorites, Renegades. Enkhtaivan “Machinegun” Lkhavga led the line with a strong performance on Cache alongside Temuulen “Zilkenberg” Battulga to secure a 16-13 win. The win left fellow Australians side Chiefs to try to achieve what Renegades had failed: to take down the Mongolz. Despite a close victory in the first map, MongolZ again claimed victory thanks to more outstanding play from Lkhavga and Battulga. The two players put up 137 frags between them with a combined KDA of 43.
Meanwhile, Renegades moved through the lower bracket, taking down the home town Taiwanese side Eat You Alive to meet CyberZen in the semi finals. A swift 2-0 victory over the Chinese team meant they would get a chance at revenge in the grand final against MongolZ. A spot in the grand finals also secured both sides a place in the offline qualifier for the upcoming MLG major in Columbus.
Unfortunately for neutral fans, a repeat of the tense group stage game between the two didn’t happen. Instead, underdogs MongolZ seized control of the game on Cobblestone, and then dominated Renegades on Inferno to take a 2-0 sweep. Despite a poor showing from the Australian side, it was really the strength of their opposition that shined during the final—in particular Tsog “Tsogoo” Mashbat, who had stepped up his performance from the group stage. A slightly controversial moment occurred on Inferno, when Renegades were unable to win a round in a 2v1 situation because the bomb had been lodged in a crevice. it is unclear if the team called attention to the issue, however no action was taken and the game continued.
MongolZ will be seeded into Group A at IEM Katowice next month in what’s been billed as the tournament’s Group of Death. The Mongols will face off against Fnatic, Na’Vi, Luminosity, NiP, and Mousesports, in a group that most expect Fnatic to top. But with The MongolZ thrown into the mix, each team should be wary of another potential upset.
Photo via ESL