The Minors for the Counter-Strike IEM Katowice 2019 Major ended with a bang as ViCi Gaming, the Chinese underdogs, knocked out North to qualify for the New Challenger stage. The team swept the overwhelming favorites twice, once in the winners bracket and again in the losers bracket, solidating their place in the upcoming Major. North are known for their raw skill and consistent placings in the upper echelon of competitive play, while VG, in stark contrast, scarcely make it in HLTV’s top 30 CS:GO world rankings.
It was a disappointing showing from North, falling at the final hurdle in a tournament that was open for the taking. The team had multiple chances to qualify for the Major, but failed drastically on all fronts. They would have firmly earned their place at the Major if they achieved a first or second-place standing at the EU Minors, but they went home empty handed. North lost to ENCE 2-0 before Vitality ended their chances, 2-1.
Next, the team only had to place in the top two of the IEM Katowice play-in event, a lesser tournament consisting of teams vastly considered second rate to the likes of North. But despite this, the team toppled under the pressure once again.
“I have never been more embarrassed in my life,” North’s director of esports Jonas “whimp” Svendsen wrote on Twitter. He called North’s showing at the Minor “worthless,” before writing, “we deserve nothing.” It was a harsh reaction from the team’s representative considering how the event played out. The team only had to win one best-of-three in either the EU Minors or the play-in qualifier, so it must have been absolutely crushing for them to fall short of the Major.
Instead of hounding the Danish lineup, a VG fan offered the team an encouraging message with the help of a translation software. “Every team has bad times,” the anonymous fan wrote. VG fought for their position for “many years”, and struggled to merely qualify for the Minor, they continued. The fan hoped that North wouldn’t be “discouraged” by their failure, writing that the defeat would only allow the team to grow further and help find them find their “desire for victory” again. “Every team has bad times,” they said. “It’s nothing. Regroup.”
Despite North making plenty of mistakes, VG admittedly played well, especially considering that they come from a much smaller scene in China. North kicked off the last match of the Minor play-in by winning the pistol round, and followed that up by taking round after round from the Chinese team. But VG answered back and went toe-to-toe with North. It was a match full of back-and-forth action that continued well into overtime. Although VG won in the end, it wasn’t the humiliating defeat that North’s director of esports suggested. VG more than earned their place at the Major.
The IEM Katowice Major’s New Challenger stage will begin on Feb. 13, in preparation for the Legends stage on Feb. 20, where ViCi Gaming will have the opportunity to compete for a chance to play against some of the best teams in the world.