The ESEA grand final may have been held in America, but the weekend’s results had a strictly European flavor.
Four European teams and four American teams gathered in Dallas, Texas for the live playoff conclusion to ESEA’s 18th season of Counter-Strike play. And when the dust settled, the final standings featured four European teams in the first four slots in the standings ahead of each of their American counterparts.
Taking first-place was Virtus Pro, the Polish side making a resurgence this spring with two tournament victories in three events after having gone without a title since last August. Their finals victory was made all the sweeter as it came over Fnatic, the team widely regarded as the world’s best in Global Offensive.
Fnatic suffered losses both to Virtus Pro in the final and to Titan in the upper bracket semifinals. It was a rare struggle for the squad, who had been so dominant of late, taking home the trophy in six of their last eight events attended. Few had been able to so much as challenge the Swedish powerhouse, and for them to lose multiple series in one event was a surprise.
The grand final featured some controversy in the second game when Virtus Pro managed to win a round due in large part to a found defuse kit. It turned out that an ESEA caster had erroneously joined Virtus Pro’s counter-terrorist side and left behind a defuse kit when he departed. The defuse kit was never cleared from the field of play, allowing Virtus Pro to pick it up. As it turned out, the kit would prove very useful as Fnatic managed to plant the bomb and force a defuse.
After what had happened became clear, the game was restarted. Fnatic would go on to win this second game of the series, but that win was sandwiched by two losses to Virtus Pro.
In third-place was French team Titan, who were buoyed by unusually strong play from captain Kevin “Ex6tenz” Droolans. Titan was dominant in their semifinal win over Fnatic, but were unable to maintain that level of play when they met Fnatic again in the lower bracket final.
The biggest story of the weekend may have been the failure of American teams to manage even a single game won over their European counterparts. Especially disappointing were big names Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud9. Counter Logic never managed more than 12 rounds in series losses to Fnatic and Mousesports, while Cloud9 was upset by Mousesports in the first round and upset even more so in the first round of lower bracket play by domestic rival Nihilum Gaming.
Luminosity, who were thrashed by CLG in the lower bracket, came the closest to securing a win over a European opponent, taking Titan to overtime on Mirage.
It’s a marked contrast from just a year ago when American team iBUYPOWER won consecutive ESEA finals over Europe’s best. The season 16 final even featured an all-American championship match between iBUYPOWER and Complexity.
But ever since the majority of the iBUYPOWER roster was banned in a match-fixing scandal, American teams have struggled to keep up in international competition. For American fans, this weekend’s results were a stinging reminder of those struggles.