Counter-Strike's competitive scene has largely been dominated by superteams over the years. In the case of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a small subset of European talent has claimed top podium finishes in more than 80% of majors.
So this week when PGL Major Krakow 2017 delivered surprising results that introduced trophy-less teams to the finals, most of the community was thrilled to see something new, even if it meant that their Pick'Em Challenge predictions were way off.
After making headlines for several days, Gambit just toppled Immortals in a best of three in the finals, claiming a $500,000 prize purse in Poland. The accomplishment bears great significance for several reasons, most notable of which is that no Ukrainian, Russian, or Kazakhstani player has ever won a major in CS: GO before. Now, Mikhail "Dosia" Stolyarov, Rustem "mou" Telepov, Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev, Daniil "Zeus" Teslenko, and Abay "HObbit" Khassenov serve as inspiration for thousands of gamers around the globe who have been under the false impression that CS: GO is a European game.
The road to victory wasn't easy, though. To even get to the finals, Gambit had to conquer several intimidating teams that had finals experience, including G2, Virtus.pro, Fnatic, and even the reigning champs, Astralis. Yet, most of these match-ups were won diligently by Gambit, including a 16-6 finish against G2 which sent a fan favorite team packing.
Once Gambit arrived at the finals, things were off to a rough start. It would lose dramatically 4-16 against Immortals on Cobblestone as HEN1 put on a 22-4 scoreline. Naturally, a large number of viewers were convinced that the Eurasian team was outmatched.
Train had a very different outcome. A strong team performanced highlighted by mou's 28-14 finish helped propel Gambit to a 16-11 victory. The match was now 1-1 with Inferno being the deciding map, a location that both teams have historically excelled at.
After a few poorly executed rounds, Gambit would largely control the flow of the game on Inferno. Whether it was the "200" IQ nade by Dosia, or the ace by HObbit, teamwork and individual talent were on full display. As the final round was won after 2v2 situation, the entire Gambit team erupted with their chairs to hug one another.
The emotion on-stage is best understood by looking at the history of Gambit's team members. Zeus, mou, AdreN, and Dosia have all been playing Counter-Strike professionally for a decade, and it was only a year ago that Zeus was emotionally traded from Na'Vi. Victory at this level is something they have been dreaming about for a long time, and as Gambit's star talent has approached its 30's it may have appeared to be an unachievable goal.
Now, here they stand on-stage claiming the biggest prize ever awarded in the game's history at a time when it's more challenging than ever to win.
Immortals deserves recognition of its own, coming from Brazil where, until recently, very little opportunity has been invested in talent in the region. The team was a joy to watch, providing great entertainment for fans and reinforcing Brazil's presence at the top tier of the sport.
As PGL Major Krakow 2017 closes its doors, CS: GO serves as a great example of how far eSports has come. More than one million people tuned into the finals remotely, witnessing the greatest diversity of players and teams the game has seen.