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- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
This last weekend was host to cs_summit, a new Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament with a prize pool of $150,000. Many of the world's best teams were in attendance at the event held in Los Angeles, ranging from Sweden's GODSENT to North America's Team Liquid.
As with many recent CS:GO tournaments, there were many surprises and upsets that occurred during the event; Team EnVyUs's elimination within two matches wasn't expected by many experts, nor was Gambit Esports' nearly flawless run to the Grand Finals. But in the eyes of the community, there was no bigger story than the attendance and performance of swag.
Braxton "swag" Pierce was one of seven players who paid the price for being caught match fixing in 2014, an outcome detailed in an official January 2015 CS:GO blog post titled "Integrity and Fair Play". Since then he's been banned from participation at any Valve sponsored events, most notably majors which currently have $1 million prize pools. This participation includes playing, casting, or any other involvement.
The ban has effectively ended the professional career of swag as organizations have looked to other less talented options that have the benefit of being eligible for CS:GO's biggest events. But in this particular case, swag's ban has been incredibly unfortunate as he is considered one of North America's rare virtuosos. His talent, from aiming precision to game awareness, is commonly argued as being the best that the region has had to offer in the current era of Counter-Strike.
Despite the ban, swag has continued to play CS:GO, and can regularly be seen streaming on Twitch where he has a large audience. Although much of his involvement with the game has been reduced to entertaining Twitch viewers, this last weekend he served as ringer for Cloud 9 in a non-Valve sponsored event titled CS Summit, substituting the team's main AWPer Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham due to post-surgery complications.
Swag's attendance garnered incredible attention given that it was the first time he had participated in a professional event in more than two years. He would later remark that he felt "incredible pressure" and took some time to settle into the environment that has become foreign to him over the past 27 months. Thankfully, it wasn't all for naught.
Swag put on an incredible show during the tournament, ranging from a range of high value 3K and 4K rounds, in addition to clutches. In the upper bracket semi-final against SK Gaming, the team who would go on to win the tournament, swag went 70-54 with a rating of 1.23. Swag would deliver similar scorelines against NiP and OpTic, leading the match with a 1.26 rating in the case of the former.
Cloud 9 would finish the tournament in fourth place, earning a $15,000 prize split among its team members. Swag's contributions would play a huge part in this success, having earned one of the tournament's highest average ratings.
Footage of the occasion was quickly featured on places like YouTube and Twitch highlights where thousands of CS:GO players showed up to witness a rather significant performance. In addition to appreciating his talents, many would see it as an opportunity to, once again, voice their opinion that he should be unbanned.
Swag is well-known in CS:GO circles for his crosshair placement and lightning-fast reaction times that make for incredible highlight reels. But he's even more known as being the guy that most of the community want to see compete in Valve sponsored events again. Videos, forums, and social media have been flooded with new requests to unban him, arguing that since he was a minor at the time of the ban he should be given a second chance.
Another consideration among players is that North America has struggled in the international CS:GO scene for the length of its existence, and it's only been worse since the match fixing ban removed seven of the region's best players from the pool. Unbanning swag would potentially go a long way toward improving the competitiveness of North America where there is a larger viewerbase than anywhere else in the world.
This pressure by the community hasn't swayed Valve's decision as it has remained firm on its original stance that all seven players will remain permanently banned.