The inaugural season of ELeague will conclude on Saturday, when the grand final will take place at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta. Semifinals are scheduled to take place on Friday, meaning we currently have four teams that remain in the competition for the $390,000 first-place check. Let's take a look at how each of the teams made it up to this point.
For clarification, the format of ELeague is such that the 24 teams were split into six groups of four. Those four groups first played round-robin group stages, with two games against everyone, for seeding purposes. All four teams in each group then proceeded to intra-group playoffs, from where the winners made it to the actual playoffs, while second- and select third-place teams were placed in a last-chance qualifier bracket.
Groups A through C produced no semifinalists, but group D's top dogs Fnatic have made it this far. ELeague marked the return of Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer Gustafsson, who prior to his injury was considered the world's best player, and thus set high expectations for the Swedes. The all-time greats finished its group with a 5-1 record, losing a map against FaZe following a 16-0 thrashing in their first encounter, but the team was also tested by Canadian Team SoloMid, who put up 13 rounds in the opener on cache.
Kory "Semphis" Friesen's TSM also took a map from Fnatic in the Group D playoffs, but ultimately fell short in a close three-map series. The group's final then saw Fnatic steamroll FaZe, the team that had stolen a map from it days earlier, with two comfortable wins to guarantee a spot in the playoffs.
In the quarterfinals of Eleague's playoffs, Fnatic were paired up with EnVyUs, a French squad that once battled for the title of the world's best prior to winning a major in 2015 and slowly beginning a decline. While Fnatic is not at its peak either, the Swedes, led by Robin "flusha" Rönnquist, ground out a win on cobblestone to start the series, and dominated Kenny "kennyS" Schrub's team on dust2 to clinch a 2-0 win, and a spot in the semifinals.
Facing the previous world champions in the first semifinal will be the ex-CIS juggernaut Na`Vi, a team that claimed the throne of Group E by having a better round difference than mousesports (both squads share the same record). The team, starred by Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, split the games against mousesports and North American Echo Fox, but were able to close out a quick 2-0 win over fellow ex-CIS team FlipSid3 to make the semifinals of the group.
In Group E's playoffs, Na`Vi showed up in significantly better form than its earlier series against Echo Fox, and lost just 13 rounds across a two-map series, that sent Sean "sgares" Gares' team packing and put Na`Vi through to the final of Group E. In the final, the team, coached by former member Sergey "starix"Ischuk, faced FlipSid3, which it had previously defeated 2-0 in groups, and easily came out on top with another 2-0 win to secure a playoff spot.
Meanwhile in Group E, mousesports finished with an identical 4-2 record with losses to Na`Vi and FlipSid3. The team, led by arguably the world's best player Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, also played a close series versus Echo Fox, and scored a win over FlipSid3 in overtime. This meant mousesports' round differential was significantly weaker than Na`Vi's, giving Na'Vi the top seed going into the playoffs.
In the playoffs, mousesports was expected to go through FlipSid3 only to fall to Na`Vi later, but it fell short of that. While FlipSid3 had previously won few best-of-three series as underdogs in the team's lengthy history, it handily bested mousesports with two 16-9 wins led by Counter-Strike 1.6 superstar and former Na`Vi member Yegor "markeloff" Markelov, marking the beginning of the team's rise. It also sent mousesports to the last-chance qualifier.
Mousesports were drawn in a tough bracket, having to face G2 -- arguably a top-three team in the world -- in the opener. However, illness forced Cédric "RpK" Guipouy from the French team to stay home, and a legendary performance by NiKo was enough to send the Frenchmen packing with an overtime win on map two. Then, the team's coach Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović now was the team's in-game leader -- a key change from the group-stage portion of ELeague -- and was paired up with FaZe.
The duo split the opening maps, making cache the decider. FaZe won nine rounds in the opening half, and a 5-0 start on defense quickly saw it with a commanding 14-6 lead. However, NiKo once more refused to lose, and his heroic performance saw mouseports win five rounds in a row, and then ultimately forced overtime, in which the squad prevailed.
With playoffs beginning, mousesports were again underdogs versus Danish Astralis, a team that had outplaced NiKo's team at the major despite having to attend with a stand-in. But Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz's team surprisingly had no answers to mousesports -- partly due to mistakes in the map veto process -- which gave the Danish Astralis its worst loss on mirage at 2-16. It was swiftly eliminated on map two, as mousesports clinched the team's best-ever placing in CS:GO.
The fourth and final team still in the competition at ELeague is Virtus.pro, whose campaign started in Group F. The Polish side led by former member Jakub "kuben" Gurczyński, who now acts as the quasi-in-game leader from a coaching position, wound up losing the top spot in the group to EnVyUs, the team Fnatic knocked out later, due to dropping nuke to Gambit in their series. Versus EnVyUs, Virtus split the games while also securing two wins over compLexity.
Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski and company had a much easier route through the last-chance qualifier. Group F rivals Gambit took them to overtime on dust2, but failed to put up a fight. Likewise, Australian Renegades could contend on only one map, and it came after losing cobblestone in a lopsided game. Virtus.pro were through to the playoffs of ELeague following two quick wins.
In the quarterfinals, Virtus was paired up against Filip "NEO" Kubski's rival for the title of the GOAT in Counter-Strike 1.6, Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg from Ninjas in Pyjamas. As often in big games in history, NEO prevailed with a commanding 2-0 series win, including a vintage performance from him that saw a finish with a 1.40 rating and 104.1 damage per round, far above others in the series. The Poles will next take on mousesports -- a team they defeated at the last major -- in the semifinals on Friday.