Katowice is a unique place for a Counter-Strike tournament.
Between the comparably cosmopolitan Cologne and the comparably warm and sunny Stockholm, Katowice stands as a harkening back to a previous era where esports was confined to the nooks and crannies of the big countries.
It’s a city that is so obviously not meant for esports. And yet, it’s a cornerstone of Counter-Strike; the centre of the city adorned by the shadow of the looming Spodek is littered with IEM Katowice marketing, largely ignored by the locals.
The Spodek itself is magnificent, magnified by the backdrop on which it exists. It stands above the city as if it were an old-timey colosseum, a place to forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life in a post-Soviet factory town and be someone else for a day.
The juxtaposition is what makes Katowice such an intriguing place for Counter-Strike.
Being here feels like being out of place, and yet you’re surrounded by people just like yourself in a town that looks bewildered at your presence.
It’s beautiful in its own way. The architecture and the bizarrely still-present Christmas market (that one can only assume is omnipresent, such is the frost and sub-zero temperatures that slap you in the face at every given moment) are lovely — if that’s what you’re into.
We suspect the average CSGO player (and fan) isn’t that into it.
This year’s edition of IEM Katowice was the first in which Impact was included, and indeed drew a pretty respectable crowd. The expo attached to the Spodek was pretty consistently blessed with footfall, and Impact drew many a piqued interest.
Whilst the level is clearly different from what the main stage showed - let’s face it, these women have had four tournaments, and one year, of organised competition - the ideas and set-ups are oddly familiar.
CLG Red might have gone out in day one, but some of their CT set-ups on Ancient were very interesting. A mid-round triple push through the red room smoke with a pop flash caught NAVI Javelins completely off-guard, but sadly they couldn’t deal with the mechanical difference that Javelins had.
Javelins, in their home country, made the final over B4, incidentally. The other semi-final was a barnburner, and it drew the crowd to match. A packed house saw a composed Nigma Galaxy overpower on Nuke, but a stunning show from Olga equalised against the de facto favourites.
Seriously. Olga went berserk. At 15-8 she had more assists than she had deaths. And she had 29 kills. On a map FURIA never really play.
Many will have missed map three — for there was a marginally bigger game happening a mere 100m away - but those who stayed were treated to the aNa show.
Olga vs aNa has become a bit of a ZywOo vs s1mple debate in Impact, but when it came down to it the Romanian took over and eviscerated FURIA. FURIA battled back to force OT with some crazy retakes, but NGX’s interplay and organisation, combined with their superstar’s takeover performance, was too much.
That semi-final was a replay of the last few finals, leaving NAVI Javelins with the unenviable task of finally cutting down NGX on LAN. Naturally, the aforementioned mechanical difference they had over CLG was non-existent vs the best team in the event.
They did push Nigma to OT in map two, but Nigma Galaxy are inevitable.
Who doesn’t love a good anti-climax?
Final standings at ESL Impact: