ESL One Cologne 2020 is here, albeit in a modified format - but it's finally here! The one avid esport fans have been waiting for. Early round play started this week, but the majority of the action lies ahead.
Cloudbet - keen fans of the esports vertical, and home to even bigger fans of Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) - breaks down the key European gamers and teams to watch in this, the grandaddy of the CS:GO tournament circuit. Cloudbet is offering a host of different markets for fans to wager on, and is live-streaming all the action at Cloudbet.com. Opening an account has never been easier - all you need is a credit or debit card to get started.
Unfortunately fans won't be at the famous Lanxess Arena in person - lovingly known as the Cathedral of Counter Strike - but rest assured millions are there in spirit, wherever they are around the world.
Due to the travel restrictions in place because of the pandemic, this year's edition is being held online, with a rejigged format borne out of necessity rather than desire.
In this article, we focus on the European showdown, which this year promises the highest level of competition with a number of teams in with a chance of capturing the ultimate esports gaming title.
The Cathedral of Counterstrike - the Lanxess Arena, Cologne, Germany
ESL One Cologne
The Cologne camp is one of the best known and most historic of CS:GO tournaments, and a lynchpin in the Intel Grand Slam series. What makes Cologne so special? Mainly, it’s the fact that it’s been there from the very start - launched in 2014, this year’s competition is the seventh meeting of the best CS:GO players the world has to offer.
The competition is as old as the game itself - and that makes it the players' tourney. It's the title that everyone wants. It may have a smaller prize pool than other tournaments, but it's the prestige and glory that everyone wants. Add to that the fact that attendance has grown to the point where 15,000 fans is now the norm.
Unfortunately, 2020 is proving to be anything but the norm.
Due to travel restrictions around the world, this year’s competition has been taken online - and that’s a decision that has had some big knock-on effects.
First of all, the prize pool has been slashed from $1 million to $500,000 - though as we've just seen, that's not as much of a big deal for Cologne than it may be for other tournaments on the circuit.
Secondly, because of latency issues related to, for example, teams playing in Europe on an American server, or vice-versa, the competition has been split into regional events in North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania - with a champion to be crowned in each region.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that will affect how the players take to the task in hand.
All games are played in a best-of-three format, apart from the final which goes to best of five. That means that (the final aside) a maximum of three maps are being played, with the first team to win two taking the match. This year the tournament is playing a double-elimination group stage, meaning that even if teams lose a match they’ll have a chance to qualify for the play-off phase.
The playoffs will be played in a single-elimination bracket.
ESL One Cologne 2020 - Europe - Schedule
- 18 - 26 August - Group stages
- 27- 28 August - Playoff Quarterfinals
- 29 August - Playoff Semifinals
- 30 August - Grand Final
Individual’s to watch
Here’s a look at the starting players who are likely to compete for the European tournament MVP.
The skill ratings cited in ( ) are based on a formula developed by HLTV.org, involving a number of components including kill ratings, survival ratings, KAST ratings, impact ratings and damage ratings. A score above 1.00 marks positive performance; a score below 1.00 negative performance. The higher the rating the better.
s1mple (1.27): The Ukrainian who’s dominated the scene for years now - and so is the obvious player to watch. He has form too. In the last major tournament in Katowice, s1mple posted a 371-252 Kill-Death record and with a rating of 1.33 took the tournament MVP award. He’s bound to be in with a shout again.
ZywOo (1.38): The Frenchmen seems to be the only person to come close to s1mple in terms of personal performance. With the strongest rating over the last three months, can his team step up to help him take the personal MVP award?
XANTARES (1.17): The Turkish star of team BIG will want to grab the MVP award, especially as his team has been on fire recently. There’s a big challenge before him and he’ll need to maintain his recent great form which has seen him contribute in 73% of his team’s rounds in the past three months.
dev1ce (1.17): Despite team Astralis enduring a run of not-so-great form, dev1ce is always a hot prospect and an incredible asset to his team. The Dane can win rounds by himself - and if the new players on his team can provide the necessary support, dev1ce can keep up with the best.
kennyS (1.08): Kenny is starting to find his old form with the new G2 roster. The Frenchmen is definitely one to watch - an experienced player who looks hungry for more.
Brollan (1.14): The star fragger of team Fnatic - with an incredible ability to grab frags - is a strong candidate for MVP. Backed by the all-star trio of JW, flusha and Krimz, as well as great in-game leader Golden, Brollan has a chance to shine bright in Cologne.
Key performance stats for last three months - HLTV ratings
After three weeks of preparation, all teams are up for the challenge. Any question marks over unknowns, or what kind of form any one outfit is bringing to the arena are about to be answered.
NaVi - Outright odds: 5.53
Natus Vincere, to give them their full title, with their superstar player s1mple - arguably the best player in the world - are up there. NaVi have tasted victory in Cologne before, grabbing the win in 2018, and are looking to return to their winning ways after proving victorious at IEM Katowice earlier this year. This could be the second major trophy of this year.
NaVi superstar s1mple will want to be in full stride
G2 Esports - Outright odds: 6.23
The French powerhouse, with star KennyS, are out for revenge after losing to NaVi in the final in Katowice earlier this year. They have a point to prove too - that they’re capable of winning on the biggest of stages having been there, or thereabouts on numerous occasions. Their last major win was back in 2017 - but could this be their year?
Fnatic - Outright odds: 6.62
The Swedes are finally alive, having found their rhythm since Brollan and Golden joined the outfit. Boasting experienced tournament players like JW, flusha and Krimz, as well, fnatic must be considered potential winners. They won the Cologne tournament back in 2015.
Fnatic look to repeat their 2015 victory
BIG - Outright odds: 4.99
The German team is having a very strong run, which has seen them climb to the #1 spot in the HLTV rankings. The fact that this tournament is being played online may settle the nerves a bit for a team otherwise playing in front of home-crowd fans.
Astralis - Outright odds: 9.17
A few months ago, there’s every chance that most fans would have considered Astralis favourites for this title - but a lot can happen in a short amount of time in this world. The team has suffered some roster changes, with gla1ve and xyp9x both taking a break, while they’ve also had a longer break than others from competitive play in a bid to bed down the newbies.
However, knowing the Danes’ professional approach, we may yet see an unbeatable team come together, especially with dev1ce on their side. Never underestimate Astralis.
Astralis star dev1ce celebrates his fourth major title - could this be five?
Vitality - Outright odds: 5.53
The French team, like BIG, have had a great run in 2020, and could shine with the online format. Their superstar, ZywOo, will want to lead the team to glory in Cologne.
Odds are given at the time of writing and may change. All team outright odds can be found here.
A word on ESL One NA
Even though our focus has been on the European battle, we can’t very well not mention the North American (NA) competition - although Cloudbet’s take is that three teams will basically walk the group stages, and that the competition won’t really hot up until the finals.
The NA teams don’t really compete against their European Counter Strike counterparts, and the last time they did, all the NA teams were gone by the end of the group stages. Liquid’s roster changes have also made a slim chance of doing so even slimmer.
For the NA competition, here are our odds on the three biggest names:
Evil Geniuses - Outright odds: 4.43. The American team has enjoyed an incredible run in 2020, putting it in a sweet spot ahead of the tournament.
Team Liquid - Outright odds: 5.90. Despite losing the incredible form shown in 2019, Liquid can’t be underestimated. With Stewie, NAF, Twistzz and EliGE, it’s a team that can outperform anyone on the day.
FURIA - Outright odds: 5.81. The Brazilians emerged as the best South American team; looking for its first major trophy.
Odds are given at the time of writing and may change. All team outright odds can be found here.
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