The Intel® Extreme Masters (IEM) Katowice is just around the corner. paysafecard is official sponsor of the mega event of the year! From February 16 until February 28 the best 152 players in the world will battle it out in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Starcraft 2 for a total prize money of 1,250,000 USD. Teams all around the world have qualified over months of grueling battles to get to the main stage of one of the biggest esports tournaments in the world. But how can a tournament of this scale be held under COVID-19? What games will be played and who are the favourites? Let’s take a look!
Online, but in the same region
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room first. A huge esports tournament under COVID-19; how does it work? Over the last months there were several plans on how to hold the tournament. Ideally, you could have everyone in the same building and have matches be played over a wired connection. This allows for the lowest lag possible and an even playing field.
As you can imagine, this is not possible at this time, so the tournament directors have decided to take a different approach: According to current information all games will be played online. The teams will be participating from locations in Europe or from home. We will miss the huge crowds and the unique atmosphere in Spodek Arena for sure – but safety comes first! With this out of the way, let’s look at each discipline.
CS:GO, Feb 16-28
The fast-paced ego-shooter CS:GO is still one of the biggest esports shooters in the world. It’s highly watchable, super exciting and rewards strategy and skill. 24 teams have qualified to be part of the tournament, but only 8 of them are already part of the main stage. The other 16 are in the so-called play-in stage. Here, they have to battle it out in a head-to-head double elimination bracket in order to qualify for the final. 8 teams make the cut and enter the group stage, in which 2 x 8 team double elimination brackets will decide who gets to the play-offs for a chance to reach the grand final. The total prize money for that tournament is 1,000,000 USD.
Who are the favourites to win the trophy? Last year the EU team Natus Vincere won the title. This year, they are already qualified for the main stage. A look at the ESL PRO Tour Rankings, however, has the defending champions only on number four in Europe. In front of them are Heroic, Team Vitality and Astralis. Let’s not forget the international competition with Furial Esports and Evil Geniuses from North America and many other teams who can still qualify for the main stage.
Starcraft 2, Feb 20-28
2021 marks the 11th year of Starcraft 2 being part of the IEM. 36 competitors qualified in 12 months of competition and will battle it out for a total prize money of 250,000 USD. It all begins with double elimination brackets in the first round. In the round of 24 there will be 4 groups of 6 players who all battle each other in Round Robin. Next stage is the round of 12 in a single elimination bracket and last but not least the final match. Starcraft is a cultural phenomenon in Korea, hence it does not surprise that the former champions are all from the same country. Lee "Rogue" Byung Ryul won the tournament in 2020, this year’s favourite however is Jun "TY" Tae Yang.