Photo: By Kelly Kline for ESL
We have had 14 Majors in CS:GO history that have spanned from 2013 to 2018. IEM Katowice 2019 will be the 15th Major. Among all of those players, the most any player has won has been three Major titles: Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Robin “flusha” Ronnquist, and Markus “pronax” Wallsten. As I delved and looked into CS:GO Major history, there were multiple other players and cores that were realistically close to winning more majors as well. These are the runs that are “almost” and “what-ifs”, but in their own way have defined CS:GO Major history.
The Candidates of Major Winners
Here is a list all of the players in CS:GO history that had have won two or three majors. As I noted earlier, there are only three players to have won three. They include: JW, flusha, and pronax.
Here is the list of players that have won two majors:
- Olof “Olofmeister” Kjabjer
- Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson
- Nathan “NBK” Schmitt
- Fabien “KioShiMa” Fiey
- Vincent “Happy” Cervoni
- Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo
- Marcelo “Coldzera” David
- Fernando “Fer” Alvarenga
- Epitacio “TACO” de Melo
- Lincoln “fnx” Lau
- Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz
- Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander
- Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth
- Peter “Dupreeh” Rasmussen
When looking at counterfactual like this, an easy trap to fall into is changing too much of history. For instance, the Na`Vi lineup that had Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs was a brilliant lineup that made two Major finals. However that particular lineup had issues with closing out finals, so even though they were close to winning Majors, I think it’s reasonable given what we know of them and their historical result to say that in all likely probability, history played out as expected.
Another example would be having Liquid beat Astralis in the semifinals of FACEIT Major London. While Liquid beat Astralis in a bo1 in the group stages of that tournament, it’s implausible to assume they could then beat them in a bo3 in retrospect. The matches weren’t close, Liquid had pressure issues, and the historical data we have of Astralis vs Liquid heavily favors Astralis.
I’ve essentially picked out moments in Major history that had a high probability of going the other way. In specific matches, I went round by round and configured the probabilities of the overall result. For instance, at ESL One Cologne 2014 Major Finals, Fnatic played against NiP. It was a three map series with NiP winning the third map 16-13. While the score was close, the actual round-by-round probabilities fell where they roughly should have been. There were only three rounds that seemed to go against probability. In the second round, Fnatic won the forcebuy against NiP, however this was evened out as NiP did the same to them when they switched sides. The only other round I can think of that went against probability (when you take player form and developed strengths of each lineup into account) was the 7th round where Adam “Friberg” Friberg got a triple entry kill in banana and won NiP that round by himself. Even then, it didn’t swing the game massively in NiP’s favor as it didn’t reset Fnatic. Finally, given friberg’s form at the team, he should have gotten one big impact play like that in the third map.
Third, I assumed that the individual forms the players showed up with on the day with didn’t change in the simulated rematches. For instance, the best series Rustem “mou” Telepov ever played in was against Astralis in the semifinals of PGL Krakow. While he has never played at that level ever again, for simplicity’s sake I assumed that he’d bring that level of play each time he went up against Astralis in that particular moment.
Olofmeister Could Have Won Three
Olofmeister currently stands at two Major victories. If I look at his career, I think there were three other chances where he was in a position to win another Major. The first was at the aforementioned Major at ESL Cologne 2014, but as I stated previously, I think the probable outcome was NiP winning given the various factors involved. The second was at Dreamhack Winter 2014, where Fnatic forfeited the tournament.
At the time, public resentment of Fnatic was at an all-time high, so I think the drama surrounding that event would have occurred given that Fnatic likely needed to do the boost to beat EnVyUs. As that’s the case, I can’t say he could have won the event. The third time was at ELeague Boston Major, where I think FaZe could have won that Major.
With hindsight we know a few things. First is that the Cloud9 players were playing at their maximum potential. Secondly, we also know that their Cache wasn’t nearly as good in the ensuing months. At the time, FaZe chose Overpass as their map pick, but were also considering Cache as well. As that’s the case, I could see an alternate timeline where FaZe pick Cache and that alone could increase the odds of FaZe beating Cloud9, even with the caveat of Cloud9 being in great form. Finally, if you look at the inferno map, it went to double overtime. While Cloud9 had tactically played a style that countered FaZe on their CT-side, it also took a bunch of heroic individual plays to close out that game. Plays that could have easily swung in favor of FaZe. If I run that simulation over and over again, I think it’s probable that FaZe come out on top in that scenario.
Overall, when we look at Olofmeister’s history in the Majors, he was in position to win five different Majors: ESL Cologne 2014, DreamHack Winter 2014, ESL Katowice 2015, ESL Cologne 2015, and ELeague Boston Major. He ended up with two Majors, but it’s arguable that he could have won a third.
NBK’s VeryGames Could’ve Won DreamHack 2013
Among all of the French players, NBK is the most heavily correlated to the best French teams in history. This includes teams like: VeryGames, LDLC, and EnVyUs. Overall, I’d say he’s been in position to win potentially of the Majors: DreamHack Winter 2013, DreamHack Winter 2014, ESL Katowice 2015, ESL Cologne 2015, DreamHack Cluj-Napoca.
NBK has already won two majors: DreamHack Winter 2014 and DreamHack Cluj-Napoca. Of the remaining Majors, I don’t see a plausible rationale in how he could have won either ESL Katowice 2015 or ESL Cologne 2015. While they were among the favorites to win Katowice 2015, NiP played better than them on that day and it wasn’t close enough for me to think it was a high probability chance if that match was played again (given the forms of the players on the day). As for ESL Cologne 2015, Fnatic were just unstoppable in the finals and I think only Virtus.Pro could have stopped them in that Major run.
The one other Major I think NBK could have won was at DreamHack Winter 2013 with VeryGames. While the entire CS:GO community knows now that Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans has some psychological issue when playing at the Majors, I don’t think that applies here as it was their first outing. It takes time and experience for such psychological traumas to set in, so at that point, it was a blank slate.
As for why I think VeryGames could have won the tournament is as follows. They were the best team at the time. They played against NiP in the semifinals and historical retrospective tells us that VeryGames are more likely to win that match up more times than not. Finally, the third map was on Nuke, which is a heavily CT-sided map and it’s quite possible the scoreline for the third map would have been far closer if VeryGames had started on the CT-side. Finally, Ex6TenZ was infamous for being a hard-counter to pronax’s style of leadership and that is why I think NBK could have likely won a third with VeryGames if they could have overcome NiP in the semifinals. This would have also put Richard “shox” Papillon and Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux at two, Ex6tenZ at one, and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom at one.
The Danes in Krakow
Among the various cores that could have won more Majors, the Astralis core of: dev1ce, Dupreeh, gla1ve and Xyp9x were the closest. I didn’t bother counting any of the deep runs that the core of dev1ce, dupreeh, and Xyp9x made in the Majors before ELeague Atlanta. While they were a strong team, with chances to go further, the team itself wasn’t psychologically ready to deal with such high pressure situations yet.
This all changed at ELeauge Atlanta Major where the team won with gla1ve and Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjaerbye. While that particular Astralis lineup has faded in memory a bit, it was still a strong lineup historically speaking and could have won another Major at PGL Krakow. In that tournament, there were three favorites going into it: SK, FaZe, and Astralis. FaZe were eliminated in the group stages. Astralis destroyed SK in the quarterfinals, though Cache was close. At that point in the bracket, the top four was Astralis vs Gambit and Immortals vs Virtus.Pro.
Astralis were the big favorites to win it all, but Gambit showed up to play. Even accounting for their individuals forms though, I think it’s safe to say that if you run the series over again, Gambit would still win Overpass while Astralis would win Inferno. The moment that changes it all though is the late stages of Train. In the latter end of that half, Gambit were falling apart and you could see Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko yelling at the other Gambit players to listen to him and follow his lead. He then called an outer execute in rounds 26 and 27. In round 26, Gambit got a critical flash on Dupreeh which allowed Zeus to get the opening frag onto Dupreeh. In the following round, Gambit did the same thing again, but this time it was just a dry run-in. Zeus instantly head-shot Dupreeh which collapsed the outer site. Even accounting for Zeus’ better form in that Major, that isn’t a duel that should consistently go Zeus’ way. If that singular round went Astralis’ way, I think it’s probable that Astralis could have closed it out against Gambit. In that scenario, they would then play against Immortals in the finals where they would have also been the favorites to win it.
Virtus.Pro, Close but no Cigar
The final core of players that could have won more Majors than they did were Virtus.Pro. This is the lineup that consisted of: Filip “NEO” Kubski, Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski, Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas, Jaroslaw “pasha” Jarzabkowski, and Pawel “byali” Bielinski. This team only won one major at EMS Katowice 2014. However they came incredibly close two more times.
The second time was at ESL One Cologne 2015 where they faced off against Fnatic in the semifinals of the Major. They smashed Fnatic on Mirage and were decisively ahead against Fnatic on Inferno. While Fnatic were famed for their ability to make comebacks, that isn’t a certain factor. In terms of overall form, I’d say that the Virtus.Pro guys were playing the best Counter-Strike at that tournament and if you re-run that same scenario on inferno ten times, Virtus.Pro are likely to come out on top 7-8 times out of the 10. If they’d have beaten Fnatic there, I think they’d have also beaten EnVyUs in the finals.
The other major that could have gone Virtus.Pro’s way was ELeague Atlanta 2017. In the finals of that major they faced off against Astralis. That was a match that teetered on the edge as the series went 2-1 in Astralis favor, but Astralis barely won both Overpass and Train 16-14 a piece. That was a finals where one wrong call or one more misplay from Astralis on either Overpass or Train could have seen Virtus.Pro become the Champions of that event.
In the end though, Virtus.Pro were unable to beat either Fnatic or Astralis in those finals. It’s perhaps a testament to their playstyle and swagger that no one has ever considered labeling Virtus.Pro as chokers despite being on the losing side in multiple big finals or tournaments. After all, their style of play wasn’t the best, but it was adrenaline pumping. They were aggressive, decisive, and made for explosive matches that forced the best out of themselves and often the opponent.
The Legacy We Leave Behind
Both Olofmeister and NBK could have won a third Major. Olofmeister at Boston, NBK at DreamHack Winter. The cores of both Astralis and Virtus.Pro were both in prime position to win more major trophies. For Astralis it was PGL Krakow. For Virtus.Pro it was ESL One Cologne and ELeague Atlanta. However could is not should.
That is the perennial difference that must be kept in mind when looking at these counterfactuals. That is how history could have gone, not how it should have gone. Every team and player gets to make their own destiny at the Majors. As I’ve shown through these example though, that destiny can sometimes stand on a sliver of a hair. Can be swayed one way or another by one good call, one good play, or one bad timing. That every series, every map, and every round can matter when it comes to the Majors.