Intel Grand Slam Season 3 is set to start this weekend at United Center in Chicago, which will be the next destination for eight of the best CS:GO teams in the world. The event is set to begin on July 18th, through until July 21st, where one team will be crowned as new champions and will take home $125,000 in prize money.
IEM Chicago will serve as the opening event of the new Intel Grand Slam season, following a rather short-lived Season 2, which concluded after only 144 days. Season 2 officially ended on July 7th, when it was Team Liquid who emerged as champions after winning ESL One: Cologne in addition to IEM Sydney, DreamHack Masters Dallas and ESL Pro League S9 Finals. Seeing how dominant TL were last season, we can’t help but ask ourselves if there is any team who can stop them? We just might have an answer to that at IEM Chicago, which will serve as a fresh start for eight CS:GO teams who will look to begin IGS season 3 with a win.
Just like previous events, IEM Chicago will be played in two stages.
The group stage, which will take place between July 18th and July 19th, will feature two groups of four teams that have been seeded according to their ESL CS: GO World Rankings. As announced, all matches in the group stage will be played as Bo3 with a double-elimination format, meaning each team will play against all others once. After two days of group stage action, the top two teams from each group will advance into the playoffs.
Group A: Team Liquid, G2 Esports, MIBR, Team Envy
Group B: Team VItality, ENCE, Renegades, Heroic
Playoffs, which will take place between July 20th and July 21st, will feature four teams that will be placed in a single-elimination bracket. Semi-finals will be played in Bo3, whereas the Grand Finals are set to be played in a Bo5 format.
With $125,000 on the line and a chance to kick off the new IGS season with a win, IEM Chicago is expected to produce a handful of exciting matches with only the top teams emerging as victorious. All the spotlight will be on Team Liquid to perform up to par and continue their legacy, but are they capable of winning yet another event, or have nitr0 and his crew ran out of steam?
Team Liquid have improved drastically in the last couple of months. They have gone from being a good team to being the best team in the world. While they have been in the top 3 for the past year, there is a huge difference between being top 3 and being #1. Quite frankly it's safe to say we are looking at a golden age of Team Liquid and a new era of CS:GO.
Looking ahead at IEM Chicago, they are understandably considered the favourites to walk away victorious, however, their road to the top might not be as easy as it seems, considering other tough opponents are standing in their way. Most of the teams will need some luck to stand up against Liquid, whereas their biggest concern should be Team Vitality and star ZywOo who put up a tough fight at ESL One: Cologne and are expected to do the same this week as well.
Vitality are the 2nd favourite to win IEM Chicago, which I would agree with. They are currently the 2nd best team in the world which they have proven at ESL One Cologne, but in the end, fell short in the Grand Finals against TL. They are currently priced at $5.00 which is quite generous considering they have proven they can compete against Team Liquid. In addition, their star player ZywOo is in excellent form and should he continue at the same pace, I would not be surprised if we would be watching at another Team Liquid v Vitality grand finals.
Moving down, we have got ENCE, who have not been too good recently. They are still considered the #4 in the world, however, their recent result was rather underwhelming. They come off as a team that has fallen off in recent times and are desperate to find their mojo once more. Looking back ENCE were quite solid at BLAST Pro series Madrid (1st) and DreamHack Masters (2nd), however, it was their most recent 13th-16th place finish at ESL One: Cologne that raised a lot of doubt. The team has some exceptional players in Aerial and sergej, which should get them at least into the Playoffs, but until they get back into the winning rhythm, I am not confident ENCE can go far in the upcoming events.
Ranked 8th in the world, G2 will enter IEM Chicago as a huge underdog priced at $13.00. The French team have not managed to produce any notable results in recent weeks, except their rather good performance against Team Liquid at ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, where they came close to an upset win in 4th round, but in the end ran out of steam. While we can praise G2 for what they achieved at ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, there is no denying they are not up to par with the likes of ENCE, Vitality and Team Liquid. I could see them reaching the Playoffs, however, they will need a miracle for anything more.
That leaves us with MIBR, Heroic, Renegades and Team Envy, who are all expected to exit the tournament in the group stage. MIBR are left without coldzera, Heroic got into IEM Chicago as a replacement team, whereas Renegades and Team Envy simply are not up to the standards to compete against the top dogs. There is no reason to back up any of these teams, as they will have hard time in group stage to begin with.
As for our prediction, we will take our chances and back up Team Vitality. They looked very strong at ESL One: Cologne and look to be in great shape heading to Chicago. Boasting currently the best CS:GO player in the world (ZywOo), who on top of that is in a spectacular form, Vitality are realistically speaking the only team that can dethrone Team Liquid and I would not be surprised if they do so. It's only the matter of time when TL fall from grace and should that happen in Chicago, I can't imagine being against any other team that against Vitality.
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