In the Fox Theatre, fervor gripped the audience as two sides erupted to cheer on their teams during the final of the ELEAGUE Major. Screams of “VP!” and “ASTRALIS!” rose and followed each other in succession and at one point happened at the same time. The game itself was a marathon of electric moments, clever tactics, and stunning individual plays. Who could forget Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski winning a 1-v-3 clutch post-plant on Nuke? Who could forget the insane Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth 1-v-3 clutch with 1 HP remaining on the last two kills to secure Overpass? Or Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye’s insane performance that earned him the MVP award? Who could forget Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander’s balls-to-the-wall call when he decided on a Tec-9 rush, down 1307, to win a critical round on the final map? When the dust settled, Astralis lifted the trophy and claimed its rightful spot as the best Counter-Strike team in the world. The Major final would undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest in CS:GO’s history.
In the haze of victory, Kjaerbye made an innocuous tweet. He wrote: “We’re the champions of the world! I can’t believe it. We really underperformed today, but never gave up. Real team spirit!”
It was an uplifting comment that also touched upon Astralis’ elation in winning. Some of Astralis’ players didn’t hit their peak form, and those inadequate performances put the whole team on the back foot several times throughout the finals. Yet Astralis triumphed through willpower and unity, a great reversal of fortunes from when Astralis was known to collapse under pressure.
Virtus.pro’s Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas didn’t see it that way. He replied: “Hard loss. Kjarebye wrote that Astralis underperformed. I promise you here – we will crush you next event, please perform then. GG today.”
The race, as they say, was on. TaZ took the part about underperformance as an insult, implying Virtus.Pro was only able to make the series so close because Astralis operated at less than max capacity. He swore that he and Virtus.Pro would exact revenge. It’s still a mystery to me as to why he took the message in such a straightforward fashion, but you can’t deny the results. When the two teams met again in the semifinals of DreamHack Las Vegas a few weeks later, the map veto went exactly the same way. Once again they ended up on Nuke, Overpass, and Train. This time the series wasn’t close. Virtus.Pro smashed Astralis on Nuke, Astralis won Overpass convincingly and in the final game, VP obliterated its foe on Train.
The Poles went on to win the tournament, TaZ got a Mercedes, and for one moment, you could believe Virtus.Pro was on the cusp of becoming the best team in the world.
In typical fashion, VP went flat after an impressive victory. It dropped out of the group stages at IEM Katowice in close fashion, then bombed out of Starladder Kiev. Meanwhile, Astralis continued its journey of excellence by winning IEM Katowice, taking second at Starladder Kiev, and finishing top four at IEM Sydney. Unfortunately for both teams, the rivalry never got its conclusive end. Astralis won the Major, Virtus.Pro won the rematch, and they never had the opportunity to settle the score. Astralis reached the ECS Season 3 Finals. VP did not. Neither team reached the ESL Pro League Finals. Virtus.Pro was invited to ESL Cologne, but Astralis declined the spot in favor of better preparation for the Major.
Luckily for the fans, ELEAGUE stepped in. Clash for Cash: The Rematch will pit the two giants against each other in a high stakes show match that seeks to evoke the excitement and tension of the Major final. With $250,000 on the line, both teams will take this seriously. More than that, it might decide who will have the upper hand going into the Major, as the two teams will not meet again until then.
Finally, Friday’s match serves as a prelude for the upcoming tournaments between now and the Major. In the last few months, SK Gaming, FaZe Clan, and G2 Esports have risen up to challenge Astralis’ hegemony. This is a battle for money, a battle for pride, a battle to show the world that neither team is done yet, and finally a conclusion of the rivalry that never had a decisive ending. Everyone will finally get an answer to the question: who wins between Astralis and Virtus.Pro.
Cover photo by Turner Sports/ELEAGUE