Esports News

Luci Kelemen
Written By: Luci Kelemen

Telling tales of esports, one word at a time, six years and counting

January 31st, 2023

The latest edition of IEM Katowice is just around the corner, and with it, real tensions and intrigue to explore in the professional CS:GO space. FaZe Clan will look to defend their title and claim the Intel Grand Slam with it, but if recent form is anything to go by, it may be time to fly the GIGACHAD flag high, for if you do believe in HooXi’s in-game leading abilities, they seem to finally be bearing fruit with this G2 squad.

So it’s now two good events in a row for G2, which is two more they’ve managed to rack up since before they got rid of nexa. Not only that, but their performances in this year's CS:GO matches have also been very impressive. Is there really something brewing after the spectacular failure that was missing out on the Rio Major altogether?

If the implication that he first focused on m0nesy’s utilization before turning to the rest of the squad is true, then the timeline seems to make sense for unlocking everyone else’s potential. There’s also clearly more confidence in his play and calling after winning a title amid brutal personal tribulations – and with all the smiles in the squad, they might be the team to beat now that they’re in the right headspace. If everything goes right, this could be the beginning of an annus hooxibilis.

It’s tough to differentiate between the top quintet heading into this event. FaZe have also been much better at the recent BLAST event than they were in the second half of 2022, though it remains to be seen how efficiently they can reintegrate rain after his short, fatherhood-induced absence. Heroic have clearly established themselves as an elite-level contender at this point, albeit still capable of hiccups, and there may still be traces of the past LAN jitters to contend with. Just think back to their last Katowice run and tell me it can’t happen again.

Then there’s Vitality, and at this specific point in time, I’d place them ahead of NAVI on form, rounding out a potentially very robust top four. The CIS squad is busy integrating a youngster from the academy, s1mple clearly isn’t at his best (for understandable reasons – and still posting numbers that are the envy of almost everyone else), and the IGL matter still hasn’t been satisfactorily resolved: it wouldn’t be the biggest upset in the world if they fell short of the Spodek, however unlikely it may seem.

At this point, the whole NiKo-karrigan thing is too far in the past to matter to anyone but the storyline merchants. However, it does add a little bit of extra excitement to an already spicy emerging rivalry between two superteams. Once again, the great CS:GO pendulum swung back from tactics to frags, and teams are looking to “play the chaos,” as dev1ce put it in a recent interview with HLTV. Thankfully, the Spodek crowd is loyal to good CS over a specific team, so as long as the spectacle is right, we can expect a raucous atmosphere no matter the kind of gameplay they serve up.

Speaking of serving things up:

Looking back at BLAST Premier Spring Groups but it's a bunch of restaurant reviews

Moving on…

A quick look at the Play-In stage

Before the servants of the Spodek get to serve up the main course, there is also the small matter of actually qualifying for the main event for sixteen of the participating teams. Dive into the list at the end of this post, and you will find a schism of sorts. There are the teams with impressive performances elsewhere in the circuit and those who can only point to their potential. The top teams from #9 to #17 are all here, with one exception. Astralis, of course, are the big absence from the roster, the only team from the world’s top fifteen in the current HLTV rankings that haven’t made it this far.

This means it would take a miracle for teams like Permitta (the winners of the Polish qualifier event), paiN Gaming and Grayhound to push into the top eight in this stacked field since you do need to win at least one best-of-three series to get through in a double-elimination bracket. The seeding seems fairly reasonable this time around. It will be interesting to see if any upsets emerge in the IEM Katowice Play-In, but it’s more likely that we’ll end up with a super-stacked main event.

IEM Katowice 2023 schedule – teams and where to watch

The play-in stage takes place between February 1 and 3, with the group stage following straight after from February 4 all the way to the 7th. Then, after a fairly long break, the playoffs stage follows on February 10, with the grand final scheduled for February 12.

ESL’s broadcast is now also available on YouTube alongside Twitch, offering an alternative to those who prefer higher resolution, pausing and rewinding, and better bandwidth usage over the purple platform’s unique chatting experience.

The list of participating teams in full is as follows:

IEM Katowice 2023 main event teams

  • FaZe Clan
  • Team Vitality
  • Outsiders
  • Heroic
  • Team Liquid
  • Natus Vincere
  • G2 Esports
  • MOUZ

IEM Katowice 2023 play-in teams

  • NIP
  • Team Spirit
  • Cloud9
  • Complexity Gaming
  • FURIA Esports
  • MIBR
  • IHC Esports
  • Grayhound Gaming
  • OG
  • ENCE
  • BIG
  • Sprout
  • paiN Gaming
  • Evil Geniuses
  • Fnatic
  • Permitta

Image via ESL / Helena Kristiansson