The results of cs_summit events can be viewed in a softer light given the nature of the production. From players commentating games to the loose chat of analysts, the tournament is more fun than serious to consume as a spectator. Much of the attention it’ll generate will likely be in the form of clips from the casting couch, and content from the TO first, and in-game specifics second. This isn’t a bad thing at all. Such a change-up amongst the seriousness of seasonal play is one of the reasons Counter-Strike is such an enjoyable scene to follow.

So understandably, cs_summit 3 won’t have its demos or results as seriously parsed over as bigger, more righteously ‘esports-y’ events like EPICENTER or IEM Chicago. But this doesn’t actually lighten the outcomes of the matches themselves. When looking at the teams in-attendance, cs_summit 3 is a seminal, validating reference point for many even in spite of the tournament’s feel.

Interestingly, this is due to the results Optic, NRG, BIG, and Complexity all faced at their most recent event, the StarSeries S6 finals.

For both NRG and BIG, StarSeries was meant to be their chance at firmly cementing themselves as kings of lower tiered Counter-Strike. BIG had managed to grind their way to the top eight of the major after a miraculous second place finish at ESL One Cologne 2018. And NRG were fresh off of a big series win over FaZe, and subsequent top four placing at ESL One New York 2018. Both, however (one more so than another), would succumb to the pool of sharks that is tier two and three CS. NRG managed to claim a Bo3 over North but fell to Vega in the semi finals while BIG were beaten by the eventual tournament winners, ENCE in the round-of-eight.

From being hyped as the next big things out of the top ten teams in the world, to being humbled by the tier of play they were looking to transcend. NRG and BIG’s StarSeries runs were as grounding of their own weaknesses as affirming the overall strength of tier two play. In spite of their results, nahtE and tabseN were the two highest rated players of the event and there was never a lack of spark, or uncertainty about firepower.

sergej ENCE eSports Jere Salo

Cs_summit 3 sees both teams come in as favourites. They are by-far the two highest-ranked teams, with the most notable series wins and proven firepower. Both sides want to do in LA what they couldn’t in Kiev - consistently dominate those they sit on top of in the rankings. Just like StarSeries S6, cs_summit 3 has a stable of dark horses who have the chance to blitz the bracket and any relaxing psyches under the Californian sun. From Optic, to G2, to Ghost and Kinguin, the sides ranked well away from BIG and NRG definitely have the tools to beat them on the right day.

With new recruit niko, Optic Gaming looked dangerous at StarSeries despite falling to ENCE in the semi finals. Or at least, more-so than what we’ve seen from them in the past. Cajunb and k0nfig both seemed to add onto the momentum they’d been gaining so-far as rifling stars since donning the Optic jersey. With niko’s flexible, highly efficient role-play and communication as well, the fragging core of the Danes looks far more well-rounded than it did with gade. Snappi has more tools to leverage into a round, and the pressure on JUGi should in-theory lessen despite him having a bad event in Kiev. While they are ranked 17th in the world, if any team were to force the hands of BIG and NRG from below, Optic could very well be the team to do it.

It seems strange to say, but G2 esports also have the capacity to upset NRG and BIG. While they may have the legendary firepower of shox and KennyS, this hasn’t precluded them from the savage level of competition outside the top ten. For all the impact their two main stars have,  they lack a reliable entry and overall fragging base. This has seen everyone from NRG themselves, to Luminosity Gaming match, and out-frag G2 man-for-man. But that’s not to say they’re discountable altogether.

The linear reasons we criticise G2 for in the first-place can also be the win conditions that elevate their play far beyond what their world ranking may suggest. While SmithZz and Ex6tenZ - and bodyy, recently, for that matter - have all been under-performing individually, the sheer impact of KennyS and shox can’t be ignored. These two have managed to keep G2 tredding water in some series on international stages, but at cs_summit 3, they could be the shock-factor to edge out games. The level of competition is high enough to force G2 into a position where they need these two to come online. At the same time though, it’s low enough for a transient performance to actually drive G2 to a cheeky trophy.

Between Optic, G2, and other dangerous sides, the favourites in BIG and NRG will have no easy days at the summit house. However, they shouldn’t crumble under what the other teams in-attendance offer. Both NRG and BIG don’t want a repeat of StarSeries. They want to be able to prove their place above those outside the top ten and show that their ranking accurately reflect their play being a step above. If you truly are the best of the rest when it comes to teams outside the top eight, then failing to make the finals at consecutive events like StarSeries and cs_summit 3 is a poor case to prove it. Either transcend the prior reference point or have it validated for you.