CS:GO, Counter-Strike

Credit: Helena Kristiansson ESL

Throwback: Astralis make history by becoming the first Intel Grand Slam champions

In this series, we look back at the teams who have managed to bag themselves an Intel Grand Slam title.

In the world of Counter-Strike, the Intel Grand Slam is one of the most prestigious and greatest honors to obtain. The massive prize and title live up to its name, as the Intel Grand Slam offers a whopping $1.000.000 in prize winnings. The Intel Grand Slam was founded in 2017 by ESL and the prize is awarded to any team that manages to win four S-tier events held by ESL and DreamHack in a span of ten tournaments.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how the Danish CS:GO team Astralis made history by winning the first-ever Intel Grand Slam, which ran for 523 days. On home soil in Denmark, the $1.000.000 Intel Grand Slam was theirs.

Intel Grand Slam Season 1 | July 2017 – December 2018

Winners: Astralis (device, gla1ve, Magisk, dupreeh, Xyp9x)

DreamHack Masters Marseille 2018 – Astralis
ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals – Astralis
IEM Chicago – Astralis
ESL Pro League Season 8 Finals – Astralis

Astralis’ path to the first Intel Grand Slam title saw the dominant Danes fight for 18 months and nine events to claim the title and the $1.000.000 prize.

”My initial thoughts when I heard about the Intel Grand Slam was that no one is going to win this one. I simply thought it was too hard to win it.” – dupreeh

FaZe fail to complete the Intel Grand Slam

Finn “karrigan” Andersen and his troops from FaZe Clan were the first ones to get within touching distance of the Intel Grand Slam prize. With title victories at ESL One New York 2017, IEM Sydney 2018, and ESL One Belo Horizonte, FaZe Clan put themselves in the driver’s seat in the run for the Intel Grand Slam title. They picked up three out of the four titles needed and had two chances to complete the Intel Grand Slam and make history at either ESL One Cologne 2018 or DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018. It meant that if FaZe Clan were to fail in Cologne, they would have another shot at the $1.000.000 prize at DreamHack Masters Stockholm.

“Our team has been through so much this year. We have won two IGS with different stand-ins. We will take the Grand Slam.” – FaZe’s captain said after they won the title at ESL One Belo Horizonte.

In a move designed to encourage highly competitive play, Intel decided that a $100.000 spoiler bonus would be given out to the team that could stop FaZe from winning the Intel Grand Slam by beating them in the final of either of the two events if they were to reach one.

At ESL One Cologne 2018 FaZe Clan made it to the playoffs after winning their group, advancing directly to the semi-finals of the event, where they would take upon BIG. The hometown heroes of Germany ended up eliminating a nervous FaZe roster with a 2-1 series score, which left karrigan’s troops completely devasted.

The DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018 was nothing better for FaZe. Early on in the tournament they performed well and secured first place in the group stage. However, they weren’t able to showcase a good performance in the quarter-finals against mousesports, who kicked them out of the event with a 2-1 victory, denying them a chance to fight for the Intel Grand Slam prize. Many fans expected FaZe Clan to win the tournament and grab the Intel Grand Slam title, but unfortunately for FaZe, they missed out on their last opportunity to make history and saw their win total reset.

The million-dollar doorstep

As mentioned before, a team had to win four tournaments of any of the premier tournaments from IEM, ESL, or DreamHack. This didn’t include the FACEIT London Major which Astralis also happened to win earlier in the year.

The Danish powerhouse amassed three Intel Grand Slam qualifying victories starting with their title victory at DreamHack Masters Marseille in April 2018. Then, they ended up losing to FaZe Clan in the grand final of IEM XIII Sydney, before claiming their second title win in three tournaments at ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals over their rivals from Team Liquid.

After the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals, Astralis controversially sat out the ESL One Belo Horizonte 2018 event and were kicked out in the semi-finals at the next tournament, ESL One Cologne 2018, after NAVI handed them a 2-1 defeat and went on to claim the title. In the sixth event since their win, Astralis reached the Grand final at DreamHack Masters Stockholm 2018, but fell short as their fellow countrymen from North claimed an unexpected victory.

Astralis also refused to play in the ESL One New York 2018 event due to a heavy and stressful schedule, which meant their next tournament was the Intel Extreme Masters XIII in Chicago. Here, Astralis defeated Team Liquid in the grand final of the event to claim their third tournament victory in eight events.

That’s what put Astralis just one step away from securing the Intel Grand Slam prize.

A day to be remembered  

Going into the ESL Pro League Season 8 event Astralis were unsurprisingly the favorites to win the event outright given the stellar form that they had shown in the period, and the fact that the event was being held on home soil in Denmark.

Astralis proceeded directly to the semi-finals in the playoffs at the event, after cruising through their group, which included an upper bracket victory over Team Liquid. Then, the Danes won a comfortable 2-0 semi-final matchup over mousesports to lock in a spot in the grand final, where they would eventually meet Liquid once again.

The grand final series began on Astralis’ map pick of Train, which the Danes picked in hopes of catching Team Liquid unprepared to easily go up 1-0 in the series. But the North American squad proved them wrong. The truth was that Liquid performed amazingly on Train and nearly didn’t give any mistakes away that could result in Astralis gaining momentum. With fearless play and control of the pace, Liquid went on to secure the first map of the series, 8-16.

From there, the series headed to Liquid’s pick of Mirage – a map that became a staple for battles between the two rosters. The Danish squad started off slow and was somehow lacking power, but gla1ve’s men eventually recovered and were able to level the series at 1-1 with a 16-11 victory. Astralis’ captain played a huge role in the map victory and led the way with 31 kills.

For the third map of the series, Astralis and Liquid loaded into Inferno. Here, the first half went similarly to the previous map, but during the second half, Astralis showed dominance with utility usage and great executes in place. Astralis were way more efficient than Liquid and closed out things16-11 in the end. Xyp9x emerged as the top fragger and brought immense firepower as well as confidence to his team throughout the second half.

The Danish squad wrapped up the grand final with a 3-1 series result after closing out Dust2 16-10 to claim the ESL Pro League Season 8 title, and on top of that a whopping $1 million bonus via the Intel Grand Slam award. In addition to this, Astralis cemented their position as one of the best Counter-Strike teams that have ever existed. The Danes were on top of their game and nobody could stop them. On home soil in Denmark, Astralis made history.

Each player on the Astralis roster received a gold bar with their name and tournament victories engraved upon it.

“Completing the Intel Grand Slam is one of the most difficult feats in all of esports because of how insanely competitive CS:GO is. What Astralis have done is nothing short of historic. This was truly the era of Astralis.” – Michal Blicharz, Vice President of Pro Gaming at ESL.

Team Liquid and Astralis’ long-lasting rivalry proved out to be a decisive and pivotal factor in the future race for an Intel Grand Slam. Make sure to come back tomorrow to find out why.

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