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CS:GO Tournament Formats

IEM Katowice has ended with Astralis reclaiming their Number 1 position. With a few teams battling it out at the top in CS: GO, this tournament was an important and decisive one for the Danes.

The favorites Virtus Pro and their rivals SK were out in the Group stage. These 2 teams were amongst the favorites at Katowice. Their quick exit shifted the attention of the fans towards the format used at IEM Katowice. A lot of analysts and teams felt that it was quite the crowded tournament with almost no regard to the schedule and balance.

This year has already seen massive CS:GO tournaments. We will take a look at most of them.

Eleague Major

This tournament uses the Swiss system during the Group stage. This was a departure from the accepted GSL Format which was used in Valve Majors before 2017.

What is the Swiss format?

This is a non-eliminating tournament format that features a specific number of rounds of competition. However, less than in a round-robin tourney. In a Swiss tournament, every competitor does not play every other.

CS:GO Eleague Tournament

Thus, theoretically, this format should work well in a tourney format. However, Eleague Major is created by Valve, and it is an event sponsored by the company. Thus, we see teams that qualified for their status from ESL One that was held in July 2016 in Cologne. The Major had a decent format but with quite the weird seeding system. The result is a weird composition of Groups and teams.

The Swiss format is a reliable one but has not been tested for CS:GO. There is not enough information to proclaim it as a failure or a success. The tournament where it was used is determined 6 months before the tournament.

The Swiss format needs proper seeding which must be determined by experts. This is the only way that we can have a level playing field and fairness for all of the concerned teams.

The Eleague Major was spread out over 8 days. However, most of it was used up in the Group Stage. They were not held at the primary arena and thus could be easily set up to help the teams acquaint themselves with the gear and settings.

Dreamhack Las Vegas

CS:GO Dreamhack Masters Tournament

Dreamhack Las Vegas was applauded by a lot of members in the community for being almost perfect. It employed the GSL double elimination. However, it was the seeding that won the fans. It was so perfect that there were barely any complaints.

The tournament featured sixteen teams, and it lasted about 5 days. The turnout at the venue as well as the choice was quite the controversy. It allowed us to have a high level of CS:GO with the finals between Virtus Pro and SK, which was quite exciting for the spectators.

The largest drawback of this format is that a team could be out of the tournament after playing only a couple of games. Other formats provide teams with a chance to make a comeback after losing some matches. Currently, this is the most used format. However, tourneys are experimenting with others which provide a more practical elimination system and suit their schedule.

IEM Katowice

IEM Katowice used a format where the 12 teams were divided into 2 groups. Each contained 6 teams and they played against each other.

There are a few disadvantages with this system. They are as follows:


For the Group stage, the matches were divided into 2. The first day was for Group A and the second for Group B.

The next days were all playoff matches, they were played in best of 3. This means that the teams in Group A received a day off before they played their next games.

Spread the matches

CS:GO Dreamhack Masters Tournament

Every Group plays all of its matches in a single day. This means that each team has to play vs 5 teams in only one day. There almost no time for a mental reset if a team has a bad day.

A team can be eliminated if they don’t perform well on the first day. This says enough about the system. This is the simplest one to solve amongst the problems. The games for both the Groups should be mixed in the days.

So on day 1, we can have eight matches from Group A and seven from B. This would simply only offer the teams a less hectic schedule, but they will also be able to reset their minds and come to Day 2 with a fresh mindset.

Division of teams

If we look at the Groups for IEM, we can see that Group B is much tougher and stacked than A. Group B had teams like Heroic, SK, North, Virtus Pro, and NaVI. These teams are gods when compared to Fnatic, Immortals, NIP and Optic’s and that helps lots of people using fantasy eSports leagues to make a decent profit.

A decent seeding system is necessary to maintain the quality of matches in the Group Stages and the playoffs.

The Semi-Finals

The Winner of the Groups was promoted to the semi-finals. But, why?

Just because a team had a good day and managed to win all the games, does not mean that they should automatically be promoted to semi-finals.

However, no team that was promoted to the semi-finals has ever managed to win the tournament. This has happened 16 times. We think that this says enough for the format. We should only let the top 4 teams proceed to the knockout stage.

Which is the ideal format?

Many Counter Strike tournaments trying out different formats means that they want to find the best one. The Swiss format does not do so, because of Valve’s seeding system which shows that the initial phase of matches is unfair.

IEM Katowice has a lot of problems which we have listed above. Some of them have simple solutions while others are more complicated.

We need more CS:GO tournaments to try out to properly understand the pros and cons of each of them. Dreamhack and ESL are in an excellent position to feature Counter Strike Global Offensive tournaments with out of the box formats.

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