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IEM Katowice Knockout Stage Preview

IEM Katowice 2022 has been a hard-fought tournament for all teams involved. The BO3 only format with double elimination is ruthless, but efficient. Upsets are extremely rare, but even big scalps manage to get taken. A lot of teams have undergone significant changes so the Top hasn’t yet stabilized, but losing the likes of Vitality and Team Liquid is still unexpected. Despite the few big teams who failed to go through, it’s safe to say that the knockout stage is still as stacked as we could’ve hoped. 

This is a bracket primed for the rejuvenation of 2021’s main narratives, with some new ones sprinkled in. The new and improved Faze with Ropz face off against Gambit as they try to prove their worth in a LAN environment. Heroic awaits in the subsequent semi-final for a chance to win their first big tournament since April last year, and they’re indeed looking better than expected. 

On the other side, we have a shaky but dangerous VP having to face a G2 that seems to have been powering up game by game, culminating in two dominant wins (16-5 and 16-1) versus Astralis in their final series. If G2 do go through, we’ll have the Niko versus S1mple rematch with the Monesy versus Navi bonus — and with the first big LAN with a crowd test for the 16 year old. If VP manage to topple the talented roster, we’ll have a CIS duel with a much weaker NAVI than what we were used to seeing in 2021. Regardless of who goes through, the reigning major winners are in now way unbeatable right now, so every result is possible. 

The very sturdy format ensured that only truly great teams got through, and that means we will likely have a very exciting final, no matter what rosters are fighting for the trophy. Gambit versus Navi is the true CIS derby, but any other matchup will be welcome. Another good result of the format is that we will have multiple new matchups that aren’t repeats of the groups stage. Out of the 6 teams left, Navi only encountered Faze, Heroic met with VP and no other teams faced each other. 

ESL now has the responsibility of hosting the first big LAN of 2022, so there are a few things to take into account. The last two LAN tournaments we saw had two clearly different issues. The Major was plagued by technical problems, especially sound-related. This is unacceptable in the current esports landscape and ruins the entire product. The game becomes hard to watch, the casters and desk find their jobs impossible to do and, even if the matches themselves are great, this reality won’t come through the broadcast.

BLAST have been praised for how clean their Finals were, but the issue with the audience being a sixth Astralis player is as unacceptable as the technical ones. If it didn’t look bad enough when it happened, keep in mind that the tournament in which that happened was the best placing Astralis have had so far. ESL has the resources and talent to create a great show, so it is only fair that the audience expects the best. Give us a LAN tournament free of technical problems and crowd-related issues. All the signs point to a great weekend of Counter-Strike when it comes to what happens inside the server, so let’s not ruin anything from the outside. 

IEM Katowice has always been an extremely prestigious tournament, but it feels even more so now that it stands as the first LAN of the year. This is the start of the true narratives for 2022 and a lot of questions hang in the air. Are Gambit gonna pounce on a weaker Navi and prove their worth at LAN? Does Niko keep going ballistic and, now with the help of Monesy, wins his first tournament in a long time? Are Heroic capable of succeeding when the pressure reaches its highest peaks? Is the Ropz addition enough to put Faze over the line? Is VP the dark horse team who takes the tournament by storm? Or does Navi return to a semblance of their form when they look into the Spodek Arena filled with fans? 

All these questions will be answered next weekend when the best esports in the World returns to a crowded LAN. Who will be crowned king at Katowice?