IEM Katowice has come to an end with Astralis reclaiming their Number 1 position in the world. With several teams battling it out at the top in CS GO, this tournament was a decisive and important one for the Danes to win.
The local favorites Virtus Pro and their rivals from Dreamhack Las Vegas finals SK were out in the Group stage itself. These two teams were amongst the favorites at IEM Katowice. Their exit shifted the attention of the community towards the format used at IEM Katowice. Many teams and analysts felt it was an unnecessarily crowded tournament with little regard for balance in the groups and schedule.
This year has already seen some big tournaments in CS GO. We take a look at some of the biggest tournaments held in 2017 and their differing formats.
The Eleague Major used the Swiss system in the Group stage. This was a departure from the generally accepted GSL Format that has been used in Valve Majors prior to 2017.
A Swiss–system tournament is a non-eliminating tournament format which features a set number of rounds of competition, but considerably fewer than in a round-robin tournament. In a Swiss tournament, each competitor (team or individual) does not play every other.
Theoretically the Swiss format should work really well in a tournament format. However Eleague Major is governed by Valve seeding as it is a Valve sponsored event. So we see teams that qualified to the legends status from ESL One Cologne 2016 which was held in July 2016 being seeded accordingly. The Major had a good format but with a really weird seeding system. The end result is a very weird composition of teams and Groups.
The Swiss format is a reliable format, but has not been tested in the CS GO environment. There is just not enough data to proclaim it as a success or failure. The one tournament where it was used had it’s seeding is determined six months prior to the tournament.
The Swiss format requires proper seeding which should be determined by a group of experts coming together for the same. That is the only way that we can have a fair and level playing field for all teams concerned.
The Eleague Major was spread out over the course of 8 days, but most of it was used up in setting up the Group stage matches. These were not held at the main arena and hence could be easily setup to make the teams more acquainted with the settings and gear.
Dreamhack Las Vegas was applauded by many members of the community for being a near perfect tournament. It employed the GSL double elimination format, but it was the seeding that stole the show. The organisers had a perfect seeding that almost no one had any complaints against.
The tournament featured 16 teams and it was held over the course of 5 days. Of Course the actual turnout at the venue and the choice of venue were a big controversy. It allowed us to have some really high level of Counter Strike with the finals between SK and Virtus Pro being very exciting from a spectators point of view.
The biggest drawback of this format is that a team could potentially be out of the tournament after playing just two matches. The other formats provide teams with a potential to make a comeback even after losing some matches initially. As of now, this format is the most widely used format. However tournaments are experimenting with other formats which suit their schedule and provide a more practical elimination system for the teams.
IEM Katowice employed a format where the twelve teams were divided into two groups. Each Group contained six teams each and they played against each other in a round robin system.
There are several disadvantages with this system :
The matches for the tournament were divided into two days for the Group stage. Group A saw all its matches being played on Day 1 while Group B was played solely on Day 2.
The subsequent days were all playoff matches with Best of Three single elimination format being implemented. This means that the Group A teams received a day off before they managed to play their next playoff match.
Each Group plays all of its matches in one day. Considering the Group stage is a Round robin format, that is 5 different teams to play against in one day. There is little to no scope for a mental reset if a team is having a bad day.
A team can be eliminated from the tournament if they do not perform well on a particular day. That itself speaks volumes of how skewed the system is. This is the easiest to solve from amongst all the problems. The matches for both the Groups should be mixed across the two days.
So one day 1, we could have 8 matches from Group A and 7 matches from Group B. Similarly on Day 1, we would have 7 matches from Group A and 8 matches from Group B. This would not only provide the teams with a less hectic schedule ( since they have to play lesser number of matches per day ) but they can also reset their mind frame and come into Day 2 with a fresh perspective.
If we have a look at the Groups for IEM Katowice, we can see Group B being much more difficult and stacked than Group A. Group B had the likes of SK, Virtus Pro, NaVI, North, Heroic. These teams shine when compared to the Immortals, Fnatic, NIP & Optic’s of Group A.
A good seeding system or division of teams is extremely necessary in order to maintain the quality of matches not only in the Group Stages but also subsequently in the playoffs.
The Winner of the Group stages got a bye into the semi-finals. It raises a simple question. Why?
The Best of One round robin format for the Groups means that a particular team with a good performance on a particular day along with some good map vetoes can easily qualify into the top four of the tournament. That is exactly what happened with Heroic. After posting wins in Best of One matches, Heroic was able to top Group B and go straight to the semifinals.
But in the history of such a format, no team that received a bye in the semifinals ever went on to win the tournament. It has been 16 times that this has happened and not a single team won the tournament. That is a fact that speaks immensely against the format.
We should allow only the top four teams to proceed to the semifinals which would then be played out in a normal Best of three knockout stage.
Multiple tournaments trying out different formats means that they are trying out different formats. The Swiss format was tied down due to Valve’s seeding system which rendered the initial phase of matches unfair. The initial phase affected all the subsequent phase of matches and the event itself suffered because of it.
The format used at IEM Katowice definitely had it’s problems which I have listed above. Some of them have really simple solutions while some might need a complete overhaul of the schedule and format.
We need more tournaments to try out different formats in order to properly understand the pros and cons of each format. Industry Leaders ESL and Dreamhack are in a very good position to feature tournaments with out of the box formats, which might just be catered to esports tournaments.
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