Intel Extreme Masters Season XV Global Challenge Event Preview

by in CS:GO | Dec, 14th 2020

2020 hasn’t been a good year for esports! With most top-tier tournaments canceled, the industry had to make a massive switch from LAN to online events that complicated everyone involved. The focal point of this piece, the 2020 IEM Global Challenge, is the prime example. It was supposed to be the first proper LAN event since IEM Katowice in February, but it also had to be moved to an online environment.

And it’s not just CSGO that suffered. All esports suffered losses, some more so than others. Now that the year is coming to an end, I think we can all agree Valve and third-party event organizers were quick to deploy a proper counter-strategy and minimize their losses with the introduction of online events. When the whole sporting world came to a full stop, esports were the only competitive sports discipline still around. The supply and demand were still there, meaning these should only be short-term losses.

Back to the 2020 IEM Global Challenge. Let’s start with the most interesting facts and research our way forward! After all, we’re not just looking at a big event here; we’re looking at the last big CSGO event of the year. We have to go the extra depth today since the next event starts more than a month from now!

2020 IEM Global Challenge Preview | Interesting Facts

Let’s no beat around the bushes; here’s everything you need to know about this one:

Key Dates

2020 IEM Global Challenge starts on Tuesday, Dec. 15 and runs through Sunday, Dec. 20. The final day of the event will bring forth the Bo5 grand finale. Oh, what a match that one’s going to be!

Prize Pool Distribution

There’s half a million US dollars on the line here. The winner takes $200,000 and 3000 BLAST Premier points. 

Remember, the January-bound BLAST Global Finals qualification circuit is almost over! The likes of FURIA, OG, Liquid, Heroic, and BIG are still in the equation. Everyone except OG has a chance to win more points and qualify for the $1 million spectacle.

Vitality, NaVi, Astralis, G2, EG, and Complexity have already qualified for the Global Finals. There are still two more spots available, with FURIA and OG being the current holders. FURIA is expected to keep its place. There are theoretical chances of them falling beneath the qualification line, but they’re doubtful. As for OG, they won’t participate in this event, meaning Liquid, Heroic, and BIG could very quickly push them aside. There are lots of calculations to be done, which makes this event that much more interesting!

Tournament Format

There are just eight teams set to participate in the 2020 IEM Global Challenge. They divide into two double-elimination groups, with only two top teams in each group getting a spot in the playoffs.

As far as the match system goes, the entire group stage and both semifinals are best of three contests. The grand finale brings forth a thrilling Bo5 contest that ought to set new records!

2020 IEM Global Challenge Preview | Team Overviews

Our 2020 IEM Global Challenge preview can’t end without a closer look at the participating teams. Just eight of them will be fighting for the main prize. The biggest teams that won’t compete on this one are Evil Geniuses and G2. Everyone else is here. We ought to have a proper CSGO spectacle on our hands here!


Once again, Complexity needs to find a replacement quickly. oBo was the first culprit. Now, poizon has to be replaced following emergency surgery. At the time of writing this piece, the replacement hasn’t been officially announced. However, I reckon it won’t be a top-tier signing, more like a short-term solution just like they’ve done in the past.

Depending on who they opt for, Complexity could cause trouble in group A. They are playing against Astralis in the opening round. Not much to hope for from that one but the elimination match could be a much tighter battle, assuming Complexity snatches a proper substitute for tomorrow’s show.

Complexity just announced they’re bringing C0ntact’s ottoNd. The Finnish AWPer will join Complexity on a short-term loan for the duration of the event. Remember just how good ottoNd was on the last major? He could prove to be a subtle boost to this Complexity roster. Can jks and ottoNd break through the underdog deadlock and lead Complexity through to the playoffs? I guess we’ll find out in a few days!

Team Liquid

I’m not sure what to think about Team Liquid anymore. After mixing things up roster-wise and bringing grim in from Triumph, I felt like they were onto something. The young NA prodigy was quick to adapt; he’s been a solid starter for the boys in blue, but the results just aren’t coming in.

Mind you, Team Liquid won just one event this year, and it was way back in April. Yup, their only title in 2020 is ESL Pro League S11 NA. To make matters worse for them, they’ve been playing exclusively on NA events where the competition isn’t anywhere near the level of European CSGO. It seems as though EliGE and the boys have lost their touch.

They’ll have to find it ASAP because their spot on the BLAST Premier Global Finals is on the line! They’re less than 250 points below OG, who are currently sitting just above the qualification line. However, they’ll have to be better than the likes of Heroic and BIG. If Liquid beats Heroic and BIG don’t win the event, the boys in blue don’t even have to reach the playoffs to qualify for the Global Finals next year. Yep, plenty of BLAST Premier 2020 Circuit calculations are still wide open!


Heroic also showed glimpses of brilliance earlier this year. The Danish boys won DreamHack Open Fall and ESL One Cologne, among several other smaller events. But, just like BIG (we’ll talk more about them later on), their form dropped, and they’re now merely a shell of their former selves.

The last three events they competed in didn’t amount to anything special. They got eliminated by Vitality, Mousesports, and GODSENT, in a series of heartbreaking matches in which they failed to impress their fans.

What can Heroic fans expect from their 2020 IEM Global Challenge? Well, I don’t want to bring the boys bad luck, but I reckon they won’t make it out of the group stage. The competition level is incredibly high. I expect them to succumb to the pressure and exit the event, perhaps even without a single win.


What’s there to be said about the tenacious Brazilians? I mean, we all expected them to make waves in Europe, but more than a month has passed. It’s safe to say their old continent expedition hasn’t been going according to plans. Sure, they weren’t outright terrible on BLAST Premier Fall, but they weren’t that good either.

I’d say the pinnacle of their European campaign in late 2020 happened in late November when they eliminated Team Liquid from the BLAST Premier Fall Finals. Before that (and after that), their overall performances were rather bleak. They couldn’t find the form they had earlier this year, during the golden era of NA’s online events. 

I mean, it could be our fault. We’ve seen FURIA flourish on North American events, so we automatically expected them to be as dangerous as Team Liquid was last summer on international events. When that didn’t happen, we automatically started talking about how bad the NA region is. Perhaps we need to give NA teams more time; perhaps Team Liquid will prove us wrong and qualify for the playoffs as well as the Global Finals next year.


Germans have been hot and cold this year, just like many other teams out there. However, their hot period lasted for quite a while, during which time they weren’t just hot but ablaze! BIG will forever cherish the summer of 2020, their golden era, which (if we’re totally honest here) might never repeat. They were at the top of the CSGO esports scene, be it for a short period. That’s something we can’t stress enough here.

Unfortunately, BIG’s form dipped significantly since then. They haven’t been the same team that we’ve watched all summer long. True, they haven’t made any roster alterations since then, but their strats and tactics just aren’t working out like they used to.

Don’t get me wrong. BIG is still up there with Europe’s finest. They’re just not winning more events following their thrilling summer form. That doesn’t mean they are to be taken out of the equation in group A. They are in for an uphill struggle, but they must be used to it at this point, don’t you agree?

Natus Vincere

NaVi will be coming into this one following two disheartening campaigns. First, Vitality ruined their IEM XV Beijing celebrations by defeating them 3:2 in the grand finals. Just three weeks later, Astralis put an end to their lower bracket efforts on BLAST Premier Fall Finals. Combine that with terrible performances on ESL One Cologne and IEM XV New York CIS, and you’ll conclude that 2020 hasn’t been all that great for the CIS side.

On a slightly brighter note, S1mple is still the good old S1imple. Yep, S1mple is still right up there with ZywOo, contending for the best player’s title in 2020. At the moment, ZywOo is leading the charge, especially considering his team’s recent triumphs. However, it might not be enough if NaVi wins the 2020 IEM Global Challenge with S1mple doing the dirty work. It’s going to be an interesting end to this year, that’s for sure!


Next up, Astralis! There’s a special feeling about Astralis these days! With both gla1ve and xyp9x back in action, and with gla1ve moving back to the IGL role, things are starting to look better. In essence, this is the good old Astralis roster many still portray as the greatest of all time. And, statistically, they aren’t wrong because this roster has won four CSGO Major Championships.

That special feeling is why many people think Astralis will close the year out with another win. That’s why some people put the Great Danes above Vitality in the favorites’ list, even though Vitality are two from two coming into this one.

What’s left to be said about Astralis? Well, it’s worth pointing out their best of five superiority. Out of all competing teams, Astralis is the best one as far as map pool depth goes. With gla1ve back in the IGL role, Astralis’ Bo5 game ought to improve even further. If they reach the grand finals, I doubt they’ll lose it!


Vitality is the favorite coming into the 2020 IEM Global Challenge! They’ve been just so good recently that they have to place above Astralis. I mean, they’ve lost just two matches in the last two months. They’ve had plenty of competitive action to talk about. Faze and Heroic were the only two teams that got the better of ZywOo and the boys.

Heck, Vitality is two from two now, having won both IEM XV Beijing and BLAST Premier Fall Finals. If they can keep this form up and win the third consecutive event, they’ll be the late winners of 2020. Plus, if they succeed in doing so, ZywOo will rank as the world’s best CSGO player for the second consecutive year!

That said, ZywOo is still the central piece of this Vitality roster. They rely on him to win crucial rounds and turn the tides in their favor. It seems to be working like a charm, but it’s only a matter of time before ZywOo succumbs to the pressure. I’m not saying he’ll suddenly stop playing, but he might not be able to keep winning matches single-handedly. Vitality will have to regroup and give their star player more breathing room.

2020 IEM Global Challenge Schedule (CET)

Since we’re talking about a double-elimination group stage here, we only know the first-round matchups. Here they are:

Tuesday, Dec. 15th

  • Vitality vs. BIG – noon
  • Complexity vs. Astralis – 3.30 p.m.
  • FURIA vs. NaVi – 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 16th

  • Heroic vs. Liquid – noon

You can watch the action live on Twitch ESL channel. The remaining group stage matches will be all done and dusted by Friday. The weekend is reserved for the playoffs. Bo3 semifinals are on Saturday, while the bo5 grand finals are on Sunday, 5 p.m. CET!


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