Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships

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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships
MLG Columbus - Luminosity vs Navi.jpg
GameCounter-Strike: Global Offensive
Founded2013
No. of teams16 teams (2013–2017)
24 teams (2018–present)
CountryInternational
Venue(s)Various
Most recent
champion(s)
Denmark Astralis (4th title)
Most titlesDenmark Astralis (4 titles)
TV partner(s)Twitch, Steam.tv, YouTube
Sponsor(s)Valve

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major Championships, commonly known as the Majors, are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) esports tournaments sponsored by Valve, the game's developer. The first CS:GO Major took place in 2013 in Jönköping, Sweden and was hosted by DreamHack with a total prize pool of US$250,000 split among 16 teams.

Since then, the Major circuit has expanded significantly, with recent tournaments advertising a US$2,000,000 prize pool and featuring twenty-four teams from around the world. The Majors are considered to be the most important and prestigious tournaments in the Global Offensive scene.

The current defending champions are Astralis, after winning their fourth major championship at the most recent Major. This victory gave Astralis the record for the most Major titles in Global Offensive history.

History[edit]

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a multiplayer first-person shooter video game developed by Hidden Path Entertainment and Valve. It is the fourth game in the Counter-Strike series. The first game in the series, Counter-Strike 1.6, was officially released in 2000 and competitive play began soon after. The first significant international tournament was the 2001 Cyberathlete Professional League Winter Championship,[1] considered the first "Major".[2] The CPL Summer and Winter Championships, along with the World Cyber Games, Electronic Sports World Cup and Intel Extreme Masters World Championships, were considered Majors by the community, although Valve did not sponsor or give any official designation to the tournaments.[1]

Swedish teams, most notably SK Gaming,[3][4] dominated these early Majors but the Polish roster known as the Golden Five were the most successful lineup.[5][6] Many teams from other parts of the world would win Majors, including Team 3D from the United States at CPL Winter 2002[7] and WCG 2004,[8] NoA from Norway at CPL Winter 2004,[9] mibr from Brazil at ESWC 2006,[10] and WeMade FOX from South Korea at WEM 2010.[11]

On September 16, 2013, a year after the release of Global Offensive, Valve announced a US$250,000 community-funded prize pool for the first CS:GO Major.[12] The money was partially community-funded through the game's Arms Deal update, which allowed players to buy in-game skins.[1] Valve announced the tournament would take place in Sweden and would be hosted by DreamHack.[13] The tournament took place in late November and was won by the Swedish team Fnatic who upset Ninjas in Pyjamas in the finals.[14][15] After Dreamhack 2013, Valve announced they would partner with tournament organizers to host three Majors per year. These Majors are the most prestigious events in the competitive CS:GO scene, and the professional players' legacies are often judged by their performances at these tournaments.[16][17][18]

The early Majors were dominated by Swedish teams, as Fnatic and NiP combined to win the four of the first six Majors. NiP playing in five of those six finals. When Fnatic won Cologne 2015, they became the first team to win back to back Majors, and the first to win a third Major in total.[19] Only Astralis would go on to match that total.

At the end of 2015, Valve announced that MLG would host the first Major in North America.[20] On February 23, 2016, with MLG Columbus 2016 coming up, Valve announced a permanent increase in the prize pool from US$250,000 to US$1,000,000.[21][22] However, Valve reduced the number of Majors per year from three to two. Luminosity Gaming, a Brazilian team, won the event to becomes the first non-European team to win a Major.[23] This roster would also go on to win back to back Majors, with their second as SK Gaming at ESL One Cologne 2016.[16]

Gambit Esports, from Kazakhstan, won PGL Major Kraków 2017 to become the first Asian and CIS team to win a Major.[24]

On December 13, 2017, the general manager of ELEAGUE, the hosts of the ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018, announced a revised format designed by Valve and ELEAGUE that would expand the number of teams in the Major from sixteen to twenty-four.[25] This was also the first Major to take place in multiple cities, as the group stages took place in Atlanta at the Turner Studios.[26] Cloud9, an American team, won the event to become the first North American team to win a Major.[27]

After Boston 2018, the Danish team Astralis became the top team in CS:GO and one of the best teams in Counter-Strike history.[28] With wins at London 2018, Katowice 2019, and Berlin 2019, Astralis become the first team to win three Majors in a row and four majors total.[29] After Berlin 2019, Valve and ESL announced the following Major, ESL One Rio 2020, which was to be the first Major to be hosted in South America.[30] Rio 2020, originally scheduled for May, was then postponed to November due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The November Major was announced with a US$2,000,000 prize pool, combining the amounts that would have been set aside for both Majors.[31] In September 2020, the Rio Major was officially canceled due to COVID-19.[32]

Format[edit]

Qualification[edit]

Starting after Dreamhack 2013, the top eight teams from each Major (those who made it to the playoff stage) earned automatic berths to the next Major.[33] These teams are called "Legends". The other eight teams, called "Challengers", were decided by regional qualifiers, mainly from Europe and North America.[33] A small number of teams have been directly invited or earned attendance from a last chance qualifier to fill final open spots when necessary.[34] Beginning with the DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 qualification cycle, Valve created a single 16-team main qualifier before the Major. The bottom eight teams from the previous Major earn automatic berths to the newly formed Major qualifier, and the regional qualifiers now send teams to the main qualifier, instead of directly to the Major.

For MLG Columbus 2016 the regional qualifiers, leading into the Major qualifier, were replaced by "Minors".[35] The Columbus Minor system involved four regional qualifiers and two "last chance" qualifiers, and results in invites going to one team from the Americas, two Asian teams, one CIS team, one European team, and three last chance qualifier spots. The system was simplified in the following Major, ESL One Cologne 2016, with the removal of the last chance qualifiers.[36] Four Minors—Asia, CIS, Europe, Americas—were used. Two teams from each qualifier would go to the Major qualifier, joining the bottom eight teams from the previous Major.[36] The top eight teams from the 16-team Major qualifier advance to the Major.

At ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018, the Major qualifier was integrated into the full Major as the first of three phases, expanding the number of teams in each Major to 24.[37] The Major qualifier was renamed the "Challengers Stage", the former group stage was renamed the "Legends Stage", and the playoff stage was named the "Champions Stage".[38] This increased the number of teams getting automatic invites to Majors to 16, while retaining the Minor system to fill the remaining eight spots in phase one of the Major. The Legends—still made up of the teams who reach the playoff stage—earn an automatic invitation to the Legends Stage of the following Major, while the teams placing 9-16 earn automatic invitations to the Challengers Stage of the following Major.[39] This format has been criticized for bloating the group stages of the Major.[38] On August 28, 2018, shortly before the start of the FACEIT Major: London 2018, Valve announced that they were reducing the number of automatic Major invites to fourteen, starting with the London 2018 Major: the two teams that go winless in the first phase must go through the Minors to get back to the next Major.[40]

Unlike traditional sports or other esports leagues, Valve considers the players in each team to have the Major spots, rather than the organization itself.[41] For instance, at the ELEAGUE Major 2017, Team EnVyUs placed ninth, meaning it would have an automatic berth at the next Major qualifier. However, before the next Major, three of EnVyUs's players transferred to G2 Esports, meaning Team EnVyUs lost its spot at the Major qualifier.[42]

Tournament format[edit]

Although the playoff stage of the Majors has generally followed a standard 8-team single-elimination format, the group stages have changed multiple times. From 2013 to 2016, Majors used a four group GSL format for the group stage.[43] In each four-team group, the two higher seeds would initially face the two lower seeds. The two winners from the first round of matches would then play to determine which team gets the top seed. The two losers would also play to eliminate one team. After this second round of matches, the remaining two teams play to determine which team takes the final playoff spot.[44] All group stage games at the first Majors were best-of-ones. The last Major of 2015 and both Majors in 2016 featured a best-of-three decider in the final match of each group.

The group stage of ESL One Cologne 2015 generated some controversy.[citation needed] Initially, the first three matches of the group stage started out the same way as the standard GSL format, determining the group winner. However, teams were then reassigned afterwards so that the two losers played from different groups and then the decider match would also be teams from different groups.[45]

Beginning in 2017, the group stage has featured a Swiss-system group stage.[46] Before the tournament, teams are divided into four pots, with pot one having the four highest seeds, pot two having the next four highest seeds, and so on. A randomly selected team from pot one would face off against a randomly selected team from pot four. The same process is done with the pots two and three. After the initial seeded match, teams play five rounds against randomly drawn teams with the same record.[46] No two teams play twice unless necessary. If a team wins three matches, then that team moves on to the next stage. If a team loses three matches, that team is eliminated. All games were best-of-one until the London 2018 Major. The Boston 2018 Major featured two Swiss group stages; the stage formerly known as the offline Major qualifier was now called the New Challengers stage and the group stage was now rebranded as the New Legends stage. The London 2018 Major used a slightly different form of the Swiss system, called the Buchholz system, in which matchups were seeded instead of random and the last round featured best-of-three sets.[47] The next Major, Katowice 2019, featured a crowdsourced Elo system, in which participating teams ranked the 15 other teams before the Legends Stage to create a seeding system for each round of the Swiss system.[48]

The playoffs, now known as the New Champions stage, have featured eight teams at all Majors. All matches are best-of-three, single-elimination series. When the GSL format was used for group stages, group winners earned top seeds and group runner-ups earned bottom seeds. Each top seed played a bottom seed in quarterfinals. With current Swiss format seeding, the two teams that finish undefeated in the group stage earn the highest seeds. Two of the three lowest seeds from the group stage (teams that advance with two losses) are randomly selected to play against the high seeds. Two of the three middle seeds (teams that advance with one loss) are randomly selected to play each other, and the remaining two teams face each other to finalize the bracket.

Banned players[edit]

Valve has banned players from attending the Majors for violations of competitive integrity. A Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) ban is the most common way players get banned. VAC is an anti-cheat program designed by Valve to detect cheats running in CS:GO. If cheats is detected, the account is given a permanent lifetime ban from playing on VAC-secured servers. Other server providers, such as FACEIT and ESEA, have their own anti-cheat systems and work with Valve to detect new cheats.[49] One of the most high-profile VAC bans was given to Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian. KQLY, along with several other professional players, was banned while was playing for France's best team, Titan.[50]

Valve has also banned players from Vave-sponsored events for match fixing. The first Valve ban for match fixing was a response to the iBUYPOWER match fixing scandal, in which esports journalist Richard Lewis revealed that one of North America's best teams, iBUYPOWER, had thrown a match for high-value skins.[51][52][53] Valve indefinitely banned seven players who were involved in the scandal from attending any Majors. Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham was the only iBUYPOWER player not to be banned, as he did not receive any payment after the game.[54] Valve would later make the bans permanent, causing some controversy in the Counter-Strike community.[55] Although tournament organizers ESL and DreamHack lifted their own bans on the former iBUYPOWER players in 2017,[56] the Major ban effectively ended the high level careers of two of North America's best in-game leaders (DaZeD and Joshua "steel" Nissan) and Braxton "swag" Pierce.[57][58][59] Skadoodle would go on to win a Major with Cloud9. Following the iBUYPOWER ban, there have two other match fixing bans, resulting in nine other players being barred from the Majors.[60][61]

List of Major Championships[edit]

# Tournament Date Organizer Host city Winners Finals Result Runners-up
1 Dreamhack Winter 2013 November 2013 DreamHack Sweden Jönköping Sweden Fnatic
2–1
Sweden Ninjas in Pyjamas
2 EMS One Katowice 2014 March 2014 ESL Poland Katowice Poland Virtus.pro
2–0
Sweden Ninjas in Pyjamas
3 ESL One Cologne 2014 August 2014 ESL Germany Cologne Sweden Ninjas in Pyjamas
2–1
Sweden Fnatic
4 DreamHack Winter 2014 November 2014 DreamHack Sweden Jönköping France Team LDLC.com
2–0
Sweden Ninjas in Pyjamas
5 ESL One Katowice 2015 March 2015 ESL Poland Katowice Sweden Fnatic
2–1
Sweden Ninjas in Pyjamas
6 ESL One Cologne 2015 August 2015 ESL Germany Cologne Sweden Fnatic
2–0
France Team EnVyUs
7 DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 October/November 2015 DreamHack Romania Cluj-Napoca France Team EnVyUs
2–0
Commonwealth of Independent States Natus Vincere
8 MLG Major Championship: Columbus 2016 March/April 2016 Major League Gaming United States Columbus Brazil Luminosity Gaming
2–0
Commonwealth of Independent States Natus Vincere
9 ESL One Cologne 2016 July 2016 ESL Germany Cologne Brazil SK Gaming
2–0
United States Team Liquid
10 ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta 2017 January 2017 ELEAGUE United States Atlanta Denmark Astralis
2–1
Poland Virtus.pro
11 PGL Major: Kraków 2017 July 2017 PGL Poland Kraków Kazakhstan Gambit Esports
2–1
Brazil Immortals
12 ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018 January 2018 ELEAGUE United States Cloud9
2–1
European Union FaZe Clan
13 FACEIT Major: London 2018 September 2018 Faceit United Kingdom London Denmark Astralis
2–0
Commonwealth of Independent States Natus Vincere
14 Intel Extreme Masters Season XIII – Katowice Major 2019 February/March 2019 ESL Poland Katowice Denmark Astralis
2–0
Finland ENCE
15 StarLadder Major: Berlin 2019 August/September 2019 StarLadder
ImbaTV
Germany Berlin Denmark Astralis
2–0
Kazakhstan AVANGAR
ESL One Rio Major 2020 Canceled ESL Brazil Rio de Janeiro
-
-
-
16 PGL Major Stockholm 2021 October/November 2021[62] PGL Sweden Stockholm
-
-
-

Features[edit]

Stickers[edit]

Stickers are virtual items in the game which players can buy or get from sticker capsules. The stickers can then be applied to in-game gun skins. Valve has released a sticker design for each team attending a Major since Katowice 2014,[63] and a sticker for each professional player's signature since Cologne 2015.[64] These two types of stickers come in four qualities: normal, holo, foil, and gold.[65] With each sticker purchase, half of the proceeds go to the player or team and half go to Valve.[65]

These sticker capsules are unique for each tournament and can only be purchased at the time of the tournament. Because of this forced rarity, stickers from early majors tend to become more expensive over time.[63] After initially costing less than US$10, an iBUYPOWER holo sticker from Katowice 2014 sold on secondary markets for an average of US$4,500 in 2017,[66] and in 2020 the same sticker had been sold for over US$15,000.[63]

Souvenir packages[edit]

Souvenir packages are virtual packages containing a gun skin that are exclusive to CS:GO Majors.[67] These "souvenir skins" can rank among the most expensive skins in the game because of their rarity. After Cloud9 became the first ever North American CS:GO Major champion at Boston 2018, a souvenir skin with the signature of the finals MVP, Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, sold for US$61,000.[68]

In-game tributes[edit]

After certain significant or iconic moments in Global Offensive Majors, Valve has added in-game memorials to the location of the event, usually in the form of graffiti or signs.[69][70] Thus far, there have been six moments in Majors that have been memorialized by Valve, though one graffiti was removed when Dust II was updated.

Legends table[edit]

The list of Legends, or teams advancing to the playoff stage, from each Major is shown below. A change in the background color indicates that a different roster took over the Legends spot or the Legends roster disbanded. If the team name changes but does not change color (e.g., Keyd Stars and Luminosity Gaming), this indicates that the players changed organizations but did not lose their Legends spot. In some cases, a team may show up multiple times consecutively, but the color has changed; in this case, the organization has fielded new players for the majority of the roster. The team in bold won the event.

Only six players have attended every Major: the Astralis core (Peter "dupreeh" Rothmann, Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, and Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth) as well as Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, Richard "shox" Papillon, and Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko. Of the six, olofmeister had the longest streak of consecutive playoff stage appearances, earning Legend status at every Major until Berlin 2019: first with LGB eSports, then with Fnatic, then with FaZe Clan.

Winter 2013 Fnatic (1) Ninjas in Pyjamas (1) Copenhagen Wolves (1) VeryGames (1) LGB eSports (1) compLexity Gaming (1) Recursive eSports (1) Astana Dragons (1)
Katowice 2014 Fnatic (2) Ninjas in Pyjamas (2) Team Dignitas (2) Virtus.pro (1) LGB eSports (2) compLexity Gaming (2) Team LDLC.com (2) HellRaisers (2)
Cologne 2014 Fnatic (3) Ninjas in Pyjamas (3) Team Dignitas (3) Virtus.pro (2) Natus Vincere (1) Cloud9 (3) Team LDLC.com (3) Epsilon eSports (1)
Winter 2014 Fnatic (4) Ninjas in Pyjamas (4) Team Dignitas (4) Virtus.pro (3) Natus Vincere (2) PENTA Sports (1) Team LDLC.com (1) HellRaisers (3)
Katowice 2015 Fnatic (5) Ninjas in Pyjamas (5) Team SoloMid (5) Virtus.pro (4) Natus Vincere (3) PENTA Sports (2) Team EnVyUs (2) Keyd Stars (1)
Cologne 2015 Fnatic (6) Ninjas in Pyjamas (6) Team SoloMid (6) Virtus.pro (5) Natus Vincere (4) Team Kinguin (1) Team EnVyUs (3) Luminosity Gaming (2)
Cluj 2015 Fnatic (7) Ninjas in Pyjamas (7) Team SoloMid (7) Virtus.pro (6) Natus Vincere (5) G2 Esports (2) Team EnVyUs (4) Luminosity Gaming (3)
Columbus 2016 Fnatic (8) Ninjas in Pyjamas (8) Astralis (8) Virtus.pro (7) Natus Vincere (6) Team Liquid (1) Counter Logic Gaming (1) Luminosity Gaming (4)
Cologne 2016 Fnatic (9) FlipSid3 Tactics (1) Astralis (9) Virtus.pro (8) Natus Vincere (7) Team Liquid (2) Gambit Gaming (1) SK Gaming (5)
Atlanta 2017 Fnatic (10) North (1) Astralis (10) Virtus.pro (9) Natus Vincere (8) FaZe Clan (1) Gambit Esports (2) SK Gaming (6)
Kraków 2017 Fnatic (11) North (2) Astralis (11) Virtus.pro (10) Immortals (1) BIG (1) Gambit Esports (3) SK Gaming (7)
Boston 2018 Fnatic (12) mousesports (1) Quantum Bellator Fire (1) Cloud9 (1) Natus Vincere (9) FaZe Clan (2) G2 Esports (5) SK Gaming (8)
London 2018 HellRaisers (1) compLexity Gaming (1) Astralis (12) Team Liquid (1) Natus Vincere (10) FaZe Clan (3) BIG (2) MIBR (9)
Katowice 2019 ENCE (1) Ninjas in Pyjamas (9) Astralis (13) Team Liquid (2) Natus Vincere (11) FaZe Clan (4) Renegades (1) MIBR (10)
Berlin 2019 ENCE (2) Team Vitality (1) Astralis (14) Team Liquid (3) Natus Vincere (12) AVANGAR (1) Renegades (2) NRG Esports (1)
Stockholm 2021
Notes
  • Fnatic was the last team to reach top eight at every Major before falling in the group stage at the thirteenth Major, FACEIT Major: London 2018.
  • Team LDLC.com signed the core of the Recursive eSports roster that had Legends status from Winter 2013.[71] The roster would get its third Legends status at Cologne 2014. Before Winter 2014, LDLC players Kévin "Uzzziii" Vernel and Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian were caught cheating and were subsequently banned from all Valve-sponsored tournaments. Following this, the old LDLC roster (apEX, Happy, KQLY, Maniac, Uzzziii) turned into a newly formed LDLC roster (Happy, kioShiMa, NBK-, shox, SmithZz).[72][73] After winning Winter 2014, the roster was bought out by Team EnVyUs. After coming in last place at Columbus 2016, the roster struggled and eventually the core of EnVyUs transferred to G2 Esports. Because the core from EnVyUs and LDLC is now with G2, the roster of G2 acquired its fifth Legends status.[74]

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