Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 Preview: Everything You Need to Know

After a stop in Shanghai during the player break, the thirteenth season of the IEM series of tournaments heads on over to Chicago for Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018, a 16-team event with a $250,000 prize pool.

The Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 will feature some of the best teams in the world. This includes the likes of Astralis, Natus Vincere, Team Liquid, FaZe Clan, and MIBR. Also in the tournament are other teams lower down the rankings, including mousesports, BIG, and North, among others. Notably missing are Ninjas in Pyjamas, who recently reached second place at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen 2018.

With six full days of action and all of the absolute best in attendance, the Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 have every bit of a reason to be one of the most epic tournaments we’ve in recent months.

Having said that, allow us to guide you through it all so you don’t get lost in all of the action.

What Is The Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018?

Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018

As part of Season 1 of the Intel Grand Slam, a win here means much more than just going home with a lion’s share of the $250,000 prize pool. (Intel Extreme Masters)

In CS:GO, there are few events that generate as much hype as the Intel Extreme Masters, a global pro gaming tour that ESL first started back in 2006. A staple in the Counter-Strike community since, ESL, along with their partners, have made each successive event more grandiose and extravagant than the other.

In 2017, ESL and DreamHack teamed up to introduce the Intel Grand Slam, a slate of big CS:GO tournaments that, in addition to the huge prize pool featured in each one, put up $1 million as a reward for the first team to win 4 premiere events in 10 tries.

So far, Season 1 of the Intel Grand Slam is nearing its conclusion, with only 4 tournaments left on its schedule.

The next one, the Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018, will take place at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, featuring elite teams from around the globe with coverage that’s on par with anything that traditional sports broadcasts have to offer, and quite possibly, even more!

You can check out the official page for more information on the tournament.

Who Is Playing in the Tournament?

Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018

A win here will give Astralis their seventh championship in 2018 alone and put them one win closer to the Intel Grand Slam award. (Astralis)

Sixteen of the world’s best CS:GO teams will converge in Chicago for six full days of back-to-back action.

Teams qualified for the tournament through one of two ways. First, ten teams received a direct invite based on their play over the past few months.

They are as follows:

Team Liquid
— FaZe Clan
— Mousesports
— NRG Esports
— Renegades
— Natus Vincere
— Fnatic

Save for Fnatic and Renegades, the rest of the direct invites made it to the top 10 in HLTV’s latest CS:GO power rankings. As for the rest of the field, they each had to make their way through the gauntlet that is the various online Regional Qualifiers, as well as the GG.Bet Shuffle online tournament.

The six Qualifier teams are as follows:

— Avangar
— North
— eUnited
— Luminosity Gaming

What is the Tournament Format? How Much is the Prize Pool?

Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018

With three of the top 5 teams in the world, Group A of the Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 are looking to be a blood bath. (Intel Extreme Masters)

The Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 is broken up into two parts: a double-elimination format GSL Group Stage and a 6-team single elimination Playoffs bracket.

The past Intel Extreme Masters tournaments have all had the Group Stages and Playoffs play out in the same way. The 16 teams were divided into two groups of eight prior to the tournament. The opening matches are all BO1 while the rest will all be BO3. The top three teams from each group will advance to the playoffs, with the group winners advancing directly to the Semifinals. Meanwhile, the runner-ups and third-place teams advance to the Quarterfinals as the high and low seeds, respectively.

After the Group Stages, the remaining 6 teams will face off each other in a single-elimination tournament, contested in BO3 series. One by one, the 6 teams will slowly eliminate each other, until only two will remain, who will then face off in a BO5 Grand Finals.

The prize pool, as stated earlier, is $250,000.

Here is the breakdown:

— 1st Place: $100,000
— 2nd Place: $42,000
— 3rd-4th Place: $20,000
— 5th-6th Place: $10,000
— 7th-8th Place: $6,000
— 9th-12th Place: $5,000
— 13th-16th Place: $4,000

Who Are The Favourites To Win?

Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018

If Natus Vincere win Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018, they’ll have a strong case to dethroning Astralis in the next few weeks. (Natus Vincere)


Astralis have posted one of the most dominant stretches in CS:GO history this 2018 and they’ve been just as good even before their current string of wins. Although they’ve had a few off-performances every now and then, the losses just aren’t low enough to knock them off of their spot as the tournament favourites.

Natus Vincere

Winning BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen 2018 just a week after finishing second to FaZe Clan at EPICENTER 2018 gives Natus Vincere the most momentum out of any team heading into Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 — even much more than the heavy favourites, Astralis.

With five of the best CS:GO teams in attendance, Natus Vincere will look to use this tournament to lay claim to the spot that Astralis have held on to for so long.

FaZe Clan

The legendary Olof ‘olofmeister‘ Kajbjer Gustafsson has taken his sweet time coming back into form after spending most of the year on the sidelines due to injury. Although he no longer is the star player that he once was earlier in his career, olofmeister’s play remains a key component of FaZe Clan’s success, as his team often loses when he doesn’t have a good game.

If olofmeister can be as consistent as he was at EPICENTER 2018, FaZe Clan will be one scary team to play and an entertaining team to watch.

The Biggest Storylines

Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018

Adding Jacky ‘Stewie2K’ Yip has not had the desired effect on MIBR and a lackluster showing here will likely force the team to reconsider the state of their roster going forward. (MIBR)

Can Team Liquid Win a Tournament?

Forever the bridesmaids, never the bride.

That’s a phrase that couldn’t ring any truer for Team Liquid. They’ve placed in the Top 4 (and second) in so many tournaments that it’s only fair to wonder if Team Liquid will ever be able to get over the proverbial hump and win a tournament.

Team Liquid’s last LAN win was at the CS Summit 2, where the competitive pool was relatively shallow. Since then, they’ve played well, but almost always come up short when it counted the most. The best example is their loss to mousesports at ESL One New York 2018, where even if Russel ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken put up an MVP performance (and received the MVP award for his efforts), Team Liquid just couldn’t provide him with the necessary support as they crumbled under pressure and lost in front of their home crowd.

If Team Liquid still can’t win Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018, then it’ll be time to explore the possibility that a roster change might be necessary for this team.

Will MIBR Bounce Back?

The last time MIBR appeared in a LAN, they put up a close fight against an on-form Astralis team who were fresh off of a win at FACEIT Major London. They didn’t win, but it was much closer than most people anticipated. Now, we can only hope that they’ve improved since.

While the talent is definitely there on the roster, we can only bank on MIBR’s potential for so long before we start to reconsider if this lineup can really keep up with the best that the world has to offer.

Who Is No. 2?

You know you’ve been so dominant for so long when people start wondering, not which team will knock you off of your spot, but which one will come the closest to doing so.

Winners of 6 LAN tournaments this year alone, including the two big ones in FACEIT Major London and the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premiere, the gap between Astralis and whoever the next best team is supposed to be is massive. But, who exactly is next in line? Is it Natus Vincere or Team Liquid? Maybe it’s FaZe Clan? Why don’t we just throw in MIBR there while we’re at it, because, why not right?

Every one of the those four teams have a legitimate case to being the second best CS:GO team in the world, and while that may be a dubious term at best, it remains an acknowledgement of their skill and the fact that they could’ve possibly dominated the game in any other year if not for Astralis.

Final Thoughts

The second of a busy slate of tournaments to end the year, Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018 will serve as a good starting point for many of the teams in the tournament.

With $250,000 on the line and a point for the Intel Grand Slam award up for grabs, look for every team in the tournament to give it their absolute best as they look to start their end-year run with a huge win.

Which team do you think will win Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018? Will we see Astralis dominate once again? Will we see a team come out of nowhere to give the favourites a good run for their money? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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