This year’s ESL Premiership season has been unlike any other. A partnership with Insomnia means that the play-offs will return to LAN for the first time since the end of 2019, when Endpoint took their 4th (at the time) title in Manchester. However, with Insomnia taking place on September 7th, that made a standard season format impossible.
Instead there were two “closed qualifiers” exclusively for last season’s top 8 teams, and this weekend there will be an “open” qualifier which will see two more teams earn a spot on LAN with travel and accommodation paid for by Insomnia. After that, any team that wishes to take part in play-offs needs to attend Insomnia’s BYOC competition which will serve as a “last chance qualifier”.
It’s a decision that has received a lot of criticism. Multiple teams in the closed qualifier had to use stand-ins as players were on holidays booked before the season had been announced. The second closed qualifier clashed with the open qualifier for IEM Sydney, which was especially embarrassing as both events are run by ESL FACEIT Group.
The format for the closed qualifier saw some teams play 3 best-of-threes in one day. The biggest problem that has been raised time and time again has been the decision to reserve 4 spots – half the LAN – for attendees of Insomnia, a ticketed event, in a competition that has traditionally been free to enter. Between tickets, travel, and hotels teams were looking at a total outlay of at least £3000 in order to compete – no small change for orgs, let alone unsigned teams funding their own runs.
ESL Premiership Closed Qualifier so far
The first closed qualifier was won by The Free (then playing under Viperio), who edged out Endpoint in the grand final qualification game. Endpoint had looked strong the previous day with Shiran “shushan” Shushan standing in, but Viperio got their revenge once Henrich “sl3nd” Slevesi returned to the line-up, edging both Ancient and Anubis 16-14 and showing no signs of fatigue after a marathon triple overtime against Team 7AM. Now having added Mohammad “Ducky” Nourelden and Andrew “Wolfie” Allan in the team, Tom “arTisT” Clarke’s boys look to return to LAN for the first time since their ill-fated run at the BLAST Paris Major RMR.
The second team qualified for the ESL Premiership Insomnia71 Playoffs pic.twitter.com/aPeSREu1Bt
— ESL UK (@ESLUK) August 15, 2023
Endpoint recovered to claim the second spot in a closed qualifier where a lot of the attention was on defending champions Into the Breach. Playing with William “dobbo” Dobson and James “bevve” Slinn as stand-ins, they took Endpoint in the distance in the upper bracket final, losing 16-14 on decider map Inferno, before they were upset in the consolidation final by Raptors – who were fielding former Into the Breach IGL Adam “Adam9130” Ahmad as a stand-in. Raptors could not go one better in the final, however, as Endpoint stole their map pick of Ancient before cruising to a 16-4 win on Anubis to secure qualification. Endpoint themselves have a full-time UK core for the first time since November 2021, having signed Oscar “AZUWU” Bell during the player break.
ESL Premiership Open Qualifier: How does it work?
Update: We previously listed an incorrect format below, previously stating the bracket being entirely best-of-three, due to an incorrectly displayed FACEIT tournament page. We regret the error.
The open qualifier will take the form of a double-elimination bracket capped at 32 teams, with the tournament being predominantly best-of-one for both the upper and lower brackets. The exception to the best-of-one nature will be for the two qualification matches, the upper and lower bracket finals, which will be best-of-three.
Get involved in the ESL Premiership Open Qualifier this weekend 🤝
The top 2 teams qualify for the LAN playoffs at #i71 🏆
— ESL UK (@ESLUK) August 17, 2023
Two rounds will be played on Friday night, starting at 6.30pm BST – the first two rounds of the upper bracket and the first round of the lower bracket. The lower bracket resumes at 10am on Saturday with the upper bracket resuming at 2pm that day. The first qualification game will be held on Saturday evening, and the consolidation final for the sole remaining spot will take place on Sunday – exact times are still to be confirmed.
Open Qualifier Part 1 – Returning Challengers
Every team from the closed qualifiers has signed up for the open qualifier with one exception: Into the Breach. They are taking part in the CCT East Europe Series 1 play-offs at the weekend and it is possible they have opted to prioritise that event, especially with them needing to use 2 UK/Irish stand-ins to compete in ESL Premiership. This is set to be the first ESL Premiership season ever to not feature the defending champions, although it should be stressed that this season’s format is very different from previous.
Update: As of 10pm on 17th August Into the Breach are signed up with bevve, Owen “smooya” Butterfield, and Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier as stand-ins alongside Thomas “Thomas” Utting and Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras. Notably only Thomas played the last ESL Premiership season.
Team 7AM and Raptors are the teams that got the closest to qualifying previously – coincidentally both using stand-ins for their in-game leaders with Oscar “LVN” Levin and Rasmus “zodi” Frolich both on holiday. Kosovar FPL-C player Drin “makazze” Shaqiri lines up for 7AM while coach Daniel “papp” Hart will step in for Raptors. Ex-Coalesce, now with Jamie “Tree” Callan on their line-up, also take part having missed the second closed qualifier, while the Royals brand returns as Kyle “swaggy” Wilson makes his “last dance”, while Frazer “frazehh” Sollom’s Verdant are also on the team sheet.
Open Qualifier Part 2 – New Challengers
While bevve will participate with Into the Breach, dobbo is set to join another mix. He is signed up alongside Rory “cryths” Ursell and Swedish GamerLegion alumni Alfred “RuStY“ Karlsson and Sean “eraa” Knutsson in mix team Jack3d. This team is also currently playing ESEA Advanced Season 46 and will enter as the pick of the new teams challenging for the LAN spot.
Update: As of 10pm on 17th August Jack3d are fielding Emyr “eMy” Green in place of bevve, who will play with Into the Breach.
Also in with a strong shout are Joseph “godkU” Fowkes’ The Lizards, who just secured qualification for the UKIC Summer Invitational. That said, they have now lost Connor “Bigun” Suddons to K10 and are also playing with Jacob “oxygeN“ in place of Karl-Hendrik “tsutskam” Palu, so could be said to be operating at below full strength.
Speaking of K10, they will also be present at the open qualifier albeit with a stand-in of their own, with coach Elliott “fett1s” Fettis currently listed in place of Bigun. Adam “AdamJC” Colwell returns to K10 after trialling with Ex-Coalesce, and after narrowly missing out in both UKIC qualifiers, K10 would ideally like to bounce back with a strong performance in the ESL event.
Elsewhere there are a few notable names. Shane “SHANEY” Smith competes, making him the only player in the open qualifier who also participated in the first ever ESL Premiership season. (Max “MiGHTYMAX” Heath of Endpoint, and Kristjan “fejtZ” Allsaar also hold this distinction this season, but are not present for the open qualifier). SHANEY plays with a mix called “zzzzzz”, while his former team-mates Jack “Sorex” Renton-Cooper, Alex “f0cus” James and Micheal “PrimeOPI” John Fury are now signed to Team Invictum, who are also down for the qualifier.
The ESL Premiership Open Qualifier will kick off tomorrow, Friday August 18th, at 6:30PM BST. Sign-ups close at 3PM BST, so if you haven’t signed up yet and fancy a shot at the crown at Insomnia 71, there’s still time and space to get involved. While no official stream has been announced just yet, any community run streams will be listed on UKCSGO.com and our Twitter, so keep an eye for those there.