January 2017 Unwrapped.
It’s certainly been a merry Christmas, one filled with a whole lotta’ Christmas pudding and rather a lack of Counter-Strike, however come January – that needs to change. A few officials sprinkled here and there, a league or two, after all that’s what we expected?
Multiplay UK Masters
One of the first pieces of news collected was something broken at Insomnia i59 as Multiplay announce their third season of the UK Masters.
Multiplay quoting the success of their first two seasons, allowing them the unique position to be a direct rival of ESL in relation to both tournament quality and most notably, prize pool. The aim of Season 3 is set as another to aid in the process of nurturing teams and players in the scene, provide a stable and professional platform to compete.
In terms of specifics Multiplay have been fairly hush, however, it has been talked of that qualifiers can be expected in January.
The ESL Premiership
The ESL Premiership is back for 2017 and it is going to be “bigger and better than ever”. These are the words of ESL UK when talking about their upcoming Spring Season. Big claims – can they live up to them?
So far all that has been released is dates, with not even a subtle hint of the prize pool, leaving the question, what is ESL’s response to competitors such as UK Masters?
The open qualifiers for Counter-Strike will take place on January 9th. The qualifier will be in a Swiss-style format, from which the top 16 will qualify for the Invite Qualifier on January 10th. There, the top eight will qualify for the main ESL Premiership season. The season itself will be played from January 16th through to March 2nd, each Monday in a round-robin format. The Finals will be played shortly after, with the two finalists battling it out on March 18th in a best-of-five match. The qualifiers are currently open to enter.
One key note already is that we will not be seeing a CS Grand Finale at MCM Comic Con in London in May, instead, we will be looking at our top teams battling it in the Leicester-based ESL Studios.
UK Gaming Tours
Next up on the chopping block we have the rather comedic UK Gaming Tours Championship. You already be asking, why comedic? It can’t help but be said that things have been rather a shambles when looking at the nitty gritty, an unfortunate strike for a newcomer to the circuit.
Originally we would have been set to see a rather large skew of qualifiers, however, UKGT has taken action to now ensure there is no clash between themselves and the above-discussed Premiership Season. The dates cast into the stone are the following; January 6th – 7th – 8th. The exact format is yet to be announced.
This isn’t the first time UKGT has had to make a change, if you throw yourself back to the middle of December, we saw the heavy debate over a ruling on only allowing UK (legal) residents to compete in their event. This stance has since been adjusted to allow one non-UK resident in each, as well as strong clarification on their definition of residency. It may be a rough start, but, I’m taking some words out of the mouth of Adam “Blanks” Heath for this one;
… shows UKGT’s desire to make this about UK players and teams, rather than teams hinging their hopes on a Robin/Tsack style powerhouse which we have seen so often.
After the three 32-team qualifiers are played out, we’ll be granted our 6 qualified teams of which will join the likes of Reason Gaming, FM eSports, Team Endpoint and lastly CAZ eSports (assuming each team accept their invites). Much like ESL, UKGT has announced their league play dates, pitching them to run from 17th January through to 16th February, with games played from Tuesday through Thursday. The LAN Finals are also set, on the 11th and 12th March at the Centre:MK in Milton Keynes.
Next up is the standard ESEA, a league that’s sprinkled its fair share of love across the UK scene recently. Most notably in the amount of $150, as each team within the top 8 of the UK Open Division got themselves ‘in the money’, with the top dog, Cex, taking home $3,000. The UK saw a lot of love in terms of move ups, with the top four teams finishing in the UK Open got flung up the ladder to ESEA Main, and the eleven teams below saw a jump to the Intermediate league. This was down to the sheer volume of teams taking part, as the UK League was the largest out of all the National Opens. Chew on that, “UK has no scene elegiggle” people.
Season 24 is coming up, with sign-ups open until 16th January. Premier will once again see Team Endpoint, this time with their full roster taking part, as the main UK representative. They will (most likely) be joined by Team Prem1er, a European squad featuring r0m and smooya. The UK Open and European Open leagues will feature a full spread of UK sides, but considering how fruitful playing in its last season was, it’s safe to imagine that there’ll be hardly any in the European Open League. The EU Intermediate league will feature a whole swathe of UK teams, including eleven brought up from the UK Open League. Teams ranging from uFrag to Omen, from MALIK to XENEX will litter the league, bringing a whole swathe of British-ness to the division. Now ESEA Main is still subject to confirmation on the promotions to Premier, but the likes of CAZ eSports, the ex-exceL squad and Bulldog eSports heading the field. The top four of UK Open will also take the field, as CeX, a mix of souls headed up by redSNK called “On The Ball”, IGI eSports and the amusingly named “OnlyInRetakes” receive their promotions.
So with that, if you’re a player within the scene, sit tight, have yourself a merry little New Year, for you have a gift in the form an official scheduled nearly every day of the week, squeezing every last drop of energy and persistence out of you and your team-mates.
The question is, which teams will not crack under the pressure from encroaching real-life commitments backed further by curve balls such as education. On paper, this is a tough fight to balance. Is it time UK teams start to wave the white-flag and opt to miss an event or two in pursuit of more practice and overall more workable schedules?