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The British are coming: Into the Champions Stage

The UK core is written into the history books yet again in Paris.

by Lewis Head

Before the first RMR started, if somebody told you there would be a UK-majority team at the major, it would have been hard to believe, let alone a UK team making it to the Champions stage of arguably the biggest CS:GO event in history. But this is exactly what has happened. Into The Breach have worked their way through a stacked Legends stage, and will be playing in front of the crowd in the Accor Arena in the Quarter-Finals of the Blast Paris Major.

The path to this point hasn’t been an easy one for the Brits, after starting their campaign as Legends with a first round loss to Apeks. ITB struggled to find their way into the game in the first half, ending up 12-3 down going into their CT Side. Unfortunately their valiant comeback attempt was stopped in its tracks, leading to a 16-10 loss.

Speaking to Blast.TV after the game, Cai ‘CYPHER’ Watson attributed the loss to needing to shake off some rust, making the point that Apeks had the advantage of having had to have played games in the Challengers stage to progress, something ITB didn’t get the chance to do following their stellar run in the EU RMR A.

This seemed to hold true, as although the second one draw was tough, pitting ITB against FaZe Clan, ITB cut them down in emphatic fashion on Inferno. Notable performances from Dutch AWPer Joey ‘CRUC1AL’ Steusel and Sebastian ‘volt’ Malos helped secure a 16-10 win over the international mix and knocked the former Major champions onto the brink of elimination. 

The next day had a new challenge in store in the form of ENCE, who had played a strong Challengers stage, going 3-0 against the likes of FaZe and Ninjas in Pyjamas. ITB easily dispatched of ENCE on Vertigo, beating them 16-7 with a stand out performance from CRUC1AL, who hit a hot streak of form entering the Legends stage, grabbing himself 20 kills and only 9 deaths to his name.

In order to qualify, Into The Breach were tasked with taking down Team Liquid, who after a horrific start to the Major falling into the 0-2 bracket of the Challengers stage, were looking sharp and out for blood. In a close affair on Liquid’s map pick of Overpass, ITB came out strong, taking the first half 10-5. However, they struggled to find their feet on the T-side, and weren’t able to close out their lead, causing Team Liquid to take their map in overtime, with a score of 19-17, and Josh ‘oSee’ Ohm at the forefront picking up an impressive 35 kills.

After the first map, ITB were looking to bite back with a win on their map pick of Anubis, however their hopes of making the Champions Stage with a 3-1 record were dashed by another strong performance from oSee, with Keith ‘NAF’ Markovic closely behind him, getting 26 and 22 kills respectively.

So it came down to one final game, and a tough one at that. ITB had to play FNATIC, the organisation that was the winner of the very first CS:GO Major, and was looking to bookend that achievement with a win in the final CS:GO major. Not only that, but they had to face fellow countrymen William ‘mezii’ Merriman and coach Jamie ‘keita’ Hall.

The first map up was ITB’s pick, Inferno, which proved to be a struggle, with ITB slipping to a score of 10-5 down at the half. Unfortunately this score proved to be unrecoverable, with the map ending 16-12 to the side of FNATIC.

With elimination on the line, and going into FNATIC’s map pick of Overpass, one they are known for being strong on, it was all to play for. ITB came storming out of the gates looking for revenge, and clearly not ready to go home yet, took the first half with a one sided score of 14-1. Although FNATIC tried their hardest, they couldn’t muster up any meaningful comeback, losing the second map 16-8.

All ITB needed now was one more map, and what better map to be the decider than Vertigo – the map that had secured their spot in Paris in the first place? An incredible first half on the T side ended 12-3, with CYPHER putting up an impressive performance on A ramp, and pushing the Brits within touching distance of the arena. ITB quickly dispatched FNATIC on their CT side, and qualified to the Champions Stage of the major with a record of 3-2.

The Accor Arena is a far cry from the halls of the Kettering Conference Centre that the UK team might be used to, but we’ll see if they can rise to the occasion on Thursday 18th May at 6pm BST, when they will face Vitality in a best-of-three in front of an expected crowd of over 10,000 people.

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