Gamers8 preview: No slow starters allowed

The single elimination bracket is nothing uncommon. In combination with some sort of a double or triple elimination group stage that precedes it, ESL, BLAST, the Majors, all of the top tournaments use single elimination to crown a champion nowadays.

But to have no safety net from the start of a tournament is unusual. A straight single elimination format is typically used with best-of-ones in open qualifiers, whose purpose is to reduce a high number of teams to a select few (or one) as quickly as possible. Other smaller tournaments are occasionally played in single elimination online, but it becomes a rarity at international LANs and it is completely unheard of at Big Events.

Examples of international LANs with a straight single elimination format

United Arab EmiratesGET Global Esports Tour Dubai 2022
PortugalMoche XL in 2019 and 2018
Hong KongZOTAC Cup Masters 2018
CroatiaCounter Pit League S2 Finals 2016
GermanyRaidCall EMS One Summer 2013 Finals

The reason for this is simple. Tournament organizers don’t like that fewer matches and a potential lack of exposure of the most popular teams lead to less time spent watching by fans. Team organizations aren’t big proponents, either, due to the same lack of guaranteed air time. As for players, who would want to travel for half of the day back and forth just to potentially get eliminated because of one bad day in the office or a poor stylistic matchup?

So why can straight single elimination tournaments be a good thing?

In an era full of low-stakes matches at tournaments like the BLAST Premier Groups or ESL Pro Leagues, even the IEMs having group winners’ matches for teams already qualified for playoffs, it is a breath of fresh air to get some real variety with a no-nonsense, no-fuckups-allowed tournament where literally everything matters. The knowledge that there are no second chances creates a real sense of danger and excitement in fans when an upset is about to happen. It delivers the playoffs feeling all tournament long.

That environment is great at setting pressure at maximum levels on the teams and keeping it there for the entire duration of the tournament. You have to nut up or shut up. You do your cardio or get caught and eaten alive. You buckle up or end up with your face planted in asphalt (Has this reference gone too far?).

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Gamers8 teams, format, schedule, talent, prizes

This is where Gamers8 comes in. The tournament taking place in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia will have a whopping $1 million up for grabs and a superb level of competition, thrown straight into a single elimination bracket, which will make it the first Big Event of its kind in CS:GO.

Gamers8 throws most of the top 20 teams straight into the deep end

Just two days remain before we get into the merciless tournament, where nearly all the big names are due to play. The nature of Gamers8 makes it even more unpredictable than the scene has already been in recent times with four different winners in the past four big tournaments, but at least we can pick out a few favorites and see who else has a chance to surprise in the high-pressure environment.

Form speaks clearly in favor the current top four teams: ENCE, who made the finals of the last two big events they played and won one; G2, whose individuals were in peak shape to win in Cologne; Vitality and Heroic, the two most consistent teams of 2023 so far.

After them come a flurry of challengers. There’s No. 5 team FaZe, who might have some people worried after their atrocious showing at IEM Cologne and with a difficult matchup to start. But Finn “⁠karrigan⁠” Andersen‘s team also tends to start strong, as they have not lost the opening match of a tournament since the IEM Rio Major, and it’s unlikely for their individuals to have two off tournaments in a row. What’s more, despite their relative success with Nikolay “⁠mir⁠” Bityukov so far seem to be playing with an expired lineup while David “⁠n0rb3r7⁠” Danielyan is out due to injury.

Cloud9 and Natus Vincere come next in line, still fresh off recent revamps but having had some more valuable time to get up to speed. The Russian side’s first appearance with their full lineup may not have fulfilled its promise, but everyone sees the undeniable potential. NAVI have already showed they can peak high enough in single matches, but consistency is missing from their individuals as well as the strength of their map pool, and the team continues to note their issues with communication and mentality.

FaZe tend to be great starters, but a VP matchup and poor IEM Cologne form is a cause for worry

Liquid may have been in the same group if their path didn’t cross with ENCE right off the bat in the round of 16. They can hope for Marco “⁠Snappi⁠” Pfeiffer‘s team to come in rusty, but it is Mareks “⁠YEKINDAR⁠” Gaļinskis and company who have had the tendency for being slow off the line throughout the year with just three in eight opening matchups won, so the difficult first opponent might just spell their fate. 9INE are in a similar boat with a match against an in-form G2 in the first round, but might just be able to catch a favorite sleeping after narrowly losing out on upsets against ENCE and Cloud9 in overtime deciders back at IEM Cologne.

It is difficult to consider any of the other teams true contenders and it would take a miracle run to pull it off. Between Paris Major surprises Apeks and GamerLegion, the former underwent the less tumultuous change but ended up going out of IEM Cologne with a whimper, while the latter was mere rounds away from playoffs, albeit up against a weakened Cloud9. Fresh off the additions of Aurélien “⁠afro⁠” Drapier and Christopher “⁠dexter⁠” Nong, fnatic were competitive in Cologne but ultimately not against the big dogs.

High-octane Round of 16 matchups

For FURIA, Gamers8 is more of a test of whether they can start hanging with the best after their first steps with Gabriel “⁠FalleN⁠” Toledo and Marcelo “⁠chelo⁠” Cespedes have exposed issues with clashing styles. Their only win in five matches so far was a best-of-one against Grayhound, and the losses came against far from the level of competition present in Riyadh.

Their compatriots MIBR, who got the spoils from the FURIA changes, have yet to make their LAN debut with the new team and play Vitality to start. So do Falcons, one of the presumed winners of the off-season who locked down a high-profile Mohammad “⁠BOROS⁠” Malhas signing, and they have another favorite to make their debut against in Heroic.

In the end, naturally the favorites are not untouchable. Everyone has their slip-ups every now and again and it’s always easier to breathe when you know you can. This time you cannot, and that alone can make a real difference.