The Play-In stage has concluded and the main phase of IEM Katowice 2023 is now underway. The event boasts some of the biggest names in CS: GO. Several squads are already considered favorites to win the trophy, largely due to their players’ exceptional individual performances in recent months.
To help fans follow the action, we’ve highlighted the top 5 difference-makers to watch. These stars are likely to play a critical role in the Group and Playoff stages and are sure to provide exciting matches. So, stay tuned and keep an eye on these key players!
1. NiP Headtr1ck
Daniil “headtr1ck” Valitov is generating a lot of buzz in the competitive CS: GO scene. At just 18 years old, he has already proven himself to be a talented player, having averaged a 1.27 rating across 72 maps played as a stand-in for NAVI in 2022. This performance is even more impressive when compared to other top csgo player talents.
There is also a high level of expectation for headtr1ck that come with his full-time role for Ninjas in Pyjamas. One thing is for sure: if he can maintain an average rating of around 1.16 or 1.20, NiP has the potential to become a top-ranked team in the world. The stage in Katowice will provide a true test to determine if the Ukrainian is ready to put up a fight in tier-one.
2. Cloud 9 Buster
In addition to NiP’s headtr1ck, IEM Katowice 2023 also features several other players making their debut with their new squads. And one player in particular, Timur “buster” Tulepov, has caught the attention of many CS: GO fans.
In his first match with Cloud9 in the Play-In, buster showcased his skills with a 14-9 KD, 59.3 ADR, and 1.00 rating, helping his team secure a spot in the Group stage. The Kazakhstani player creates a lot of expectations around himself also because of the fact that C9 faltered under pressure in 2022, and everyone is eager to see how Timur’s addition will impact their gameplay and how he will perform on the roster filled with star players.
3. NaVi npl
This IEM Katowice tournament may not mark Andrii “npl” Kukharskyi’s first appearance on NaVi’s main roster, but it will serve as his official debut as the team’s fifth man. Despite underperforming at the World Final in Abu Dhabi and struggling in Spring Groups with an average 0.68 rating, according to HLTV, Andrii did not leave a strong first impression.
During the IEM Katowice Group stage, we will get to see how well he performs now that he has fully integrated with the team. The Ukrainian organization only ever promoted one other player, b1t, to their first team on a full-time basis and he went on to be ranked in HLTV’s top 20 list for two consecutive years. This indicates the organization’s confidence in “npl” skills and adds to the excitement for fans.
4. Team Liquid NAF
Keith “NAF” Markovic has been the standout performer on Team Liquid, excelling in both CT and T side roles. But the major reason why we included the Canadian in this list is his exceptional play in the Spring Groups 2023.
In Group B against OG, NAF demonstrated his skills by taking down two opponents in a seemingly impossible situation. This resulted in his 1.09 rating, 49-42 KD, and 68.2 ADR, which placed him second only to teammate nitr0. Thus, after starting this year on a high note, he will need to continue his stellar play and make a strong showing on the Group stage of IEM Katowice 2023.
5. Astralis Buzz
Astralis has completed its 2023 roster with the addition of 19-year-old Christian “Buzz” Andersen as an up-and-coming player. At the BLAST Premiere: Spring Groups, Buzz made his debut for Astralis alongside Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz who was returning to the team for his first LAN game.
The Danish player quickly made a strong impression, scoring an “ace” by eliminating the entire opposing Vitality team in the first round. Although his performance may have declined slightly thereafter, this was an impressive start to his tenure with Astralis. Expectations are high for Buzz to continue his strong play at the Group Stage of IEM Katowice.
Why has this city become iconic for the CS: GO community?
Let’s start with the fact that the city of Katowice hosted the second major in the history of CS: GO – EMS One Katowice 2014. Then the Global Offensive was just beginning to gain momentum. Tournaments with a prize pool of $250,000 were not only considered but in fact, were the biggest of the season. There was good money at that time and high prestige: this was facilitated by the involvement of Valve.
As a result, the championship was held at the highest level. ESL did its job in terms of organizational issues, but the quality of the matches kept the audience engaged. However, it was the local public that experienced particular joy in this event. The fact is that the Polish team Virtus.pro became the winner of EMS. In the final, pashaBiceps, NEO, Snax, byali and TaZ defeated #1 team in the world – Ninjas in Pajamas. This will forever go down in history as one of the most memorable matches in the CS: GO esports scene.
Also at EMS Katowice, Valve presented us with in-game stickers with team logos for the first time. As it turned out later, stickers not only served as decoration for skins. They also generated a good income for the participants of the major! This, combined with $250,000 in prize money, was a luxury for CS: GO esports players of the time.
The success of the first event led to the fact that the following year ESL organized another major at this location – ESL One Katowice 2015. Everything is the same but on a larger scale. Its winner, in turn, was the Swedes from FNATIC. Ninjas in Pajamas once again stopped one step away from the coveted title.