After two years away, CS:GO Majors finally returned to the competitive circuit at 2021 PGL Stockholm. With 2,748,850 concurrent viewers, the event smashed the game’s historic records and gave the entire Esports scene a potent reminder that CS:GO is the undisputed king when it comes to the best kinds of dramatic and entertaining spectacles. The first Major and first event with an arena crowd for two years, the energy and buzz delivered across the entire tournament was something to behold, and there’s no denying the atmosphere helped provide some of the best games CS:GO has seen this year. In the end, however, the pre-tournament favorites romped home to finally break their curse and cement their star player as the greatest of all time. NAVI are PGL Stockholm Major champions, and here’s exactly how they did it.
Locking Horns Again
As well as being the first event back with a live crowd in an arena, PGL Stockholm was just the third event to be hosted on LAN since February 2020. IEM Katowice in February 2020 and IEM Cologne in July 2021 both saw their grand finals competed between NAVI and G2, so it was only fitting that the two teams would lock horns again in Stockholm, with the former taking down Vitality and Gambit, and the latter beating NiP and Heroic.
Both teams have proven themselves to be the teams to beat on LAN, however, NAVI have had the better of the French org each time, winning both events without dropping a single map.
Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and co. were looking to become the first team in history to win a Major without dropping a single map and were by far the clear favorites for the tournament on the back of wins at the BLAST Global Finals, IEM Cologne, and ESL Pro League, as well as scooping up the Intel Grand Slam and being at the summit of the world rankings since July.
However, G2 had been keen to remind everyone about their proficiency on LAN, equalling NAVI’s perfect 3-0 record in the New Legends stage and wiping the floor with the much-fancied NiP and Heroic sides on the stage. Nikola “NiKo” Kovač had cemented himself as the tournament’s MVP with some insane performances, and it looked like the team had a real chance of doing something special in the grand final.
A Hard-Fought Contest
It was good to see Counter-Strike’s latest map in Ancient get a pick in a Major final, with it being an attempted surprise pick by G2, but it was clear very quickly that NAVI were no slouches on the map either.
A 7-8 half was as close a split as possible, but NAVI’s 8-4 win on the T side meant they stole away G2’s map pick in reasonably convincing fashion. 16-11 probably makes things look a tad more dominant than they were in reality, however, S1mple’s 32-17 and 1.68 record showcased that NAVI’s talisman was aware that this was his Major to lose.
Having to win on Nuke against NAVI in order to keep your Major hopes alive, but G2 once again put up a stellar fight and really should have taken the series to a third map, going 14-7 up. Majors are remembered by moments, and the defining moment of the game came with the scoreline at 15-12 with NiKo, the best deagle player in the world, missing an easy shot on S1mple above Hut.
From that one play, it felt like there was only ever going to be one winner.
G2 continued to put up a remarkable fight, but the momentum had shifted in favor of NAVI, finally closing out the map and the series 22-19 to bag themselves their first-ever Major. S1mple finished Nuke with just the 40 kills and 1.41 rating, winning himself the Major MVP Award as well as the biggest prize in the game.
As he often does, Alex “Machine” Richardson perfectly captured S1mple’s crowning moment with the simple, yet soon-to-be iconic line: “And you’ll never forget his name”.
But whilst this is surely the start of the S1mple and NAVI era, it was also good to see recognition and sympathy for NiKo and G2, both of whom had produced one of the best CS matches of the year, with the former carrying the side right up until the end with what would have normally been MVP worthy performances.