After four long years away, Intel Extreme Masters Sydney returned to the Counter-Strike calendar with a bang. FaZe Clan secured the first 13-0 scoreline on LAN, some of CS’s best—like the final Major champs Team Vitality—struggled with CS2, and we once again proved that Australia is greater than the “UK” and HenryG is indeed a wanker.
At the end of a week’s play, FaZe held on through double overtime to reign supreme and be crowned the first CS2 LAN champion, as well as starting their campaign to defend their grand slam title (although, it’s sounding like their reign will be short-lived).
But with the return of IEM we also saw what was dubbed as the “Big Reunion” by ESL—and they couldn’t have gotten that anymore right.
Sure, Australia has had its share of Counter-Strike events in the post-COVID environment, with a pair of ESL Challengers at DreamHack Melbourne, the IEM Road to Rio Asia-Pacific Major Qualifier, as well a BLAST qualifier and a series of local events like BrisVegas and Clash of Rivals in the last 18 months, but none of those were nearly as big as this weekend has been.
Bringing 16 of the world’s best teams to the beautiful Sydney shores for what ended up being the first tier-one LAN of the CS2 era has been the event this region has sorely needed.
There is a mega appetite for esports here in this country which was only proven by the record ticket sales, with the initial allocation selling out in only a couple of days. As the event drew closer, excitement built, and the fear of missing out definitely set in for those who missed the boat.
Whilst the gameplay has been far from perfect—as we expected with the game only being out officially for less than a month—the vibe for the tournament has been immaculate. The crowd has been loud for all three days, actively participating, cheering, and jeering only as an Australian crowd can. A special shoutout to Row F, bringing us the perfect “artistic” energy to keep the crowd going.
But even beyond the event, it has brought the community together in so many more ways. I have said it before and will continue to say it: The Oceanic esports community lives and dies on communication, and especially their ability to do it in person.
Being able to find a loud bar (only before midnight, of course, thanks to Sydney) or a quiet place to have a chat to discuss the latest, share a laugh, and just enjoy each other’s company. Couple that with the SXSW Festival which took over the town throughout the week, this event has been one for the history books.
Mitch “Conky” Concanen said it best when he opened the event on Friday afternoon, Sydney needed another IEM, and the fans from all around Australia showed the world who we are, where we come from, and why we need these events.
ESL, bring us back for next year (IEM Fall perhaps?), and Valve, give us a major, please?