History of Intel Extreme Masters

Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), the oldest running esports tournament in history.

When the legendary German esports organisation known as the ESL Gaming GmbH or known as Electronic Sports League back in the day (ESL) saw a chance to expand the local tournaments outside of Europe, eight Counter-Strike 1.6 teams gathered in March 2007 for the first Intel Extreme Masters.

Few of those teams could have predicted the enormity of the tournament, or that Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) would become the world's longest running global esports circuit.

Clock is ticking until the next IEM event begins: Let’s take a look at the history of IEM ahead of the upcoming IEM Dallas tournament.

The Intel Extreme Masters

The Intel Extreme Masters is a series of international esports championships and tournaments hosted across the world. The competitions feature the finest players from League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and StarCraft  2, as well as Hearthstone and Quake Live. Its geographical reach is also extensive, with events held in China, Australia, Poland, the UAE, and Germany throughout its existence. The Electronic Sports League (ESL), which is sponsored by computer giant Intel, controls the competitive gaming side of the enterprise, with all events coming under its authority.

ESL itself has a multitude of running tournaments hence the confusion. IEM is sponsored by Intel and it mainly focuses on Counter Strike: Global Offensive and StarCraft  2.

The competition has been ongoing since 2006 and is the world's longest-running pro gaming championship. During its history, the idea has distinguished itself as one of the primary attractions of the worldwide esports calendar. Now let’s delve deeper.

When was the first IEM?

The Intel Extreme Masters concept was developed in 2006, when the event, which was already sponsored by Intel, recognised a chance to expand beyond Europe. North America was viewed as a potential breeding ground for the fertile esports scene. In turn, Intel decided to provide the financial backing to put up a genuinely worldwide event.

This is how the history of one of the world's longest-running global esports tournament series began.

Now let’s take a look at the most important seasons that made IEM.

Season 1 of IEM, and the beginning of it all

The tournament's initial season, in 2006, included teams competing in two different esports, CS:GO and Warcraft III. This initial tournament drew competitors from 24 different European nations, with a prize fund of €160,000.

Team Pentagram from Poland won the CS:GO event, defeating H2K Gaming and bringing home the very first prize of €40,000. Fnatic, one of the world’s most renowned teams, was only two years old during the event, and SK Gaming rounded out the top four in the event. When it came to Warcraft, the winner was the Frenchman Yoan 'ToD' Merlo.

Season 8 - Katowice

IEM Season VII, 2013 via Podczas Intel Extreme Masters

At this point Katowice became the standard for IEM World Championship

For the first time, the final events of the IEM were held outside of CeBit, in Katowice, Poland, in the Spodek Arena, attracting yet another large crowd. Important to note at this point there were no CS:GO titles for two years consecutively.

Hearthstone was also added to the schedule for the first time, joining League of Legends and StarCraft 2. The total prize money at this point was increasing substantially, this time to $605,000.

The IEM LoL title was won by Korean team KT Rolster Bullets, who defeated Fnatic in the final and collected $60,000 in prize money. Cloud 9 HyperX from the United States finished third, with Gambit Gaming from Russia finishing fourth. Kim 'SoS' Yoo-jin won the SC2 championship, defeating Choi 'Polt' Seong Hun in the final.

Shenzhen, Toronto, San Jose, Cologne and Taipei, all of these cities would be shadowed by Katowice in the future.

Season 10, CS:GO Returns

The Intel Extreme Masters celebrated its tenth anniversary by awarding a total prize pool of $993,200 to players participating in SC2, LoL, and Heroes of the Storm. CS:GO also returned to the event's lineup. The series final events returned to Katowice's Spodek Arena, where a large crowd was welcomed with some outstanding performances from the participating teams.

Fnatic placed first among IEM CS:GO teams in the World Championship, defeating Luminosity Gaming's Brazilian team and won $104,000. SK Telecom T1 of South Korea won the LoL championship and $50,000 after defeating Fnatic in the final.

Biggest champions of IEM CS:GO

Katowice is a city inextricably linked with Counter-Strike. Becoming champion at Spodek is a status symbol that all players strive for, but only the best can attain it.

Poland has produced some of the best CS:GO players, including NEO, olofmeister, device, and s1mple.

In 2018, it witnessed the triumph of hometown favourites Virtus Pro, the underdog narrative of Golden's Fnatic, and the domination of prime Astralis. Katowice has long been one of the crown jewels of esports, and it has champions to match.

2014: Virtus Pro

In 2017, Virtus Pro's TaZ reflected on EMS One Katowice 2014, saying that "majors these days don't seem as amazing as the first Katowice tournament, when we had 10,000 spectators cheering on the stage."

via ESL

Of course, he is a little prejudiced because 2014 was his team's first Major triumph in CS:GO as well as the first Major in Poland. After TaZ and NEO won eight (unofficial) majors in Counter-Strike 1.6: one WSVG, three WCGs, two IEMs, and two ESWCs, this was the squad's first legitimately S-tier event triumph in CS:GO.

The fact that they overcame Sweden's Ninjas in Pyjamas in the final added to the significance of the victory. Their unbeaten record of 87 games has come to an end.

2015, 2016, & 2018: Fnatic

In Poland, they were unrivalled. Fnatic won the Major with only one map loss against NIP in the final to confirm their position as the strongest team in Counter-Strike. Fnatic had changed Pronax for Dennis by 2016, yet they remained the greatest squad in the world. They had won the previous five LAN competitions prior to IEM Katowice. And, of course, they made it six.


Despite how implausible it appeared at the time, Fnatic's 2016 victory was their last for two years; Olofmeister's absence because of a wrist injury was crippling for the Swedes. Even after he returned, they never regained their late-2014 to mid-2016 supremacy.

Fnatic were far from favourites even after defeating olofmeister's new squad FaZe, which at that point was considered the best team in the world.  

Even in the finals, though, they were relentless. Fnatic defeated Liquid 2-0 in the semi-finals, setting up a best-of-five rematch versus FaZe for a third Katowice championship.

Fnatic were able to complete their goal despite 127 kills from flusha over five maps. They were the undisputed Kings of Katowice and champions for the third time. Astralis may be known to the younger crowd as the granddads of CS:GO. The most legendary team ever came, but Fnatic still challenges that idea.

2017 & 2019: Astralis


IEM Katowice was the year's second major tournament, and Astralis would repeat their Major victory. They weren't put to the test until the final, when FaZe dominated map one and seized an 11-9 lead on map two. That didn't matter; dupreeh's desert eagle ace swung the tide, and Astralis won the following three maps to claim the IEM trophy for the first time.

The beginning of an era awaited, but victories in Atlanta and Katowice proved to be a temporary blip in the radar.

They were Astralis' final titles of 2017, and the squad was rebuilding after Kjaerbye's departure in early 2018. However, by resolving the team roles of the roster and adding Magisk into the mix, the roster became the best in CS:GO history. Dominating every statistic to this day.

Astralis has dominated everything that has come before them, and they enter IEM Katowice 2019 as big favourites.

Victory was looking far under the circumstances, especially because dupreeh's father passed away the day before Astralis were scheduled to go to Poland. Underperformance would have been entirely normal - even anticipated - but this is Astralis.

Heartbreak apparently is a good catalyst, as Astralis annihilated everyone in Katowice, winning the major without dropping a single map and taking home the $104,000 prize for the winner. Already the finest team on the planet, their third Major triumph cemented their place as the greatest of all time and they are still considered the best of the best to this day. Albeit now, the team is a shadow of its former self.

Fnatic and Astralis could be considered the sole masters of the IEM. Where new legendary rosters rise and win and dominate the landscape such as NAVI and Gambit of 2020 and 2021, and FaZe Clan in 2022, they may also fall as fast as they rise. No team is still close to dethroning Astralis and Fnatic when it comes to CS:GO history.

IEM Katowice 2022 Becomes Most Watched Non-Major CS:GO Event

Via HLTV, 2022 the year which IEM broke viewership records.

Fast forward to 2022,

IEM Katowice, the first Big LAN tournament of 2022, saw remarkable viewing success. For the first time since 2019, IEM Katowice was held in front of a crowd at Spodek Arena.

IEM Katowice 2022 had an average viewership of 328,087 viewers but the grand final between G2 Esports and FaZe Clan resulted in a peak of 1,122,015 concurrent viewers, according to Esports Charts. The tournament, which included the top teams and individuals, did not disappoint, becoming the most-watched non-major CS:GO event.

According to escharts.com, 1.12 people watched the IEM Katowice 2022 Grand Final, G2 versus FaZe Clan game on various streams. This was quickly followed by the G2 vs. NAVI game, which drew 979k viewers at its height.

The previous record for the most-watched non-major CS:GO tournament was held by IEM Katowice, in the 2020 edition, where NaVi reigned supreme despite the absence of a crowd, as well as the record for a peak of 1 million concurrent viewers.

IEM Dallas begins

Starting in 2008, IEM tournaments were billed as being worldwide, boasting participants from Europe, North America, and Asia. Boasting a wide variety of cities from Taipei to Cologne, Oakland to Sydney, and now it’s making its return back to the mainland United States.

Next week the struggle between NAVI and FaZe continues at IEM Dallas.

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