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IEM Chicago 2019: Which teams to watch in the Windy City

After the Blast Pro shenanigans in the furniture store, we’re back to a more "normal"-looking CSGO event this weekend, that being IEM Chicago 2019.

What’s more, we have Team Liquid on home soil (sort of), and no doubt still basking in the warm, fuzzy glow of collectively being $1m richer thanks to IEM, so this is an event with a lot to recommend it and no small amount of intrigue.

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Like Blast, this isn’t a tournament with Astralis, but we’ve got a nice selection of teams out here ready to test the world’s best, including arguably the second-best side, Team Vitality.

We’re also going to see ENCE attempt to bounce back after finishing last at ESL One Cologne, as well as the continued revival of the G2 brand in CSGO and some very interesting tier two sides, so let’s just jump in and see who might do what in the windy city.

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IEM Chicago teams

Group A

  1. Team Liquid
  2. G2 Esports
  3. MIBR
  4. Team Envy

Group B

  1. Team Vitality
  2. ENCE
  3. Renegades
  4. Heroic

The Bulls

To be honest, while we do have some serious contenders at this event it should be Team Liquid that come away with the title and $125,000 first prize, which is small time compared to some of their recent hauls. The American mix have played every one of their theoretical rivals in recent months and come out victorious, and the idea any side, much less Astralis have a hold or hoodoo over them is no longer credible.

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The biggest threat to Liquid’s level at this point is probably fatigue, with the team having flown to Europe and back in the last few weeks and won events on different continents, but this being in NA should ease some of that. There are threats, which we’ll get to soon, but with the map pool and level of talent Liquid have right now it doesn’t make sense to pick anyone else out as favourites to take home the latest IEM title.

IEM Chicago schedule and streams

Find updated IEM Chicago schedule, streams and live CSGO betting odds on the Luckbox tournament page.

The Cubs

We’ve gone with the Bulls/Cubs things based off the level of success of the two teams historically, but it is interesting that right now the teams challenging Liquid are the younger squads, or at least the squads driven by youth. Sure, NBK may be as old as the film that he shares a name with, and RPK looks a bit like an aging Robbie Williams, but players like ZywOo and Sergej have been the driving forces behind their success, especially in the case of the French team.

That means we should see the gap close as those prodigies of CSGO improve with the passage of time and the acquisition of experience, as right now the gap is a little larger than some pundits thought prior to ESL One Cologne. Vitality were in many ways the stars of that event despite the fact Liquid won it with the French team going to the final, but of the two we think maybe ENCE are the better bet to get a surprise W.

While Vitality have all the headlines, their system does still rely on ZywOo putting up crazy numbers and the rest of the gang filling in the gaps, and against a team as talented as Liquid that’s not going to be enough. On the other hand, ENCE are a complete unit, without a single player you can shut down to quiet them, with the caveat that you might be able to expose one or two of their players if you can get them 1v2 on a site. It’s a tough call, but the Finns are a well-rounded side with a good tactical base, and have a great chance to make an impact in Chicago.

The Wolves

Before we get too far into ‘the rest’, it is worth saying that this event has some teams that look pretty much incapable of making an impact in their current form. Team Envy haven’t really improved since signing ANDROID and FugLy, and they still have a great chance of finishing ahead of MIBR, who arrive sans coldzera and having just been toyed with by Team Liquid at Blast. It’s crazy to think that the team cost Immortals so much, so recently, and is currently so bad, but that’s the way it goes sometimes when you value brand over performance in esports.

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Heroic, G2 and Renegades probably deserve to be at least in with the Cubs here, but they are teams on the cusp, and can’t be relied upon. A G2 vs Vitality tie would be extremely steamy with the level of talent and the chance for kennyS to put the young blood in his place, so there is a lot to look forward to at this tournament. The story should be Liquid, but the chances of a surprise are good, and even a predictable win for the favourite is fun when Goliath is as talented as Twistzz, NAF, ELiGE and the rest.

Image: ESL | Helena Kristiansson

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