Team Liquid defeated Evil Geniuses 3-0 this Sunday, to clinch the title of ESL Pro League Season 11 North American division champions, marking their first S-Tier tournament title in over six months.
Despite their recent struggles and iffy performances, Nick "nitr0" Cannella and co. entered ESL Pro League S11: NA as one of the main favourites to go the distance and the reigning Intel Grand Slam titleholders did not hesitate to prove just that. Liquid's run through the regular season was not impressive, given that they dropped two games against Swole Patrol (0-2) and FURIA (1-2), however, by pocketing commanding wins over 100 Thieves (2-0), MiBR (2-0) and Evil Geniuses (2-1), Liquid comfortably secured a top-two seed and a direct bye into the semi-finals.
Waiting for them in the ESL Pro League S11 semi-finals were no other than Liquid's biggest regional rivals, Evil Geniuses, who failed to improve upon their first meeting with Liquid and suffered a 14-16 and 12-14 series defeat, which saw Liquid advance into the final stage of the tournament. The two North American CS:GO juggernauts met once more in the grand finals, this Sunday, April 12, after Evil Geniuses picked up a 2-0 win over FURIA and were now set to upset Liquid, but it soon became clear that nitr0's squad are still the superior North American squad in these derbies.
To say Liquid picked up a convincing win would be an understatement, seeing how they completely stomped Evil Geniuses on both Dust II (16-11) and Vertigo (9-16). Liquid did not need to play the third map of the series, as they were awarded one map win as the upper-bracket team. This win marked the third consecutive time Liquid triumphed over Evil Geniuses at the tournament while extending nitr0 and his crew's streak against EG to nine series in a row.
The grand finals came down to an excellent showing from Keith "NAF" Markovic, who played a pivotal role in Liquid's win on Dust II, while he received some help from Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski on Vertigo, where the duo took over the game and carried their team to victory.
The Grand finals kicked off on Dust II, where Evil Geniuses had a legitimate chance to come out ahead, given that their head-to-head record with Liquid showed 1-1. In the opening few rounds, it seemed like the series will, in fact, be close, as the teams went back and forth and ended up splitting three maps apiece six rounds in. At that point, Liquid started to rally and put up an impressive defensive half, spearheaded by NAF, who helped Liquid win seven out of the remaining nine rounds, which sent Liquid into the second half 10-5 up.
Liquid translated their momentum into the second half, where they picked up the opening three rounds to get themselves up 13-5. After realising they're eight rounds down, Evil Geniuses finally found their rhythm and won five consecutive rounds, which swung the economy their way and put Liquid in an unenviable position, however, a crucial 1v3 clutch by NAF helped Liquid seal the map at 16-11 and with that secured a 2-0 series lead.
With their backs against the wall, Evil Geniuses got off to a strong start on Vertigo, thanks to Tarik "tarik" Celik and Ethan "Ethan" Arnold who produced a 2v4 turnaround to secure the pistol round. Although EG got themselves 3-0 up, their enthusiasm did not last for long, as NAF once more found his rhythm, and with another phenomenal performance helped Liquid end the first half 8-7 up. At this point, it seemed like we are in for a close second half, however, EliGE had other plans and joined the fray with big multikills, which helped Liquid completely dominate on the T-Side and clinched a commanding victory with 16-9 and 3-0 in the series.
This marked Team Liquid's first S-TIer tournament title since they won Intel Extreme Masters XIV - Chicago back in July 2019 and their second ESL Pro League title after ESL Pro League Season 9 - Finals.
For his contribution to the team and his performance throughout the tournament, EliGE was crowned as the ESL Pro League S11 NA Most-Valuable-Player.
The 22 year-old averaged an impressive 1.29 rating against Evil Geniuses across the grand finals series, which was far below NAF's 1.65 rating, but EliGE's consistency across the entire tournament proved to be the deciding factor in the reward landing in his hands. ElIGE ended the tournament featured in the stat leaderboards in 14 different categories, four of which he ended with the highest marks - 1.27 rating, +84 KDD, 90.5 ADR and 0.82 KPR.
This marks EliGE's fourth MVP award of his career, with his previous awards coming from DreamHack Masters Dallas 2019, the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals and IEM Chicago. The North American rifler was also declared as the fourth-best CS:GO player last year.