How CS:GO's best player, S1mple, finally won in Katowice

Na'Vi lifted the IEM Katowice trophy on Friday in front of an empty stadium due to the coronavirus outbreak. Stephanie Lindgren/ESL

Not even an empty stadium could spoil Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's night.

He is one of the best players in Counter Strike history, and he has just won his first IEM Katowice trophy after his team, Na'Vi, put together a string of victories on the way to a final win over G2.

Now, s1mple is hoisting the prize in front of less than 200 people, including journalists and ESL staff, and he could not be happier.

The playoff stage of the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 2020 World Championship on Friday was played without a public audience due to the growing coronavirus outbreak and instead streamed online. Impromptu viewing parties popped up all over the city, a place that is taken over by the CS:GO tournament once a year. "Katowice is where magic happens," tournament organiser Michal "CARMAC" Blicharz says.

This year was no different. Both G2 and Na'Vi, two teams outside the top five rankings, managed to take down all of the best in the world to reach the final. But Ukraine-based Na'Vi prevailed, dominating the opposition in a fashion that would have made the Golden Five proud.

Na'Vi seemed like a team on a mission right from the onset. Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov picked up 15 frags in eight rounds before G2 finally managed to get on the scoreboard. Things went from bad to worse as G2 were decimated on Nuke with final slipping away from them.

Then came Dust II. G2 don't lose on Dust II very often -- they have a 64.1% win rate on this map and it would not have been the first time they launched a comeback on their favourite and most comfortable map.

G2 delivered as planned after a short break and quickly fired themselves into a 7-2 lead on the map. But Na'Vi were the side that picked Dust II and for good reason. They orchestrated a resurgence and brought the game back to 13-all with the help of s1mple's quad and Boombl4's simply unstoppable form. Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy got in on the act, too as he went onto seal map two for Na'Vi after taking out kennyS and nexa.

Na'Vi were in no mood to give G2 a chance on Mirage with the team already sensing that they had one hand on the trophy. The map ended in a swift 16-2 victory for s1mple's side, resembling the kind of dominance that could rival Astralis at their prime.

But for s1mple, it was harder than it looked.

"The preparation was always the same, you're always a bit nervous before the game because you don't know what to expect," s1mple says. "Maybe they'll do some crazy highlights, their team will be on point or they'll just do some random stuff.

"But we knew how to play, we just felt our power as a team. We told ourselves that we should relax because anything can happen against any team."

Indeed, the beauty at Katowice every year is that anything can happen against any team and even though Na'Vi completely destroyed Astralis in the semifinal and dismantled G2 in the final, their coach Andrey "B1ade" Gorodenskiy doesn't think they can be considered as the best team in the world yet.

"Of course, to be the best we'd have to beat Astralis' record first," B1ade says. "They won three Majors in a row and every team wants to overrun another record so we're willing to work a lot.

"We're on fire this event and we feel the waves. At another event, however, we could be in a different mental state and perform differently. Other teams can also be better -- so, the next big event, nobody will even remember this one, they'll just focus on that one. Today we're the best at this tournament but we need to work on consistency if we want to be considered as No. 1."

One thing B1ad3 is certain of is the fact that s1mple is, in his eyes, the undisputed best player in the world right now.

"In my opinion, he was even the best player last year but because of changing lineups, he couldn't achieve more with the team," he says. "As a player, he was always the best for me, he is the best in the world right now, the way he plays and the moments he creates during the matches are unbelievable.

"A lot of people say he's the best player to ever touch the game of CS and I think that's true."

It goes without saying that winning his first IEM Katowice is special for s1mple but the bullish 22-year-old made a bold statement after the game.

"I'm just happy that everyone who does not believe maybe will start to believe and everyone who trash talks will start to be quiet," he said.

Debates over who is the world's best team or who is the No. 1 player will long continue. But, while the likes of Astralis and mouseports are sitting comfortably on top of the rankings, B1ad3 and this new Na'Vi roster have quietly etched their name into history, and other teams would be foolish to underestimate them again.