May 23rd, 12:08am America/New_York

A Rivalry for the Ages

Jack "Westerman" Westerman on Tue, 07/03/2012 12:17AM

On the final day of ESEA’s Season 11 LAN Finals, only two Counter-Strike Source teams remained...

The other four had long since fallen – victims of either miscommunication, misfortune, or a straight up lack of talent. The two teams left standing had made short work of them all; rifling, clutching and defusing their way to a grand finale that had been waiting for them forever – designed in their image, and tailored to their exact measurements. This final was to be a rematch, of a rematch, of a rematch, of a rematch – the latest meeting in an endless saga between these two giants. This had been inevitable from the very beginning; a grand finals matchup that may as well have been played at the start of the season. This was Team Dynamic versus Fully Torqued, and it was always going to end this way.

Dynamic with trophy #7
Whether you grew up watching Team 3D and Complexity, SK and Fnatic, or Verge and PowersGaming, few great rivalries in the history of our eSport have ever produced the calibre and intensity of play that we saw last weekend in Dallas. In fact, the ESEA Season 11 Source Final was one of the greatest Counter-Strike matches ever played – period. After more than FIVE HOURS of play in a DOUBLE best-of-three series, Team Dynamic and Torqued were tied at 13-13 in the deciding sixth game. Torqued had won a grand total of 87 rounds across five separate maps, while Team Dynamic had won 85 – but none of that mattered now. It all came down to the final four rounds of the very last game, with a $10,000 paycheck riding on every tiny mistake, every missed shot, and every single careless grenade. Never in the history of our game had two teams been more evenly matched, more determined to win, more capable of beating one another, yet less able to do so.

In case you missed it, Team Dynamic did win in the end – but only just. The 27th round on de_dust2 came down to a 1 vs. 1 duel between Philippe-Olivier “PEX” Crepin and Carey “frozt” Kertenian that was decided by a matter of milliseconds alone. Frozt picked up the final kill on PEX before heading straight for the bomb, and was only about three pixels away from completing the defuse when it blew up, giving Dynamic a 14-13 edge and sending them on toward the championship. It was as close as a single Counter-Strike round can possibly be, and typical of the series as a whole. The very first map – five hours earlier – had descending into a double overtime game on de_season that finished 22-19 in favour of Dynamic. Had Torqued won just one or two extra rounds in those two overtime periods, they likely would have gone on to sweep the first best-of-three series, remaining undefeated throughout the tournament and taking home their second ESEA title in dominant fashion. To say that Dynamic won by the skin of their teeth would be an understatement.

Carey 'frozt' Kertenian
Only these two teams could have orchestrated such an epic grand final. Only these two sets of players could have found one another in the dark for the umpteenth time, working their way toward the final knowing full well who they’d find sitting opposite them when they got there. Just as they found each other in the CEVO grand final, the ESEA Season 10 upper bracket final, the Season 9 grand final, and the ESWC third place match in Paris last year, here they were once again battling for all the chips. Dynamic is Torqued’s kryptonite, and Torqued are Dynamic’s Achilles’ heel. You couldn’t create a better rivalry if you tried.

Torqued at ESWC 2011
But this wasn’t just perfect Counter-Strike – it was perfect competition in general. Had this been a basketball match, we’d have just watched one of the greatest NBA Finals in history, with Bill Russell sending Wilt Chamberlain and the Lakers home with a last-second dunk in game seven. If this were American Football, we’d have just seen a triple-overtime Super Bowl in which Joe Montana hit an 80-yard touchdown pass to win the game by a single point. And if this were boxing, we’d have just watched Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazer in ‘The Fight of the Millennium’, never mind the century. As hard as it is to draw comparisons between eSports and real sports, great rivalries and their timeless exhibitions are universal. All those who watched this particular Counter-Strike match will remember it for a very long time, and the players will never forget it… that’s just the nature of any great story.

Was this Volcano's last LAN?
Even more fitting, however, is that fact that Dynamic’s victory over Torqued is likely to be the final chapter in their rivalry – at least for a while. With the release of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive looming on the horizon, Dynamic have made it clear that they will soon be focusing their efforts on the future of our game, rather than lingering in the past. Josh “steel” Nissan, the outspoken and enigmatic leader of Torqued, has also unveiled plans to become part of European team mTw following the Season 11 Finals, which leaves his current teammates’ future unclear. Combine all of that with the retirement of bonafide Counter-Strike legend Sal “Volcano” Garozzo at the weekend, and it’s clear that an era has ended here. Players and teams are moving on to bigger and better things, friends are separating, organisations are evolving, and this particular grand final – these two particular teams in this one particular meeting – was the perfect end to an incredible few years of North American Counter-Strike: Source.

Where we go from here isn’t yet clear, but the future is certainly bright. We’re on the verge of a new chapter in Counter-Strike history, with a flood of new players, teams, tournaments, leagues, sponsors and spectators sitting just around the corner. Where old rivalries end, new ones will ignite, and just as our Counter-Strike: Source generation did a few years ago, fresh new Global Offensive players will soon find themselves sitting opposite the same old infuriating faces in the finals of tournaments. Maybe some of those faces will be familiar to us veterans – maybe we’ll still be watching Dynamic and Torqued trade blows for years to come – but all rivalries must eventually come to an end. Maybe this one ended last weekend in Dallas, or maybe they’re only just getting started, but one thing is for certain: there will always be another to replace it when it finally burns out.

Every Russell has his Chamberlain. Every Ali has his Frazer. And – apparently – every Steel has his PEX. It’s just a question of how long it lasts.
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