IEM Winter 2021: Gambit and Team Vitality favored to win the tournament

As we draw close to the end of the year, we are less than a month away from the start of the Intel Extreme Masters Winter 2021, one of the last Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments before the highly anticipated Intel Extreme Masters Katowice 2022. The tournament marks the 86th edition of IEM, one of the longest-running pro gaming tours in the world, and also represents the last chance for teams to earn ESL Pro Tour points to rise in the rankings before the Katowice championship.

IEM Winter 2021 is scheduled to begin on December 12 2021, with the group stage, and will run through December 12, when the Grand Final will be held. The 10-day LAN competition holds a $250,000 prize pool, and will feature 16 of the best CS:GO teams in the world battling for an abundance of ESL Pro Tour points and an Intel Grand Slam IV contribution.

Ahead of the start of the tournament, online gambling specialists have Gambit as the odds-on favorites to win the IEM Winter 2021, at +250 odds, even though the team was recently defeated by Natus Vincere in the PGL Stockholm Major semifinals. After a major squad change in early November, Team Vitality are the second-favorites to win the tournament, at +275 odds, with G2 eSports right behind at +300 odds. With a significant drop off in odds, Heroic is also among the favorites to win the tournament, at +500 odds, followed by Ninjas in Pyjamas, at +800 odds.

Event format

The tournament consists of three stages: a closed qualifier, group stage, and playoffs. Featuring uninvited teams from Europe, North America, and Asia, the closed qualifier concluded on October 19, with the final five teams moving on to the main tournament.

Following the completion of the closed qualifiers, the 16 teams were seeded into two groups of eight teams each, and will face off in a double elimination round. The opening matches will feature a best-of-one format, while all the other group stage matches will feature a best-of-three format. At the conclusion of the group stage, the top three teams from each group will move on to the Playoffs.

The Playoffs will start with the six remaining teams battling in single elimination rounds, and advancing teams will face off in the best-of-three quarterfinals and semifinals. Finally, the last two teams standing will go on to compete in a thrilling best-of-five Grand Final.

EPT Points and Prize Pool

At the end of this 10-day event, the winners will claim 1,000 ESL Pro Tour points and the first-place prize of $100,000, apart from achieving one of the four tournament wins required to qualify for the Intel Grand Slam IV. 

The runners-up will receive 750 points and a $42,000 prize, with third and fourth places earning 525 ESL Pro Tour points and $20,000 prizes. Fifth and sixth places will claim 350 EPT points and $10,000 prizes, seventh and eighth with 200 points and $6,000, and ninth through twelfth will get 100 points and $5,000 prizes. The bottom three teams will receive no EPT points and a $4,000 prize.

Qualified teams

The Intel Extreme Masters Winter 2021 will feature some of the best Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players from around the world, and several esports teams with a lot of talent and experience in the ESL Pro Tour.

The majority of teams qualified for the tournament through partner invites; these include G2 Esports – who was recently defeated by Natus Vincere in the PGL Major Stockholm final and parted ways with head coach Damien “maLeK” Marcel – Team Vitality, FaZe Clan, Ninjas in Pyjamas – that also went through a significant roster change with the acquisition of Danish rifler Patrick “es3tag” Hansen – and Astralis. American squad Team Liquid qualified as a partner team.

Russian teams Gambit Esports and, and European squads Heroic – who, last month, became an official partner of the ESL alongside BIG and FURIA – OG Esports, and BIG qualified via ESL World Rankings invite, while Fnatic got its entry through the Open Qualifier.

Finally, Mousesports and ENCE came through the European closed qualifier, GODSENT from North America, and TYLOO from the Asian qualifier.

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