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Luci Kelemen
Luci Kelemen

Writes about way too many things. Has way too many opinions. Wants to tell all the interesting stories in the world.

February 19th, 2021

We expected the international side to set the world alight with big brain tactics and shutdowns but it was the string of non-stop squeakers left in their wake that fueled the memes so far. With yet another one coming our way at IEM Katowice against Vitality straight after their play-in match against Liquid, it’s high time to look at the shockingly long list of heartbreakers and heart attacks they piled up since their debut at cs_summit 5 in December 2019.

Sweet sixteen

No team in professional CS made such close results part of their identity, at least where fans are concerned, and OG’s streak of heartbreaking losses – often off the back of big leads thrown away – left a permanent burn mark on fans around the world. Indeed, it also seemed like the phenomenon affected their performances, and that they may never make it past the hurdle of close games. As it turns out, that wasn’t quite the case, even if they still display a tendency to wait until squeaky-bum time.

Of the 266 maps played to date by Aleksib’s merry men, 60 finished either by the closest possible margin in regulation or overtime, making it approximately 22.5% of soiled pants per fan each broadcast. In fact, all but two of their tournament appearances (IEM New York 2020 Europe and the BLAST Premier Spring 2020 Europe Finals) featured at least one of these schedule-stretching games. They racked up five of them at their debut, cs_summit 5, so you can’t say you haven’t been warned about what they are like.

Qualifiers, big events, group stage affairs or playoff series, you name it: chances are, there’s a 30-rounder in there. Even the maps are all over the place: Nuke, Dust2, Mirage and Inferno lead the way, but it’s not like they didn’t have four such games on Train and Overpass alike as well. They’ve even got one on Cache of all maps, courtesy of the SteelSeries Invitational. Unsurprisingly, their permaban is the only map not to appear on this list – in fact, they have zero competitive matches played on Vertigo to date. To be fair, I wouldn’t be surprised if they still managed a 16-14 result on it somehow.

Fine margins and false narratives

For a team considered to be chokers of the highest degree by some, they are split exactly down the middle in the 16-14 games, winning 19 and losing 17 of them so far. They also have a slightly positive margin when it comes to closing out overtime affairs with a 13-11 win-loss stat.

Even the notion that they had some sort of a massive mental block early on in such scenarios falls apart under closer scrutiny: they won three out of five such close maps at their debut event, cs_summit 5, followed by that incredibly narrow series win over EG at BLAST Premier Spring Series 2020. In fact, they kept up a positive overall record in such games until the end of cs_summit 6 Europe where their shock losses to HAVU evened out their win-loss record.

The only time they suffered a huge string of such defeats came between August and October 2020, starting at ESL One Cologne 2020 Europe with an infamous 17-19 loss to G2 on Dust2 on map 3 followed by four 14-16 losses at Pro League Season 12’s continental bracket and a defeat to Fnatic on Overpass at DreamHack Open Fall. However, this doesn’t seem to be reflective of anything other than a temporary general downturn of form, especially because it was followed up by a streak of ten wins in close scenarios, five of which came during their deep run at Flashpoint 2.  Since then, their record in 30+ round maps reads four wins and five losses.

There also aren’t that many anomalies to be found once you dig into the map stats. Their winrates in close series hover around the 50% mark on each of them. Nuke is the only map where they dip into the negatives, a somewhat subpar record of 7 wins out of 17 if the game reaches 30 or more rounds – which could be a bit of a concern considering it’s the one that comes up most often for them in these games, making up almost a third of the sample. On the other side of the equation, they have a 100% record at closing out Train, which is impressive even if it only came up four times so far (against the post-FalleN MIBR which is currently without an org, Sprout, ENCE and VP).

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It goes to show that the international squad’s issues can’t be fixed “just” by getting steelier balls for when the going gets tough, as they already do alright in those scenarios, regardless of whether the competition in on LAN or played online. Whether they really do need a firepower upgrade in the AWP department or should shop around for a more robust support player is a valid discussion – but so is whether it’s worth making such moves in this anomalous era. Perhaps the most important takeaway is just how many games OG have, as it suggests we really are talking about fine margins here, and it gives more credence to the notion that small benefits from internal adjustments could make a meaningful difference even after over a year of trying.

Whether they are bad at closing out games or good at pulling off comebacks in the grand scale of things is beyond the scope of this article – but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that a close match doesn’t at all guarantee a defeat for Aleksib’s squad, and that you are indeed pretty damn likely to get one of these squeakers if you tune in to an event featuring the international side. Even if this iteration of the roster won’t challenge for the highest honors, they are a sure-fire bet for a good time from the viewer’s perspective – which is a good way to convert neutrals to fans, if nothing else.