ESL One: Rio - Oceanic Closed Qualifier Overview

Nicholas Taifalos
February 16, 2020

ESL One: Rio de Janeiro, the first CS:GO major of the 2020 calendar year, finally approaches and with it, an opportunity for Oceania’s best to compete at the highest level possible in the esport.

The major brings with it prestige unlike any other event. From the USD $1,000,000 prize pool to having your name enshrined forever in the game through applicable stickers for weapon skins, and now with competition points for ESL’s Pro Tour and the BLAST Premier season up for grabs, it is every CS:GO player’s dream to one day qualify and compete at the highest level possible.

With Rio on the horizon, Oceania’s road to qualify for the event began last week at the Open Qualifier and now culminates in the eight-team Asia Minor Closed Qualifier. Just two teams will move forward from Oceania to the Asia Minor where eight teams in the greater Asia-Pacific region, as well as the Middle East, will look to lock in their spot in Brazil later in May.

Australian squad 100 Thieves have already secured their spot in the Legends stage of the Rio Major following their semi-final finish at StarLadder Major Berlin last September as they aim to finish in the top eight - the Champions stage - for the third time in a row. Now it’s up to the rest of Oceania for the remaining spots, and with a fairly fresh list of teams expected at the Asia Minor after roster changes in the Asian region, there is a real opportunity for three Oceanic representatives on the world stage come May.


Simon ‘Sico’ Williams at ESL Pro League. Image source: HLTV

The Christopher ‘dexter’ Nong-led Renegades once again enter their home qualifier as expected favourites as they chase their third straight Major appearance as a core squad. The Berlin Major showed signs of progression for the lineup - eliminating South American prospects INTZ eSports and then-North American squad Complexity - but ultimately falling short of a coveted top 16 finish in a 2-1 loss to Vitality. Jordan ‘Hatz’ Bajic got right to work following his acquisition from ORDER in January, with the lineup exceeding all expectations at their first event at DreamHack Leipzig, finishing runners up. Their only map loss in the Oceanic region this season came narrowly to the new Chiefs lineup in the final qualifier for IEM Katowice where RNG’s one map advantage saw them run away with the Katowice spot 3-1, and while the OCE shuffle is in full effect, it is expected RNG will emerge unscathed on their way to the Asia Minor.

THE INVITES: Avant Gaming, ORDER, Chiefs

The Oceanic shuffle following the end of the 2019 season saw a rather cemented top four in the region broken up - the core of the Chiefs lineup disbanded with Avant securing the services of Peter ‘BL1TZ’ Athanasatos and Chris ‘ofnu’ Hanley, while ORDER boosted their stocks with returning journeyman Ricardo ‘Rickeh’ Mulholland. Chiefs would come to return to CS:GO, locking in the former Genuine Gaming lineup that gained regional experience following their 5th-6th finish at GeForce Cup in Malaysia.

Euan ‘sterling’ Moore at SL Berlin Asia Minor. Image source: HLTV

Both ORDER and Chiefs have moved to secure strong starts to their 2020 season, particularly the former; ORDER’s 7-0 start to the Mountain Dew League has them already in a prime position to lock down a playoffs spot, with Chiefs (5-1) also aiming to ensure their presence come MDL finals in April. AVANT are three maps into their season and, despite losses to both Chiefs and ORDER at the Katowice qualifiers, will have had much more time since to incorporate BL1TZ and ofnu into the core.

It’s an even affair heading into the March qualifier - will it be AVANT’s preparation with their new pair, ORDER’s combination of youth and international experience or a tried-and-tested lineup revitalised with their new organisation at Chiefs that comes out on top? The qualifying teams for Rio have a massive opportunity not just at major qualification, but also to set the pace for the rest of the Oceanic 2020 season and, perhaps, beyond.

THE OPEN QUALIFIERS: catman, Ground Zero, madlikewizards, Skyfire

The journeys of the four open qualifier squads couldn’t have been more different. While Ground Zero Gaming went untroubled until their final against Paradox Gaming through the first open qualifier, catman went the absolute distance. A 16-8 win over Trident was followed by a behemoth four-overtime win over Team Skyfire 28-26 before recovering to take the final best-of-3 over MC ESPORTS 2-1 which included a stand-in for catman mid-way through map one.

Forced into the second open qualifier after the two-hour long loss to catman, Skyfire bounced back against zhifubao and Incept eSports, overcoming Paradox 2-0 in the final, while madlikewizards’ exit in qualifier one was redeemed with an incredibly quick 16-0, 16-3, 2-0 run to round out the team list for the Rio qualifier.

The best-of-3 double elimination format poses trouble for the open qualifier squads. Upset potential is limited, but with all four invite lineups going through changes both lineup and organisational, there has never been a better time for a fifth squad to rise through the open qualifier to become an underdog attendee at the Asia Minor.

The Asia Minor Closed Qualifier begins March 3rd - stay tuned to ESL Counter-Strike on Twitter to keep in touch with news and information for the qualifier, as well as other regional events as the road to Rio heats up.