The Pinnacle Cup is the flagship esports tournament series created and hosted by Pinnacle. The third iteration for CS:GO, the Pinnacle Cup III, concluded on March 29. Let’s recap and break down what happened in the Group and Swiss stage of the Pinnacle Cup III.
What happened at the Pinnacle Cup III Group stage?
The Group stage was a single-elimination bracket, where the opening matches were played as best-of-ones, and the following matches were played as best-of-threes. The four winning teams after those two rounds moved onto the Swiss stage round where they were matched with 12 invited teams.
The 16 teams from across Europe who competed in the Group stage consisted of academy teams Astralis Talent, BIG Academy, and Young Ninjas, as well as other tier-2, tier-3 and up-and-coming teams like KOVA Esports, MAD Lions, 4glory Esports, 777 Esports, and Ungentium.
One interesting fact is that all of the teams that qualified for the Swiss stage did so by sweeping past their group-stage opponents 2-0.
MAD Lions, with their diverse roster, took on Astralis Talent and had total domination from the start. The Astralis academy team could not match MAD Lions’ aggression and were outgunned on both Overpass and Inferno. Michal 'MICHU' Muller went on a rampage and recorded an impressive 53-24 KD ratio and a 111.5 ADR (Average Damage per Round) rating. The Spanish organisation showed that they had what it takes to go deep in the tournament.
Next, 4glory Esports eliminated another academy team, BIG Academy. The Serbians easily dismantled their opponents on both Mirage (16 - 8) and Dust II (16 - 6). 4glory employed a very methodical approach in splitting BIG Academy’s formation, outnumbering their flanks, and took care of business swiftly.
KOVA, from Finland, were the third team to qualify. Although they defeated 777 Esports 2-0, the victory was far more difficult to attain than it looked. Their first map, Overpass, went to a 22 - 20 score, and Jarkko 'spargo' Rahja had to pull off a couple of clutch plays in overtime to take the lead for KOVA. The second map, Nuke, was too close for comfort as well, but the Finnish team showed a better mid-map transition to take the map 16 - 12.
The final team to qualify was Young Ninjas, the only academy team to survive the group stage. They had to rely on Linus 'LNZ' Holtang, with his +15 KD Ratio (55-40) to defeat Ungentium in extra time, eventually winning 19 - 16 on Ancient.
Statistics also showed that most teams preferred maps with more open space and levels, like Ancient (50%) and Overpass (25%) in the best-of-ones.
Dissecting the Pinnacle Cup III Swiss stage
The Swiss stage lasted for exactly one week, and during it, we saw 4glory Esports convert their momentum from the Group stage into an undefeated 3-0 run to be the first team to qualify for the Playoffs. The Serbians continued their mastery of Ancient, as they overpowered GamerLegion and Team Finest on the rainforest-themed map, forcing their next opponent Anonymo to ban it. However, they were still able to sweep past them easily and move on.
The next team to achieve 3-0 in the Swiss stage was BLUEJAYS, who ranked #34 on HLTV at the time. Featuring an all-Macedonian line-up and led by the young In-Game Leader Damjan "kyxsan" Stoilkovski, BLUEJAYS beat 00 Nation from Brazil and showed the legendary Marcelo 'coldzera' David that youth can be more valuable than experience in a BO3 series.
Although it was pretty close in all their matches, both 00 Nation and SINNERS Esport went 0-3. The result is definitely upsetting and heart-breaking, but the stats don’t lie, as both teams failed to execute their game plan accordingly and achieved below-average ADR and accuracy. SINNERS in particular lost the majority of their late-round skirmishes and displayed very erratic map movements.
Back to the brighter side of the Swiss stage, Copenhagen Flames, SKADE, and MOUZ NXT all attained a 3-1 result and advanced to the Playoffs without many complications. Even though SKADE lost a match to KOVA early in the Swiss stage, the Bulgarian gunners regained their composure and began to employ safer and steadier tactics. This worked wonderfully, especially in their match against Tricked Esport, where the SKADE Riflers were able to flank freely after the team secured control of the high ground early in most rounds.
Tricked Esport learned their lessons from their match against SKADE and proceeded to transition into a slower-paced game plan, which paid off as they defeated their three next opponents SINNERS, KOVA, and Team Finest to qualify for the Playoffs.
Another team to shine some attention on would be Into The Breach (ITB) from the United Kingdom. Though ITB did not make it any further than the Swiss stage, Owen “smooya” Butterfield in particular was on fire. The 22-year-old AWPer recorded an amazing 1.32 HLTV rating in 12 maps, and an insane 1.41 impact rating. On paper, he was easily one of the best individual performers in the Swiss stage. As a team, ITB also proved that they are more than capable of going head-to-head with some of the best teams in Europe.
After a total of 33 matches, 80 maps, hundreds of rounds, and countless bullets fired, eight teams - 4glory Esports, BLUEJAYS, Copenhagen Flames, MOUZ NXT, SKADE, Endpoint, Team GamerLegion, and Tricked Esport will joined four invited teams - Dignitas, ECSTATIC, ENCE, and Team Vitality in the Playoffs.
Both the Group stage and Swiss stage showed us that the CS:GO scene is more than vibrant and is constantly sprouting talented young blood into the ecosystem. Let’s see how many of them will shine and evolve as the “next big thing” in the world of CS:GO in the near future.
About Pinnacle Cup III
The tournament ran from March 14 for the Play-In stage, March 17 for the Swiss Stage, and March 27 for the Playoffs, with the Grand Finals on March 29. It featured 32 elite CS:GO teams around the world, but it was SKADE who overcame the competition to be crowned the Pinnacle Cup III champions, following the footsteps of previous winners Gambit Esports and Team Spirit.