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The IEM Sydney tournaments are always a special part of the Counter-Strike tournament circuit, with an exotic locale and a raucous audience adding a ton of extra spice to the proceedings. This year, it returns after a long absence, and it is going to be even more amazing than usual, for it is the first big event to be run on CS2, the newest version of the game, and with many odd little glitches and issues, it’s going to be quite an adventure to figure out who will perform the best in this brave new world.

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IEM Sydney 2023 schedule, teams, format: everything you need to know

With so many Counter-Strike tournaments going around, it can be difficult to keep track of the transition from Global Offensive to 2. Have no worries: we’ve got everything here for you, a handy collection of information to get you started on your journey!

IEM Sydney 2023 schedule

This year’s edition of IEM Sydney will run from October 16 to October 22. The two groups in the group stage will run concurrently, and they will conclude on the 18th. After a one-day break, it’s time for the playoffs: the quarterfinals will be played on October 20, the semifinals will follow on October 21, with the grand final to cap things off on the 22nd.

What is the format of IEM Sydney 2023?

A lot has changed since 2019, which was the last time ESL ran this particular event, but the format has stayed the same. Two groups of eight teams battle it out for six playoff spots in their respective double-elimination brackets. The upper bracket winners will play for seeding, with the winner getting a bye straight to the semis, while the loser will face the other group’s lower bracket winner in the quarterfinals. The opening matches will be best-of-one affairs, but everything beyond is a good old best-of-three.
Of course, it would be silly to say that it’s all the same: with Counter-Strike 2’s recent official release fully replacing Global Offensive, it’s going to be a trial by fire for the latest version of the game. While pros remained committed to GO until there were trophies left to win, you can bet your bottom dollar that everyone is grinding as hard as they can, looking for edges and exploits in this brand-new and not entirely polished version of CS.
We won’t dive into all the little gameplay changes here (you can check out our CS2 betting tips here, don’t you worry), but we must highlight one of the most crucial competitive changes stems from the move from MR15 to MR12, meaning there are now only 12 rounds in a half instead of 15. This means pistol rounds and their conversions will have a huge impact on the way a map plays out, and there is massive upset potential in the opening round of best-of-ones. If an underdog goes on a hot streak, it might just be enough to get them over the finish line before the favorites can rally and recover.
The venue is different, too: unlike four years ago, when the group stage took place in the Bankstown Sports Club, and the playoffs played out in the Qudos Bank Arena, the whole event will play out in the gorgeous-looking Aware Super Theatre (which you may have formerly known as the ICC Sydney Theatre before a naming rights deal). The group stage venue of the event has not yet been confirmed at the time of writing.

IEM Sydney 2023: the participating teams and players

  • ENCE (partner team): Snappi, dycha, maden, SunPayus, Nertz

Long fan favorites, ENCE continue to dig up gems from the earth and have clearly established themselves as a strong contender at the tail end of the CS:GO era. With one win, three runner-up finishes and two semifinal exits in their last six tournaments, they come to the land down under in great form – the question is, will it carry over to a brand-new game?

  • FaZe Clan (partner team): karrigan, rain, Twistzz, ropz, broky

Major winners and world conquerors in 2022 – less and less impressive since then. It’s only a matter of time until age finally catches up with karrigan and rain, but CS2 could provide the reset they sorely need.

  • G2 (partner team): HooXi, NiKo, m0NESY, jks, huNter-

HooXi shut up many doubters with big wins at Katowice and Cologne, but the team remains frustratingly inconsistent when it matters the most, especially the Majors. How will NiKo, the best rifler in the game, adapt to new surroundings? It may just decide how deep G2 will run in this tournament.

  • MOUZ (partner team): frozen, torzsi, xertioN, siuhy, Jimpphat

MOUZ’s Cinderella run at ESL Pro League is sixteen-carat gold in terms of legitimacy: beating all the top teams in the playoffs on their way to a legendary victory was a great way to close off the CS:GO era. Even with all the upheaval, this plucky group of youngsters are among the favorites for IEM Sydney 2023. Of course, the caveat is that Jimpphat will actually make it to the land down under, having ran into visa problems. He might make it in time for the later portions of the event, but it’s possible that MOUZ will have to play it all out with a substitute.

  • NAVI (partner team): Aleksib, s1mple, b1t, jL, iM

The grand final blowout at Pro League notwithstanding, the new-look NAVI has been alright if unspectacular so far, especially with s1mple far from his sterling best. The legendary AWPer has vocally criticized the state of CS2, so he and his team seem to be a good candidate for a shock underperformance. This is especially true now that he is confirmed to be missing out on the event due to paperwork issues, with the team coach, B1ad3, filling in his considerably massive shoes.

  • Vitality (partner team): apEX, ZywOo, Magisk, Spinx, flameZ

Speaking of shocks, the confirmation that zonic will leave the team the just coached to a Major title in favor of Falcons and their state-sponsored infinite money glitch could very well disrupt Vitality’s otherwise excellent operations. Expect a couple of upsets!

  • Cloud9 (ESL world ranking): sh1ro, Ax1Le, Hobbit, electroNic, Perfecto

Though the new-look CIS super team got off to a shockingly poor start, removing electroNic from the in-game leading role was a long-overdue move, and one that paid immediate benefits at the BLAST Premier Fall Showdown’s European bracket. This squad bolsters perhaps the most of the raw firepower available to anyone, so the chaos of a new game could serve them well, even as the rumors of Boombl4 fail to disperse.

  • GamerLegion (ESL world ranking): isak, acoR, Keoz, volt, Snax

Predictably raided after their strong showing at the Paris Major, the new-look GamerLegion squad has not set the world on fire, and Snax is an incredibly questionable pickup in 2023.

  • Monte (ESL world ranking): Woro2k, DemQQ, KRaSnal, br0

Another team of youngsters who have done extremely well at Pro League recently, this young majority-Ukrainian team almost missed out on the event entirely due to bureaucratic hiccups, and though a last-minute solution has been found, they are now running on little sleep and huge jetlag, with the first game set to take place at 4am Kiev time. Under normal circumstances, they would definitely be a force to be reckoned with, but they could just as well crash and burn now if they aren’t able to recover physically.

  • Fnatic (ESL world ranking): KRIMZ, mezii, roeJ, afro, dexter

F for Fnatic? More like F for Frankenstein. Press F to pay respects. Don’t expect much.

  • Grayhound Gaming (Local Hero Invite): Sico, INS, aliStair, Liazz, Vexite

Any fans in attendance will cheer their socks off for the plucky Australians, but there is little reason otherwise to expect them to supply the upsets.

  • Apeks (European qualifier): nawwk, jkaem, kyxsan, CacaNito, sense

Another team that couldn’t quite keep things together after their Paris Major run, Apeks recently got rid of STYKO and promoted an academy player, sense, in his place on a trial basis. CacaNito himself is also a recent addition, so there’s not a lot of stability here to rely on.

  • BetBoom Team (European qualifier): nafany, KaiR0N-, s1ren, zorte, danistzz

This is an interesting and brand-new lineup from BetBoom, with just a couple qualifiers and small online events behind their back. With joint-last finishes in their CCT tournaments and falling short in the first round of an ESL Challenger quali, things are not looking good so far. That said, their recent pickup of innersh1ne as a coach will only serve them well.

  • Complexity (North American qualifier): JT, floppy, Grim, hallzerk, EliGE

Don’t be fooled by the memes, NA CS ain’t quite dead. Complexity’s done an excellent job at the Pro League to cap off their CS:GO adventures, and they could be one of the teams to supply the upsets in Sydney.

  • Lynn Vision (Asian qualifier): westmelon, z4kr, Starry, EmiliaQAQ, Jee

Asian Counter-Strike always showed flashes of potential, but they never could quite crack it on the international stage in a sustainable fashion. Lynn Vision picked up just the one map in their three matches at Pro League, losing two 2-0 matches to a massively underperforming Team Liquid squad. Not a good sign.

  • VERTEX Esports Club (Oceanic qualifier): pz, BRACE, malta, ADDICT, HaZR

Unfortunately, VERTEX have even less of a chance to score an upset than their Oceanic counterparts over on Greyhound. The team isn’t even performing that well in its own region and hardly ever gets an opportunity to cross the great divide. International CS, be it Global Offensive or 2, will likely be a rude awakening for them.

Here are the group brackets, courtesy of Liquipedia:

The opening matchups are as follows:
NAVI vs. Apeks – October 16, 2023 - 02:00 CEST
VERTEX vs. MOUZ – October 16, 2023 - 02:00 CEST

Conclusion: IEM Sydney 2023 promises to be great fun

The first official big CS2 esports tournament in Sydney will feature the greats of Counter-Strike, all looking to get off to a blistering start in this new era of the game. With adoring fans down under, lot of uncertainty around the new game, and local heroes looking to mix it with the best of them, there’s great upset potential to consider at this tournament if you’re planning to bet on IEM Sydney 2023.
You can also check out more content on the Bitsler blog to learn more about esports!

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