Last year's clash at the Cathedral of Counter-Strike was extra special for the local crowd. German squad BIG capitalized on their home field advantage to upset some of the biggest names in the game en route to an unforgettable Grand Final appearance.
They fought their way out of the Group Stage by downing MIBR in the lower bracket final, a rival that featured the Brazilian core of Cologne 2016 and 2017 champions SK Gaming in their roster. In the playoffs, they dispatched G2 with a 2-0 in the quarter-finals before meeting FaZe Clan in the semis, who were heavily favored to win the competition and secure the Intel® Grand Slam. BIG lost the first map, but quickly pulled themselves together to complete the series comeback and reach Championship Sunday.
Natus Vincere denied them the title, but the silver medal was still a monster achievement with such a stacked field in attendance. They'll be back for more in 2019, so we reached out to get their take on what this tournament means to BIG and what we can expect to see at this year's ESL One Cologne:
ESL: Have you looked back at the 2018 Grand Final for cues on how to improve your game or map pool?
(Captain) Fatih 'gob b' Dayik: It has been way too long now and we have had quite a few roster changes. So we can’t really look back at last year’s result and maps now in that way.
ESL: What factors have kept you guys together competing at the top tier?
Tizian 'tiziaN' Feldbusch: Contracts & money (laughs). No, we are friends and we know each other a long time We are on the same page both in and outside the game.
Johannes 'tabseN' Wodarz : Yes exactly! You know each other really well, both your strengths and weaknesses. However, that can also be a weakness because if you know each other so well, your approach to the game might suffer, because it is more difficult to get a fresh perspective on things since it is always the same system. But this aside, we are definitely a strong core!
ESL: Is winning ESL One Cologne on home soil more important to you guys than winning any other big international event?
(Coach) Alexander 'kakafu' Szymanczyk: Yes it definitely is. One of the biggest factors is the crowd but in general I think it is one of the most prestigious events in CS with all the good teams in attendance. Nowhere else have we felt the same energy as in Cologne in front of the home crowd.
tabseN: It’s a very special event, the home crowd is a huge plus as well but I think just in general every time you get to play in front of a crowd, it’s always magical. You cannot really put into words what you feel at that moment.