CS:GO format for IEM World Championship Katowice 2018

Intel® Extreme Masters

Intel® Extreme Masters World Championship Katowice 2018 will be like no other IEM before. For the first time in IEM’s history, we will see 16 CS:GO teams competing in the tournament.

With the new number of teams we have created a new format that is different from the previous 12-team format.


  • Two GSL groups of 8 teams

The playoffs don’t change:

  • Group 2nds play group 3rds in the first round of playoffs
  • Group winners are seeded directly into the semifinals
 Format details

Invited and qualified teams will be seeded into two groups of 8 based on the ESL CS:GO World Ranking. The two groups of 8 teams will be played in a double elimination format. The first round of upper bracket matches in each group will be played in a best of 1 format. All matches following that will best best of 3 in both the upper and lower brackets. The group stage will take three days to complete, from February 27 to March 1, with two streams being broadcast simultaneously.

Three teams from either group will be in the playoffs. The team that wins the upper bracket final of its group will be named the group winner. The team that loses the upper bracket final will be a group runner up and the team that wins the lower bracket final of its group will move to the playoffs from third place.

Group winners will be seeded directly into the semi finals at the arena (second round of playoffs), while group runners up will play 3rd place finishers from the other group in the first round of playoffs. This is done the same way as in IEM tournaments that featured 12 teams.

The first round of playoffs will be played on Friday, March 2. The semi finals (second round) will get played on Saturday, March 3. All of those games will be best of 3. The grand final will be played as a best of 5 on Sunday, March 4.

The logic behind the format

As there are usually questions from the community, here is a bit of background as to how we have arrived at this tournament format:

Why 16 teams?

We think that having 16 teams helps us create more opportunities for teams from outside of the world’s top 8. Those opportunities are much needed for the growth of global Counter-Strike.

A global, more diverse playing field will also make the event richer, and a more vibrant offering to the fans. More content that fans consume is also an attractive proposition for our streaming platforms. We will aim to run 16-team events going forward whenever it is feasible.

Why six teams in the playoffs?

The time you have to run an event dictates the parameters within which you operate.

If you followed ESL events closely, then you will know that for CS:GO we have elected to run best of 5 finals without other matches on the same day. The alternative to run two bo3 semi finals and a bo3 final was rejected as the option that leaves uneven amounts of rest for the teams that play the final.

A Sunday final dictates two semi finals on Saturday. In a classic tournament format it requires four quarter finals which likely makes it 12-14 hours of content. We were looking for a schedule that would not pass 8-9 hours in one day, so a four bo3 day was rejected.

The remaining options with 4 quarter finals were discarded as well. One was to run 3 quarter finals on Friday and 1 on Saturday before the semi finals – this schedule does not deliver the cleanest story and isn’t perfect for tournament integrity. The other was to run one quarter final off stage, parallel to another quarter final, but we did not want treat teams unfairly and deny them presence on stage.

Group stage format

The best option from the ones available was to have two matches played on Friday and that would require advancing six teams from the preliminary phase of the event.

As a format that cleanly provides a good top 3 within our three day groups schedule, the “GSL” double elimination format with two groups of 8 was selected in favor of the originally planned format with four groups of four teams.

We are overall pleased with the format and the teams we have spoken to for feedback were also very positive about it. We are looking forward to seeing what kind of tournament that format provides and will evaluate it over the upcoming several events.

 See you there!

Intel Extreme Masters returns to Katowice on March 2-4 with us US$500,000 CS:GO tournament featuring the world’s top teams. Tickets to the event can be found here if you want to witness world-class CS:GO in person. Until then, remember to follow IEM on Twitter and Facebook as we post all event updates.