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In many ways, 2021 marked a return to normalcy in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive scene. The latter half of the year saw tournaments returning to LAN and even a pair of in-arena events with crowds. It was a sigh of relief to move past the online era and see fantastic international teams going head-to-head again.
Before we look to 2022 and highly-anticipated upcoming events like Intel Extreme Masters Katowice, we have to look backwards and review all the unexpected, emotional, mind-boggling memories from 2021. Here are the top five moments from professional CS:GO over the past year.
5. Starry aces G2
On Oct. 13, 2021, Chinese CS:GO team Lynn Vision delivered a phenomenal best-of-three series against the highly favored G2 Esports. Their one map victory came on Vertigo, a back-and-forth, 30-round bloodbath that went to Lynn Vision in large part because of one crucial, momentum-flipping pistol round.
Down 9-6, Lynn Vision’s LiZhi “Starry” Ye delivered exactly what his team needed to flip the script on G2. Starry’s teammates were quickly dispatched on A Ramp, but the 16-year-old rifler was not deterred and managed to bring back a 1v5 that ended with a knife kill at 0.05 seconds left on the defuse.
The incredible top five moment from 2021 CS:GO gained added weight thanks to the fact that it may have been Starry’s one and only chance to shine. Chinese anti-addiction laws prevent minors under 18 from playing more than three hours of video games a day. With that in mind, Starry is being pushed to an early retirement after a brief flash in the spotlight.
4. refrezh 1v5 clutch
If you’re a Heroic (or a Team Liquid) fan, you’re already exceedingly familiar with this highlight from ESL Pro League Season 14. Liquid were in great form at the tournament, and they looked like the favorites to win Map 3 of Inferno and advance to the semifinals.
Ismail “refrezh” Ali had other plans. The 23-year-old rifler kept his composure in a 1v5 using his Galil to methodically take out Liquid’s members one after another. He capped off the clutch with a ridiculous headshot on Michael “Grim” Wince to force overtime, where Heroic eventually came out on top.
Refrezh’s pop-off and the sheer dumbstruck faces of Liquid (and presumably all of their fans watching at home) make this a top moment from 2021.
Not every top moment from 2021 was a disgusting highlight. This year also saw the much-anticipated return of arena CS:GO. The BLAST Premier: Fall Final in the Copenhagen Royal Arena was one such event. Something was in the air at the tournament because it was full to the brim with weird, wacky and wonderful little moments. Not least was the rise of bat-karrigan, the mysterious superhero/gamer on FaZe Clan.
Finn “karrigan” Andersen took it on himself to become the Dark Knight, wearing a batman mask that matched the batman branding on FaZe’s new jerseys. BLAST production was quick to jump on the opportunity, adding the mask to karrigan’s player picture on the heads-up display.
As a whole, it was more than just bat-karrigan that made the Fall Final special. It was the whole atmosphere, including the zealous Danish fans and all the silliness that comes with having a big audience in attendance.
2 . cadiaN 1v4 clutch
No, you’re not having déjà vu. Yes, it is another 1vX highlight from a Heroic player in an ESL Pro League playoffs. Except, this time it’s Casper “cadiaN” Møller at EPL Season 13 in the grand finals against Gambit Esports.
On Mirage, the deciding map in a best-of-five between the two best teams from online era of CS:GO, cadiaN delivered one of the top CS:GO moments of the year. With only a P250, Heroic’s in-game leader quickly found himself a knife kill and his trademark AWP. Three kills later and Heroic had won the whole tournament. What followed was one of cadiaN’s legendary pop-offs as the whole of Heroic went absolutely berserk.
Everything about this clip is simply *chef’s kiss*, from the 300 IQ wall-bang to Chad “SPUNJ” Burchill and Alex “Machine” Richardson’s flawless casting.
“You can’t win Pro League like this! You can’t win Pro League like this!”
1. s1mple wins a major
If only one moment will be remembered from 2021 CS:GO, it will be Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev winning the PGL Major Stockholm 2021.
The PGL Major was the first in-arena event of the year and the first major in more than two years. Majors are the pinnacle of Counter-Strike and everything that happens at these events is given added weight by the history and prestige of those which came before.
As for s1mple, the greatest player in CS:GO history, he’d been stopped short every time he came close to winning a Major. But this year was different. His team, Natus Vincere, had won all the significant events in the lead-up to the PGL Major. Everything pointed to s1mple finally winning it all. This time, he did not fall short. Na’Vi won the major and the king of CS:GO got his crown, making this the top CS:GO moment from 2021.
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.