Congratulations to Granit Gaming and commiserations to Budapest5 after a scintillating Grand Finals day at ESN that was more than just a fantastic series, it was a turning point in our tournament's history. Going into the grand final, the storylines were perfect. These were the two best teams in the league. Budapest5, the titans of the tournament who dispatched Project Eversio with ease in the semi-final have quality in droves and were firm favourites going into the final. Granit, who had shaky moments in the tournament, had scrapped their way to the grand finals like dogs, determined to become the first back-to-back champions in ESN history. It was the perfect matchup. The map veto, as admitted by s3boy of Budapest5 before the game, favoured Granit. The Hungarian side's home map, Nuke, happens to be the perma-ban of Grant, forcing them into a Vertigo pick. Granit, after stomping Famous5 on Mirage CT-side last night, understandably opted for that. Then a decider map that'll go down in history - Overpass, a map both sides favour and are strong on. Despite the ongoing public health crisis culling our hopes of a Live Production reminiscent of ESN Season 5, we managed to level up the broadcast; pre-match analysis and player interviews, a standard I find unparalleled to other tournament organisers operating at a level of Counter-Strike somewhat similar to where ESN lay in Season 6. If that wasn't enough, our long-awaited announcement(s) video for Season 7 dropped.
The series kicked off on Vertigo, where Budapest5 strode into the series with confidence. They stormed into a 5-1 lead on T-side, finalising an 11-4 half. Granit, however, hinted at their key virtue; the ability to never give up. They lost 16-11, but the fact they came back so far indicated that they had the potential for more later in the series. Captain POP0V's 1v2 below was the biggest moment on Vertigo.
On Mirage, Granit forced to start on the T-side, Budapest5 took the pistol round before the Bulgarian side scrapped a second-round force buy to tie the score at 1-1. Scores were tied at 6-6 before Granit secured the final three rounds to end the half 9-6. Going onto their favoured CT-side, they were heavy favourites. They followed up on that faith with a dominant second-half showing, securing a 16-8 victory that took us to Overpass, the much-anticipated decider. The first two maps were entertaining, but nobody could foresee the fireworks that were to grace the final map of ESN Season 6. After Famous5 flattened Granit 16-5 on Overpass the night before, Budapest5 were firm favourites going onto the deciding map. Coupled with Budapest5's knife round victory to start on CT, Granit had their backs on the wall from the off. Granit started well with a strong 3-1 lead though, something I suspect gave them all the confidence, before Budapest5 won five rounds in a row to establish a solid 6-3 lead. The favourites closed out the half 9-6, a good half from their perspective, but it wasn't out of sight for Granit. Budapest5 raced out of the blocks though, taking four rounds in a row to make it 13-6 and ringing the death knell for Granit. After an exchange of rounds, it was 14-7. Two rounds are all Budapest5 needed, nine for Granit. Well and truly up against it, Granit channelled the energy that took them to overtime success against Famous5 in the semi-finals and mounted the greatest comeback in ESN history. A massive 4k hold by steffe on B-site at 14-7 sparked that revival.
A comeback was on the cards as Granit fought their way to 14-13, before a shock pistol buy win from Budapest5 left the Hungarians on championship point for two rounds before possible overtime. It was skraddy's insane MAC-10 3k on the post-plant that prevented Granit from a huge retake to prevent the Hungarians' round win.
After a surprising force buy win and an emphatic gun round, we were headed to overtime. Granit refused to give up, and the spectacle was only just beginning. A fantastic early clip showing the 4-man boost, something Granit tried against Famous5 in the semi-finals before the train stopped them, demonstrates the intuition Granit employed to battle their way to victory.
Budapest5 tried the same thing a few rounds later, but they weren't so fortunate.
At 21-20 it was championship point to Budapest5 in the last round of double overtime. They opted for an A push, with Granit's shaiK AWPing at truck the only man between them and the series. What followed was the greatest individual play and greatest moment in ESN history, without a shadow of a doubt.
I believe that it was that AWP hold that won Granit the game, there and then. The psychological impact, positive and negative on either team, must not be understated. Granit won it 25-22 in triple overtime after a heroic post-plant on the A-site gave them the championship.
The grit, the heart, and the heroism of Granit are what won them ESN S6. Perhaps not necessarily quality, because Budapest5 have that in excess, but mentality, drive and determination. It was more the mental factors that brought Granit over the line in an amazing affair on Overpass.
On the ESN side of things, it was a historic day too, with the announcement of Season 7, the trial of our new HUD (something we will step up further next season), and the smashing of our viewership record from 97 to 148. It was a gargantuan effort from everyone involved across the season, from casters, operators, players, and viewers. But the best positive, pointed out by strommiz to close the stream, was this; while Sunday was the end of a season, it was the birth of a new chapter in the history of ESN. Not just in terms of game quality and entertainment, but the scale of operation and the increasing levels of broadcast quality that we hold ourselves to. I cannot wait for next season, and I hope you join us all in the continuation of ESN's journey.