Where does a comeback end and a choke begin? Wherever that line is, ENCE certainly moved way beyond it against VP on Dust 2, earning a spot in the pantheon of Counter-Strike trivia and memery. The gods of throwing away leads are many, with past iterations of the world-conquering Astralis lineup and Team Liquid being just two of many featured in there, with some truly ludicrous defeats to look back on today.
You can’t make a list of chokes without including those on the biggest stage of them all. Who would have thought that the extreme experience and insane firepower of karrigan’s FaZe Clan, still quite close to the height of their powers, would fail to close out a 15-11 lead against an underdog team? Every American in and around the server, that’s who.
Stewie2K’s legendary hold on B site Inferno remains the highlight moment, but every missed shot and wasted opportunity serves as a harbinger of things to come as the audience gets louder and louder as their not-so-secret dream begins to become a reality.
Like a neglected little brother, this grand final choke perhaps doesn’t have the same allure (at least if you subscribe to the notion that the best of chokes feature a heavy favorite dropping the ball against an underdog) but it still features more than enough poetry to savor.
VP had one hand on the trophy, racing to an 8-1 lead on T side Train on the decider and ending the half three rounds to the good. Despite winning four of the first five rounds on the defense, pushing themselves to 13-7, Kjaerbye’s monster performance, a couple of nonsensical force buy wins and some uncharacteristically poor decisions from the Polish veterans (not to mention gla1ve’s ballsy call for a full A site push in round 29) gave Astralis their first taste of Major glory.
Knowing now that this was VP’s last shot at the big trophy makes this one all the more painful to watch – and indeed, the next time we see these two teams at a Major, they’d only make the semis at an upset-ridden event in Krakow. Astralis would go on to do incredible things – meanwhile, the only thing incredible about VP at that point was that they still kept getting invites to big tournaments.
Ooh boy. A double-decker of a choke as the s1mple-enhanced Liquid squad was already making history for NA CS and still ended up putting the LUL at the end of the phrase. The MLG Columbus Major marked the end of Fnatic’s dominant era and ushered in the Brazilians for good, but their victory in the semis had just as much to do with their own mental fortitude as Liquid’s not being solid enough.
Famously, coldzera got himself a graffiti for his insane play on Mirage as Luminosity clawed their way back from 15-9 to a flawless overtime win, but it’s quite unfathomable how the same thing played out on Cache despite Liquid’s 15-6 lead.
Before we had Liquid vs Luminosity, this was the epitome of North American chokitude. Though it was just a group stage best-of-one affair at a Major, North America’s then-best-and-brightest vomited away a 13-2 lead on Inferno by losing 14 straight T rounds to a team featuring Spidii, denis and kRYSTAL.
13-2 on Train against virtual unknowns to secure a playoffs spot at the Major? Well, it’s not quite enough when you only put a single round on the board on the CT side as Kvik and Boombl4 go ham.
The ELEAGUE Major final wasn’t the only big cockup featuring these two teams on the biggest stage of them all: back in 2016, when the Danes were still the ultimate chokers, they dropped a 14-5 lead on Train after almost completing a comeback of their own on the first map, Inferno, recovering from a 12-3 half on the T side to a 15-14 lead, only to drop the ball and lose in overtime before proceeding to the next heartbreaker.
No doubt you could make an entire list out of Liquid’s chokes alone (in fact, someone already has done so), and while there are higher-profile defeats to choose, the ludicrousness of the scoreline means this one has to be featured here. From 14-2 to 15-6 to an eventual 22-18 defeat in overtime, the respiratory issues were on full display here. Should I just link the HiKo video again? Yes, I think I should.
ENCE’s Cinderella run to the grand finals of this Major featured two of the most incredible underdog wins in the playoff stage, starting with their takedown of the North American side. Though ENCE won their map pick of Mirage by a score of 16 to 11, Liquid’s strong showing on the T side of Inferno suggested they were ready to restore balance to the Force.
Fast-forward eight rounds into the future and they were on the cusp of doing just that, securing a 15-8 lead off the back of a defuse. We all know what happened next: seven T round wins in a row for Aleksib’s merry men, a famous overtime win and yet another insane performance against Na’Vi in the next round.
Fair play to this new-look ENCE side for making it this far, and giving VP a good game on the way out the door, but the nature of their defeat was just about as clownish as you can get. After two one-sided maps in the series, it seemed like Dust 2 would be just the same as ENCE posted 12 rounds on the CT side of Dust 2 and won the first three of the second half as well, only to completely forget how to play proactive CS from that point onward and etch themselves in the annals of chokery with a 19-17 overtime defeat from what seemed like an unassailable lead.
Photo credit: HLTV