There is no place like home! The ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals bring Counter-Strike back to Dallas – let’s pay tribute to a legendary location

The early CPL days and the first major

The place where it all began, that gave birth to some of the most infamous stories of esports history. Like that time, when just one week before the CPL Winter of 2002, Craig “Torbull” Levine, founder of Team 3D and now CEO of ESL America, had to sell mousepads out of his NYU dorm room to scrape together enough money to book his team the tickets to Texas. They went, and they won! That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is just some of the magic Dallas conjured. A trip to Gamer’s haven: low ceilings and grey lights in the catacombs of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dallas, the place where history transpired and some of the most fiercely fought over Counter-Strike matches were played. But let us rewind a little further to the very beginning.

This will give you an idea of what it was like back then. Video courtesy of efrenki.

Just over seventeen years ago, in December of 2000, Counter-Strike players from around the world came to Dallas for the first time to compete in a Cyberathlete Professional League tournament, Babbage’s CPL Event. In the end, a Swedish team called Eyeballers came out on top, taking home the $5,000 for first place. They dominated every opponent they faced, not even losing a single half in all of their matches, which makes it even harder to believe that they basically played the entire tournament 4v5! But they did just that. One of their players missed the flight to Dallas, so they were forced to use a stand-in. Not having too many options, they used a Quake 3 pro who had virtually zero Counter-Strike experience, and simply told him what to do at the start of each round, which was mainly to serve as a decoy.

If you want to dive a little deeper into what exactly happened. Video courtesy of Thooorin.

Exactly one year later in December of 2001, the first ever Counter-Strike tournament considered a major, the CPL Winter, took place in Dallas. The event had a prize purse of a whopping $150,000, which even for today’s standards is a significant sum. But that was not the only trait that made the tournament unforgettable. A now age-old question had not yet been answered. EU vs. NA, who is better? Over the course of 2001, a team some of you might know, called Ninjas in Pyjamas had established themselves as the undisputed number one team in Europe, and Xtreme3 were wrecking the entire NA scene, only losing two online matches throughout the year. The two teams entered the tournament as the number one and two seeds, so if both sides were to win all their matches, the earliest point these two titans could clash, would be the Winners Bracket Final. The CS gods were good-tempered that day and answered the fans’ prayers. Both teams stormed through the bracket with ease and met in the Upper Bracket Final. Emil “HeatoN” Christensen and his Ninjas dispatched of Kyle “KSharp” Miller’s X3 convincingly, winning the game 13-6 (back then, MR12 was used, so the first team to reach 13 rounds won). But X3 did not get discouraged; they beat mTw.GoL in the Lower Bracket to set up the rematch in the finale. It wasn’t just about NiP vs. X3, or Tommy “Potti” Ingemarsson vs. Ronald “Rambo” Kim. It wasn’t just about the $50,000 for first prize. It was about the pride and the glory and an early bragging right over which was the best team, and best region in the world. A gripping nail biter developed, as for the first time a Counter-Strike match was streamed live to thousands of fans around the world on a platform called Half-Life TV, better known simply as(, you guessed it,) HLTV. X3 won the first map in overtime 16-12 to force a final and decisive match, where NiP narrowly edged out X3 13-11.

EU vs. NA, who is better? The CS world got its answer, and as we know today, that answer was final.

The CPL events in Dallas also served as a stepping-stone to some of the game’s greats. Legends like Griffin “shaGuar” Benger, Ola “elemeNt” Moum, Patrik “cArn” Sättermon, Daniel “fRoD” Montaner, to name just a few, gathered some of their first experiences as professional players in Texas. Even some of the fan favourites we still admire today had their first exposure to professional Counter-Strike in that magical place. Jason “moses” O’Toole, our beloved commentator, who still believes that one day NA can take away the crown we Euros have been wearing for so long (would it even fit those tiny NA heads?), played for TEC in the CPL 2004. Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg came to Dallas in the winter of 2005 with his team Begrip Gaming. Filip “neo” Kubski and Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas, placed third at the CPL Winter Championship in 2006.

The players, team managers, event organizers, and just about everybody else involved back then, were pioneers who set sail into the unknown. We must never forget, it was their bravery and effort that helped pave the way for what today is a blooming, but still not fully developed flower. In the same vein we must foster that spirit of adventure and keep going forward.

The Cyberathlete Professional League ceased its operations in 2007 and with it, Dallas as the main location for top notch Counter-Strike closed its doors. You need not fear though; the ESL has you covered!

The ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals in Dallas

The ESL adds a new chapter to the history books by bringing back the first major Counter-Strike tournament to Dallas in over ten years. The six best teams from both Europe and North America will meet in the Verizon Theatre on June 3rd-4th to crown a new champion. After six weeks of online play in both regions however, only one team, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo’s SK, seem to be a safe pick when it comes to predicting who travels to Texas. The other eleven spots are still up for grabs as the fight for the highly coveted playoff tickets has never been more intense. Can NiP qualify for the LAN finals? Surely, HeatoN and f0rest want to return to Dallas and relive their days of past glory.

NiP in 2003. ahl, HeatoN, Hyper, Potti, SpawN. If the Ninjas qualify, it would be nice to see them play in their original outfits. Photo courtesy of ESEA.

TaZ and neo will feel the same way. Another iteration of NA vs. EU. North America can’t wrest the torch from Europe by winning the event, but they could set a revolution in motion.

Be part of history in Dallas, Texas, on June 3rd-4th!

Many interesting storylines are developing. Your call of duty: Tuning in into the ESL CS:GO YouTube channel – no back talk accepted. And don’t forget to watch your favourite teams fight for their spot at the LAN finals later this year in Dallas, Texas.

If you want to watch the season finals live, you can purchase tickets while they are still available. For live coverage and all of the latest updates on the ESL Pro League, be sure to follow ESL Counter-Strike on Twitter and Facebook.


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