It's not the kind of match-up you'd expect to see in esports with US$50,000 on the line. But that's precisely what's taking place right now, with one plucky team from Mongolia pulling off a nice surprise to kick off the Counter-Strike calendar for 2016.
It's all taking place in the Taipei Game Show, where ESL are running a qualifier for one of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive majors later this year. That's IEM Katowice, and the winner of IEM Taipei 2016 gets a free ticket.
They'll also get a ticket to MLG Columbus later this year, a qualifier for another one of the Valve-sponsored majors. But there's spots on offer there, and one of those is going to the five Australians under the wing of the American organisation, Renegades.
The other spot? It's going to a team from Mongolia.
— Intel®ExtremeMasters (@IEM) January 31, 2016
I've racked my brain for any instance of results from a Mongolian team before, and I can't think of any. They certainly never made any waves in the heyday of the World Cyber Games, back when group stages were filled with teams from South Africa, India, the United Arab Emirates and all sorts of countries that would ordinarily never get a chance to compete.
But the Mongolian representatives, affectionately called MongolZ, have proven to be excellent competitors. After receiving a default win against Tyloo in the group stages — one of the Chinese players had received a permanent ban from Valve — they then booked their spot in the semi-finals by upsetting the Australian favourites for the tournaments, Renegades, 16-13.
The Mongolians followed that up by coming back from a map down to knock the second Australian team, Chiefs, out of the tournament. It came off the back of an impressive defensive showing on Dust 2 and a comfortable win on Cobblestone.
But what will probably be noticed more is the +20 and +23 kill/death differentials Enkhtaivan 'Machinegun' Lkhagva and Temuulen 'Zilkenberg' Battulga finished up with for the entire best-of-three set, with every other player either finishing in the red, breaking even or just close to it. (One other MongolZ player finished with +4, which is basically neutral for a performance over three maps.)
The final series will be live from the minute this post goes up, so if you want to watch a intriguing series of Counter-Strike between the Australian favourites — who have a point to prove — and a team that has come from completely nowhere, the Twitch stream is embedded below.