After six grueling months, it was finally here: the Republic of Gamers Community Challenge Grand Final in Stockholm, Sweden. Eight teams were assembled from the best worldwide amateur Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players, all with the same aspiration: becoming the next eSports superstars.
But no one said it would be easy — this was the real deal, from the best-of-three elimination bracket to the Twitch livestream hosted by Pala, Pansy, Anders, Semmler, and Sheever. The pressure was on.
Before the battles
The day before the battles revealed how many friendships had been formed — not just within teams, but between them. Teams USA and North America mingled with Sweden, while Poland, Germany, and France played cards. That evening, everyone headed to the world's largest LAN cafe for friendly competition and recon before the first big day.
t0niac and Team Australia LAN it up at Inferno Cafe
Recon notwithstanding, there were still many unknowns. Almost every team was also incredibly confident — perhaps even too confident — that they could win it all. Only time would tell whether their bravado was justified.
Elbert "treblenaX" Cheng and Team USA get into the zone at Inferno Cafe
Into the quarterfinals
After an overnight flurry, Stockholm was blanketed in snow. This was the first time Taiwan’s young players had seen anything like it; even their captain was smiling and snapping photos. But despite its peaceful appearance, tension was palpable as the players walked to the studio.
Before the Poland-Germany quarterfinal, speculations flew: Poland was skilled, but they’d formed just a month ago. Their captain, IzakOOO, was a full-time streamer, long-retired from pro gaming life. Germany had more time to practice, but their players were younger, something that could be a recipe for unpredictability.
Poland's captain Piotr "IzakOOO" Skowyrski focuses during the captain battles
However, it wasn’t long before IzakOOO's players revealed the beasts lying beneath: from NEEX, with his reliable multiple kills per round, to LUULIGUZMAN and Leh’s unforgettable quad-kills on Cache and Mirage. And then there was Stomp, who truly got to shine later on — or perhaps it was a calculated plan to hold back. Initially ranking at the bottom, he ultimately established himself as a strong player with lightning-quick reflexes.
Team Poland player Sebastian "NEEX" Trela gets into it with Germany
Although stunning multi-kills became Poland's hallmark, early on it seemed like the teams might trade rounds. “This is what I expect to see,” said Semmler. “Back and forth, a lot of this is going to come down to fundamental CS.” But by Mirage, Germany pulled ahead with an “obscene scoreline” of 12-2.
German player Gunnar "TrashHero" Lübbermann's amazing pistol skills stood out
On Overpass, fears about Poland being a one-map wonder faded. Albeit touch-and-go early on, they gained and kept a second-half lead, clinching the win. Stomp was pivotal: a sleeper hit, he transformed into a complete monster with a 31:11 kill-to-death ratio, his performance far outstripping even the captains. Thanks to a strong, balanced team, Poland advanced to the semis.
Later that evening, FlOm’s Team USA squared off against Skyyart’s Team France. While Skyyart’s many YouTube fans might say he was an easy favorite, the analysts weren’t convinced: he was a LoL pro, not CS:GO. But good leaders knows their limits, and he'd wisely delegated calling to Maka.
Although Team USA was favored to win, FlOm was battling days of food poisoning — he was just barely on the mend. If his team relied on him, they could be in trouble.
Team USA player William "Kanvy" Gooch's outfit made him a fan favorite
On Cobblestone, France quickly and shockingly decimated the USA, including SLyCE's pistol round triple kill. They made winning the first map look practically effortless. But on Dust 2, matters seemed far less certain. Both teams were neck-and-neck thanks to key moments from treblenaX and Kanvy. But Team USA just wasn't communicating. Ultimately, everyone on France stepped up; even Skyyart exceeded expectations with a theatrical taser kill. Only his many fans had called it.
French player Mickael "SLyCE" Granglade had some awesome moments against Team USA
The quarterfinals continue
The second day of quarterfinals also promised to be interesting because most believed Sweden, led by the famed Maikelele, had the most talent. But beyond this, they symbolized over a decade’s legacy of incredible Swedish CS:GO players. People simply assumed they’d be amazing.
Captain Maikelele chats with Sezar "[F]oxeyyy" Altonchi during the competition
Team Online North America, like Poland, had recruited its players virtually. So, while everyone knew adreN’s players were technically excellent, this was their first real test.
In retrospect, no one could have foreseen this extraordinary match. Sweden claimed the first map with forcetolive's through-the-smoke knife kill. But on Cache, NA pushed back with a vengeance. Only [F]oxeyyy’s perfectly-timed quad kill brought Sweden into overtime — a seat-gripping, neck-and-neck marathon.
Team Online North America player Carlos "CJ" Acosta gets into the zone
It wasn’t until the fourth overtime that forcetolive came alive: first he wrecked NA in a 3v4, then sealed it with a double headshot AK-47 clutch. Barely shoving NA down, Sweden had secured their spot in the semis.
Meanwhile, Australia was feeling nervous about Taiwan — easily the most-feared team due to their players' pro experience.
Australian player Liam "HPR" Miller looks thoughtful during in-game warmups
But when the game began, it initially seemed like Australia stood a chance. On Train, deoxIDE dominated 35:15. But by the third map, Taiwan took the lead. Australia pushed to close a ten-point gap and almost made it happen, but Naimres, YanLi, and especially Crazyface continued to own. “He's actually a monster. Straight monster.” Breathed Semmler in both delight and horror.
Sheng-Lun "Crazyface" Zhang and Yan-Li "YanLi" Peng strategize during a break
After a heated battle, Taiwan won 16-10. Trash-talking SPUNJ had called their gameplay “boring”, but victory clearly spoke for itself.
The emotions of victory: Team Taiwan's reactions after winning against Australia
Getting serious in the semis
Polish player Kamil "LUULIGUZMAN" Pala gets hit in-game
Twitch was abuzz: two internet phenomena were going head-to-head. Polish fans furiously flooded the chat; win predictions were strongly favoring IzakOOO over Skyyart. However, fandom doesn't equal fate.
But when the Cache match began, Poland's advantage emerged: they grabbed and hung onto a lead with quick, aggressive rounds. France simply couldn't recover, and LUULIGUZMAN put them out of their misery with three through-the-smoke headshots.
France fought hard on Cobblestone, but Poland's consistency again paid off. It was a crushing defeat, but no one took it harder than Skyyart himself.
French captain Willy "Skyyart" Diaz blamed himself for his team's loss
As for Taiwan's semi, Crazyface was nervous enough for his whole team. He seriously idolized Sweden’s captain, Maikelele. Now, like it or not, they were pitted against each other.
Beginning on Mirage, Taiwan initially played well, but during chaotic rounds, they too often went solo and Sweden picked them off. CrasheR’s Tec-9 triple kill gained Sweden huge buying power — with a victory cheer, they won Mirage. On Overpass, Taiwan lost an early lead as forcetolive and lolz1e continued owning, while CrasheR secured his team's victory with an incredible knife kill. “Not a shred of mercy!” Exclaimed Semmler. “You knife him in the last round! Heartless!”
Lucas "forcetolive" Alexandersson focuses intensely against Taiwan
It was a brutal victory against dreaded Taiwan, though CrasheR's backstab clearly said it all: it was actually Sweden that everyone should have been worrying about.
The final face-off
Robin "CrasheR" Engström anxiously braces himself for battle
After three intense days, the finals had arrived. Poland and Sweden represented the Grand Final's very best. Eight amateurs were staking all their hopes and dreams on this.
Behind their glowing G752 battlestations, they mostly appeared calm, aside from CrasheR, who was anxiously braced for battle.
In the TV area outside, observers gathered to watch. And online, over 160,000 were tuned in.
At first, Semmler predicted it could go either way, but his mind changed when he saw the maps: with slightly CT-skewed Cache and Mirage on the docket, Sweden might just be the underdog.
Shoutcaster Auguste "Semmler" Massonnat stands up to get a closer look at the match
The teams dove in, Poland quickly winning a clutch 1v1 pistol round before bagging three more. Sweden's excitement from previous days was suddenly absent. Only after Maikelele's vicious quad kill finally put them on the board did morale improve. They quickly scored several rounds and CrasheR unleashed one of his signature shouts — Sweden was coming back to life.
After several ecos, Poland was now struggling. But in the second half, the CTs were clearly not Sweden’s strength: forced into a hard eco, the score was nail-bitingly close at 11-10. To gasps, Stomp pivotally prevented Maikelele from flanking with an unbelievably perfect shot through smoke.
Sweden had its key moments, including lolz1e’s clutch bomb defusal, just barely bringing them ahead. But Poland forced Sweden into another hard eco and won Cache. They'd claimed ten rounds in an astonishing second-half recovery.
Captain IzakOOO and LUULIGUZMAN share a victorious moment
Maikelele’s shellshocked team stepped outside into below-zero darkness, clearing their heads for the second map.
On Mirage, Poland quickly gained a massive eleven-point lead. They were dialed into pure search-and-destroy mode. But Anders and Semmler weren’t ready to give up on the home team just yet — they’d seen incredible comebacks before.
And recovery actually looked feasible in the second half— the problem was Poland's runaway lead. Sweden pushed hard to win six rounds in what felt like record time. Could they do it?
CrasheR and forcetolive fistbump to celebrate a kill
But Poland kept racking up stunning plays, from Stomp’s split-second double headshot—so fast a replay was needed—to LUULIGUZMAN's unreal wallbang. “Oh, what a heartbreaker! I love it!” Semmler exclaimed. “If there was any doubt they were going to take this, that’s going to be hard to swallow,” was Anders’ more gravitas conclusion.
A flawless flashbang play plus a 2v1 takedown sealed the deal. After two totally dialed-in maps, Poland was the Grand Final champion.
A well-deserved victory: Team IzakOOO's members hug as reality sinks in
As triumphant music played, the victorious players hugged each other, expressions incredulous — like even they couldn’t believe it. And as they hoisted their trophy high, one thing was certain: they'd helped make gaming history. For the first time ever, four amateurs had been elevated from everyday gamers to eSports stars.
The winners pose with their trophy
By Kimberly Koenig