ESL Impact Katowice 2023 concluded with Nigma Galaxy defeating NAVI Javelins to win their fourth straight championship and remain the world’s best female CS:GO team.
Contrary to the 2-0 scoreline, the grand final was an exciting series to watch amidst a professional CS’ hallowed grounds. Although the hometown NAVI Javelins squad displayed a valiant performance against NGX, pushing the opponents to double overtime on the latter’s selected Vertigo map, the defending champions held firm by winning the last four rounds in a row to keep their crown.
Besides NGX’s victory, many notable events that caught fans and analysts’ eyes transpired throughout the event. So, as we bid adieu to Impact Katowice 2023, let’s look back at the biggest takeaways from the year’s first major female CS:GO tournament.
The toughest challenge yet for NGX
Heading into Katowice, Nigma Galaxy were on a 20-match winning streak across all Impact competitions since the Season 1 Final and it looked as though they were primed to remain unbeaten this time around. However, this tournament turned out to be not as easy for NGX to conquer compared to the past.
Following a comfortable group stage, NGX had their work cut out for them as they had to outlast FURIA Esports in a grueling semifinal that saw the last map extend to overtime. Although FURIA didn’t have as much time to prepare as NGX did due to a roster change, where they brought in rifler Gabriela “bokor” Bokor from w7m esports, that didn’t prohibit them from putting up the biggest fight NGX faced up to date.
As tough as that series was for NGX to overcome, their gauntlet didn’t end there. There was still the Grand Finals to play and a surging NAVI Javelins awaiting them. Following a 16-9 victory on NAVI’s selected map of Nuke, the team overcame a 10-5 deficit to force overtime on Vertigo on the T-side.
The momentum didn’t end there as thanks to another four-round win streak during the extra period, NGX closed the series with a 22-19 line, finishing their longest map in Impact play since September 23, 2022, where they lost to NOFEAR5 17-19 in Season 2 European qualifying.
Nigma had to sweat far more and work much harder than before to remain champion. It’s a testament to the continued growth of the general female CS scene since Impact started last year, and if the trend continues in this manner, NGX has no other choice but to expect tougher challenges than the one they saw in Katowice.
NAVI Javelins is here to stay
Angelika "Angelka" Kozłowska celebrating during a match in ESL Impact Katowice 2023 (Credit: ESL)
Unfortunately for NAVI Javelins, the heartwarming storyline of the hometown team beating the unstoppable champions against all the odds didn’t end the way they wanted it. A 19-22 overtime loss on Vertigo in the Grand Finals dealt a major blow considering the road they have been on since their inception and how close they were to become champions in Katowice.
Nevertheless, that shouldn’t take away from their incredible achievements in their homeland. For starters, NAVI made the Grand Finals of Impact play for the first time, surpassing their semifinal finish in Valencia in early July of 2022. Not only that, they grabbed key wins over FURIA and the upstart B4 Esports en route to the Grand Finals, and in comfortable fashion, no less.
Obviously, such an excellent performance wouldn’t be possible without the collective effort of the team, but consideration should be given to the individuals, and none are more deserving of said praise than Angelika “Angelka” Kozłowska, who ended the event with a Top 5 performance across the board. Per HLTV.org, she had a 1.31 rating, 80.4% KAST, 85.2 DPR, +39 K:D difference, and 78 total headshots.
Another distinguished player who rose to the occasion is IGL Wiktoria “vicu” Janicka, who led the team against tough opposition to that second place position, such as revered FURIA captain Olga “Olga” Rodrigues.
All this amounted to a breakout performance for the Javelins that will inspire more believers in their cause of becoming eventual champions. Though they lost to NGX at the last hurdle, with them gaining experience of playing in an Impact Grand Finals, they will certainly return as a bonafide contender should they qualify for the Season 2 Finals in the Lone Star State a few months down the line.
NA's struggles continue
Saints’ Anna “buhnny” Cheung hugging Nigma Galaxy’s Alexandra "twenty3" Timonina during ESL Impact Katowice 2023 (Credit: ESL)
Another tournament, another disappointing display by the North American representation. Even though NA has taken strides towards cultivating a bustling female CS scene with the presence of Counter Logic Gaming Red and Evil Geniuses Gold, they have yet to progress to the Playoffs for the first time since the Season 1 Final, which was staged on home ground.
For this tournament, North America was represented by CLG Red and Saints, the latter of whom arrived in Poland as the only team with an organization and had to field a stand-in, Kaia “KiKi” Holmen, for Iuliia “sckrafft” Gerasimova, due to visa complications, leading up to the event. In the six total matches both North American teams played, they went 1-5, with the lone victory coming in the form of CLG Red beating 9 Pandas Fearless with a 16-10 score on Overpass during the group stage.
As for Saints, despite their best attempts in preparing for the event without the support of an organization, they finished with a -39 round differential, the worst among all teams. Not only that but in listing every player in terms of HLTV rating, all five Saints players were placed at the bottom of the overall individual standings.
With the eyes of the Impact League moving towards Dallas, Texas, where the Season 3 Finals will take place, North America must improve should they want to be seen as serious contenders in female CS. Otherwise, the vast chagrin radiating across the region will continue to roam without pause, just like how it is in male CS.
Brazilian teams remain ever closer to glory
For the first time in ESL Impact, a Brazilian team failed to reach the Grand Finals of an event within the circuit. Taking into account the Brazilian teams’ constant presence at the top of the competition, it’s a disappointing result for a region that continues to look for its first Impact trophy.
Even so, there is a reason for optimism that their time will eventually come one way or another. After all, FURIA, who welcomed Bokor in January, ended their nemesis NGX’s unbeaten streak and pushed them to overtime in Map 3 of their semifinal series. While they did bow out in the semifinals, as Olga said on Twitter, they’ll return home with their heads held high and prepare for the Season 2 Finals in Dallas, where their presence was first made one year ago.
With B4, their ascent in female CS continued with their Top 4 finish in Katowice. Starting with a 22-20 double-overtime win over HSG, the team locked horns once again with their Asian opponents in the Group A decider match, where they won 2-1 to advance to the playoffs. Among the players that made their progression possible is Nadjila “poppins” Sanchez Rodrigues, who went 61/53 in K:D and played with a team-high 1.20 HLTV rating.
B4’s journey in Katowice would ultimately end at the hands of NAVI Javelins, who won 2-0 in the semifinals. Regardless of that fact, B4 is shaping up to be a force, not just in Brazil but the rest of the world, and with an esteemed core that gained crucial experience at LAN, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them seriously fight for a spot in the Grand Finals at Dallas.
The MVP: Olga 'Olga' Rodrigues
Take a look at the individual stats from Katowice. Olga is one name at the top of nearly every category. Even after she was eliminated in the semifinals and both NGX and NAVI played an additional two maps, she remained at the top of the individual standings.
In Katowice, she was first in:
- HLTV rating (1.37)
- Damage per round (102.4)
- Damage difference per round (+21.9)
- Total kills (180)
- Kills per round (0.88)
- Total assists (48)
- Assists per round (0.23)
- Total headshots (95)
- Total opening kills (48)
- Opening kills per round (0.23)
- Impact rating (1.69)
Far beyond her stellar leadership with FURIA, Olga’s individual brilliance outshone every other player in the tournament.
FURIA runs through Olga, FURIA feeds itself off Olga, FURIA contends because of Olga. There is no question about who the MVP in Katowice is, it's Olga.