ESL Intel Extreme Masters

The Intel Extreme Masters is perhaps the most respected and well-known series of eSports tournaments on the pro gaming calendar. Players from around the globe compete in a series of events scattered around the world, with tournaments taking place in South Korea, California, China, and an epic final in Poland for 2018.

Sponsored by Intel and organised and sanctioned by the Electronic Sports League (ESL), the Intel Extreme Masters covers all the biggest and best games on the pro gaming scene, including CS:GO, League Of Legends, and Hearthstone: Heroes Of Warcraft.

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History of the Intel Extreme Masters

The ESL first introduced the Intel Extreme Masters to the world in 2006 following a number of successful albeit smaller European tournaments. Intel, extremely pleased by the performance and fan interest of the events, sponsored the event’s expansion, leading to the creation of the “Extreme Masters” from what was initially individually-named events.

The very first Intel Extreme Masters took place in 2007, with smaller qualifying events leading into an epic final. This structure remains today, although the final has moved from the CeBIT trade show in Hanover, Germany, to Katowice in Poland.

Those beginning seasons were small and limited in scope: the only game being played back in 2008 was Counter Strike 1.6. As history would show, this quickly expanded to become a lineup of five games today, including new addition Overwatch from Blizzard.

The Games

The Intel Extreme Masters has experimented with a number of different games throughout the years. Counter-Strike 1.6 was used in the tournament’s early years, while both Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne lasted for three years from the event’s inception. Quake Live managed to last two seasons before essentially falling off the eSports map, replaced by the likes of StarCraft II, League of Legends and Overwatch, all three of which remain in today’s Intel Extreme Masters.

These are the games that have been played during each season of the Intel Extreme Masters:

Season 1

  • Counter-Strike 1.6
  • Warcraft

Season 2

  • Counter-Strike 1.6
  • Warcraft

Season 3

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Warcraft
  • World Of Warcraft

Season 4

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • World of Warcraft
  • Quake Live
  • Dota

Season 5

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Warcraft
  • Dota
  • StarCraft II
  • Quake Live

Season 6

  • League of Legends
  • StarCraft II
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Season 7

  • League of Legends
  • StarCraft II

Season 8

  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
  • League of Legends

    Heartstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Season 9

  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
  • League of Legends
  • Heartstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Season 10

  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm
  • League of Legends
  • Heartstone: Heroes of Warcraft
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Season 11

  • Overwatch
  • League of Legends
  • StarCraft II
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Format of the Intel Extreme Masters

The Intel Extreme Masters relies on a qualifying season by which teams compete in an offline environment. Qualifiers tend to move around the globe, with the most recent Season 11 qualifiers held in China, California and South Korea.

Teams that qualify from these rounds are placed into the finals, where two groups of six teams are made, with the top two advancing to the grand final. The first placed team of each group will go directly to the semifinals, while second and third place go into the knock-out quarter finals.

Intel Extreme Masters Prize Money

The prize money on offer for the Intel Extreme Masters has fluctuated, but it still remains as one of the most lucrative events on the pro gaming calender. The current season offers a $1 million prize pool in total, with the November event in Oakland offers a $300,000 prize pool in CS:GO. Swedish team Ninjas In Pyjamas walked away with the highest prize: $128,000.

Unsurprisingly, two Korea players sit atop the rankings of highest earning individual players: Yoo Jin Kim and Sung Wook Joo have won $113,000 and $74,000, respectively.

Here’s a list of the most lucrative events in Intel Extreme Masters history.

  1. Intel Extreme Master XI (Oakland, CS:GO) – $300,000
  2. Intel Extreme Master X (World Championship CS:GO) – $250,000
  3. Intel Extreme Master IX (World Championship, LoL) – $183,414
  4. Intel Extreme Master VII (World Championship, LoL) – $150,000
  5. Intel Extreme Master VIII (World Championship, LoL) – $150,000