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The year in photos: 2021


After over a year with no offline events and almost two years without the crowds at events, Counter-Strike finally returned to its rightful home on the LAN in 2021. To celebrate some of these tournaments, including the two arena events of the year, PGL Major Stockholm and BLAST Premier Fall Final, we’ve put together a selection of some of the best work from our photographers.

The return to LAN began in July with the IEM Cologne, the last event before the player break, although HLTV was unable to attend the event due to ESL events that were in a tight bubble to address the threat of a Covid outbreak to stop that lasted throughout the year. The second half of 2021 began with the very first Academy League put together by WePlay in their studio in Kiev.

s1mple was developed in one for NAVI. dominant year Major Champion and MVP in Stockholm, Sweden
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Other events, small and large, also got off the ground around the world, including Fragadelphia 15 in North America. Teams also traveled from other continents to play in Europe, be it online or LAN, with the likes of 00Nation and MIBR Bootcamping in Warsaw where they were photographed by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch. Another team that HLTV won at bootcamp was the Movistar Riders during their major preparation when they opened the doors of the Movistar eSports Center in Madrid for a feature story that will become the first Spanish squad for the top tournament of Counter-Strike qualified.

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Movistar Riders turned fear into joy to make history for Spain

Then came the highlight of 2021, the PGL Major in Stockholm. It marked the return of the crowded arenas and became the highest-paid major to date at $ 2 million. Lots of rookies and new squads have left their mark on Sweden, but primarily it was the NAVI show that made a record run and took the trophy without losing a single card throughout the event.

A second season of the WePlay Academy league was played and MOUZ NXT became consecutive champions in Kiev. Meanwhile, Gambit won their first LAN event in Budapest with their current line-up at the V4 Future Sports Festival and in Helsinki Boris “⁠Magixx⁠” Vorobiev and Viktor “⁠Sdy⁠” Orudzhev won the Red Bull Flick 2vs2 trophy in the latter’s final event wearing the Spirit jersey, albeit fun.

BLAST was the focus of our photographers at the end of the year when they attended an event at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen for the autumn finale, followed by the world finale in the tournament organiser’s new studio, also in the Danish capital. Natus Vincere cemented his superiority at both events by winning the former while completing a lower bracket run in the latter to end the year.

The logos of the eight founding teams of the Academy League in the WePlay Esports Arena
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Golden stepped in as the coach of fnatic Rising in the Academy League while he was benched by the main squad
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

MOUZ NXT was the first team to win an Academy League and defeat the Young Ninjas in the final
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

NAVI opens a new office in Kiev, Ukraine
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Players will be at the start of Fragadelphia 15. informed
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Bad News Bears, with Junior on loan from FURIA, won Frag 15
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Cogu watches his men at boot camp in Wojska Polskiego Stadium
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

MIBR pose during their boot camp at the Kinguin facilities in Warsaw
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Movistar Riders during a debriefing at their pre-major bootcamp in Madrid
(Photo by Lucas Aznar Miles)

ZywOo poses with his 2020 MVP medals and two top 20 players of the 1st place medals in 2019 and 2020
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

FaZe get ready on the Major’s Challengers Stage with coach innersh1ne
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Renegades represented Oceania on the Challengers Stage of the PGL Major
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

MOUZ is celebrating after defeating Renegades to qualify for the Major’s Legends Stage
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

An emotional KadiaN goes wild after beating the Movistar Riders in the Challengers Stage 2-2 pool
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Hometown hero GeT_RiGhT hands over the trophy and gives a speech in front of the Major’s Legends Stage
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

The PGL Major was maLeK’s last tournament with G2
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

dupreeh and zonic drop by when a former Astralis teammate, now in the NIP, walks by
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Vitality got off to a difficult start with the major before gaining traction and making the playoffs
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Copenhagen Flames surprised everyone with their outstanding performance at the Major
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

The youngster drop from FURIA made itself at home in the LAN in Stockholm
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

ENCE struggled on the Legend Stage and finished 0-3, despite showing good form after the summer
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Stewie2K and FallN speak ahead of their play-off against FaZe
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

nafany celebrates Gambit’s qualification for the major’s playoffs with a win over NIP
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

cadiaN bursts into tears after making the major playoffs with a win over CPH Flames
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

ropz puts his hands in front of his face after being eliminated by Virtus.Pro elimination
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

YEKINDAR punches during his team’s 2-2 match against FaZe, which gave them access to the playoffs
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

REZ is canceled by device after NIP has secured a place in the playoffs to play in front of a home crowd
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

HLTV confirmed podcast regulars Striker, prof and SPUNJ during a live show in the Major
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

The Avicii Arena hosted the first major since 2019
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Hunt down the Swedish crowd after beating NIP 1v3 in the quarterfinals
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Fans jokingly hold up marshmallows while the pyrotechnics go off with the exploding bomb
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

JaCkz kisses his mother after securing a spot in the major’s grand finale
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

B1ad3 does a power pose ahead of the major’s grand finale
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

NAVI lifts the major trophy and is the first team in history to do so without dropping a card
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

m0NESY’s international LAN debut came at the WePlay Academy League Season 2
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

MOUZ NXT became the back-to-back champion of the WePlay Academy League (Photo by Radoslaw.) “MAKKU” Makuch)

Entropiq, one of the breakout teams of the year, suffered a heavy defeat against Gambit in the V4 final
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Two top CIS coaches, Groove and Hooch, hug after the grand V4 final in Budapest
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

sh1ro and Hobbit pose for a photo after winning their first LAN event together
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

magixx and sdy with the two-part Red Bull Flick 2vs2 trophy in Helsinki
(Photo by Anastasija “Heccu” Tolmačeva)

The Royal Arena in Copenhagen hosted the BLAST Premier Autumn Final
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

NAVI presenter Tonya Predko repairs Boomb4’s hair during the media day of the BLAST Premier Fall Finals
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

The Royal Arena roared during the Copenhagen event, sparking controversy over cheating on the crowd
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

k0nfig and BlameF played their first event with an Astralis jersey in front of a home crowd
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

B1ad3 and Boomb4 discuss their tactical notes in the Royal Arena
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

FaZe at one of the spectacular team presentations in the Royal Arena
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Danish fans crowd surfing during the BLAST Premier autumn finals
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Young Heroic fans watch their team at the BLAST Premier Fall Finals
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

apEX dances on stage before the grand finale of BLAST Premier against NAVI
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

Valera B1T pokes his fist against someone in the crowd after winning the BLAST Premier Fall Finals
(Photo by Radoslaw “MAKKU” Makuch)

NIP with Substitute Phzy at the last event of the year, the BLAST Premier World Final
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Liquid was all beaming at their last event when they dropped NAVI into the lower category
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

Heroic had to play his last event with a substitute and was the last to go out
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

NAVI won eight titles in 2021, half of them on LAN, including the BLAST Premier World Final
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

s1mple poses with its record-breaking eighth MVP award of the year
(Photo by Josip “brcho” Brtan)

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