MLG Chicago wrapped up our 2005 Conference Championship series in exhilarating fashion, leaving fans and players with great anticipation for what will go down next as our National Championships rapidly approach. Our Central Conference Championship was the culmination of a fantastic year of competitive gaming, representing all of the momentum Major League Gaming has amassed this season. In Part I of this event recap, I delved into the FFA competitions of both the Last Chance Qualifier and the Conference Championship. This installment focuses on the intense dynamics of the 4v4 tournament, which never fails to produce some fantastic displays of teamwork and skill. In fact, it could be argued that this was perhaps the “hardest” tournament of all-time, and not just because it happened to be the largest tournament of all-time at 135 teams.

Along with this great quantity came an unprecedented quality. MLG Chicago was absolutely overflowing with top talent — almost literally every big name on the circuit was in attendance, arranged into a variety of all-star teams. Never before were there so many teams at one event that could be considered serious contenders for the top spots, and every player on every team was out to earn theirs.

I thought it was Halo, not Marathon

It all began on Saturday with the Last Chance Qualifier, where over 500 players were packed shoulder-to-shoulder into the venue, many of them visibly stricken by a sense of excitement and nervousness. With record attendance like this, a great number of the teams were experiencing their very first MLG event, and it was really satisfying to be able to look around and see all these new faces and realize that our community is thriving and full of fresh talent. While the sheer number of teams was a bit unwieldy in the early rounds, Anakin and Puckett did a fantastic job of keeping order in the venue during the long haul. When it takes four separate heats to complete the first round, you know you’re in for a long day, and for the teams that were winning their matches and advancing, the tournament was just as much a test of endurance as it was anything else. The marathon nature of the tournament certainly produced some crazy situations, and as some of them unfolded we wished we had some kind of unofficial “MLG Iron Man” award to give to some of the people who really ran the gauntlet that weekend.

Check this out: TuLegit came to the tournament without any invites to the Conference Championships. Therefore, he was made to play in the LCQ FFA on Friday night, and with his team, Tu Foxy Pastries, in the LCQ 4v4 on Saturday morning. TuLegit had a great run through the LCQ FFA, making it all the way to the Top 16 (out of 550 players) before failing to qualify for the Top 8. Fortunately for him, there were 11 invites up for grabs, so the Top 8 automatically received an invite, and the players eliminated in the Top 16 were pitted against each other to fight for the last three. TuLegit mustered up another great performance to snag second place in that game, which qualified him for the Conference Championship FFA the next day after eight rounds and nearly as many hours of play.

Walshy takes a quick time-out to holler at the camera while Saiyan handles his business

First thing in the morning the next day, we began with the LCQ 4v4 competition, which Tu Legit was playing in along with teammates TuSick, Foxygrandpa117 and Donut117. Their team played exceedingly well, and over the course of six separate matches they worked their way through the 115 total LCQ teams to earn one of the four available invitations to the Conference Championship 4v4. In accordance with the tournament schedule, we began the CC FFA Round Robin immediately following the LCQ 4v4, so TuLegit had to go straight from the completion of one tournament to another. The CC FFA (covered in Part I) consisted of seven rounds of Round Robin FFA matches that would decide who qualified for the 8-man 1v1 bracket. Upon completion of those rounds, TuLegit ended up in 10th place, just two points shy of qualifying for the Top 8 1v1, but his day was not yet over… As soon as the Round Robin was completed, we began the early rounds of the CC 4v4, which he and his team had qualified for mere hours ago. In the Conference Championship, there are no “easy early rounds,” so Tu Foxy Pastries was faced with stiff opposition right away in the form of Team Versus (Poison, Lil Poison, Boo and Popcorn_P), who knocked them to the Losers’ Bracket. They would meet a similar fate in the Losers’ Bracket, being eliminated by Dipjuice Returns (Detach, AK Goose, CampinMonkey and Mimic).

By the time his team was eliminated, it had become apparent that TuLegit was involved in every single round of every single Halo event that took place between 5:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. Friday/Saturday, and between 10:00 a.m. and about 1:00 a.m. Saturday/Sunday. That’s a total of roughly 23 hours of tournament play in two days. I became exhausted enough just being in the room while all that action was going on, and the fact that he was actually playing through it shows some supernatural endurance on his part, making him our first unofficial “MLG Iron Man.” Many players had intense schedules throughout the weekend, but no other player was made to play in as many consecutive matches over such a long stretch of time, and the fact that he was able to keep the quality of his play extremely high throughout the entire weekend was a colossal display. TuLegit, our hats go off to you — and don’t worry, because our tournament schedules will be a lot more relaxed next season.

Congratulations to the teams that advanced from the LCQ to the CC 4v4! It was no small feat to charge through that monster bracket at the single largest console gaming tournament of all-time, and each of these players will have that accomplishment to carry with them for the rest of their careers. The advancing teams were:

Team Chuck Wolfman (Toxinsneighbor, Knowledge, Spye, StKpnShibby)
Team Unrated (Spaniard, 8Ball, iiK1ngii, EvilRyu)

Tu Foxy Pastries (TuLegit, TuSick, Donut117, Foxygrandpa117)

Xtreme Gaming (Aluckyshot, RuDyReBoRN, xXFearitselfXx, callmegod)

The Conference Championship 4v4

It would really be hard to overstate the level of competition present at MLG Chicago for the CC 4v4. This event marked the end of an odd series of tournaments that were seeing most-but-not-all of the top players attending in varying combinations, leaving some level of doubt in peoples’ minds as to which teams are better than which, because they had not all been tested against each other at the same event. This time out, the fans really got what they wanted to see: the best players forming the best teams, and facing off against each other at an event of maximum competition.

People were heralding the return of IGS, sporting their yet-untested but highly promising lineup of Karma, Gandhi, Shockwav3 and StrongSide. There was a great deal of excitement surrounding Xit Woundz, whose roster of Killer N, Bonfire, ItWasLuck and Samurai650 proved to be a fierce blend of veteran talent and rising notoriety after their fourth place finish at MLG Atlanta. Big things were expected once again from LeGendZ (Defy, Anarchy, Toxin and Vash), who have done very well for themselves in recent months. EG (SadPanda, Gspot, BlackJak, Mack) had been getting more and more dangerous with each tournament, and many were looking for them to explode at this one.

And then there was Str8 Rippin, who encountered a rather unexpected last-minute lineup change when Zyos backed out of the tournament only one day before it began. Left completely out to dry, the team scrambled to fill the spot, and were lucky enough to land Tupac as their replacement, who had always been a top player. With such a sudden lineup change and absolutely zero time to acclimate, nobody quite knew what to expect of Str8 Rippin as this event. There were also a number of other intriguing teams (Devil’s Army, H2C, Dipjuice Returns, Versus, So Sick) that had very solid rosters, and had a viable chance at cracking the upper ranks. With competition of this magnitude, anything could happen — and it did. This tournament was truly an all-out brawl, with a bevy of surprise matches and overthrows that sorted the top teams out in ways that few would have predicted.

Despite the diversity of the teams, they all had one thing in common: they were all gunning for Team 3D, who have been virtually unstoppable throughout the Conference Championships, having won both the Western and Eastern Titles with ease. If ever there would be a true test of 3D’s renewed stranglehold on the circuit, one would have thought that it would be at this tournament.

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The first of the major match-ups began in Winners’ Round 3, where many of the best teams would inevitably have to meet up because none of them had lost yet. In what could be considered an upset based on seeding, Xit Woundz (6) knocked LeGendZ (3) to the Losers’ Bracket in a rather close five-game series. The final game of TS Lockout came right down to the wire, as Xit Woundz pressed through on a 50 – 47 win. Meanwhile in the same round, IGS barely defeated EG in another heated five-gamer. Each game in the series was ridiculously close until the tiebreaking TS Lockout, where IGS handed out a 50 – 27 shellacking to continue on in the Winners’ Bracket.

Xit Woundz was absolutely the surprise team of the tournament, pulling off several upsets on their way to second place

Their tenure in the upper bracket would be stopped short by Team 3D, who defeated IGS in four games; but not without heavy resistance. Neutral Bomb Midship was extremely close at 3-2, but it wasn’t nearly as evenly-matched as the following game of TS Beaver Creek. Throughout the game, both teams increased their scores at a virtually identical rate, with each kill being avenged almost without fail. By the time IGS reached 46 kills late in the game, 3D was lagging behind with only 40, but they managed to mount a stunning comeback to deadlock the game at 49 kills each. Immediately, the two teams divided the map in half and set up perimeter defenses. Ogre 1 had the sniper, and Ogre 2 had the rockets, so IGS was at a serious disadvantage in terms of power weapons. Still, 3D was hesitant to push out of their base too far, and IGS was smart enough to avoid poking their heads out for Ogre 1′s notoriously deadly sniper.

What ensued was a series of near-kills for both sides, but nobody was willing to commit to chase after a kill, as there would surely be heavy reinforcement waiting just around the corner. Using the portals was far too risky, as each team was watching theirs intently, so the only real option was a cross-creek battle. The standoff was extremely nerve-racking, as each team tried to use the Overshield as bait and catch the other out in the open. After what seemed like an eternity, Ogre 2 made a quick move, pouncing on the new Overshield and catching an IGS player popping their head out of their base’s magnum ramp. Blasting a precision rocket down into the hole, Ogre 2 ended the tense situation and bagged the win for Team 3D.

IGS responded by serving 3D what would turn out to be their only loss of the tournament during the next game of CTF Warlock, winning authoritatively 5 – 3. However, it simply wasn’t enough to stop 3D as they held it down on Oddball Lockout to take the series 3 – 1. Although IGS struggled with EG just one round earlier, they showed an entirely different side as they faced 3D and gave them a match that was closer than the series score suggests. Actually, this kind of up-and-down performance came to characterize IGS’ entire tournament as they proceeded to breeze by LeGendZ in the Losers’ Bracket (sending them home surprisingly early with a 5/6 finish), only to take a tough loss to Str8 Rippin in a five-game slug-fest to wind up in fourth place.

Str8 Rippin, meanwhile, had been doing very well for themselves considering their impromptu team, but just before eliminating IGS, they fell in a pretty close match to Xit Woundz, who were playing well above their sixth seed ranking and turning a lot of heads. Having just upset the second and third ranked teams, Xit Woundz was taking no prisoners, and began to look like favorites to appear in the finals against 3D. We got a preview of what that match would be like as Xit advanced to the Winners’ Finals to face number one ranked Team 3D — and it wasn’t pretty.

While CTF Midship was a close 5 – 4 victory for 3D, the following games were simply brutal. Team 3D made TS Beaver Creek their game as they dominated every power weapon and buried Xit 50 – 33. It was a far cry from the surgically calculated game that IGS gave them on that gametype, and 3D seemed ready for just about anything Xit could throw their way. Oddball Warlock turned sour in a hurry as Team 3D completely destroyed their opponents, taking the lead 1:56 – :08 early on. Xit Woundz found a bit of breathing room, closing the gap to about a minute, but that was as close as they could get. 3D’s slaying was so hot that there was very little to be done as they ran up the clock and the kill count in equal proportions, taking the game 5:00 – 2:11. Having just crushed the team that defeated the second and third ranked teams did not bode well for anyone’s chances of taking out the juggernaut foursome, but Xit Woundz certainly wanted another shot at it as they went to the Losers’ Bracket.

Can anybody stop these guys?

Since Str8 Rippin had just finished eliminating IGS, they would meet back up with Xit in the Losers’ Bracket to determine who would go back to face Team 3D in the Championship Match. Xit entered the match already up 3 – 1 in the series since they were the team that sent Str8 Rippin to the Losers’ Bracket to begin with. It seemed that all of the tricks that didn’t work on 3D were effective against Str8 Rippin, because Xit Woundz dominated this rematch to the tune of 3 – 0, showing that they were truly the surprise team of this tournament. They had already cemented themselves a reputation as a major force in the Halo world, but they were hoping to turn everything on its head with an upset victory over Team 3D.

This would not be the stage on which they accomplish that feat. Xit came out strong at the beginning of CTF Sanctuary, neutralizing 3D’s efforts to score as both teams clashed aggressively in the center of the map. The game began to resemble a barroom brawl as each side attempted to muscle past the other without getting too far. The 15 minute timer dwindled until it had nearly expired, prompting 3D to pull out a clutch play like only they know how. Slaying their way to a good hole in Xit’s defenses, 3D raced in and grabbed the flag, relaying it across the map under heavy fire. Saiyan ran the final leg to score during sudden death and stretch 3D’s series lead to a commanding 4 – 0.

It’s always difficult coming into a rematch with a three-game deficit — in fact, no team has overcome such a predicament all season — but Xit Woundz hung in there as best they could. Unfortunately for them, 3D is relentless no matter how far ahead they are, and they doled out a serious punishment on TS Lockout. Team 3D got off to a ridiculously good start, winding up ahead 22 – 4 before anyone knew what was happening. This was supplemented by Saiyan’s all-BR Killtacular as Xit members tried to scurry across the center of the map. While Xit Woundz found a way to scrounge up some more kills throughout the match, the 50 – 24 result left them battered heading into what would be the final game of the tournament.

King of the Hill Midship quickly became a slaughterhouse that saw Ogre 1 finish the game with a savage 44 – 17 score. Similarly gross slaying scores from 3D led to a game score of 5:00 – 2:00, crowning Team 3D as the Central Conference Champions. Xit Woundz had a phenomenal tournament, pushing their way into the innermost circle of elite Halo teams. They laid a beating on some teams that outranked them both in terms of seeding and in popular opinion, providing a really thrilling event that sets an interesting stage for the National Championships. Despite all of their great efforts though, 3D is a ruthlessly efficient monster of a team that has the Halo world tightly wrapped around their fingers.

Since their lone tournament loss of the season and their subsequent hiatus, Team 3D has come back to completely obliterate the competition at all three Conference Championships. They have won the Championship Matches of the last two tournaments 6 – 0 each, and in fact have only lost two individual games during the entirety of the Eastern and Central Conference tournaments. Honestly, that’s just disgusting — I really don’t know how else to describe it. While 3D may be well-above the competition right now, there is still a good deal of time before the National Championships, and the amount of prize money will be drastically increased — so you can be sure that every player who earned an invite will be teaming with the best possible players and practicing like mad. Besides, what better stage to make an overthrow than the one that will decide the 2005 Season Champions? Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to miss a minute of it.

Congratulations to the 4v4 Prize Winners of MLG Chicago!

(Tournament Placing / Team Name / Total Game Record / Prize Money)
1. Team 3D :: 15 – 1 ($6500)
2.Xit Woundz :: 12 – 10 ($4000)
3. Str8 Rippin :: 12 – 8 ($2400)
4. iGameSpot :: 12 – 9 ($1800)
5. LeGendZ :: 11 – 8 ($1200)
5. Devil’s Army :: 12 – 11 ($1200)
7. EG :: 10 – 8 ($800)
7. H2C :: 7 – 6 ($800)

You can check out all of the brackets and gametypes for MLG Chicago by visiting our Events Page. Further information regarding the 2005 National Championships in New York will be coming soon (gametypes are already posted on the Events Page).