The Triumphant Return of Stewie2K

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Source; Test

In 2018, he won the greatest achievement in North American Counter-Strike. In 2019, he was on top with the #1 team in the world. In 2022, he changed the trajectory of his career by entering a new chapter in his career that didn’t pan out, eventually stepping away from CS and switching sides. But now, nearly two years since he first left, he’s back with a return to Tier 1 competition in what can only be described as a fairytale turned into reality.

This is the triumphant return of Jake “Stewie2K” Yip.

Stewie2K with Liquid; Copyright: Helena Kristiansson, ESL FACEIT Group

Anyone that was familiar with professional CS from the late 2010s to the early 2020s has certainly heard of Stewie2K. On every corner of the internet, he was simply unavoidable. Known as the “Smoke Criminal” for his extremely aggressive plays in both online matchmaking and competitive LAN tournaments, he quickly rose to fame and prominence after joining Cloud9 where he, alongside four other dreamers from the region, pulled off the seemingly impossible and won NA’s first and only Counter-Strike Major Championship to date. For 2019, Stewie2K made the move to Liquid in what was yet another successful stint in his career – this time securing the $1,000,000 Intel Grand Slam Season 2 in record fashion while taking the fight to the proclaimed best team in the world, Astralis.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the succeeding online era of CS:GO was a tough break for Stewie2K and Liquid, who struggled to keep up with emerging talents from different regions. Eventually, the once-magical partnership between Stewie2K and Liquid came to an end ahead of the 2022 season. The Smoke Criminal joined a rebuilding Evil Geniuses squad as their in-game leader, a role he’d been dabbling into during his later years with the blue-and-white organization, alongside two of his Major-winning teammates Will “RUSH” Wierzba” and Timothy “autimatic” Ta. The move to EG, which was met with optimism, especially from the faithful NA community, quickly fell apart as the team struggled everywhere they went, with the final nail in the coffin coming in July 2022, when Stewie2K officially announced that he would take a step back from professional CS.

Over the next two years, Stewie2K pushed himself further into the world of streaming, playing a variety of games, especially VALORANT. In January 2023, he even entered the Riot-developed shooter’s pro scene with The Nation in a short-lived competitive stint. Despite his predominant interest in VALORANT, Stewie2K affirmed that his time away from Counter-Strike did not mean it was goodbye forever and, as we’ve seen from a number of players that have gone the same route, one should never count out a return to their first love.

And return he did.

Stewie2K made his official return to competitive CS through a brief stint with Brazilian squad Legacy, serving as a veteran presence in an extremely young lineup. He only played one event with them, the ESWC North America Closed Qualifier, where they failed to reach the million-dollar tournament in Saudi Arabia. After sitting on the sidelines for one more month, Stewie2K shocked the world with a move that nobody expected.

Stewie2K returns to Tier 1 with G2; Copyright: Helena Kristiansson, ESL FACEIT Group

In the days leading up to IEM Dallas 2024, G2 revealed that they would be without their entry fragger and in-game leader Rasmus “HooXi” Nielsen for the duration of the tournament due to personal reasons. His replacement would be none other than Stewie2K, a decision he teased on his personal social media accounts and later confirmed by G2 themselves. Expectations for G2 dropped after the move was confirmed, but from the viewpoint of a North American fan, hope was through the roof. Hope that maybe the man who completed Cloud9’s Major comeback six years ago would win silverware once more in his true return to the highest level of competition.

G2’s run at IEM Dallas began with an opening match victory over Falcons before a sweep at the hands of Vitality, which sent them to their group’s lower bracket. From there, they would make a complete recovery with 2-1 series against MOUZ and Liquid to clinch a quarter-final spot in the playoffs. As the preliminary stages of the tournament began, it was clear that G2’s carries were undoubtedly Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Ilya “m0NESY” Osipov. Stewie2K’s individual performance was a far cry from his prime back in 2018-2019, but statistics never really tell the full story.

Sure, his HLTV rating barely went over 1.00 and kills weren’t all that common either, but his role as an entry fragger and utility player was performed to a high enough degree that allowed NiKo and m0NESY to run the server. Even though it was obvious that Stewie2K was no longer the Smoke Criminal of old, there was still such an aura that circled G2 with him around pulling off opening kills, occasional clutches, and even sacrificing his own game for the team’s success. As G2 moved closer to achieving the fairytale finish with their stand-in, more and more fans started to circle the team and place their faith that the hometown hero would get his storybook ending. Thus, GStew was born.

G2’s first challenge in the playoffs was FaZe, one of the best teams in the world and a familiar foe for G2. What everyone thought would be an all-time matchup between two giants turned into a completely one-sided affair in favor of NiKo’s squad, with Stewie2K playing his best CS of the entire tournament and finishing with a positive 1.12 HLTV rating. G2 replicated their 2-0 sweep in the semi-finals against 9z, although this time in a much closer battle against the South Americans. Despite another modest display on the stat sheet, Stewie2K was praised by his teammates, analysts, and fans alike for his unselfish team-first play and glimpses of his past in crucial situations.

There was one last obstacle left in the fairytale, and it was arguably the toughest one yet. G2’s opponent in the grand final was none other than Vitality with their own superstar AWPer in Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and veteran calling the shots Dan “apEX” Madesclaire. G2 won their map pick, Inferno, in double overtime before Vitality snatched the second map, Anubis, in another OT thriller. With only one map left, the stage was set for a decider on Nuke. In the end, a seven-round CT half thanks to a monstrous effort by m0NESY sealed the series and the trophy for G2, writing the final chapter in Stewie2K’s Dallas fairytale.

Stewie2K wins IEM Dallas with G2; Copyright: Adela Sznajder, ESL FACEIT Group

Did he play out of his mind? No, but that hardly matters. But for those who like to nitpick and believe in certain statistics, Stewie2K did outperform three different members of Vitality on the deciding map, including ZywOo. But even with that, it doesn’t really matter since numbers were never the story — Stewie2K was. He walked into Dallas carrying the hope of a nation on his shoulders once again and came out with the championship story of a lifetime.

Welcome back, Stewie.

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