Counter-Strike’s Series Prediction Conundrum

As problems go within Counter-Strike, this is certainly not a pressing one. Yet, being a topic I’m yet to see addressed let’s take a delve into the hiccup at hand.

The issue itself is really quite simple: as a hypothetical take two teams, call A and B, and let’s suppose they are facing off in a best of five (the issue still remains in Bo3’s but having a longer series makes it more pronounced), across the five maps to be played assume further that team A is favoured 50.1 to 49.9 on each map. Now, for each map in isolation, team A is definitely favoured and following the logic that most premier analysts currently employ you would be inclined to predict team A taking the series 3–0, however — and I won’t bore you with the stats — I can assure you that team A winning either 3–1 or 3–2 are both more likely results than a clean sweep.

So here the conundrum arises, what result should you predict?

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Photo credit: HLTV

Obviously, the hypothetical outlined above is near enough the most extreme case, so in contrast, let’s ground ourselves to an example in which one team is heavily favoured: take ESL Pro League’s most recent grand final between Astralis and Liquid. Coming into this final — alongside most pundits — I favoured the Danes on every map coming out from the veto, a consensus beautifully highlighted by rain’s daring wager to eat a cigarette should Liquid take a map in the final. Replay this match one hundred times and I do indeed think an Astralis 3–0 would bare out as the most likely result, however the actual result of 3–1 to the Danes would not finish massively behind in second, showcasing that to rain’s detriment even in a considerably one sided match-up the stats alone make it difficult to put your opponents away 3–0 across a best of five.

The main impetus that prompted me to consider this topic was observing the contrast against analysts making predictions in LoL and DotA, in which — although they have a pick/ban on the characters — there is nothing truly analogous to map selection. Being much more inclined to consider series in totality in these titles, even when faced with sizeable favourites you will commonly see analysts predicting 3–1 and 3–2 Bo5’s because in many cases the stats bare out that these are the most likely results. Jump across to Overwatch and we enter an interesting middle ground with plenty of variance in how pundits tackle predictions, likely spawned because this title includes differing maps alongside a spillover in both the community and broadcast talent from mobas.

Switching the tone to round this one out: I don’t believe predictions on their own are terribly important, subsequently putting next to all stock into the reasons why someone thinks a team is favoured win a map or series. Along similar lines, even in such an extreme scenario as initially highlighted I would indeed predict a clean sweep, because if you had to nail down which team will take each map — and ultimately the series — then team A winning the first three in succession is the most likely outcome. To reiterate, I firmly believe the emphasis on desks should be heavily geared towards outlining that factors that will contribute towards either team taking each map across the veto, yet since the community thrives upon dismantling and debating the forecasts of pundits, standalone predictions are likely to always remain present in some capacity, and for all involved I hope they begin to consider this conundrum.

Thanks for reading, tweet me @LynxxCS

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