CS:GO championship ESL One Cologne begins today

Evan Lahti at

Competitive Counter-Strike continues to draw a healthy amount of spectators as Valve’s FPS has grown significantly since the end of 2013. Following Katowice earlier this year, the ESL Championship begins 3 AM Eastern on Thursday, the first matches of ESL One Cologne 2014 will kick off in Germany, culminating in a final match on Sunday.

Here’s the full ESL One Cologne tournament schedule. 16 teams are competing for a $250,000 prize pool, with favorites like NiP, Dignitas, and Virtus.pro matched against “challengers,” as the ESL teams page puts it, like Copenhagen Wolves, NaVi, and iBuypower. Thursday’s matches will determine the seeding of these teams within their four-team groups, with Saturday quarterfinals preceding the semi and grand finals on Sunday.

Earlier this week, Valve patched CS:GO to improve the in-client spectating experience a little, allowing you to natively view the game from the perspective of the match’s caster. There’s also a new camera transition animation that makes swapping between different players’ perspectives less disorienting. On Twitch, matches should appear on the ESLTV_CS channel.

As has been the case for other events, watching tournament matches in-game or with a Steam-linked Twitch account gives you a chance of collecting special in-game items.