The 16th place on our Top 20 players of 2013 ranking by eSportsventure.com goes to Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev, who was one of the stars in both of his teams during the year, Natus Vincere and Astana Dragons.
One of the most experienced players in today's scene, having started his rise to the top back in 2006 with Ukrainian squad pro100, Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev went on to play for the likes of Virtus.pro, DTS, Hellraisers and others, to eventually become one of the original members of Natus Vincere at the end of 2009.
His career-best years followed and they are well documented by his 5th place in our Top 20 players of 2010 ranking, at which time he was for a brief while perhaps the best player on the planet, and later the 15th place in 2011.
2012 was also a great year for him, with several MVP-worthy performances at events like IEM6 Global Challenge Kiev and PGS, whereas the team was still one of the very best in the world despite losing most of their finals, such as the ones at IEM6 World Championship, Copenhagen Games, DreamHack Summer and GameGune.
The Ukrainian powerhouse kept the same lineup all the way from its inception, and together they held off switching to CS:GO until the very last moment, eventually doing so in November of 2012.
Na`Vi's CS:GO LAN debut would come already at the first event of 2013, Mad Catz Vienna, where they appeared without having any notable online results yet. The team actually managed to top their group ahead of ESC Gaming thanks to round difference (a reverse case would later in the year haunt Sukhariev's team on a few occasions), and they went on to play neck and neck with VeryGames in the quarter-final, eventually ending up on the losing side of one of the best, and certainly the longest match of the year (30-34, 16-11, 14-16).
Barely missed out on beating VeryGames in their CS:GO debut
The Ukrainians flashed some serious potential in Austria, but they weren't able to confirm it a month later at TECHLABS Cup Moscow, where they lost two best-of-one matches to NiP and ESC, ending up last of four teams.
Meanwhile, Sukhariev led the team in the online stage of SLTV StarSeries V to 2nd place with an amazing 0.92 kills per round, showing that he is adapting quite well to CS:GO.
"Yeah we decided to play 1.6 till the end. Surely it was reflected in our results at the beginning. Anyway these are two different games. I loved CS:GO since we started to play it, who knows why, I don't know. Maybe because individual performance became more important part of the game than it was in 1.6." - Sukhariev about the late switch and his thoughts on the game at that time.
The next big event, Copenhagen Games, ended up being a scandalous affair for the Ukrainians. Despite losing to the youngsters of Epsilon, who would go on to win DreamHack Winter later in the year, Na`Vi defeated fnatic in the last match of the group and thought they had secured one of the top spots.
However, a default map loss to Norwegians BX3 due to being late that morning would send them to the lower bracket as third placed in a three-way tie (behind fnatic and Epsilon). The Ukrainians didn't agree with the admins' decision and they decided to abandon the tournament instead, thus ending up in 25th-32nd place.
Copenhagen Games ended up being a mess for Na`Vi
It was perhaps a missed opportunity to prove themselves even further, especially as Sukhariev was in form, putting up 0.82 kills per round and having a rating above 1.00 in 7 of their 8 maps.
Back home in Kiev a week later, they had another chance to do that at SLTV StarSeries V Finals. They fought well against Virtus.pro (14-16, 13-16), and even knocked ESC Gaming out in the lower bracket final. But angry Swedes from NiP, who had just lost on LAN for the first time to Virtus.pro the day before, overran the Ukrainians in the consolidation final (3-16, 5-16) and set them down to 3rd place.
The team would next try to qualify for RaidCall EMS One Summer Finals, even snatching an overtime win over the new lineup of VeryGames in Cup #2 in the process. However, unlike in Vienna, a fateful draw against ESC Gaming in the group stage would keep them away from Germany based on round difference, and as it would turn out it meant that Sukhariev missed out on his best chance to visit the ESL studio during 2013.
Edward's solo defense at the B bombsite of de_mirage_ce
Due to skipping DreamHack Summer as well, three months ended up passing before their next LAN event, SLTV StarSeries VI Finals, which they only got the opportunity to attend after fnatic backed out. And surely Na`Vi will be thankful to the Danish squad, as they went on to have their best tournament yet, opening it up with a map win over NiP.
They still lost that series, but then defeated ESC and Virtus.pro in the lower bracket and even took a 2-1 lead over the Swedes in the grand final, which eventually turned into a 3-2 loss in what was probably their best performance of the year.
Sukhariev was the team's top fragger and the event's 2nd best with 0.79 KPR (also having most total kills of all players with 249), but more imporantly, it proved that Na`Vi are now one of the best teams in the world.
"First of all I want to tell you that it is the big honor for me to be in this list and I am really happy about it. I had two best moments of 2013, and both were against NiP in Kiev at Starladder.
Actually the first time wasn't a victory for us, we were leading 2-1 in bo5 set when they had a 1-0 advantage, and then we lost 2-3. But still, it was bright performance from us, like it was a young Na'Vi CS:GO squad." - about his best moments in 2013
But as fate would have it, only a week after their brightest performance, Prague Challenge happened and destroyed all they had worked for. In a minor tournament by all accounts, with only Na`Vi and British side Anexis among known team names, along with a mix-team Nostalgie featuring Filip "Neo" Kubski and Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas, the Ukrainians were huge favorites to win the first prize.
And they reached the final in quite a straight-forward fashion, even took a 1-0 map lead against the Nostalgie mix that also contained Kenny "kennyS" Schrub and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire, but then suddenly one of the biggest surprises of the year took place.
Nostalgie overturned a 4-11 deficit on the second map to win 16-12, and went on to win the third map 16-12 as well, thus stealing the first place trophy directly from Na`Vi's hands and effectively causing the disbandment of the squad soon after.
The last time we saw the old Na`Vi together
It was only four days after the Prague fiasco that Yegor "markeloff" Markelov announced he is leaving the team which stuck together for over three and a half years, and soon Sukhariev followed in his footsteps, with both of them joining a new project called Astana Dragons that featured three former Virtus.pro players.
"Of course 2nd place at Prague was the part of the reason why we left Na`Vi.
I didn't make my decision to leave the team right away. When Markeloff told me he already decided to leave, my first answer was that I am staying. In the 2 days after that decision I started thinking about what to do next with Na`Vi, and I just didn't find an understanding with rest of the team about that. Right after that I changed my mind. It was a very impulsive decision. I asked Angel 'if you are still looking for a 5th player, I'm in'.
Nowadays I can say that I was wrong in the final decision, but I have no regrets about what happened, because I had learned a lot after all." - about leaving Na`Vi.
The new CIS superteam was destined for greatness with a dream lineup led by Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow, but as their debut loss against fnatic in Mad Catz Cologne quarter-final would foreshadow, something didn't click.
The Dragons also failed to make it past the group stage of MSI Beat it European Finals due to losses to n!faculty, NiP and LGB, but their LAN debut at DreamHack Bucharest ended up resurrecting their fans' hopes.
4 kills with his favorite weapon AK47 against n!faculty at DH Bucharest
After overcoming his former team Na`Vi in group stage, Sukhariev's Astana went on to ease past n!faculty in the quarter-final and schedule a semi-final clash with NiP on the big stage in Romania. Their first big match didn't go too badly as they took it to map three, but the Swedes were still better (10-16, 16-12, 8-16), so a 3rd-4th place finish was as high as they could get.
Edward with Astana Dragons on the stage at DH Bucharest
They would continue disappointing online though, failing to qualify for RaidCall EMS One Fall Finals at the hands of Party Daddlers (future mousesports), who they lost to twice in the group stage.
Nevertheless, the Dragons played much better on LAN a couple of days later at SLTV StarSeries VII Finals. In what was Sukhariev's fifth attempt, one of his teams finally managed to take down NiP (7-16, 16-12, 22-20) after one of the most exciting matches of 2013, putting Astana Dragons through to the grand final.
"Second time was not so long ago. We (Adragons) were playing against NiP in a bo3, third map was d2 and it was an unforgettable match with overtimes where we finally got a win." - Sukhariev's other best moment of the year.
Still, there was again someone stronger, VeryGames, and they took down the CIS-based team without too many problems in the final (16-12, 16-9).
Sukhariev himself had a solid event overall, but more importantly he put in a man of the match display against the Swedes, topping the charts by far in that series with 81:65 (1.30 rating) in what was certainly his best big-match performance of the year.
He also once again ended up with the most total kills at the event (214) and was his team's most valuable player by getting at least one kill in 70% of the rounds they won.
Despite showing potential at this event, Astana then again failed to reach the top at ESWC two weeks later. First they lost to fnatic in the group stage, and then even though they seemed to have an easier bracket on the way to the final, they ended up losing to Clan-Mystik in the semis (12-16, 16-14, 7-16).
"They were better, it's obvious in my opinion. We just won one map 16-14, and even in that one there was a situation 13-4 in their advantage, so we made a comeback. That says something." - about the Clan-Mystik loss, if it was a fluke or the Frenchmen were really better.
They did, however, manage to defeat NiP for the second time in a row, although it was only in the 3rd place decider (16-13, 16-9).
Even though Sukhariev himself had another good fragging display in France with 0.80 kills per round, especially excelling in the quarter-final series versus Copenhagen Wolves (54:26), he was deemed guilty of the team's underachievements, so Astana Dragons decided to remove him and bring on Emil "kucher" Akhundov.
"The lineup was very good, individual skills were very high, but we couldn't make a great team out of those people. I don't know exactly why, but I suppose our main problem was that we were Virtus.pro +2 (me and mark).
A team made up of VP+NaVi was supposed to be much stronger than the 2 old teams, but it wasn't. Like I said, we were playing like old Virtus.pro just with me and makreloff." – on why the 'superteam' didn't click.
It was just before the biggest tournament of the year, DreamHack Winter, that Sukhariev was left stranded, and then in a curious turn of events he teamed up with Alexey "OverDrive" Birukov, whose mix team Nostalgie kick-started the whole process that would lead to his free agency.
But the squad which also featured Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács failed to make it to the main tournament, losing to Morten "COLON" Johansen's Reason Gaming in the deciding match of the BYOC qualifier in Jönköping.
Edward did his best to appear at DH Winter
After missing out on CS:GO's first major, and coupled with Na`Vi's poor performance there, Sukhariev was offered a place back in his home team, and he brought Kovács with him, replacing long-standing member Arseny "ceh9" Trynozhenko and one of the new additions Anton "kibaken" Kolesnikov.
Na`Vi hadn't qualified for SLTV StarSeries VIII Finals, but LGB eSports pulled out and a spot opened up for the new lineup to have their first test. Without much preparation, only a week or so after the team was announced, Sukhariev & co. took on the Poles of AGAiN, Astana Dragons and Balkan-based GamePub in Kiev.
While AGAiN defeated them 2-1 in the opening match, Na`Vi took out Astana in the lower bracket final (17-21, 16-13, 16-11), GamePub in the consolidation final (16-10, 16-14) and went on to a rematch with the Poles for the championship.
They were unsuccessful though (14-16, 16-14, 8-16), so Sukhariev notched up another 2nd place finish at SLTV StarSeries finals, his third of the year. And as usual, he was again one of the team's best fraggers, this time right behind Kovács with 0.72 KPR.
"I really enjoy playing with these guys again. I've known Zeus and starix for a long time. Zeus is a very strong IGL, and starix is still one of the best defensive players in the world.
Two new guys are really good players. Seized is a young player, he wants to improve himself every day, I can feel that. GuardiaN is siiiick AWPer, seems like I never played with such a talented AWPer in the team. I really like his style and his understanding of the game.
I think we could have won the last Starladder if only we had more than 2 or 3 days to prepare ourselves. That happened because I got sick, and considering that was the case we played well in the tournament." – on the return to Na`Vi and their first event.
The new lineup will have big challenges lying ahead in 2014, starting with qualifying for the next CS:GO major, EMS One Katowice with $250,000 up for grabs. Here's what Sukhariev thinks about the team's potential and amount of success they can achieve in the new year:
"It's easy. It will directly depend on the amount of work done. Nothing else to add :)"
Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev was one of the stars of both his teams throughout the year, Natus Vincere and Astana Dragons.
Even though neither squad achieved their ambitions, they were still among the world's best at various points in time, and Sukhariev's contribution was always felt, especially in Na`Vi's 2nd place campaign at SLTV StarSeries VI Finals and Astana Dragons' 2nd place at SLTV StatSeries VII Finals.
However, despite his high level of play, having no titles to show for in 2013, no outstanding MVP performances and missing out on the biggest tournament of the year, DH Winter, all brought his stock down a little, so the 16th place was the highest he could get.
One of the more interesting stats to mention about Sukhariev was his use of the AK47, with which he had the 7th best average among all top players.
Sukhariev's prediction comes from what he saw directly in his new team, in form of Na`Vi's youngest member.
Denis "seized" Kostin
"Denis should be one of the best new players in 2014 for sure. He already made a lot of great frags, he should not go unnoticed."
What did you think about Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev's 2013? Did he play as well as you expected of him? Is the 16th place the right one for him?
Let us know in the comments below, and in the meantime if you missed our previous articles on players #17-#20, follow the links in the Top 20 players of 2013 ranking by eSportsventure.com.