At the start of the second half of our list we have Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács at number 10. The star AWPer made it this high on our Top 20 of 2013 by eSportsventure.com by putting up amazing performances in all of his teams throughout the year, including 3DMAX, Virtus.pro and eventually Natus Vincere.
Originally starting his career in CS 1.6 but only playing locally, Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács switched to CS:Source in late 2008 and quickly rose to the top with his team Reason Gaming.
At the end of 2009, as an 18-year-old, he would achieve the biggest success of his career so far by winning DreamHack Winter over VeryGames, as well as multiple other LAN events such as a three-peat at iSeries. After a while, in spring 2010 he switched back to CS 1.6 and played with other local teams, but never amounted to any further top placements.
When CS:GO appeared, Kovács and his team BEASTS made the switch, and after some lineup and organization shuffling finally found the right combination in myDGB.net and made their international debut at AMD Sapphire Prague.
There they became the first team aside from NiP to defeat VeryGames, doing so in the group stage 16-12, and while the Frenchmen got their revenge in the semi-final, Kovács & co. finished in a promising 3rd place.
myDGB.net qualified for the very first event of 2013, Your road to Katowice, where they would battle three Polish teams. But even though they made it to the final, they were unable to overcome ESC Gaming (9-16, 11-16).
Shortly after, they once again moved to another home and changed lineup, joining 3DMAX and welcoming back Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný, who had three weeks earlier left the team. The new organization would enable them to continue attending events, with Mad Catz Vienna next on the horizon.
However, the team disappointed this time, losing to LDLC.com and eSports.rs in the first group stage, and then to TCM-Gaming and ESC Gaming in the second group stage, thus failing to make the playoffs.
GuardiaN was a one-man army at Mad Catz Vienna
But despite their 1-4 record as a team, Kovács displayed one of the best individual performances CS:GO has seen to this date. In this one-man army show, he put up 1.05 kills per round, had a 1.57 rating and was involved with at least one kill in 79% of round wins for his team, something that would go unmatched all year.
"I do not really know what really happened. I think I was the only one preparing for this event properly. It was a really disappointing LAN in my eyes and after that event I decided that if the team will not improve skill-wise, after CPH Games I will leave. For me having one of the best LAN performances is not that important as the team result is, and as team we failed so badly.." – about the performance in Vienna
Before Copenhagen Games they took part in the RaidCall EMS One Spring cups and SLTV StarSeries V online stage, but didn't have any notable victories and even lost to some less known teams, so the expectations around them were lowered.
GuardiaN's imrpessive 4K with the AWP
At the Copenhagen event 3DMAX found themselves in a group with VeryGames and the Swedish team Lemondogs, the only team they had defeated back in Austria one month earlier. However, this time the Swedes would get the upper hand, and they wouldn't be able to stand up to VG either, which saw 3DMAX finish 3rd in the group and move on to the lower bracket.
To make matters worse, they would lose to Germans n!faculty in the very first round, so the Slovakian-Czech team ended up in the worst possible 25th-32nd place.
Kovács was once again a one-man army, being the team's best player in 8 of their 9 maps and putting up 0.92 kills per round for a 1.30 rating. But since that led to no team success, he decided to break ties with them as he planned.
A couple of weeks later, he would join an international mix with another star player whose team had been underachieving – Richard "shox" Papillon. They would go on to win several online tournaments, including qualifiers for SLTV StarSeries VI and TECHLABS Minsk, but Kovács knew it wouldn't last as Papillon was destined to go on a different path of joining VeryGames.
"No, [that lineup] was not [hopeful for me]. [Shox] told me that he will have an offer from VG, so I knew he will join them. I just kept playing with them to stay in good shape. Even if we had stayed in that lineup, it wouldn't work for longer than 3 months. International lineups are not that successful." - whether he laid hopes in this TCM-Gaming team
After that, Kovács hinted at retirement as he had no good offers on the table, but a month later, at the beginning of June, Virtus.pro came knocking when Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev decided to leave the team.
Mid-June, he would have his LAN debut with the CIS-based squad at DreamHack Summer. Despite a shaky start when they had to mount a huge comeback against the Poles of ESC (16-14) to top the group, Virtus.pro went on to beat Lemondogs in the quarter-finals (16-14, 16-3) and schedule a meeting with NiP.
While the squad had previously defeated the Swedes for the first time at SLTV StarSeries V Finals without Kovács, this time they were unable to repeat that (6-16, 9-16), so a 3rd-4th place finish it was.
GuardiaN in the Virtus.pro jersey for the first time
Kovács himself had a good debut, putting up team's second best 0.77 kills per round, and more importantly 0.50 AWP kills per round. That made him the best AWPer of the tournament, and with double digit AWP kills in 5 of 6 maps it was also his best performance of the year in that regard, as well as one of the best by any player.
With just two weeks between events, Virtus.pro then attended RaidCall EMS One Summer Finals where they got the chance to take on NiP once again in the semi-finals.
First they defeated ESC Gaming without any problems (16-9, 16-9), and then it was time to take on the Swedes. After losing map one it seemed that they just don't have what it takes any more, but then Kovács entered the scene. With 20 AWP kills on map two, and an incredible 1-on-3 clutch in one of the key moments of the game he spurred Virtus.pro to equalize the score.
GuardiaN's game-changing 1-on-3 against NiP
They later clinched the third map as well with the tightest of margins and moved on to the grand final (11-16, 16-11, 16-14), but after the previously tiring clash they were unable to put up much resistance against VeryGames (8-16, 11-16).
Kovács otherwise didn't excel as much as before, but his contribution to the greatest success he'd achieve in a team so far was invaluable.
"The best moment was joining my first professional CS team in my long, long "career", Virtus.Pro. After few weeks of practice we were able to beat the best team in the world at RaidCall EMS One Summer season. That was a great experience for me, and the feeling of beating such a team is something I've never experienced before.
I don't really remember what we did to improve our game [compared to DH Summer], I think we just changed some positions and added some strats on the attackers' side. I think both teams were on the top of their skills as f0rest showed some impressive plays on the first map and it seemed like he blew us away from the finals one handedly.
I don't really know what happened in that semi-finals match, but on the second map I was just on rampage and I've barely missed any of my shots. On that map I just made a lot of entry frags and helped my team to get the important points. I have also won a very important 1v3 on T side, when our economy was not that good. A lost round would probably mean lost map, a lost game. In that situation GeT_RiGhT just helped me (by not killing me) to win the round for us.
On the last map I was completely erased from the map, I haven't done anything good even though we won a 2v5. That's all I did in the last map. Then my mates stepped up their game and carried the team for the win over NiP and to the finals."
There was no time to rest though, as only three days later they had to tackle another challenge at SLTV StarSeries VI Finals. The same path awaited, with ESC in the opening match who they once again bested (16-14, 16-13), and then Ninjas in Pyjamas in the upper bracket final.
1vs4 clutch against ESC Gaming
It was Kovács' time to shine again, and he did on the first map, spearheading a comeback from a 2-8 deficit for a 16-9 victory on de_mirage_ce with 25 kills (25:13 score, 1.61 rating, 13 AWP kills and 6 entry kills).
The Swedes equalized with 10-16 on de_dust2_se, but it seemed that this was going to be another victory for the Virtus.pro squad as they went up 15-5 on de_nuke_se. However, despite another 17 AWP kills and 7 entry kills by Kovács on the map, Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund & co. pulled off an incredible comeback, eventually winning on overtime and sending the CIS-based squad down to the lower bracket.
Later that day they met Natus Vincere in the consolidation final, and after a very close match, they wound up losing again by the tightest of margins on the final map (19-16, 5-16, 14-16).
It turned out that was the last match of that Virtus.pro squad, as the duo of Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow and Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov went on to form Astana Dragons with the former VP teammate Kystaubayev and two Na`Vi players, thus leaving Kovács stranded.
After that, he would go back to waiting for a new offer, which wouldn't come any time soon.
"It was a little bit of a sad period of time for me. Since I was very motivated to play competitively on the highest level, but there weren't any good offer for me. "
Despite attempts with various lineups, one of which contained Dan "apEX" Madesclaire and Ricardo "fox" Pacheco, and another with players from Slovakian and Czech scene, Kovács would stay teamless until November.
"There wasn't [a promising] lineup unfortunately. I would have liked to form a home team like I had in CS:S and achieve something big for our countries, but it's somehow impossible. Hard to say why, but that's the truth. So I just kept playing some mixes, gathers, MM and a lot of hours of DotA."
But with DreamHack Winter looming ahead, he decided to join Alexey "OverDrive" Birukov's mix Nostalgie to play SLTV StarSeries VIII with them and, more importantly attempt to reach the big event through the BYOC qualifier in Sweden.
However, despite adding former Na`Vi and Astana Dragons player Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev, it wasn't enough for Nostalgie to make it past the final step in Jönköping, as Reason Gaming got the best of them 9-16 in the deciding match.
GuardiaN tried to qualify for DreamHack Winter with Nostaglie
"I think we would have won if it was BO3. We just made a lot of random decisions, like buying 3-4 rounds in a row as CTs and stuff. So we gave them 6 rounds for free. I don't think they were that good, we just had fun and tried to do some crazy actions. Happens sometimes :) It wasn't really important for me to qualify, even though it would be nice to get there with such a mix.
Anyway, it was a good experience for me and probably if I hadn't attended DHW, I would not be picked by Na`Vi. That was my destiny :P"
And right after DreamHack, where Na`Vi failed to make it past the group stage, Kovács was asked to join the team together with Sukhariev. Not long after, they would attend their first event, SLTV StarSeries VIII Finals and show their potential.
Although they lost their first match against the Poles of AGAiN, Na`Vi went on to knock out Astana Dragons in the lower bracket final (17-21, 16-13, 16-11), while Kovács put on a Man of the Match performance (78:50, 1.27 rating, 30 AWP kills).
"The last matchup against Astana Dragons at StarSeries VIII lan finals in Kiev was kinda specific for me. It's always different to play against "ex-teammates" than other teams I've never played for.
Before this match I had the feeling that I want to put every single point of my skill into the game to carry my team to win the game. I think it was not only me, because finishing last would be a shame for all 10 players in both teams."
They then made it past GamePub in the consolidation final (16-10, 16-14) and got another chance to take on AGAiN. But the Poles were better once more (14-16, 16-14, 8-16), so Kovács had to settle for 2nd place.
Individually, he was one of the stars of the event, having the highest amount of kills (231), the third highest rating (1.12), and was also the best AWPer (0.36 kills per round) and entry killer (65% of first duels won).
"Compared to VP, professionalism of this team and organization is better by a lot. I feel like a real professional sportsman. They care about everything, healthcare, gaming conditions, practicing. About everything that a professional player needs. I think the language barrier is not that huge as it was in VP. I think it's at least 3-4 times better, but I am not the right person that should talk about it, that's just my feeling. I always do my best to make my managers, teammates satisfied." - about being in Na`Vi.
Kovács has only been a part of Natus Vincere for a month, but he has set the highest goals possible for himself and the team.
"First of all, our biggest goal is to win EMS One Katowice. Any place other than top3 will be a huge disappointment for us, because we are putting a lot of hours into our practice, a lot of effort to do well in our games. After EMS I would like to win as much events as we will be able to (at least one major)." - goals and expectations for 2014
While Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács had an unstable year in terms of teams, he continuously put up impressive performances wherever he went and regardless of his achievements.
Starting off with incredible play in 3DMAX, he went on to become Virtus.pro's star AWPer and help them get 2nd place at RC EMS One Summer, as well as third places at DH Summer and SLTV StarSeries VI, and at the end of the year he led Na`Vi to 2nd place in SLTV StarSeries VIII.
He played well at each of those events, making him one of the most consistent players of the year, and unsurprisingly, he was also one of the best AWPers with the third most total kills (464) and the third best average (0.38 AWP kills per round).
Overall, with 0.80 kills per round he was shared 3rd best fragger of the year, and only one player was more important for his team in terms of getting at least one kill in each round won, of which Kovács contributed to 68%.
Furthermore, he was the most successful entry killer in the world with 63% of first duels won, and fifth most entry kills on average (0.14 per round). But in the end, while all that was enough to get him into the top 10, it wasn't enough to compensate for his lack of titles and his absence from several important events, so despite being one of the most impressive players, he couldn't get a higher.
Kovács decided to go for a truly bold prediction, saying that his 17-year-old former teammate from a few local teams Martin "styko" Styk can go on to do big things.
Martin "styko" Styk
"Probably the best Slovakian talent at the moment in our little scene. If he finds the right team with the right chemistry, he can do big things in this year. He just needs the right player that can pull out his full potential.
And I would like to mention Denis "seized" Kostin as the player that will 100% show great plays in this year, stay tuned :P"
How did you see Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács' 2013 performance? Did he deserve 10th place or should he be higher or lower?
Let us know what you think and if you haven't already seen the rest of the list, check it out here at the Top 20 players of 2013 ranking by eSportsventure.com.