Together with Mikail "eksem" Bill and Olof "olofm" Kajbjer we take a closer look at LGB eSports' story of becoming one of the world's best Counter-Strike teams in just seven months through changes and continuous development.
One of LGB's founding members Mikail "eksem" Bill, who has since been removed from the team and now represents Property, contributed with a number of quotes.
We also conducted an extensive interview with current star player Olof "olofm" Kajbjer while working on the article, and it features plenty of quotes from him throughout the text.
We begin by going through LGB's short history, ranging from August of last year to today. This will also give our newer readers a better understanding of the team, its development and the changes it has gone through.
|Part I - The humble beginning|
|Part II - olofm and dennis era begins|
|Part III - A new start with twist and cype|
|Part IV - Lack of killer instinct|
|Part V - Future outlook|
This article is a subjective piece. All opinions are those of the writer, and do not necessarily align with HLTV.org's views or collective opinion on LGB eSports.
eksem was one of the founding members in LGB
The LGB eSports brand was founded in August 2013, as the squad built around Mikail "eksem" Bill and Alexander "SKYTTEN" Carlsson departed the Refuse organization to build a team of their own. Part of the initial roster were also Freddy "KRiMZ" Johansson - who remains in the team today - as well as Marcus "windster" Andersson and Andreas "maxAki" Andersson.
Asked about the team's expected potential and seriousness at the time of creation, Bill told us "When me, SKYTTEN and maxaki created LGB eSports we aimed for being a really good team. We maybe didn't know that we were going to play under the LGB tag that long, but we knew we were capable of playing on a higher level. Today it feels kind of weird that LGB is a worldwide known brand with the stickers (editor's note: Carlsson created the first version of LGB's logo), and it's kind of sad for me and SKYTTEN."
Though coming from a humble backround in Refuse, the team kept slowly improving at all times. They won FACEIT Saturday Spring Cup #2 over Lucidez and iNation in the spring, but were quickly knocked out at DreamHack Summer by NiP and Markus "pronax" Wallsten's Publiclir.se. Refuse then took part in FACEIT July Cup, but were once again ousted early, in the quarter-finals, by Danish Western Wolves.
In early August the team finally got a small breakthrough, as they beat Tobias "Troubley" Tabbert, Chris "chrisJ" de Jong and Finn "karrigan" Andersen's Playing Ducks and Aleksi "allu" Jalli's 4w in MSI Beat it's first European qualifier. In the final they beat Wallsten's n!faculty twice, and a win over Vincent "Happy" Cervoni's WEGOTGAME - with Kajbjer as a stand-in prior to officially joining - in the Shootout round gave them a spot in the European finals, where they would show a lot of promise.
After some promising results online, LGB looked forward to attending DreamHack Bucharest, but had to pull out in the last minute due to sponsorship issues, a trend that continues throughout their story. However, staying home allowed the team to kickstart their next chapter by making a key roster change that brought in two of their brightest stars who have been instrumental in all the success the team has had since then.
olofm & dennis joining started the second LGB-era
LGB first started resembling the team we know today in September, when it added both Olof "olofm" Kajbjer and Dennis "dennis" Edman, replacing the two Anderssons who helped found the team. According to Bill, the team had been talking to Kajbjer since attending a DreamHack Summer qualifier at Inferno Online together, but the duo couldn't join due to being part of another team's [duttdutt] plans at the time. According to Bill it was still only a matter of time before the change would happen.
"The problem at that time was that olofm and dennis already had a team, but I knew they were going to struggle because they only had aimers and no leader. When they failed, we just sat down and talked about it and the real LGB eSports was founded," Bill said. Ironically enough, the personalities of the two stars, according to Bill, would lead to a similar situation in LGB, as the team would become a squad reliant on strong individual performances, often led by Kajbjer and Edman, as they lacked a figure with authority.
"We knew that we didn't have a stable in-game leader. Officially SKYTTEN was our in-game leader, but the whole team worked together in the games. But it was hard to be a leader for players who think they're better than the rest of the team. You couldn't tell them 'let's do this now' with an angry voice." Regardless of the issues you could tell the new approach to LGB - which included a ton more individual skill and less strategies - instantly worked as the team started performing much better than they had before.
First up were the European MSI Beat it finals, where they had two 14-16 losses against NiP and ESC Gaming in the group stage. They then went out in the quarter-finals against VeryGames, but only after a devastating three mapper, which saw them trade maps 9-16 and 16-10 at first, and then fall short 16-19 in overtime on the deciding map de_inferno_se. This was the first time LGB were able to challenge one of the world's best teams in a best-of-three series, and it would be only the beginning.
dennis has been a key fragger in LGB
Next milestone for LGB was taking down Natus Vincere in the TECHLABS Minsk qualification online, largely thanks to a monster performance by Kajbjer on de_inferno, the first map they won in the series. The team then traveled to Minsk, Belarus to play a single best-of-three against Na`Vi, who wound up winning the CIS qualifier for the event after their loss. LGB were once again too strong for the Ukrainians, and took home a 2-1 win, despite a tough 28-31 overtime loss on de_dust2_se.
In October the team won ESWC Sweden against SK Gaming online in a relatively close 2-1 series, with wins coming on de_inferno_se and de_mirage_ce, and a loss surprisingly on de_dust2_se. The team then participated in FACEIT September Cup, which was played out in mid-October, devouring fnatic with a +21 round differential in a 2-1 series with blowout wins on de_inferno and de_mirage. Once more it would be VeryGames who would stop LGB though, but not without a fight. The French lost de_cache 17-21 in overtime, but followed it up with 16-9 and 16-11 wins to win the cup.
Bill also added, regarding their preparation: "The only event we actually prepared for was ESWC. We practiced hard and created a game plan and new strategies. After that we actually didn't do anything, maybe we had some practice days here or there, but nothing serious. We never prepared by watching other teams, if I suggested it in the group I would have gotten more laughs than okay's." Considering ESWC - where LGB placed 9-12th after two narrow losses against compLexity and eventual champions Clan-Mystik, was a failure and the weakest showing so far in LGB's short history - it's not hard to understand the implications it had on the team's motivation.
After ESWC LGB were forced to miss another event, this time TECHLABS Cup Finals in Moscow, Russia. The team lacked some financial support, and according to Kajbjer also received information on how to obtain the necessary visas to travel to Russia too late. LGB took most of November off before traveling domestically to Jönköping for DreamHack Winter, the first major in CS:GO's history. Going into the event it's important to note that most considered LGB to be onliners; it's true they had beaten Na`Vi on LAN, but so far their results had been much more impressive when playing from home, and hardly anyone thought they'd even advance from their group, let alone challenge NiP in the quarter-finals.
ESWC 2013 was a failure for LGB, albeit a close one
The Swedes lost to Clan-Mystik in their opener, but then defeated Na`Vi and the Frenchmen in a re-match to advance. In the quarter-finals they met NiP, and scored an upset 16-14 comeback win from a 4-11 deficit on de_dust2, before being handily defeated on the two latter maps, which included Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund's legendary SCAR performance on de_train. The win on de_dust2 was especially impressive because LGB came back from such a big deficit against a team that should have their number in exactly a situation like that, so in my opinion that's an indicator of LGB having it in them to make such comebacks in the future as well.
Despite 2013 drawing to a close, LGB were nowhere near done yet. They placed 3-4th in Fragbite Masters 2013 online after narrow 14-16 and 13-16 losses against CM, and suffered perhaps the most devastating loss in CS:GO's history against NiP at Svecup Grand Finals. At Svecup they made the grand final in fnatic's absence, and took home de_inferno 16-14. Second map was de_mirage, and they went up 14-4 before losing the map 17-19 in overtime. The series and Svecup championship were then decided on de_dust2, the map they had beat NiP on at DreamHack, but they were unable to clinch this series, losing 13-16. Being unable to win after being up 1-0 in maps and 14-4 on the second map of a grand final should be the most devastating loss in CS:GO's history, and it's no coincidence it happened to LGB when looking at the statistics further down in the article.
LGB then elected to skip SLTV StarSeries VIII Finals in Kiev, as they were during the holidays. According to Bill, this was once again a decision made only by a pair of players: "The decision not to travel to SLTV Finals in Ukraine was made by two players in the team, I believe." LGB would also have to turn down ESEA Invite Season 15 Finals in Dallas, TX, though this time the reason was lack of funding instead of will: "Traveling to ESEA was too expensive. The whole team wanted to go to America but at that time the contract we had with our sponsors wasn't good enough, which was kind of frustrating."
The team would still participate in FACEIT December Cup before the end of 2013, though with Simon "twist" Eliasson as a stand-in. After a victory over Kenny "kennyS" Schrub's Recursive in the semi-finals, LGB upset fnatic 2-1 in a very close grand final that for once went their way - funnily enough, against the only team worse than them in close games. After losing de_mirage 19-21 in overtime, LGB tied the series with a 16-13 win on de_inferno. They then went onto double overtime, but ultimately LGB won 26-24 on de_cache. Star of the series was Eliasson, who clearly convinced LGB he should become a part of the team with his 1.34 rating and K-D differential of +36 - not unlike how Kajbjer wound up joining.
twist's performance vs. fnatic must've sealed the deal
According to Bill, the change that saw him and Carlsson exit the team did not go down without issues: "First of all we were going to join Team Property together. But then olofm said he was going to quit CS for studies, so we wanted to recruit twist to the team. Suddenly olofm wanted to play again and both him and dennis wanted to bring in twist. So now we knew that someone had to step down from LGB." However, Kajbjer feels about the change differently, without going into specifics: "It felt like we had capped the potential of the previous roster. It feels like we are now on the same page about everything and that wasn't the case before. twist and cype's playing styles also suit us better."
Bill continues regarding the roster change: "After many discussions about this some childish fights started, which led to me and SKYTTEN leaving. The main reason why me and SKYTTEN had to go was because they wanted to play with an in-game leader. Both twist and cype are really good players so the fact they were chosen isn't weird. I knew for a while that the end was coming soon, I just didn't want it to happen because I wanted to stick with this team and continue growing together. But as everyone knows, everything comes to an end." A short while later in February Eliasson and Isak "cype" Rydman - an old Lemondogs and SK Gaming duo - wound up joining LGB's ranks officially.
cype joined LGB as a role-player from SK Gaming
Asked about their preparation after the change, Kajbjer said: "It's true we weren't able to practice that much with the old team but things have changed now and we are able to practice more, even though sometimes work and school get in the way." As for the reason that caused the change, it was easy for him to point out: "I think we are having more fun now, which makes everyone more motivated to play more together, and this gave us the result in Katowice, which also only motivates us more. We have just had a break but are going to play as much as possible for Copenhagen Games starting [earlier this week]."
As many so often point out, it doesn't seem like LGB's leadership issues have been put to bed yet, as Kajbjer confirms: "We lack a true in-game caller, but we also have many people that like to give out ideas. The whole team likes to contribute. But sometimes it gets a bit messy and two people call out two different things at the same time. So right now we're trying out different people in the team that want to try it out to see which one of us does [the in-game leading] the best." Regardless of their perceived issues, it's hard to argue with LGB's track record with the new roster on LAN, despite the sample size being only one event. Kajbjer also said they aren't hoping to become the next VeryGames in terms of strategies: "We're never going to be a team with a lot of planned smokes and flashes. Our core is always going to be our aim and the fundamentals of Counter-Strike."
LGB were directly invited to EMS One Katowice, the second CS:GO major, after placing in the top eight at DreamHack Winter. They went to the $250,000 tournament as quiet underdogs, who were put into a very tough group together with Na`Vi, compLexity and Clan-Mystik; basically a stronger version of the group that saw them exit Paris disappointed in November. This LGB team is a different animal though. The team led by Edman and Johansson's strong play took down both Na`Vi and compLexity to top group D, and advanced to the playoffs as a top seed.
LGB were close to making top four at DreamHack Winter
In the quarter-final they were paired with fnatic, a team they had defeated a number of times online, but a squad many thought would have their number when it really mattered in the playoffs of a major event. The series went three maps, with LGB losing de_inferno and winning de_mirage, which many consider fnatic's strongest map. It all came down to de_train, where Kajbjer's 26 kill and 5 assist game put the underdogs over the top, knocking fnatic out of the tournament and advancing to the semi-finals of the $250,000 major; their first tournament appearance together with Eliasson and Rydman.
Unfortunately for LGB they were paired up with a red hot Virtus.pro squad, with a massive crowd on their side. Kajbjer recalls: "I don't think any of the teams that were left wanted to face up Virtus.pro. We talked about the possibility of meeting NiP [in the grand final] and we felt we would have had a good chance against them because we felt like NiP's playing style suits us a lot better then Virtus' did." He was probably right, as the Poles took them down 2-1 with two convincing victories on de_inferno and de_train. Even though LGB managed to steal de_mirage from Virtus in overtime, the Poles' leader Filip "Neo" Kubski told us he felt an odd factor cost them the map. In the end LGB finished in 3-4th place at EMS One Katowice and picked up a neat check for $22,000 for their troubles.
LGB has been random at best online since Katowice, a trend that started in the weeks leading up to the $250,000 tournament, though they've never been a model of consistency. They've lost against teams such as mousesports, Clan-Mystik and LDLC en route to two disappointing finishes in fnatic FragOut League's third season (5-6th) and Fragbite Masters 2014 (7-8th). They also fell short against fnatic, and had one night of ridiculously tough losses in ESEA Invite's sixteenth season (double overtime vs. NiP, overtime vs. fnatic, 13-16 vs. Titan all within a few hours.
According to Kajbjer the crushing losses in ESEA didn't demoralize the team though, because other issues contributed to the night: "These games had a bigger impact on each other than they should have had. We had some problems with ESEA and we were late with the league payment, which made the first game delayed by like 30 minutes, which affected the other games' [starting times]". He elaborated: "That meant that we always had a team waiting for us when we were finished and that meant no breaks between games. And when you lose that closely you need a little break in my opinion. But I don't think it hurt long term, we learned our weaknesses and can now improve on them and hopefully not make [the same mistakes] again.
olofm & co still don't have all the answers
Looking at LGB’s results, there is an obvious disconnect in their overall ability as a Counter-Strike team and their winning percentage in close games (we deem +-3 rounds or overtime a close game). They have gone out from almost every tournament and online league with losses that fit the bill, including the horrendous Svecup grand final loss against NiP, a third map overtime defeat to VeryGames in MSI Beat it’s European finals and 14-16 plus 13-16 losses to Clan-Mystik in Fragbite Masters last year. LGB has also had close wins, but they are still a subpar team in close matches; something that maturity and experience as a team should fix given more time.
In the table below we have gathered an arbitrary list of eleven top teams that have been active in terms of attending tournaments since our cut-off date, September 1st, which is a few days prior to Edman and Kajbjer joining LGB eSports. We have included all online and LAN matches in our database to get a larger sample size, and calculated the same winning percentages against all teams as well. The data supports our hunch and confirms LGB’s inability to come through in the clutch, at least in the past. We still don’t have a large enough sample size for the new roster, but they’ve already had some crushing defeats such as the triple loss night in ESEA Invite, so it doesn't look like they are yet over the hump.
It’s important to not take all these statistics in at face value; you must interpret the numbers correctly to gain answers to the questions you hope to figure out. For example, dignitas’ and LDLC/Recursive’s ludicrously high winning percentages against top teams are explained by the fact they more often lose against top teams with a margin of more than three rounds. As shown in the third column, only 16.7% and 12.9% of their losses are close. We also decided to include the sheer number of wins and all of their games that fit the criteria, so you can see the size of the data sets and draw your own conclusions.
Against other top teams LGB possess the second weakest winning rate of the bunch at 37.5%, only slightly better than that of fnatic’s, which ranks dead last. A large portion of their losses are also close games, 38.9% to be exact, which is good for third most after NiP and complexity. That means a small improvement in their ability to win close games could affect a large number of their losses, and potentially turn them into wins. On the other hand they already win 70% of their close games against teams outside of this group, so at least they are able to beat weaker teams in close games.
|Team||W% Top Teams CM *
||W% All Teams CM **
||Close Losses %|
|LDLC/Recursive||72.7% (8/11)||81.3% (13/16)||16.7%|
|dignitas||63.6% (7/11)||76.5% (13/17)||12.9%|
|Titan||61.5% (24/39)||57.1% (32/56)||35.8%|
|HellRaisers||57.7% (15/26)||60.5% (23/38)||18%|
|Clan-Mystik||45.5% (10/22)||54.1% (20/37)||27.1%|
|NiP||41.9% (13/31)||43.9% (18/41)||48.9%|
|compLexity||40% (2/5)||42.1% (8/19)||41.7%|
|Na`Vi||40% (10/25)||41% (16/39)||22.4%|
|Virtus.pro||40% (8/20)||46.4% (13/28)||33.3%|
|LGB||37.5% (12/32)||45.2% (19/42)||38.9%|
|fnatic||26.9% (7/26)||38.5% (15/39)||34.4%|
* W% Top Teams CM = winning percentage vs. top teams in close matches
** W% All Teams CM = winning percentage vs. all teams in close matches
*** Close Losses % = close losses' percentage of all losses
When asked about their tendency to lose often in close games, Kajbjer said: "With the previous roster we talked about sometimes having difficulty in closing out games we thought we should have won." And added: "But we haven't really thought about it yet with the new roster, because we are still so new." It should be fair to assume LGB will improve in this regard once their team work improves and they get more routine. Their playing style - which relies more on individuals than strategies – is taxing in such situations, but once they get the fundamentals down better, it will all come easier, and some of these close games should be won on auto pilot.
Perhaps similar as to how it's often said defense wins championships in sports such as hockey and basketball, for the most part routine and team work tend to win in Counter-Strike. The whole 'any given Sunday' -cliché is wildly exaggerated, but it has its roots in the fact that anyone's aim can be on or off at any given time, and have a huge impact in how a certain game goes. What do not have on or off switches though, are routine and team work. NiP is the greatest example of that one could ask for. They have very good team work, communication and an astonishing amount of routine, and that is what always gets them a top finish, even if they don't win.
What LGB therefore need is more experience in those situations. They have lost a ton of close matches, for sure, and will continue to lose some, but even fnatic won a major and are considered one of the absolute best teams in the world, despite a weaker winning percentage than that of LGB's. There's only so many wins to go around within the top teams, and LGB are not far behind NiP - the world's most consistent team - so they aren't at a catastrophic level by any means. There's also the issue of online and LAN results being mixed in, because otherwise we wouldn't have enough data. So far LGB seem much more consistent on LAN, but we'll see whether that trend will continue once they attend more events.
More time together for this young roster will give them more team work and better communication. Attending more tournaments as a unit will bring them more routine. It seems the one thing LGB have between their current form and legitimate title contention, is time. Hopefully a better sponsored team making roster changes will not take away that time from them - a traditional worry in Sweden for the underdogs - but more on that in the next chapter.
dennis & co still have to figure a few things out
LGB look to be improving. If you ignore their online results, which can understandably be somewhat random at times because teams play so much these days, here's how their resume looks like: win vs Na`Vi at TECHLABS Minsk, 9-12th at ESWC (lost vs. champions Clan-Mystik and compLexity), 5-8th at DreamHack Winter (lost vs. NiP), 2nd at Svecup Finals (lost vs. NiP), 3-4th at EMS One Katowice (lost vs. champions, Virtus.pro). That's an impressive list, which seems to be headed in the right direction. They are on a steady incline, and if they can keep this roster together, no one knows what exactly their cap is as a team, if there is one.
One of the strongest selling points about LGB is they can already beat practically anyone in a series; that's not something many teams in the world can say. Most have some terrible match-ups, and for example compLexity has never defeated a top team in a best-of-three series. Out of all the teams in the same region of the world rankings as LGB, it'd be hard to find one whose head-to-head match-ups would be better than Kajbjer's team's. That means they don't have to rely on bracket draws to get top three finishes, unlike certain teams.
LGB are in an intriguing situation. If given better support and more time, they could easily blossom into one of the great teams in the current Counter-Strike scene. The problem is they are also in a situation Lemondogs used to always find itself in during the CS 1.6 days. If either NiP or fnatic were to struggle enough to make a roster change, it's almost certain they would try to poach LGB for a new addition - which is what killed Lemondogs ultimately, after giving SK Gaming and fnatic most of their recruits in 2008-2011.
Asked whether this is a concern to Kajbjer, he said: "Of course you read about [NiP potentially wanting to pick someone from LGB up], but I don't really see it as a possibility because I don't see NiP changing a player any time soon, they are still the best team in the world if you look at consistency." However, he was quick to add a note that should make any fan concerned: "But if they would approach any player in the team with their conditions it would be very hard for any of us to decline I guess. But if our conditions changed it would be a different story."
Kajbjer continued: "If LGB was given support similar to teams like NiP, it would change everything, from CS:GO being a hobby to being a job. It would make it possible for us to focus everything on the game, we would be much more prepared for the tournaments both individually and as a team. And yes it would make a HUGE motivation boost for us all in the team!" With that being said, LGB probably deserves better support, and they seem like a team that could really benefit from it. Whether they receive it in the future though, remains to be seen.
LGB already made it to the biggest stage of CS
LGB's story will continue next week as they are set to participate in Copenhagen Games' 26,000€ CS:GO tournament, set to take place on April 16-20th with HLTV.org on-site for live coverage.
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