Number three on our top 20 ranking of 2017, powered by EGB.com, goes to SK Gaming's Fernando "fer" Alvarenga, who was one of the most consistent and impactful players in the world all year long.
|Top 20 players of 2017: Introduction|
Fernando "fer" Alvarenga started playing Counter-Strike in 2012, at a time when 1.6 was already on a downward spiral, and, due to the lack of events in Brazil at the time, he juggled between that game and CrossFire. His performances for SUAP managed to impress Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo, who brought him on board for playArt in April of 2013, but the players ended up going their separate ways in the summer.
In 2014, fer and FalleN reunited on KaBuM, an ambitious FPS project aimed at building a team who compete on three different fronts: CS:GO, Crossfire and Assault. That year, the team, who also had Lincoln "fnx" Lau and the twin brothers Henrique "HEN1" Teles and Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles on their ranks, won two titles over ProGaming.TD and got their first taste of international Counter-Strike as they received an invite to compete at ESWC 2014.
But things certainly did not go as Brazilian fans had planned: KaBuM were no match for their group opponents and went out with no glory in 21st-24th place after winning just one group stage match.
"My first memory of that tournament was when we received the invite. We were at FalleN’s place, where we used to practice at the time, and we were all so happy. We shouted and hugged each other, we were incredibly hyped. Then, five minutes later, reality sank in as we realised we did not have $1 to go (laughs). Then we started to think about what we could do to be able to attend the event. We raffled everything we could, and, with the help of the community, we raised enough money.
"My next memory is terrible (laughs). We won just one out of five matches. We were slaughtered by pretty much every team we faced. And the only thing I told my teammates was: ‘Now we are going back to college in Brazil because we just suck at this game’."
At the time, things looked bleak for the Brazilian scene: the lack of top-flight competition and of professional organisations made it virtually impossible for players to develop their skills, limiting them to domestic and regional tournaments. But the lives of KaBuM's players were about to change as they booked a spot at MLG Aspen Invitational, a $50,000 event that would be held in early 2015, after topping the Brazilian qualifier.
In North America, KaBuM went out in the groups following heavy defeats to dignitas and NiP, but the manner in which they crushed Cloud9 in their opening match was so convincing that it earned the Brazilians an invite to the offline qualifier for ESL One Katowice. At the qualifier, which KaBuM only managed to attend after collecting approximately $9,000 in donations from multiple sources, including ESEA and fnatic member Robin "flusha" Rönnquist, the team placed top-eight, this way securing a spot at the $250,000 event.
That was the start of a wild ride for the Brazilian team, who placed top eight at that year's three Majors, in Katowice, Cologne and Cluj-Napoca under two different organisations (Keyd Stars at the first event and Luminosity at the latter two, with Marcelo "coldzera" David already on the roster).
But as the year was about to come to an end, the team decided to make a double roster swap, replacing Lucas "steel" Lopes and Ricardo "boltz" Prass with Epitacio "TACO" de Melo and fnx, both of whom were playing for Games Academy, a team competing in North America as part of the Golden Chance gaming project, led by FalleN. Those changes brought immediate results as Luminosity placed second at the FACEIT Stage 3 Finals, though the real impact of the new players would only be felt in 2016.
After finishing in second place at DreamHack Open Leipzig and at IEM Katowice, the team made history by winning back-to-back Majors (the first under Luminosity, the second under SK). Those were the team's biggest achievements of 2016, to which they added three more titles (DreamHack Austin, Pro League Season 3 Finals and ESL One Cologne) and three runners-up finishes (ECS Season 1, Pro League Season 4 Finals and IEM Oakland), with fer being named the 15th best player of the year.
"Our year of 2016 was considerably good, and we entered 2017 ready to rock the world. We were very focused in 2017 and, at the beginning, after felps’ arrival, we tried to create a new image for the team, with a new playstyle. Our goal was to surprise our opponents, since they had never faced a team with two very aggressive players."
SK began 2017 the way they had ended 2016: attending an event with Ricardo "fox" Pacheco as a stand-in, the Portuguese replacing fnx, who had been removed from the active lineup due to internal issues. At the ELEAGUE Major, fer earned his first EVP recognition of the year as he averaged a 1.18 rating - second to coldzera's 1.28 - in the Brazilian team’s semi-final run. FaZe ended up being fer’s best matchup of the event as he put in a 1.56 rating in the Swiss match and a team-leading 1.60 rating in the quarter-final series against the Europeans.
"Not winning the Major was not a shock for us since we had to play the event with a stand-in. Our goal was to keep our Legends status and to have fun. My memory from that event was to play alongside fox, a very cool guy, and I remember that the team’s synergy was very good. We were sad because we wanted to win the Major for him, but, at the end of the day, we were all happy with what we had accomplished and we left the tournament with our heads held high and laughing."
DreamHack Masters Las Vegas was the first event that SK attended with João "felps" Vasconcellos, and, like the team had predicted, no-one seemed prepared to counter their newly-found overaggressive style. fer was one of the team’s main contributors in their runners-up finish and earned an EVP distinction after averaging 1.26+ ratings in all but one of the nine maps his team played on American soil. fer finished the tournament with a 1.39 rating, the third highest overall, and was featured in the top five in 11 different stats categories, leading the opening kills (45) and opening kills per round (0.18) charts.
"That was our first tournament with felps. We had a lot more freedom to take risks than normal since we were now playing with a totally different style. I like it when the game is fast and messy. That is how we played in Las Vegas, and I believe that is one of the reasons I played so well. Our risky plays (which were calculated) worked out because no-one expected them. That approach to the game favours me a bit."
The next two events demonstrated that SK's high-risk, high-reward style could not last as the team bowed out of IEM Katowice and SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 without even making the playoffs, both times with a 2-3 record. In Poland, fer averaged a 1.23 rating, which ranked him second in the team, while in Ukraine, he delivered a 1.03 rating, and it was only because of his Man of the Match display against Virtus.pro (2.09 rating, +15 KDD and 126 ADR) as he was in the red in three of his team's five games.
"At StarSeries we were not 100% in it. Making mistakes we normally do not make and adapting to a different style were the main reasons we failed in that tournament. Our lack of success was also taking its toll as we were used to either making deep runs or winning the tournaments.
"After that event, cold and I had a really dumb fight and the team broke up. Our flight home was sh*t. I was not talking to anyone and I asked to leave the team. Then we arrived at our gaming house, I went to my room and started packing up to return to Brazil. After a while, cold went into my room and said he wanted to talk. We chatted for a few minutes, he apologised, I apologised, we hugged each other and said: ‘Let’s f*cking win everything. Together!’. That is what made me not want to quit anymore. We then had a team talk in which we discussed everything there was to discuss, and everything was fine after that. At the dinner table, we let out a war cry, and that is when 2017 began [for us]."
And that was indeed a turning point for SK, who went through a bright period as they won five of the next six events they attended, with fer always at the centre of the action. It all started at cs_summit, where fer had the second-highest rating at 1.39 after putting in 1+ ratings in nine of the ten games the team played in Los Angeles, averaging a year-high 97.3 ADR and scooping his third EVP mention.
"We knew we were on the right track. We needed just to fix some things to really play as a unit. cs_summit boosted our confidence and confirmed that we were doing things right. We were happy with our victory and we knew that is what we were missing to go on a great run."
SK followed up the success in Los Angeles with another trophy, this time in Sydney. At the IEM event, fer led the team in rating (1.32) for the first time in 2017, with his 1.53 rating in the semi-final win against OpTic and his above-average ratings in his team's map wins against FaZe in the final earning him another EVP mention.
The ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals brought SK's streak to an end as they were bested by G2 in the semi-finals, but for fer it was still a tournament worth remembering as it yielded yet another EVP distinction after averaging a 1.23 rating, the best in the team. He had three below-par performances - all against French opposition - but he still ended the competition with a 90.6 ADR and a year-high 1.54 Terrorist rating.
The Brazilians returned to winning ways at DreamHack Open Summer, despite being caught off-guard by a surprisingly buoyant Immortals side in the groups. fer led the charge for SK in the decider match against mousesports (1.41 rating, 91.8 ADR), but had modest showings in the three-map series against CLG (1.11 rating, +2 KDD) and fnatic (1.02, -8 KDD). Still, he was the second highest rated player on his team (1.16) and managed to get another EVP, his sixth of the year.
Next up were the ECS Season 3 Finals, where fer was rewarded for his heroics with an MVP medal, the first of his career. The 26-year-old delivered a 1.31 rating (17% higher than the team's average) as he inspired his team to win the event in convincing fashion with victories over G2, FaZe (twice) and Astralis. fer did not have a single below-average rating throughout the tournament and was by far the top performer in the final with a 1.32 rating - his closest suitor being FalleN at 1.03. He also led in KDD (+45), damage difference per round (+15.9) and assists (46), and was in the top five in eight other metrics, including KAST (77.2%), rounds with at least one frag (53.9%) and opening kills (35).
"That was without a doubt the toughest tournament we had played by then. I was happy that we won it because that was the trophy that we were missing in our house. I remember we had incredible series and that we almost let the final slip. As for the MVP, I was happy, for sure. It is not something we long for, but when we win one it is always special."
ESL One Cologne would be the last tournament that the team won with felps on the roster. The Brazilian team looked a bit shaky at first, requiring all five rounds to get out of the Swiss stage, but then they excelled in series, edging past OpTic before beating both FaZe and Cloud9 without dropping a single map. fer was in the red in his team's Swiss defeats, against Space Soldiers and G2, but he made up for that with Man of the Match displays against OpTic (1.29 rating, +10 KDD) and FaZe (1.45 rating, 104 ADR and +14KDD), while against Cloud9 he was the third-best rated player at 1.22. With a 1.19 tournament rating, the second-highest on the team, he earned an EVP mention.
With the wind in their sails, SK went into PGL Major Krakow brimming with confidence, but a shocking defeat to BIG put the Brazilians and Astralis in each other's paths in the quarter-finals, with the Danes pulling away with the series. For his part, fer had a 1.15 rating, the second best on his team and 6% higher than their average.
"We had just come off winning three titles in a row. We did not have enough time to create anything new and we went into the Major with the same things that we had used in previous tournaments. As for Astralis, they did not attend some events in order to prepare for the Major. I am not sure how ‘good’ that is, but I guess that if you prepare like that and you win the tournament, it pays off. I am sure they watched us play in those tournaments and prepared for us. But they lost to Gambit right after, so I believe that, after that match, they regretted missing out on some tournaments to only reach the semi-finals [at the Major].
"If it was a mistake for FalleN to visit Auschwitz the day before the match? No. Our team has always been very cool about that. We know about our commitments and, in our free time, we all do whatever it is that we want to do. That does not mean that we are not focused or that we are not committed enough. That just means that, instead of sleeping, working out, staying at the hotel bar or whatever, he went out".
DreamHack Masters Malmö brought SK their second quarter-final exit in a row, despite some memorable performances from fer, who led the team in rating (1.19), ADR (86.3), KPR (0.79) and Impact (1.27). But it was the team's third-place finish at ESG Tour Mykonos that set alarm bells ringing everywhere. The Brazilians were heavily tipped to win this medium-sized tournament, but a 2-0 defeat to Liquid in the semi-finals put them out of contention for the title. With below-par performances in three of SK's seven games, fer finished fourth-ranked in his outfit with a 1.09 rating and a +4 KDD.
"Our heads were not 100% in it. Our bad. And, to make it worse, TACO was suffering a bout of mumps and playing through pain. It is tough to play in such conditions. But the main thing was our [lack of] focus for the tournament."
Next up was ESL One New York, where SK topped their group after beating mousesports and Gambit but then came up short against Liquid in an extremely-close three-map series. fer had a 1.34 event rating, the second highest in the team, and was ranked first in terms of ADR (96.4), recording his eighth EVP distinction of the year.
ELEAGUE Premier was one of the lowest points of the year for SK, who went out in the groups following back-to-back defeats to Heroic. In Atlanta, fer was the only SK player who stood out as he put in a 1.14 rating - 21% higher than the team's average - and also led his side in terms of ADR (85.6) and Impact (1.28).
The ELEAGUE tournament ended up being felps' last for the team in 2017 as boltz was brought in ahead of EPICENTER. In St. Petersburg, the Brazilians gave a great account of themselves and bagged the grand prize of $250,000 after a solid run that saw them beat Virtus.pro (twice), FaZe and Astralis. fer finished with a 1.18 rating, the third-highest of his side, and led the event in ADR (91.6) and opening kills per round (0.15), picking up yet another EVP mention.
"We always enter a tournament to win, so we knew we could win EPICENTER. The atmosphere within the team was completely different, everyone was excited with boltz’s arrival and hungry to win. boltz’s addition was crucial to renew our energy and to bring back a good synergy."
SK went back to America for IEM Oakland, where their tournament run came to an end in the semi-finals following a defeat to eventual champions NiP. fer had 1+ ratings on every map he played right until the NiP encounter, in which he recorded a 0.87 rating after three subpar maps. The 26-year-old finished the tournament with a 1.19 rating/+16 kdd, a year-high five clutches and the second-highest ADR at 92.0.
The Brazilian team had two more events lined up in 2017, both of which took place in Denmark and brought the team's gold medal count to eight. At the BLAST Pro Series and at the ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals, fer was ranked fourth in the team (1.03 rating in Copenhagen and 1.15 in Odense), with his performances in the latter tournament earning him his tenth EVP mention of the year. At the Pro League event, he finished 81.8% of the maps with 1+ ratings and had a 1.19 Impact and a 71.9% KAST - in both metrics, he was at least 5% above the team average -, helping SK to cap off a great year with a title snatched from FaZe, their greatest rival for most of 2017.
"We respect FaZe a lot, they are a very strong team with really good players, but we are not afraid of facing them. We are the team to beat. They are trying to prove something that we have already accomplished, so the pressure is on their side. Before that match, we chatted like we always do, trying to create a good atmosphere, and we went into the match to get a 3-0 win. I believe that, if there was still someone out there who had doubts about which team was the best in the world, either such doubts ended after the match or such a person is crazy."
In 2016, fer had a spell on the sidelines after undergoing nose surgery to fix a breathing problem, so we asked him for an update on his condition.
"I had a nose operation to be able to undergo surgery on my ear, which was the bigger problem. 2017 was one of the worst years in that regard. I played several matches and even several tournaments with no hearing in one ear. There are days I cannot hear anything in my right ear. It hurts and I cannot focus. Every day I carried that nightmare with me. The night before a match, I would go to bed and pray to God for me to wake up and at least hear something in my right ear. I did not tell anyone about that problem. I did not tell my family because they would force me to stop, just like I did not tell my girlfriend. I also did not tell my teammates because I did not want to worry them and because I was afraid they would kick me or place me on the bench until I had it fixed. I wanted to play, I wanted to win, and I thought they would think I was holding them back in some way. It was very hard to deal with this on my own for several months.
"I remember that, after one of the maps in the ECS Season 3 grand final, I went to the bathroom because my ear was bleeding, and there was no one there and no one had followed me. As I pick up some toilet paper to clean my ear, it starts bleeding and FalleN and cold enter the bathroom. I washed my hand in the sink before they could notice it and stormed out of the bathroom without even taking a p*ss. Because of that, I played a whole map almost peeing my pants (laughs)."
Why is fer the third best player of 2017?
With one MVP award and ten EVP mentions to his name, fer had the third highest number of standout events in 2017. Moreover, he was one of the most consistent players in the world, finishing all of his tournaments with 1+ ratings and averaging ratings of 1.14 or higher at 16 of the 19 events he attended.
He was always reliable at big events, where he averaged a 1.20 rating (ranked third), and in the playoffs of tournaments of this stature, in which he delivered a 1.19 rating (ranked fourth).
fer was also one of the year's most impactful players, with an exceptionally high 1.33 Impact rating, which ranks him first in the world. He had the highest opening kills per round ratio (0.14) and the fifth-highest percentage of multi-kill rounds (20.1%). And more often than not his actions resulted in SK winning rounds: 81.9% of the rounds in which he had an opening kill and 83.5% of the rounds in which he had a multi-kill were won by his side. In both metrics, he has the highest percentage of any player. However, it must be taken into consideration that these percentages are a bit inflated by fer's tendency to play aggressively and frag-hungry in anti-eco rounds, which are generally easier to win.
"My best memory of 2017 was winning three tournaments in a row, for sure. And the worst part was not qualifying for the ECS Finals to end the year with a flourish."
The 26-year-old boasted the third highest damage per round ratio (86.7) and was ranked eighth in assists per round, which means that there was more to his contribution than just direct impact.
There are no notable downsides to fer's performance in 2017, and he would have been No.1 in the world in some of our previous top 20 editions. But he has to settle for the third spot in the ranking as two players had an even better year than him.
"By watching his matches and facing him, one can say that he is a very talented player individually and a very strong team player. I believe that, if they attend more events this year (and I think they will), he is a strong candidate to surprise [the community] and enter the top 20 ranking of 2018."