BIG started out falling to Liquid in their opening match, but have survived elimination after beating Lincoln "fnx" Lau's Não Tem Como in a three-map series, meaning smooya will go on to play on a big stage for the first time in his career during tomorrow's decider match.
Now that you have played with BIG for a while, how has the progression been, say, compared to when you went to compete at the Qi Invitational in Serbia?
In Serbia we didn't have gob b, so you can't really count it as an event. We knew it was going to be rough. We went there to play like a PUG and whatever happens, happens. We didn't hit our shots and we lost to a couple of Chinese teams. As soon as we started practicing we could tell by who we were beating, and who we were smashing, literally, every day, that, holy hell, we're pretty good. Day after day, we hadn't lost a scrim in like a week, so we were like, "wow, we're actually really good." I feel like at the moment we're running at about 40% of what we could become because we still have communications problems and I keep forgetting grenades and names for strats and stuff. That's my bad, but as soon as we get that sorted we'll be really good.
Talking about forgetting grenades or strat names, it's something that's very important for gob b's system, right? He's known for his micro-managing tactical approach to the game. How are you adjusting to having to play very structured CS?
At the beginning, I was struggling a lot. I didn't enjoy practicing because I was just doubting myself and wondering why gob was raging at me, but when I sat back and realized that I hadn't remembered a smoke in a week and was always asking him... If I were being asked the same question 20 times I would also be mad and would rage a bit. As soon as I realized that, I put more time into learning grenades instead of just throwing them once and thinking "yeah, I know the grenade," when in reality you have to throw it 20 times, wake up the next morning and throw it 20 more times. Now that I'm used to it, I'm playing fine and I'm happy with how things are going.
With the change in communication, from full German to having you on the team, how are you adapting to each other in terms of language and so on? Is it kind of 50/50, really mixed, or how is that working out?
It's around 60/40 for English, so there's more English than German, but of course my accent is really hard to understand for them. I speak in the same tone all of the time, I'm pretty monotone. They said my accent is hard to understand, so when I'm playing I have to speak slooooooowly so they'll understand, because if I speak at my normal pace they can't understand me at all. When they speak German, and obviously I don't speak German at all, it's an issue.
When we're playing important matches, even in high-pressure situations, I have to remember that if I'm giving a piece of key information I can't speak fast because we may lose a round. So that's quite funny, but their English will get better over time. Some of them played in NRG and their English there was fine, they just haven't played in English since then and it goes away after a while. I just have to remind them, "hey, guys, speak English," and they'll switch straight away.
You've filled a hole by giving BIG more firepower, do you think that could allow the team to step up to the next level?
I think so because they all love me, as well, they all think I'm pretty good. My main issue at the moment is understanding rotations and stuff like that, which is what keev understood. He just couldn't always get 30 kills like he could in aTTaX... That was keev's biggest issue, but he understood the system really well and that's what I need to do. I need to learn their way of playing. How they like to play 2vs2s, 3vs3s, and so on, because everyone has their own style of CS, right? Until I'm on the same page I don't think we'll hit our maximum potential, but I feel like in a good two or three months we'll get there.
Let's talk a little bit about the match against NTC. It started off on their best map, Train. Were you confident going into it? Had you scouted them at all?
We watched two or three of their demos. gob, kakafu, and LEGIJA all sat down in the practice room and watched loads of games. We knew exactly what they did on T-side. We would have won that half 11-4 if I didn't miss the guy from behind in a 1vs1 like a big noob. When that happened I was like "oh my God, here we go... we have a game on our hands," but we managed to get 8-7 and were actually super confident. On the Terrorist side, we just choked. We were calling different strats and I was, like, "guys, what the hell, man, this is impossible." We lost two 2vs5s and I said, "OK, whatever, forget this map." We went outside and said, "guys, can we just never talk about that map ever again?" And so we just focused on Overpass. We knew we are good there and they're not as strong on it. We beat them on Overpass and then Dust2 happened.
But on Overpass, actually, once you got on the CT side and won the pistol round it smoothed out, but had you lost that pistol round, you would have been screwed...
So how was the feeling in the team during that half-time?
Before half-time, the first pistol round, we all know what we're supposed to be doing. We've always gone B. Always. This time we go A and I die rotating, coming back from Monster, and I just went, "it's happening again. It's happening again. We're calling differently..." Then we lost the first five rounds doing stuff we've never done before so we called a pause and said, "OK, guys. Can we just stop? Can we just do what we do? 'Cause this is annoying." Then we got five rounds in a row and tried something we had never done before and, of course, we lost again.
Everyone was kind of tilted and trying not to show it, but you could tell everyone was frustrated, thinking, "why are we losing these rounds? We shouldn't be losing these rounds." Every time we win the pistol round as CT on Overpass in practice we go on to win 13 rounds. All of the time. No matter the team. We're super good as CTs on Overpass, so we knew if we won the pistol round we'd win the game. As soon as we won the pistol round, we said, "OK, this is our map, we can do this," and we closed it out.
Dust2 was pretty smooth for you guys...
It was easy, man.
Before wrapping it up, let's talk a bit about you personally. The first time a lot of people saw you was when B1ad3 invited you to play with F3 as a stand-in.
Oh yeah, that chestnut... Jesus, man. I was not ready for that situation. Oh my God! I had forgotten about that. It was so rough...
How far have you come from that? What has the growth been like?
The growth has been about just becoming a better player. B1ad3 thought I was the next s1mple because I used to carry in ESEA pugs when I just smashed everyone. I was #1 in the world on ESEA for like eight months in a row, you know? So B1ad3 was like, "this guy is insane, we should take him to LAN!" He asked me, "smooya, are you scared of playing on LAN?" I was, like, "naaaaaah, dude, I'm confident as hell!" Then I went to LAN and poo'd my pants. I was just shaking the entire time and was super bad.
That was rough, but it also helped me a lot. That's the most nervous I have been in my life. Ever since then, I've been nowhere close to being as nervous as then, so it set me up to do well. For example, in the UK scene, every time I played at a LAN, zero nerves. I was really cold-blooded because I knew I was never going to be that nervous again in my life. It helped me a lot in that sense and it helped me become a better player, but it was a rough experience, man. Jesus, we got banged. Oh my God, so rough.
You were just telling me a while ago your practice routine is something that's very important for you. If you can't get your practice in, you feel like you can't reach your potential. So how do you go about it?
So, if I only have around 30 minutes I will do 20 minutes of kz, just to get my eyes used to CS, get my arm moving smoothly so I can get used to my sens—even though I don't change it—, then I'll do 10 minutes of Aim Botz with the AWP, flicking each bot to the right, then when I get all the way to the farthest point on the right I'll start flicking bots to the left. If I have an hour, I'll do 10 minutes of kz—I love kz by the way—, so I'll do 10-15 minutes of kz, then I'll do 200 USP kills, 200 AK kills, 200 M4 kills, and 200 AWP kills. If I have two hours, then I'll do 30 minutes of kz, 30 minutes of Aim Botz, which is like 1000 AK, 500 AWP, 1000 USP, and then I'll go on deathmatch, 200 kills with each gun.
And you try to do this before every match?
Yeah, which I did today. I didn't do it before the Liquid match and we all saw what happened against Liquid. So, yeah...
Liquid is also a pretty good team, though...
We should have beaten Liquid.
You think so?
We should have beaten Liquid.
So what went wrong?
Me being a noob.
That was it?
Every round on Cache, I just... I literally was just an AWP decoy. I should have just thrown my AWP on the ground and thrown knives at them or something. I was just whiffing so hard with the AWP. It was unbelievable. I was just like "yeah, I'm not AWPing anymore, I'm retiring" (laughs). I was so annoyed.
Did you have a nice chat with gob about it after the match?
Yeah, we watched the demo and they were like, "wow, you really did miss every AWP shot you took!" I answered, "yeah, I told you that during the game!" I couldn't hit a shot. That's the reason we lost.
To close it out, is UKCS dead?
It's not really dead.
It's like... on a scale of 1 to 10, it's a 9. There's a sliver of hope.
What's that sliver?
stan1ey, Surreal, and Thomas...
Yeah, that's it.
Would you ever dream of reviving it?
I tried. I failed. I left. (laughs). I tried my absolute hardest. Every UK team I played in, every time we were featured on HLTV or played any sort of important game, I would have 30 kills and everyone else would have 5. In the end I just said, "this isn't for me, guys, I can't do it anymore," and then I joined Epsilon...
How was your time in Epsilon?
I hate Epsilon. Everything about it. The people in charge of it... Except for Samy, who is one of the owners. It was really, really bad, and not well run at all. I'm much happier now.
Any last words or shoutouts?
A shoutout to r0m, the first player to give me a chance and to whom I owe everything to.
Cool, man. Appreciate you giving us your time, thanks for the interview.
This is for HLTV, right?
I'll show it to my mum.