In the aftermath of forZe's playoff qualification, following their victories over G2 and AVANGAR, we spoke to the team's IGL Andrey "Jerry" Mekhryakov who told us about his team, their previous struggles and their success in Abu Dhabi.
The Russian team forZe was the first surprise of PLG Grand Slam, the $100,000, 16-team tournament being held in the United Arab Emirates. The team ranked #50 in the world managed to upset G2 in their first match and then clutch a playoff spot by beating CIS rivals AVANGAR.
To hear more about the team, we spoke to the team's IGL Jerry, with coach Rustam "5TRYK#R" Alimkulov adding some insight along the way. The long interview covers the team's style change, the ESEA Advanced grand final forfeit, and details about their BO1 victories in the group stage.
You are a team that has been in the top 100 of our rankings for some time but people don't know that much about you, you didn't play big tournaments. Can you give me a short rundown of who you are as a team?
I can start from the past, we had big problems in our gameplay because we tried to prepare for everyone, for each team we are playing against, but it doesn't work. In the long run, we can't beat tier 3 teams sometimes because we tried to prepare for them, but it was kind of predictable how we played against them.
So our coach and me as a captain, we decided to change our gamestyle, we started to just warmup before games and started to rekt everyone, it started working. (laughs) I can't explain why, but maybe it is like NAF said in his interview for HLTV, he used to watch a lot of demos but he started to think too much about what he watched. We came to the same idea around the same time that interview came out, so we took what he said into account, and it worked.
Tell me about the players in the team, who does what, what is the role distribution?
Jerry: I'll start with almazer, he is like people say our "carry". He is the guy that gets the most frags in the game, the most beautiful frags and the frags he get actually also really help the team. If he pushes, he can push and get two frags, it is kind of unpredictable. He can push at any time and it can work because of his impressive aim. FL1T is the new guy, he is just 17-years-old and this guy is kind of support and carry as well. He can throw good nades and he can actually play as the main player on the A site or B site on the defense. If two guys push him from both sides he can wreck them with flickshots. He is the latest addition to the roster and it was a good change. And he is only 17-years-old but he is not afraid to make a decision himself, that is a good thing with this guy.
Jerry: Facecrack is the oldest player, he is 24-years-old but he is the most experienced player here. He can make good calls in the middle of the game, good calls in the end game, and he can get insane opening frags. If we throw some support nades for him he can just do two taps and two guys are dead already, and we get the site. This is the guy who we are using as our main entry fragger. And xsepower is a semi-aggressive AWPer, he can push so unpredictable angles and get some insane frags, but sometimes he can just sit at the back of the site and just try to be more static, get some defensive frags. If we are on the T side, he can just sit and cover us when we are rushing sites. He has really good algorithms about how he peeks, he peeks one spot, then moves to the second spot and so on, and every time he peeks he can get the frag. It is a good characteristic of a sniper, because he needs to be able to play passively in some moments and aggressively in other moments. And me... can the coach describe me so I'm not selfish or something like that?
Jerry: That is the hardest part of being an in-game leader, I can't say it is from my heart, I'm not an in-game leader naturally, but I'm forced to do it. But after these wins in this groups, after we won these two BO1s, I feel like something changed and I kind of like that. I think that every team needs some wins sometimes because without wins you can get bad morale and you think that everything you do, everything you train, is not working. Everyone needs a win, even a little one.
5TRYK#R: One more thing about Jerry, he is a guy that can listen to advice and implement that in the game. But he does it with delay. He takes it in like SpongeBob, but with delay. (laughs)
To come here you skipped the ESEA Advanced grand final. Tell me about that decision, you had a good shot to make it to MDL but you decided to come to this tournament instead?
Actually, when we were flying here, we hoped that our CEO and manager can get some agreement with Movistar Riders but they wanted to go forward with it and decided that either we play today or we lose, we get a technical defeat. And we were forced to skip that. Actually, when we flew here, we hoped that we could play against them from here, even with high ping, but otherwise, we hoped we could delay the game until we returned to Moscow.
But they didn't agree and we had to let them get the MDL spot, but we are going to play MDL Relegation and I can't say it is bad, it is a good result for us because we've never been there, it is a new experience and everything that is done is done for good.
Let's move to the matches you played here, obviously it started against G2, it should've started at 11AM but I think the match started around 4PM. There were a lot of delays, but in the end, you got the win, which was the first upset of this tournament, so tell me how that game went from your perspective?
Oh, that was the most needed game here to get to the next stages, and to get to the BO1 against AVANGAR. I can say that we started doing well, we won the pistol round, but almost lost the anti-eco against USPs because we had some TeamSpeak issues. After we barely won that round we tried to play some set rounds that we had prepared. We tried to do that, but they just wrecked us. We tried to push them as we do against other teams, but they were ready for it. So we lost some crucial rounds and it got to 2-6 before we called a timeout to try and use our defaults. They were smoking Monster and getting short and mid control, so we called with the coach that we need to play a slow default and that would work. So we called the slow default, but we lost again! (laughs) and it went to 2-8.
Then we decided to play a more focused default and it worked once, then one more time, and then one of the most crucial rounds happened in which facecrack went underpass and got three headshots in mid in three seconds. We got the A site for free and won the fifth round in a row and that made it 7-8. Then we moved to the CT side and almazer did a great job in the pistol round getting four headshots, killing the lurker, shox, in B. My mate had pushed B early in the round and made it to T-spawn, so he called "hey, it's going to be A, guys, just rotate" and shox headshot him twice and got the USP but almazer was playing with no fear, like Russians do, got a good headshot, and got two more insane headshots. The G2 guys tried to bait him well, but he got the two headshots, and we started the comeback from there.
We won the anti-eco and after one more crucial rounds in which they tried to throw some B smokes and get short and monster peeks, we mollied them off and peaked them with flashes and killed everyone. Then on anti-eco xsepower and almazer did a great job. Then we had another important round, it was the fifth in a row we won on the CT side, in which xsepower clutched against kennyS [laughs], that was kind of funny. Kenny had the B site and he had the bomb, but he had one minute on the clock and tried to make a fake, but xsepower just decide to push the whole map all the way around to the A site, which ended up being a good guess because kennyS decidde to go A with the bomb in his hand after all of the fakes and xsepower just (makes shooting noises) with the p250, and it took ten shots to kill him because he was jumping with the bomb and trying to strafe, etc. (laughs)
After that crucial round we took control and we picked them everywhere we wanted. We peeked monster, we peeked short, and then we won one more crucial round, when they tried to make a double fake on B. They threw a molotov on short and some smokes, but they never showed up. They tried to get an entry on A, and kennyS killed xsepower but almazer got the trade from underpass, making it a 4vs4 situation. I was in short, and it was kind of funny because they walked in through monster and heard my scope on short. Someone must have called that and Lucky or someone else tried to kill me, and they molo'd me and started to surround me on both sides. Then I smoked short, heard two come short and one monster, and I just thought "I'm dead now." (laughs) But I decided to scope and push the smoke, Lucky never found me and I got his back. So I got one important frag and my mates ended that round 3vs2.
5TRYK#R: Smart move!
Jerry: Yeah, so they won a round or something like that and we had to forcebuy because we had a low economy, even having won like seven rounds in a row. So we did the half-buy and won, and that was the game. We hadn't prepared well for them, we just wanted to play our game, and we know Lucky and JaCkz just got back from Dallas where they were playing for 3DMAX so we knew they weren't well prepared as well, and we were able to catch them off-guard or something like that.
After that, you played AVANGAR in a CIS match-up. You didn't go through the Minor qualifier, which wasn't long ago, and they did. Did this G2 win give you some extra confidence? The scoreline in the end against AVANGAR seemed pretty one-sided, 16-8, so semi-easy...
Yeah, the win against G2 gave us more confidence, but after we won against G2 we went to the hotel to eat because the admin said we had three hours before the game. After one hour, right after we ordered food, the admin called us and said: "now or tomorrow." We knew AVANGAR had been playing since early in the morning, like us, but we had been waiting for the admins to fix the VAC errors. They beat ShotCallers and then sat around doing nothing, literally, so we just ate one dish from the menu, even though everybody had ordered two, took the other to go, set up and wrecked them because they weren't ready. So we caught a team off-guard again (laughs). It's some strategy thing, here, that's one of the pieces of our wins. It's our gamestyle, and some tactical things.
Anything you want to add going into the playoffs?
Actually, after we got first place in the group, I think that gives us a good chance of beating a good team in playoffs. I think we have a good chance and in general, I want to say thank you to all of the sponsors that helped us with the bootcamp. Spartak, Lukoil... Plan B, the guys who got us the financial support.