EliGE: "After all of the hardships we went through, to finally start having the success we've had makes it all feel worthwhile"
We spoke with Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski following Liquid's historic achievement, winning ESL One Cologne 2019 and the Intel Grand Slam, and asked him about their main rival and goals for the future.
A 3-1 victory in the grand final saw the North Americans convincingly clinch the ESL One Cologne title, making it four back-to-back Big Events won for Liquid. Following the game, we managed to catch up with EliGE to hear more about it.
The 21-year-old, who was the highest-rated player on his team, spoke to us about the decision to skip ESL One Cologne, which forced them to go through a qualifier later, their grand final game against Vitality, and dealing with the likes of Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev and Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut.
The original decision to skip Cologne must feel kind of silly right now?
It would obviously feel silly right now, but scheduling-wise it still wasn't a bad decision, we never decided not to go to Cologne because of any other reason, it was just that there were so many events that were back-to-back-to-back. But then we were thinking that we were really bad online so we were probably not going to make ECS, so then we wanted to reverse our decision.
It has been a long time since you have been working towards this in Liquid with nitr0, all of the changes... How big of an achievement is this, having such a dominant Intel Grand Slam and winning ESL One Cologne, which was more stacked than ever?
It is really an amazing feeling, it was even insane back when we were in Cologne in 2016, it was one of the best events that I've ever been to and obviously, now this tops it for sure. The crowd was going insane for every kill, they were so into the game and it made me feel amazing as soon as we were able to win it. After all of the years that I and Nick (nitr0) have been on this team, making all the changes, all of the hardships that we went through, to finally start having the success that we've had this year really makes it all feel worthwhile in the end.
During all of that, were there ever thoughts of just jumping ship and trying to find success somewhere else? Because after you change something so many times, there is a point where you feel like nothing can fix the issues.
I actually never had the thought of really wanting to jump ship, just for underperformance or anything like that, throughout my whole time in Liquid. I mean, of course, I had thoughts that I could maybe do better somewhere else, but I never really wanted to do that because Liquid has just given us so much, the infrastructure. And the team cores that we've had throughout the years, I don't think that there was anything better for me on any other team, so I'm really happy I've stuck it through the whole entire way.
Touching on the grand final a bit, it was pretty weird considering how many ecos you won. That is probably more down to them than to you, but still, how did that happen from your side?
We actually win a lot of ecos against a lot of teams, it is actually pretty normal for us, we lose the pistol round and then we win the force buy after. We just have a lot of individually skilled players that are able to make plays on any round, any of us can just pick up a Deagle and get insane kills with it, especially Russ (Twistzz). We have a lot of playmakers too, me or Jake (Stewie2k), we can just be setting something up that will get us a round, just a round that we shouldn't even win. And I think that happens a lot more for us than other teams.
Was there a breaking point in the grand final where you figured out "This is it, it is done now"? Or did you feel in control during the whole thing?
We felt in control pretty much the entire time. On Dust2 it really slipped through from our fingers, I think that we had a really good chance to win Dust2, but we lost to ourselves, mentally, we kind of lacked a little bit in that match. But for the next ones we reset really well, in between the games, we just talked really quick about what went wrong on Dust2 just to get the frustrations out there and just quickly moved on to the next, going on with our gameplan.
Even for the biggest deniers, now you are obviously the number one team in the world, and every best team usually has a rival. You were Astralis' last year, who do you think is going to be yours moving forward?
I think Vitality is probably going to be our rival. I think that they are the second best team in the world - hands down. They have a lot of really good players, ZywOo especially, obviously. I think that their teamwork is really good too, they are always doing stuff that is really together, that is the strongest thing in CS. Just when people are doing things together. Instead of trying to do super complicated things and having these in-depth strats, the best teams, when they are playing really well, are really simple. Even when Astralis was the best, we knew what they were doing every time, but they were just better than us. Same thing when fnatic was the best, same thing when SK was the best... So yeah, that is basically what I think.
The MVP award was stolen away by ZywOo, you were probably the next in line, but what is it like playing against him? And can you draw some parallels to playing against s1mple because there are many being drawn at the moment?
He is obviously a really insane player, he kind of plays really similar to how s1mple plays, they are both going to go for really crazy plays and just start winning rounds, I think that they have some things that they are more comfortable doing. Like on Inferno, ZywOo obviously has his plays where he runs up Banana and tries to just frag out. And we were super aware of that and we were making sure that we are aware of that every single round, making sure that things were in place that it doesn't happen. Because if we can just shut down the comfortable things that those star players have, then it makes it a lot harder for them to win. I think that is why we have been so good against Na`Vi for the past... year or however much time it has been, and I think that is how we are going to shut down ZywOo as well.
Moving forward, obviously you want to make more history, what is the next thing that you have in mind?
The next big thing for us is the Major, it is the next biggest tournament and I think it is the one thing that would solidify our era. For us to be able to win the Major would be a huge accomplishment, for the team, for me individually, I've always so wanted to win a Major. Even though we've won all of these tournaments so far, having that Major title would make it all the more sweeter.
So you want to take that away from Cloud9, the one thing they have over you?
[laughs] Yeah, we want to win it for that reason and we want to start on our two and three, for the Majors, just starting to have the best era and team for NA CS ever.
Is there anything you want to add or say now, since it is a big moment after all?
I just want to really thank Team Liquid, all of our supporting staff for being as awesome as they were, throughout all the years. We probably wouldn't be here without the support of our sports psychologist Jared Tendler, Victor, our CEO, has been doing amazing things with us. Mike, Steve, those guys have really made Liquid feel like a home and I don't think that any other team would feel as good as Liquid has, throughout the years. They really helped us develop our team.