Kjaerbye: "I think winning the Major at 18 and being crowned MVP was hard for me to deal with"
The Danish side advanced to the playoffs of the Europe Minor after beating BIG twice, in a BO1 and a BO3, with fnatic handing them a crushing defeat in between. At the end of the second day, we sat down with Kjaerbye to hear his thoughts.
The 21-year-old, who has been in great form since the roster change that saw Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså assume the in-game leader role, talked about the games at the Minor, the preparation, and getting out of his slump.
What are your first thoughts as you made it into the playoffs of the Minor, the first step going towards the Major?
The first impression is that we are happy we survived. We played a poor game against fnatic yesterday and the Minor is really tough, we felt that last time, albeit we were in much worse shape at the last Minor, we are a lot better team right now, in my opinion. But you can see it on mousesports as well, they were struggling and almost went out.
It means everything to qualify for the Major, it is still the biggest tournament of the year, but getting there still feels far away, you know? That is a little bit of a mental challenge but I feel that we are doing everything we can to qualify and we still have to play well in playoffs and win two more games.
You mentioned that you are doing everything to qualify - after EPL you haven't been playing anything, not even the qualifiers such as the one for ESL One New York. Is that something you purposely skipped to focus on the Minor? What was the preparation like in general?
Yeah, we skipped the ESL One New York to focus on the Major. This is the first time with this lineup that we've had time to get a lot of practice in. We had a really busy schedule with five tournaments before that, so it was a crucial time to take our game to the next step. We had a lot of bootcamp days and long practice days and that is also why we didn't have much time to take off. We played a lot, I think we have a 100 hours in two weeks on Steam. And I think we have improved but we still need to show it, we still have some inconsistent games, as against fnatic, but I think that is more about the matchup, really.
Let's touch on the fnatic game. Going into it, they were in bad form, you were in decent form, a big favorite, and then it was a complete blowout from their side. How couldn't you even get into the game?
The game against fnatic was the first one, I think, in a really, really long time, where we didn't have any good ideas. We tried our whole playbook and we basically just got shut down. As you said, we were favorites for once against them and I believe and really thought we could have finally beaten them. Sadly it wasn't the day, but if we meet them later on, in the playoffs, we need to be sharp. There are only two spots going directly to the Major and the way we got beat by them is not the best sign for us in that matter. But we are facing CR4ZY first and that is also a tough game because we have no idea how they play, I think we never played them before. There is a lot of individual skill and talent on that team, so we have to win our game on our teamplay.
Talking about what could happen in that game, how do you usually approach teams that are like CR4ZY, individually pretty skilled?
I don't think the approach is really different against specific playstyles, I don't think it is that way, I think it is tough playing a matchup you didn't play before because you don't feel what they are going to do. I think we had a similar issue against FURIA, we knew that they were going to be all around us and we watched the demos and stuff, but they can still catch us off guard and that is really the problem with not having practice playing against them. So we need to be even more on point, even though CR4ZY are maybe not as composed as the better, the bigger teams. That is the way I see it, the more individual skill a team has the sharper teamplay we need in some weird way.
Talking about your individual form, since valde took over your form has been looking the best since 2017, I would say. Where does that come from? Is it something about you individually or is it the change in the team that inspired the form?
I think a lot changed in the team structure, I'm feeling a lot more freedom now, but it is no lie that this was also a big wake up call for me. Getting a new caller instead of cadiaN and me having been playing badly for almost half a year as well is not a nice feeling, I was not feeling good about myself in that period. And it is really, really hard to get out of a slump in a circuit like CS:GO because you never have time to take a mental break, the tournaments keep coming and you really have to be experienced, motivated all the time, and it can be tough for everyone, I think, at a certain point of their career. I stood at a crossroad, either I could give it a 110% and get back to my initial shape or...
I think I never fulfilled my talent and it is really hard for me to say that because I feel like I have experience now, but between being 18 and now 21, I haven't improved enough, I haven't learned enough from my mistakes, and I think that is the biggest change. I evaluate myself a lot more, I watch my own demos and I just want to be a better version of myself, in general. I hope the team can feel that. I feel I'm just giving a lot more energy to the guys as well, we motivate each other every day and that is how we are going to keep improving.
Because I've been there before, going from the top eight to the top 1: there is no magic recipe, you have to play hard and have a unique team chemistry to get there. I believe we are on the right path, but also, there is still a really long way to the very top. That is why it is tough still being at the Minor, because in the recent months we have played well against or beaten almost all the best teams in the world. I think that with this team we only got stomped by fnatic and maybe a bit by FURIA. Apart from that we just need the last percentages, I'm not sure how we are going to get it, but we are going to keep searching for solutions to get the last 10% because then I believe we can be a really, really strong force to be reckoned with.
I wanted to touch on the thing that you said, that you didn't develop as much as you could. Is there anything that you think that you did wrong, any regrets about that period?
I think winning the Major at 18 and being crowned MVP was hard for me to deal with, to be honest. It was what I woke up for and played for every day, it was my biggest motivation, and it came out of nowhere, suddenly winning it, and not only that but also being one of the best players and playing a good grand final. I think I didn't have the mental fortitude, when looking back now. And I didn't reach out to my team in Astralis back then, it is a bit of a taboo you could say, talking about motivation issues. I feel like I was playing just as much, the team practice was the same, but my mental desire, my hunger wasn't the same as before the Major because CS-wise, that was all I dreamt of. I don't think anyone thinks about being a legend one day, that is something that comes with the titles and other people's perception of you.
My biggest issue was motivating myself when I was on the top. That is what I'm trying to learn off of because the downside of it, only getting worse from there, was really hard for me to turn around. It took me even years, to be honest. I thought my move to North would give me the motivation back, and in many ways, it did, but we also didn't have the skill to get up there where I initially thought we would get easily, to the very top. So that is just the hard truth, you live and you learn. I think the biggest lesson for me is learning who I am and what I want to become, that makes me satisfied, just trying to be the best version of myself. That is all you can do.