xsepower: "We want to develop consistency to make sure that we don't demonstrate anything like what happened at the Major"
We spoke with Bogdan "xsepower" Chernikov before and after the first day of BLAST Pro Series Moscow to discuss forZe's Major performances, the lessons the team learned from Berlin and the first matches in the Russian tournament.
One of the resident CIS representatives, forZe kicked off their BLAST Pro Series Moscow campaign with a convincing victory over ENCE, taking down the Finnish side by a 16-4 scoreline on Inferno. The team later faced fellow CIS side AVANGAR, walking away with a nail-biting 16-14 victory on Dust2 to conclude day one with a perfect six points record.
Prior to the tournament start and following the conclusion of the first day in Moscow, we caught up with forZe's star player, xsepower, who gave insight into the team's takeaways from the Major, the impact of falling short of the New Legends stage and the squad's long-term goals. We also quizzed him on what went well during forZe's first two matches.
Overall, forZe had a decent run at the Major, perhaps with the exception of the series against DreamEaters, which prevented you from advancing to the New Legends Stage. Considering how close CIS squads are, what do you feel went south in that particular match-up?
I think it's incorrect to say that we had a decent showing at the Major because our expectations were completely different. We counted on making New Legends at the bare minimum, and if we kept up our performance, as we had over the course of the previous six months, then we would have made top eight. As it turned out, we had a poor showing, one that we had not demonstrated at any recent event. Against DreamEaters - the guys were on some sort of a morale boost, and simply crushed us.
Did you draw any conclusions after the match? Perhaps specific mistakes that you broke down afterward that you'll actively seek to prevent in the future?
Not really. There were specific moments that contributed to our loss, but I can't share them in an interview.
The PLG Grand Slam had been described as a pivotal moment in forZe's story, in that the showing at the tournament gave you the inspiration and belief that you were capable of more. Upon conclusion of your Major run, did you experience anything of the sort?
Not really - I think, if anything, we were a little bit down, and we had to reassess a few things and build up certain aspects of our game from scratch. The Minor did give us a morale boost and some confidence, but the Major did the complete opposite.
It is no secret that you are one of the main impact players on forZe, and your individual performances can be a deciding factor for your team. Do you feel discomfort off the back of this pressure? Does it bother you at all?
I actually feel calmer and more comfortable in the game when things work out and I'm able to deliver what I'm capable of. When things don't work out for me, our game starts to break up and things don't work out. I just play the way I do - I don't really think about who it is we're playing against, it's irrelevant. You just arrive and play, that's it.
Since forZe's rise to the spotlight, a lot of fans and pundits in the scene have pointed out your individual form. How do you maintain this level of performance?
In general, I don't play as much as I'd like to, perhaps because I have issues with my hands. If I play too much, my hand starts to ache, and in the long run, playing would become impossible. Starting from around Copenhagen Games I've found an optimal schedule where I dedicate from 30-60 hours to the game, and from there I can do anything from playing retakes, DM, aim_botz, pracs or Faceit. All of these gives give their own individual boost.
After the Major, did the team re-adjust its aspirations for the remainder of the year?
No, we kept the same goals we had set before the Major began. We knew that BLAST would be coming up, we wanted to qualify for it, then we'll be playing for a spot at the finals of the European Champions Cup finals in Malta - outside of these two goals we don't have anything set.
What about a more global, macro-focused goal? Is there anything long-term that the team would like to achieve?
At the very least we want to develop consistency in our game to make sure that we don't demonstrate anything like what happened at the Major in the future. Ensuring stable performances is our long-term goal, and it's definitely something we're missing right now.
You've identified the issue of performance stability - have you had internal discussions in terms of how you plan to achieve this? Perhaps adjustments to training routines and regimens?
We've tried a list of things, even bringing in a psychologist, but he didn't help very much. The majority of our issues are in our heads. There is also the occasional issue with rotations on maps and aim issues - for example, at the Major we simply missed our shots. The guys missed, I didn't convert 100% kill moments, which was peculiar. The most important thing for us is to improve the mental aspect of things.
The match against ENCE saw a very convincing showing from you on Inferno, where you took the Finns down 16-4. Take us over the match and how you managed to produce such a lop-sided victory.
Everything kicked off with the pistol round - we took the first pistol round, and afterward our CT side just worked out. On the T side we secured another pistol round, and closed out the game shortly after. My teammates sorted things out without much input from me, I didn't see many opponents. Over the entire game, I had a single death - we had a few laughs over that one.
During that match, almazer had an incredible showing as he posted a 2.16 rating. What sparked this performance from him?
I don't know, it seemed like ENCE prepared a lot of B rounds against us, and almazer was just feeling the game and hit his shots.
Against AVANGAR, you were leading 9-6 at the end of the first half, but you struggled a bit in the second half. How did you manage to get the win in the end?
Looking at the match, it was a 50/50, but I think everything was decided during the round where almazer and I converted the 2v5. This was the most pivotal round, and had we not secured it we would've likely lost.
We usually see you topping the scoreboard for forZe, but neither map saw you assume that position. During the ENCE match you explained that there was a shortage of enemies in your crosshair, but what were the issues on Dust2?
If we look at the ENCE match, yes, in the initial half I had a 3-0 score by the eleventh round, which is something I had not seen in a while. I go B, there's no one peeking, I move over to A, try to make a play, but they rotate over to another position. It was either just unlucky, or things just happened to turn out this way. We won both games, so overall it doesn't matter all that much.