s1mple: "Something stood in the way of GuardiaN shining; the problem was psychological"
The first part of the interview gave readers an idea about the person that stands behind the nickname s1mple and his thoughts on a list of general topics, including his education, wage progression and family support. In the second part of the interview, conducted by Alexey "OverDrive" Biryukov on behalf of HLTV.org, the Na`Vi star discusses his progression as a player, his previous teams and the near-move to SK two years ago.
Additionally, readers are treated to first-hand details regarding some of the internal decisions made by Natus Vincere, including the signing of Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov and the recent benching of Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács just four months into the Slovakian's second tenure with the squad.
When did you start playing CS and when did you realise that you're a professional player as opposed to an amateur?
My brother introduced me to CS when I was 4-5 years old and I played against bots before 1.6 came out. As for when I understood I was no longer an amateur, it was when I won a 1v1 tournament. However, during the CS 1.6 times I had admin powers in the "private dances" lobby on live-cs.ru. It was something of an ancient equivalent to FPL/FPL-C, but at the time I didn't really think about a career in esports.
When were you in peak form?
Results-wise, I'd say when it was when we won three consecutive tournaments in 2018: Cologne, Shanghai, and Starladder, back with Vanya (Edward) and Danya (Zeus). Having said that, I don't think I'm currently out of shape, it's just that when you play few tournaments and when you have roster and role adjustments, you need to find your game anew.
How do you maintain motivation after victories at events?
I've forgotten the feeling as we haven't won in a while. I always have the motivation to win, become No.1, and become better than Astralis. It's very difficult, but if they were capable of achieving it, then so can another team.
How did you join HellRaisers and why were you subsequently kicked?
I won a 1v1 tournament and played well at StarLadder with Courage Gaming, which got people talking about me. At some point, ANGE1 contacted me and invited me to play. I was later kicked because of my ban. It's quite simple, really, as I mentioned previously all of the Majors were held by ESL, hence a player with a ban was useless. Despite me maybe being toxic at the time, the team's actual level of play was good. We invited B1ad3 as a coach and went to DreamHack and beat Fnatic, who no one could beat at the time. ANGE1 called me sometime later and I had a gut feeling as to what the conversation would be about: my removal. It was upsetting, but I understood the situation. The team didn't want to play with a banned player, and, personally, I wouldn't play with myself in the same situation.
Talk about FlipSid3 - who invited you and how did you part ways with the team?
I was invited to FlipSid3 by B1ad3 and markeloff, later departing after our loss to Na`Vi at ESWC. There were a lot of serious mistakes that weren't fixed. The aggregate level of the team was very low, and you aren't able to win as a result.
How did you join Liquid?
I was contacted by Hiko, who asked me whether I'd like to play with them. I thought about it, weighed up my chances and checked out the players. Later, the Liquid management contacted me and I made my way to America.
How did you find the trip?
It was my first trip to America, before that I had only been to Canada. I was at the Liquid house for three months, where we practiced and things were great, I adapted smoothly. My English was decent from back in school, so that was alright too. I learned English on my own, rather than with the assistance of others. Even back in school, I liked to translate songs, learn slang and work on my accent.
Why did you decide to leave Liquid?
I still had an active contract with the organisation, but they allowed me to travel and play with the Worst Players mix. The reason was quite simple, I was homesick and missed my family and friends. Additionally, we had bombed out in last place at DreamHack [Masters Malmö 2016], losing to TYLOO. I later pondered on the "what ifs" of staying in America, but what's done is done. Liquid asked me to stand in for them after I left, and we had a really great showing in Cologne after a fruitful bootcamp.
EliGE is currently one of the best players in the world. At the time that you played with him, did he expect these sorts of results from himself?
He may not have expected them, but he believed them to be achievable. He always played well, but he would lock up if there were tensions or arguments in the team. They worked things out with a psychologist and, currently, I don't think he has anything setting him back.
Why hasn't Hiko been able to find a strong team?
Hiko chose his path, he started dedicating less of himself to CS. He used to always stream and play, but it all changed. It's a shame it turned out this way.
How did you land the no-scope two kills on Cache?
I just counted on hitting the shots, I always practice no-scopes. There's obviously the random element to it, but when you train them a lot you start to get a feel for them.
Do you ever have moments when you start to play for the highlight, as opposed to playing for the team?
It depends on the situation. It's possible that I do during normal matches, but when you play at large events you don't even have the time to think about that, other than maybe when you have a heavy lead you can play with a little bit of flare.
How did you join Na`Vi?
I was invited by seized. After about a month of playing with the team, the coaching rule was introduced and, at the time, Na`Vi's players were drafted for that system specifically. After the introduction of the new rule, the team started to crumble, which forced us to kick the captain - seized.
Did you play a role in all of Na`Vi's roster adjustments/kicks?
I participated in all of the replacements, but I didn't force them. I just gave my opinion about the player that was under discussion. There were moments when I tried to save a player. I recall about a year ago the team wanted to kick Edward, but we had an agreement in place to play it out until the next Major, and I reminded the team of this. We lost 0-2 to Astralis in the final and came to the conclusion that the main issue was lack of practice, which led to the decision to go through another cycle, but not all of the players wanted to try again with the same roster. I wanted for us to save the existing roster.
What were your feelings after losing to Astralis in the final of the Major?
I was upset, but they deserved it more than we did, we barely stood a chance. As I noted earlier, we didn't have the best preparation going into the tournament, and when it comes to Majors that just doesn't cut it, although we believed we could do it.
Is it true that in the last year you were forcing the removal of Edward and Zeus?
No, I didn't force anything on my own, Edward was removed by the entire team. He trained a lot but lacked that extra something. The issue was psychological in nature and he wasn't able to work it out. GuardiaN was going through a similar situation, and only the player himself is able to deal with the issue.
As for Danya (Zeus), he lost motivation to play himself, saying he'd leave after one tournament or another. We didn't understand what to do in that situation; there were conflicts and canceled practice sessions. I just waited for a time when our team would be able to practice consistently, when everyone would have clarity and people would be fired up for the sessions. Currently, for example, things are a lot clearer in terms of training and preparation in comparison to back then.
When the team added Boombl4 were you for or against his addition?
Andrey (B1ad3) gave us various player options, and later we decided who would fit us best. The main idea behind adding Boombl4 was for him to replace the captain. While Danya (Zeus) was still playing, he was supposed to transfer his experience to Kirill (Boombl4), but that was in theory, while in practice things turned out differently. Boombl4 is growing from event to event, and B1ad3 really contributes to his growth, he teaches him something new every day.
At Zeus' last event many thought that the team didn't want to give him a nice farewell and that you just played for the sake of it. Is this true?
I wanted to win. I warmed up in practice and prepared for every single match, while some others didn't because they didn't really care. Had everyone wanted to play, we would have had different results. We lost to nearly everyone we played, it was shameful to me, unacceptable.
Do you watch tier 2-3 matches?
I mainly watch top teams play, but occasionally I switch on streams with medium teams when there's an equal score, for example, 14-14. It's interesting to watch because at this sort of scoreline you have to show your strong side and character.
Tell us about the time you and flamie nearly flew to Brazil.
We were coming close to finalising the transfer, but I already had the experience of playing in an international team and I knew what it would be like. I knew that there would be communication issues; plus, the Brazilians didn't have the best level of English. I likely would have joined them had it not been for my experience with Liquid, but the proposition was very enticing.
In theory, if things don't work out with Na`Vi in the future, where would you like to play?
I don't know. Maybe towards the end of my career, I could go to America, get a green card and live and work there.
What are Astralis' strengths?
Their work ethic and team play. It turned out that the players really mesh well with each other, they have perfect chemistry, as they say, and they have been working out their issues for two years now, while we've only been doing so for three months. Their mentality prevents them from slacking, they have set goals and they continuously work on themselves and improve.
How did you switch from the AWP to rifles?
I was asked which weapon I would prefer to play with, I said that it would depend on the fifth player that we sign. If he's not a great sniper then I can't pass the AWP to him, as it's the strongest weapon in the game and has to be in the hands of a capable player. We invited GuardiaN because he plays well with it, so I wasn't against giving up the role to him, but something just stood in the way of him shining. He trained a lot, and as I said previously, the problem was psychological. From a different perspective, maybe it didn't work out because of the team, as we were, and still are, in the process of finding our game. Maybe if we had found it right away, everything would've fallen into place and Ladislav (GuardiaN) would have played like we were used to.
Is your coach important to you?
Of course, he always teaches me something. Every coach that I've worked with had a contribution to me, they helped me a lot.
Of the coaches that you've worked with, who was the most and the least impactful?
B1ad3 contributed the most, even back when he was the captain of FlipSid3. He always teaches players both the micro and macro aspects of the game. He presents the information in a way that is interesting to listen to, and you absorb it well. You can always have a discussion with him and come up with the right decision.
The least impactful coach was starix, but that happened after the coach communication restriction rule and he didn't find it that interesting afterward. Every player or coach has their signature ability. Serega's (starix's) ability was to continuously communicate what players should do over the course of the entire match. After the ability to do so was removed, he was left without a calling in the game, which meant he was disinterested and couldn't contribute to the team.
Do you participate in FPL kicks?
Of course, I participate in them to this very day. I'm always asked who I think should be kicked, but as of late I've been spending a lot of time with the team and I don't know the level of players. But on the topic, you get some real "geniuses" on the server, to a point where you can't just ignore the way they play. I remember there was a time where I queued into a drunk Polish guy, I spoke to TaZ about it, he had previously banned me for a week for being toxic. I didn't really understand the decision to grant consul status to players who weren't participating or contributing in any way to the league, yet they have more influence than the actual players involved in the league.
What's the dream roster you'd like to play with if it's not the current Na`Vi squad?
ZywOo, Xyp9x, gla1ve and EliGE!
Name your best and worst teammates.
My best teammate used to be Hiko, now it's electronic. Denis (electronic) is an amazing player and is a great guy in life. As for Hiko, in addition to being able to clutch out any situation, he helped me a lot with my adaptation to Liquid.
My worst teammate was koosta. I don't know whether it's the case now, but at the time he didn't have a clue about the game. If we're talking about worst teammates in Na`Vi, it's probably GuardiaN and seized from 2016. I'm not talking about their performance in general, but specifically about that period of time, their approach to the game, the number of mistakes made and their motivation.
Did you become the best player in the world because of your talent or your work ethic?
I have programmed myself in a way where I have to play all the time; otherwise, you quickly lose the level you have achieved. I try to keep rest to a minimum, going on vacation maximum once a year. Particularly while my career is in full swing I need to dedicate as much time as I can to the game. It's difficult to say whether it's more work ethic or talent; either way, communication, game sense and psychology are work, while timings, a feel for the mouse and creativity are talent. I'd say it's around 50/50.
Do you have a rivalry with ZywOo?
I'm solely interested in my team's results. Rivalries are created artificially, and on the internet people always like to inflate things, comparing us outside of the context of our teams. Sometimes it gets in the way of focusing on the team component of the game, and you start thinking about the wrong things.
What can you say about the current Na`Vi lineup in comparison to its previous version with Zeus and Edward?
At the time we trained a lot to achieve decent results. Currently, we are only on our way to achieving results comparable to the previous iteration, but the ceiling of our current team is significantly higher than that of the previous Na`Vi.
What is your main goal in esports? What tournaments would you like to win?
I don't have a set goal of winning something specific, I want my team to be ranked first within a year. I want people to say, 'This team bested Astralis, and now they are the best in the world'.