Dosia on Gambit's downfall: "Breaking up our roster was a mistake, but the question was whose mistake it was; Zeus could have stayed"
In the second part of Alexey "OverDrive" Birukov's interview with Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov, the Russian discusses the most notable teams he was a part of both in Counter-Strike 1.6 and CS:GO and the biggest highlights of his career.
In part one of the interview originally conducted in Russian by OverDrive, Dosia spoke about various aspects of his private and professional life and shared some stories from his childhood, as well as a few memories from some of his past teams and tournaments.
In the second part, the focus shifts more towards the Russian's playing career, his biggest achievements in the game and the teams he has played for. The 32-year-old went over how he ended up joining the likes of the earliest CS:GO version of Virtus.pro and how that team stopped NiP's winning streak at 87-0 in 2013, and also went over his time in the Major-winning Gambit team that fell apart after the loss of Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko.
When were you in your best form?
I was in good form during different periods of time. I was in tip-top shape around 2013 and in 2017, for probably around half a year when we won the Major.
How do you maintain motivation to play at the top level?
Why would it disappear? You set the goal of becoming the number one in the world. A victory at a given tournament doesn't really provide you much outside of two to three days of euphoria. A good example is Astralis - they have won all that could be won, yet they haven't lost their level of play as a result. If you have a set goal that you aim to achieve, motivation won't decline.
At what point did you realize that you were a professional player?
When I was first invited to my first Moscow-based organization, I realized that this whole thing wasn't just a mess around. I was needed; someone cared that I play CS.
Tell us about this period.
First, it was a team called CSKA and later one called Aggressive Attack. In CSKA we had a bootcamp that took place in a large sports hall located at the CSKA base. Because the ceilings were really tall, it got quite cold during the winters. We would sleep on mattresses in storage rooms, sometimes we even wore coats when it got really cold. We'd go bathe around twice a week at our friends' place or at a banya.
After both of the teams disbanded, we traveled back to Ufa and I remember that we [OverDrive & Dosia] got in touch and decided to team up for the Russian qualifiers for KODE5. We had a good showing at the tournament, where we ended up losing in the grand final to Virtus.pro. For around six months Fox, Dober, you [OverDrive] and I would invite plus ones to the team and played at various large tournaments based in Moscow. We'd arrive two to three days before the LAN would start to get some practice in, and we'd consistently achieve top four at any given tournament. Some tournaments, WCG for example, we would advance to via qualifiers in our home town of Ufa. Seeing as the competition in our region wasn't fierce, it was sufficient for me, Fox and Dober to call our neighbor and a barman from a local internet café to play to win at events. At some point HEL1 joined our team, who previously played for Virtus.pro. We had WCG Russia ahead of us, and we decided that if we didn't win the event, then we'd disband. We ended up winning WCG and from there on I had a real career in esports. For some time we even made it to top 1 in CIS, and later joined forZe.
What's your fondest memory from those times?
It would have to be my first travels abroad, especially our journey to China for WCG. We took everyone on as equals, and could've even made it to the final had we checked secret on the B site of Nuke in a crucial round.
Tell us about the MyM-Moscow Five period.
The stretch with MyM was very short, there's nothing much to say there. As for the transition to M5, it was a very important step in my career. We were gaining experience and becoming more professional and responsible. It had an impact on our results, and with every event we grew more and more.
You had an incident with RobbaN, who accused you of monitor ghosting. Tell us about that situation.
We were playing at a tournament taking place in the Kiev Cybersport Arena. It just so happened that they were playing with their backs to us, but no one from the team was paying attention to their monitors, as there were always large crowds watching teams from behind, so it was physically impossible. We won against them really convincingly; perhaps that's why he thought we ghosted.
How did you join Virtus.pro?
You [OverDrive] and I won against NAVI at Techlabs, one of the last CS 1.6 tournaments organized in Kiev. ANGE1 and AdreN came up to me at that event and offered to create our own roster. ANGE1 did all of the negotiating with Virtus.pro, I don't know the specific details.
How were you able to outplay NiP, who had an 87-0 streak?
When you're in good form and you've been playing with the same team for a few consecutive tournaments, but you can't win, it'll happen eventually, even more so if you throw in a bit of luck. We managed to beat them the third time around.
Why did you end up leaving Virtus.pro?
We had poor terms considering we were top three in the world. We asked for better conditions but we were denied, so we started looking for another organization.
Did you have contracts with Virtus.pro?
No, we just signed to abide by a list of internal rules set by the team. A similar list of rules is already part of any contract. It outlines that you have to listen to your coach, make sure to arrive on time, participate at boot camps, and various other behavioral outlines.
Tell us about the transition to Astana Dragons.
We contacted Virtus.pro and told them that we had received a better offer, and that we were prepared to walk, but if Virtus.pro agreed to increase our wages, even if it would be less than what Astana Dragons were offering, we'd stay. We received a firm "no" as an answer, so we ended up transferring. Virtus.pro decided to punish us by banning us from as many tournaments as possible. They gathered a coalition against us, to ensure that similar transfers didn't happen in the future, and sent out the list of rules that we had signed under to everyone in the scene. We traveled to a tournament that had all the top teams participating, and among the teams were NiP, who we had a great relationship with. They told us that a lot of teams and organizations were aligned against us. They asked to see the papers, and after about an hour, NiP said that Virtus.pro had no right to action based on that document and that the truth was on our side. As a result, NiP showed other teams that Virtus.pro were the ones in the wrong, not us.
How did you transfer to HellRaisers?
In all, we were very happy in Astana Dragons. We had great conditions and got on with management well. Neither side wanted to part ways with the other but at a certain point, the financials of the organization took a hit. There weren't any contracts in place, things were agreed upon in a friendly manner, so we were allowed to find a new home. The entire roster ended up transferring to HellRaisers.
What memories do you have of HellRaisers? What do you think worked out and what didn't?
Things were no longer working out in HellRaisers as it just so turned out that everyone lost form as soon as we transferred. I don't have any memories of spectacular victories, I only remember that with every passing tournament we became progressively worse. I don't know what we lacked, perhaps we needed to work harder or smarter.
How did you end up on Gambit?
After the expiry of my contract with HellRaisers I simply left. After a couple of months, AdreN and mou left HellRaisers, and we cooperated in looking for an organization together. We came across Groove, Gambit's CEO, and together we finalized the roster and started playing.
What did the initial version of the roster lack?
We were lacking in skill, although having said that, even in the first iteration of Gambit it was apparent that we were close to the tier-one level.
What happened after the arrival of Zeus?
It was as if our consciousness had shifted. We didn't start playing better, but we all immediately improved from a psychological standpoint. We elevated our mental component to another level.
What were the difficulties you experienced just before the Major?
Our contracts were running out, and we were prepared to re-sign only if our conditions improved. The difficulties arose only from us having to go from one organization to another in hopes to secure our futures. In the end, we agreed on new terms with Gambit and re-signed our contracts with them.
How long did you train for the Major?
For around a week, and I can't say that we really focused on practice, we focused more on individual training.
What happened at the Major? At some point you just started beating everyone you played.
I don't know, it could be because we hadn't over practiced beforehand and we had a lot of energy going into the tournament. There was also a secondary issue with our computers at the bootcamp, where we would have internet and FPS issues, while at the Major we had computers that we felt comfortable using, contrary to other teams. Generally speaking, we had a super relaxed approach, almost as if we had come for holidays. We even rented a car to drive around the local area during the evenings. Having said that, we should also take into account that we spent a whole year at our monitors and the cumulative effect showed.
During the tournament you would message me after every game saying that you would definitely be eliminated after the next match.
In the beginning we didn't even believe we'd make it out of groups. My friends that are into betting would message me asking if they should bet on us. I'd reply to them saying that they should bet against us as we definitely won't be able to win a single match, but it turned out that we didn't lose a single game instead. At some point, even though I was confident in our victory, I continued telling everyone that we'd definitely lose. It became my catchphrase for the tournament.
When did you feel like the team was able to win the Major?
When we won over Astralis. Before that victory I didn't have that feeling at all.
The HE grenade you threw into pit on Inferno — was that improvised or did you prepare that ahead of time?
It was weird that I was alive at all that round, since I was holding pit and that's exactly where the opponents hit us. In that moment my teammates told me I still had an HE, and, fortunately, I was able to come up with the idea and execute it. It was improvised on the spot.
What feelings did you experience when you won the Major?
Euphoria. I didn't want anything, my mind was completely empty, and I only texted my wife that we had won; I didn't respond to anyone else. I realized it all after around a week, when I arrived home and I was watching the demos and replays. We had a running joke in the team that we had completed the game.
Is Zeus a good captain?
Yes. His power lies in that when he says something, it just works out. He can say something you disagree with, but it works. I really can't explain it, we just trusted him and did what he told us to.
Why did the roster eventually crumble?
Everyone in the team, barring Danya [Zeus], didn't see the use in our coach, and we decided to remove him without a compromise. Zeus made it clear that either Kane remained or they both walked. It's possible that in that moment we let the success get to our head, as breaking up our roster was a mistake, but the question was whose mistake it was. Danya also could have stayed, and we had hoped that he would reconsider.
What issues did Gambit experience after his departure?
Simply put, we couldn't find a captain.
Did you ever initiate conversations around the replacement of a team member?
I didn't do that in Gambit, but I once initiated the replacement of markeloff in HellRaisers. I later understood that I shouldn't have done what I did, and I regret that I had done it.
Why did Gambit fall to a level where it was unable to even make it out of a Minor?
It's difficult to answer that question. We were desperately looking for a captain, going through every single possible scenario. Everyone on the team tried calling, but it all went south, and we couldn't halt that decline.
What served as the final blow to the team?
Our contracts were running out and the organization offered for us to re-sign. Some people agreed, some didn't. Hobbit left for HellRaisers, and AdreN joined FaZe. It was a dead end from there.
Why didn't you play for a long time after that?
I was contracted to the organization and no one wanted to buy me out.
How did OneThree contact you?
When I was competing at WESG in China as Team Russia, I was introduced to representatives of the organization and they offered me to play for OneThree.
Was your trip to China financially motivated, or did you want to achieve something with the team?
Of course we wanted to achieve something. As a bare minimum we wanted to make it to the Major. It's the Asian region, and making it to the Major was a very achievable goal, but the whole thing shut down because of the pandemic.
How was Mustang Crew founded? What is your role in the organization?
Currently, I'm just helping our investor. Our plans were quite grandiose, but, again, the pandemic threw a spanner in the works.
Why weren't you able to sign a strong roster?
Good players want good wages. Nowadays, even players that aren't particularly good want high wages, and many think they should be compensated $2,000-3,000 off the bat. For what? If we wanted to put together a roster composed of free agents that were experienced and skilled, it would cost us around $10,000 per month. Even so, it's not guaranteed that the roster would even be able to make it to the Minor via open qualifiers.
Are you still awaiting offers from strong teams, or have you come to terms with the fact that your time is now focused on streaming?
No, I haven't thought about that and I'm not actively trying to get my foot into any organizations. If I receive an offer, I'll consider it. Overall, I'd quite easily say goodbye to streaming if I were invited into a team where I could win tournaments, even if it meant that I'd earn less than if I'd be streaming.
What is your most favourite victory and most bitter loss?
My favourite victory is our series against Astralis at the Major. I was happier with that victory than when we won the actual tournament, I was extremely happy from just playing the match. The most bitter loss was probably at ESWC, when I was on Astana Dragons, and we ended up losing to a cheater named KQLY in the quarter-finals.
Did making it into HLTV's annual top 20 list mean anything to you?
Yes, it gave me a morale boost. It meant that I was doing everything the way it's supposed to be done.
Tell us about the impact of a coach in a team.
There isn't a specific description of what a coach has to do. Every coach has to have a unique approach, totally different from that of other coaches. B1ad3 most resembles a football coach. He would calculate various situations to come to a set result. He thinks through the optimal solution and how the team should have played, and in the event of a loss, he would take all responsibility for it. For him, it was important that the round was to be executed specifically how he envisioned it, in order for him to later be able to assess the mistakes made. Lmbt tried to bring out the strongest sides of his players and build out a style based on the team's innate strengths. For example, those of us that were better at clutch situations wouldn't go for contact plays, instead staying behind and working around trades. If you are able to open, then you should go in first. He was able to do this quite well in mousesports. As for Kane, I can't really say, we didn't really get along. Andy was more analytical and more of a theorist, but he wasn't persistent, he couldn't force his ideas through.