MVP leaderboard update: First half of 2021
Ahead of the start of ESL Pro League Season 14, where a player will secure the MVP award powered by SkinBaron, we take a look at those who stood out so far this year.
A four-week break that splits the competitive year into two halves is coming to an end with the imminent start of ESL Pro League Season 14, the online tournament featuring 18 of the world's best teams. Before the Pro League trophy is lifted and someone gets handed the Most Valuable Player award for his contributions, we look back at the players that were most impactful at the biggest tournaments of 2021 so far.
The year has been defined by an otherworldly Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev — who seems keen on reclaiming the title of the best player in the world after runner-up finishes to French prodigy Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut in 2019 and 2020 —, as well as the breakthrough of Gambit who sat on top of the rankings for 14 weeks.
Members of the Russian squad have already secured five MVP awards in 2021, while the Ukrainian superstar claimed four all by himself. In total, 12 MVPs were given out to seven different players, with Extra Salt's Justin "FaNg" Coakley and MOUZ' David "frozen" Čerňanský being the only non-CIS players to make the list.
s1mple - 4 MVPs
A magnificent display from s1mple in the BLAST Premier Global Final started the year off on the right foot for the Ukrainian as his 1.41 rating over 14 maps played allowed Natus Vincere to complete the lower-bracket run and win the title at the first Big Event of 2021. A few unfruitful months followed before s1mple won his second MVP of the year, at DreamHack Masters Spring, again posting a 1.41 rating.
Natus Vincere's sniper was relentless at the end of the season, claiming back-to-back MVPs at the StarLadder CIS RMR and IEM Cologne, the latter being one of the most dominant performances at a Big LAN Event in history (1.51 rating). With four new MVPs to his name this year (15 in total), s1mple has closed the gap on the all-time MVP-leader Nicolai "device" Reedtz, who has just three more — 18.
s1mple's MVPs in 2021:
Ax1Le, Hobbit - 2 MVPs
Rifler Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov climbed out of Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov's shadow in 2021 by claiming the first two MVPs of his career. Despite a second-place finish to Heroic, the 19-year-old star was awarded his inaugural medal at ESL Pro League Season 13 thanks to a great level throughout the tournament.
Ax1Le performed well in every tournament Gambit played this year, never dropping below a 1.09 event rating, but truly shone in his team's IEM Summer victory. With a 1.33 rating from 15 maps played, including a phenomenal 1.49-rated grand final, the Russian secured his second MVP in June.
At the events where Ax1Le wasn't at his peak, his rifling partner in Gambit made the difference. Abay "HObbit" Khasenov was incredible at EPIC League CIS, with a 1.32 rating across a whopping 21 maps securing him the award — his first since DreamHack Open Winter in 2016 over four years ago.
An unimpressive IEM Summer followed for HObbit, but the 27-year-old ensured a three-tournament winning streak for Gambit by putting in work at the BLAST Premier Spring Final. Finishing all nine maps played with a 1.11+ rating, he earned his second MVP of the year based on stellar consistency.
Ax1Le MVPs in 2021:
Hobbit MVPs in 2021:
Jame, sh1ro, FaNg, frozen - 1 MVP
Four more players earned MVPs in 2021, with Dzhami "Jame" Ali claiming the first one on offer, from cs_summit 7 at the end of January. Virtus.pro's AWPer was far ahead of the pack at the event and was a clear-cut pick for the Most Valuable Player.
Despite an all-around great year, sh1ro only picked up one medal so far. His comes from one of the most competitive events of 2021, IEM Katowice, where Gambit secured their first big victory. The young sniper built a strong case for himself in the lead up to the grand final, frustrated his opposition by clutching 19 1vX situations, and eventually eclipsed Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis in the MVP race.
The only North American to feature on the list of MVP winners this year is not someone from Liquid or Evil Geniuses, but Extra Salt's FaNg. After finishing runners-up to BIG at FunSpark ULTI 2020 Finals, the 18-year-old Canadian was awarded his first individual accolade at the $250,000 event, where he posted a 1.19 rating and 1.27 impact rating.
Finally, frozen closes out the list of MVP winners in the first half of 2021. With a 1.35 rating, the Slovakian star outshone Robin "ropz" Kool in what was ultimately a brilliant team performance from MOUZ at Flashpoint 3. The European mixture dropped just one map on the way to the title at the first Regional Major Ranking tournament of the year.
Remaining MVPs in 2021:
Who will claim the EPL S14 HLTV MVP powered by SkinBaron?
The month-long tournament featuring the best teams in the world will provide a spectacular platform for players to showcase their skill. Over a hundred players will participate in the event, but only one will walk away with the MVP award, which we will award in cooperation with our partner SkinBaron.
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Will s1mple add another medal to his collection, or can Ax1Le or HObbit shrink the gap to the top? Perhaps it is time for ZywOo to claim his first MVP of 2021, or maybe we will witness a new player claiming the highest individual accolade? Tune in to the event and find out in the aftermath of the ESL Pro League Season 14 grand final, scheduled for Sunday, September 12.