Jerry about Mirage win streak: "Everyone in this team knows what to do if something goes wrong"
forZe spoke to members of the press and discussed their surprise playoffs berth at ESL Pro League Season 14.
Coming in as a last-minute replacement for Oceanic representatives Renegades, few saw forZe as a team that would make playoffs, especially having been placed in group B alongside one of the tournament favorites, G2.
Andrey "Jerry" Mekhryakov's men went on to lose just one series in the group, to OG, and qualify for playoffs in second place, which sets them up for a round-of-12 clash with ENCE. In a press conference ahead of the playoffs, the Russian squad discussed their improvements since adding Aleksandr "KENSI" Gurkin and Aleksandr "zorte" Zagodyrenko, their 17-map win streak on Mirage, and what the team is lacking to reach the top 10 world ranking for the first time.
"I should say we are feeling great because no one expected us to get through the group stage and to do that as the second-placed team, and especially when I can say we could've been first actually," Jerry said at the start of the press conference, laughing as he remembers their overtime loss to OG on Inferno, which cost them the first spot in the end.
"Yeah, we are feeling great, and again, thanks to Renegades for this opportunity, and thanks to ESL as well."
The Russian captain is relishing the opportunity to play against tier 1 teams once again, having spent most of the "online era" outside of the top 20 and with limited exposure to the most prestigious tournaments. "Once you are not playing against tier 3 teams you understand that you are capable of beating everyone, which gives you a lot of confidence." That confidence is key to success in Counter-Strike is an opinion many share, including Jerry. "Confidence is the second part of being a successful player in the CS scene, in my opinion. Because if you don't have confidence, how can you win against some good names like cadiaN, s1mple, whatever name [you face]?"
While the team's core has experience playing at the biggest stages, newcomers zorte and KENSI are new to this level. The team's AWPer, who averaged a 1.20 rating in the group stage, admitted that he was not expecting to perform to the standard he did.
"It is very surprising to me that I could play against tier teams in such a big tournament. I'm just trying to do my best, and it works against top teams," zorte said.
"In the first games, I felt some pressure because I didn't know what to expect from our game, teamplay-wise, I didn't know what expectations we had for this tournament. After we beat some teams, I felt confident and played very well."
According to Jerry, there are two main differences between the current forZe roster and the previous one featuring Dmitriy "facecrack" Alekseyev and Bogdan "xsepower" Chernikov: a hybrid AWPer and better atmosphere.
"The most important thing for me as the captain is that zorte is a hybrid and he can use the AK, Deagle, and AWP, all three main weapons. That is what I like," Jerry explained that the flexibility to play without the sniper was key to beating some teams at EPL, as well as coming back from a 12-15 deficit against OG. "It was because we had a lot of players that could use their AKs, their Deagles, and to use them properly."
"If we talk about the atmosphere, it is much better now than what we had with xsepower and I think that is helping us sometimes to get over rough times, rough scores when we are losing or not pulling off the rounds we want, doing mistakes. We aren't hanging on to it, we just move forward."
forZe kick off the playoffs against ENCE, a team that fits in the same bracket of teams as themselves - exciting outsiders. While the bookmakers give the edge to the Russian side, Jerry doesn't see his team as favorites.
"[Do we feel like favorites?] Not actually, but the thing is that those guys are unstable, just like us," the IGL says with a chuckle, referring to ENCE's inconsistent results that include losses to Dignitas and HAVU on Nuke. "That map is our weak spot as you can see on the HLTV map page - we are not good on that map in this scenario, but the thing is, they aren't as well.
"So I think we have a map advantage in this case and we are maybe not favorites, but I would say it is 60-40 in our favor. I think we are in good shape now and if we are not struggling to do some simple things, we are like beasts."
A part of the map advantage for forZe lies in their Mirage, a map they are undefeated on for 17 matches straight. The team's young AWPer doesn't have a clear answer to why they have been so good. "To be honest, my own feeling is that I'm playing this map poorly, I don't know how we manage to win every time on Mirage because we are not doing something extraordinary," zorte said. "We play simple CS on this map and it works. We are probably just in good shape and we win a lot of clutches on this map."
Jerry added that the along the clutches going their way, the deep understanding of the map helps them remain consistent. "The main thing is clutches, I think the second part here is that everyone knows their positions so well. What I mean exactly is that if we have almazer in slope and me in A palace, and we are going for an A split, we know exactly where to look and what guys are doing because we had a lot of experience in this map.
"Without going into details, if I'm going B I know how to kill the B player, if I'm going A I know how to kill the A player with high percentage since I'm playing as the entry fragger and lurker there. And my team knows exactly how to work mid, what we should do if they push, what we should if they molotov behind the boxes, what to do when we are not getting entries in mid... I have it all in my head, and I think liTTle, and I think everyone in this team knows what to do if something goes wrong. That is why we are winning this map."
The team's coach liTTle gave props for their Mirage to forZe's former coach Sergey "lmbt" Bezhanov as well. "One of the secrets to having such a good streak is taking the best from the previous coach [LMBT] and the current coach, and now we have a perfect marriage."