HObbit: "I don't think we're a comfortable team for Liquid, maybe it's an illusion"
The Kazakhstani veteran hopes to claim revenge against Liquid in the semi-finals.
Cloud9 put a halt to FaZe's hopes of clinching an early Intel Grand Slam title and back-to-back ESL Pro League trophies on Thursday, defeating Finn "karrigan" Andersen's men in a three-map series in the quarter-finals. The victory came off the back of another stellar showing from Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov, who had been a thorn in the international team's side in their previous meeting at IEM Dallas and was one again this time around, averaging a 1.54 series rating and posting 106 ADR across the three maps.
Having dispatched of the tournament favorites, Cloud9 can now turn their attention to their semi-final opponent in Liquid, who has had their number in their previous two encounters. The last meeting between the teams in the Pro League group stage had little bearing on Cloud9's playoff hopes — they were already confirmed to top the group while Liquid needed a win in order to make it through — but the North American side had still claimed a win in two maps, the same result as when they knocked Cloud9 out of the IEM Cologne group stage before the tournament break.
Revenge is now on the mind of Abay "HObbit" Khasenov, who shared his thoughts about the upcoming matchup with HLTV. He agreed with Keith "NAF" Markovic's statement that Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis knows what Cloud9 are up to on the server during their matches, but disagreed with the idea that Liquid are comfortable against them, stating that he will prove them wrong in their matchup. The 28-year-old also spoke to beating FaZe once again and Ax1Le's performance in the game, and gave his thoughts on who he would like to play in the grand final if Cloud9 can make it through.
HObbit, congrats on the win, a pretty big scalp by denying FaZe a chance at the Grand Slam here and another win after Dallas. How does it feel taking them down again?
I'm very happy that we recovered, we keep improving our form. It was already close on Inferno. I'm feeling that me and my team are improving tournament by tournament, and that's a very important thing for me.
The first map was pretty close, you lost some hard rounds towards the end. What went wrong there?
We played very passive. They had forced, it was like a half-buy for them, and they just won it. On Inferno you shouldn't lose these rounds, especially versus FaZe, especially in very important tournaments.
After that force round, they adapted, they understood how to outplay us. We did some crucial mistakes on B also, some important rounds. We have a lot of things that we need to fix.
After that you came through on Ancient, which was pretty one-sided for you, and then Mirage got a little closer at the end but you were in control for most of it as well. How did it end up so much in your favor?
We improved our Ancient a lot since the last tournament. Yesterday our coach just came to us and said, 'we're going to pick Ancient. We have everything to win against them, we have good strats, we have good structure, everything, a good feeling of the map.'
So yes, it was a bit scary, just because we didn't play Ancient versus FaZe before, but things just worked for us very well and I'm very glad.
Before we started the interview, we were talking about Ax1Le's stats and you mentioned that he seems to play really well against FaZe. Is there any particular reason for that, why has he been so good against this team specifically?
He's just good. Without any reasons. If he wants to play good, he's going to play good, it depends on his motivation. Usually he is playing good every time.
Of course, he still needs some experience, but he is the best rifler in the world in my opinion. He's clean. Cleanest rifler in the world for sure, I'm pretty sure about that.
Now you're going to go into semi-final against Liquid who beat you in the group stage, though you were already locked into the playoffs at the time. Going into that rematch, how are you feeling, is there a sense of wanting to take revenge?
Of course we want to take revenge. They've beaten us twice in the last times, and it was very important games for us. I mean yes, the last game it wasn't super important, but we really wanted to win. This time it is going to be a very hard game. We're going to prepare for it 100%.
I interviewed NAF just before this, and he said they feel very confident playing against Cloud9 and that YEKINDAR is pretty knowledgeable when it comes to playing against you. Is that because he has an understanding of that regional playstyle?
We're going to see. As they said, YEKINDAR totally knows what we are doing, just because we played a lot versus him when he was playing for ex-VP, Outsiders.
Yeah of course he knows everything, that's the first thing. Second thing, we will see, I don't think that we're a comfortable team for them, maybe it's an illusion. They think like that, but I don't think so, and we're going to prove that after tomorrow.
Now that you've beaten FaZe, who were considered the favorites to win, who do you see as your next biggest challenge for the rest of the tournament?
The next biggest challenge is Liquid, they just beat us two times. We're just going step-by-step. Yes, FaZe is of course the best team in the world, we beat them, now we're going to play Liquid and they beat us twice. We're going to fix our mistakes, we're going to prepare for them. We will do everything for a win.
On the other side of the bracket, there's three teams who are a bit of a toss-up as to who makes it through, not everyone is fully confident in NAVI making the final. Between NAVI, G2, and Vitality, who do you think will make it to the end of the bracket and who would you like to eventually take on if you make the finals?
It's hard to say. I respect every team who is playing in the other bracket, but the most interesting match for everyone in the world will be a match against NAVI of course, just because... I don't know, it's NAVI [smiles].
From another side, I would like to meet G2, just because we didn't play versus them in maybe one year. I miss it a lot, I like to play versus them. There's a lot of mind games there. And from another side, I have friends from Outsiders, so of course the most percentage of my heart is going to cheer for them.
[Editor's note: The last time HObbit played G2 was at IEM Cologne 2021 when they still had JACKZ, AMANEK, and nexa].