YEKINDAR on going into the RMR: "Seeing yourself as favorites is bad"
Mere hours after falling 2-3 to Vitality in the grand final of ESL Pro League Season 16, Liquid are already on a flight to Stockholm, Sweden, where they will fight for a spot at the IEM Rio Major through the Americas RMR. It was a labored effort from the North American side in Malta as they fought through the group stage and playoff bracket, overcoming Cloud9 on two occasions and even having Vitality up against the ropes in the final.
Ultimately though, the Frenchmen fought back to secure an overtime win on Overpass, where Liquid could have clinched the title, and then ran away with things on Vertigo, making good on a record-setting performance from Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut as he also claimed the MVP medal.
Following the grueling best-of-five grand final that ended in heartbreak, HLTV spoke to Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis to get his perspective on the series, as well as on how Liquid have been performing since his addition. The 22-year-old also shared some insight into his roles and Liquid's approach to pauses, as well as on his mentality heading into the Americas RMR from here.
Commiserations for the loss YEKINDAR, a pretty demanding final that went the distance. You just told me on the way up here that losing isn't always bad — what do you mean by that?
I think with the situation that we had coming into this tournament, with a lot of different philosophical mistakes during the bootcamp we had before this tournament and a lot of forgotten foundation, finding ourselves through the group, losing to Eternal Fire, overcoming that by winning against Cloud9 in groups, overcoming it again by winning Cloud9 again in the semi-final, with all of that combined we did a really good job.
We fought until the end in this final, and it just happens like that. You can never always win, and Vitality were stronger today.
ZywOo had an incredible performance throughout the series. From your end on the server, did a lot of your difficulties come down to not being able to shut him down individually?
I only felt ZywOo on Mirage. I didn't necessarily notice that he was killing a lot of players during other maps. I noticed that Magisk was killing a lot of us on Vertigo on the T side, but other than that... like ZywOo was insane on Mirage, you felt it, we lost the 1vs3 against him when he was on the CT side and spammed connector, he got some key openings, but you focus on yourself so much that you don't notice if somebody from the enemy is popping off.
Did any part of the veto surprise you in terms of the order it happened in, did you expect a Vertigo pick out of them to start the series?
Yeah, we expected an Overpass or Vertigo pick, but they decided for them to be the last maps. I understand why they picked Dust2, it was a comfort pick for them always and I think they wanted to start the best-of-five with a comfort pick to warm up and everything. Overall, the veto was expected, maybe I would put that they should have picked Vertigo instead of Dust2, but they won on Dust2 so it doesn't matter.
You continue to have pretty excellent performances on Inferno. You were never the player who aggressed banana as much on Outsiders originally-
On T side?
Yeah, I think that was Qikert if I'm not mistaken.
Coming into that role on Liquid and being so impactful in it, was it your own initiative to take it over and make the most of it, or were you just put in there?
Throughout thinking about the game and understanding the positions, I came to a thought that... obviously, first of all they needed a B player, so I started playing B, but I came to a thought that you should always mirror your positions.
You improve a lot faster with new things because you understand why those new things are happening because you're stealing them. For example I'm playing B on CT side Inferno, I understand the psychology of B players on CT side, so I think the perfect team would be mirrored.
You're also starting to pick up this double AWP setup for Liquid on Dust2, something NAF and Stewie had done previously for them. Was that also your call, or something you just felt they needed?
I've always AWPed on Dust2 in Outsiders and VP back then, but I personally think the map allows you to double AWP really comfortably and you can punish a lot of enemies in a lot of defaults. Sometimes it's obviously hard, but if you understand how the enemies are playing, you can always find openings for yourself, and when you are double AWPing the enemies play a lot more afraid than when you are single AWPing.
Let's quickly talk about the grueling Mirage game you had, it ended up being really close. You struggled a lot on the T side at the start of the map, but by the time you hit OT you started finding a few more rounds on that side. What kind of adjustment did you make to recover from how the first half went there?
I think we understood how to take mid safely and play off that, how to punish the ramp push and different scenarios of not giving up entries. We gave up a lot of unneeded, bad entries throughout the regulation time, and those entries allowed them to feel comfortable, play their own game and control the rhythm and pacing of the game.
In overtime it was a different game because everyone is warmed up, you already understand that they did this, this, this and I have to play off this, this, this, probably they're not going to do anything else. You understand you're not giving up entries and you're finishing the round. Obviously you can't always play clean, but in overtime it was a bit cleaner.
On Overpass you used all of your pauses, but throughout the rest of the series it was pretty sporadic and rare. By the start of Vertigo you'd used ten in total or something like that, is there a specific reason pauses aren't used more frequently by you all when you're struggling in some of these games?
We always know what's happening, and there's not always a need for a pause. There can be different reasons for pauses, sometimes you can win a real clutch and you need a pause, or sometimes you're losing heavily like on Vertigo and Mirage and we took pauses, and sometimes Damian [daps] has ideas and you have to pause.
But most of the time, we always understand the rhythm and the pace of the game, what enemies are thinking, and we can flow with it. It's not a real big deal for us to take pauses and to think about what can we do next. We always know our next time step, what we do and how we play.
When I talked to NAF and EliGE during this tournament, they've spoken a lot about you coming in and helping with the game planning and preparation. nitr0 has also spoken in broadcast interviews about the team having really good game plans coming into these matches — how much of that work is done by you?
That's a secret.
That's a secret?
So no comment?
Yeah [laughs]. I mean, everybody does their input, that's why we're winning and that's why we're losing. It's always five players and a coach in a team, and we all work together.
It's pretty late, from here you'll basically sleep and then very quickly catch a bus and flight to the RMR-
Yeah, we need to leave our rooms at 11 AM, and then in three hours we'll go to the airport. Tomorrow we're flying to Stockholm, and today's Sunday right, Monday is tomorrow, we're having a day off on Tuesday and then we'll have games already.
That's right. Going into the RMR like that, obviously you're favorites to make it through, there's no doubt you should qualify-
We lost to FURIA in groups.
You did, but given your form here there should still be very little doubt as to you making it through-
It's the form here, but it's not at the RMR. You never know. The form changes from tournament to tournament, and seeing yourself as favorites is bad. I don't want that. I want to be an underdog team, dark horse team — those teams, you have no pressure, you just play. Favorites? Nah, no, no thank you.