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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Top 20 players of 2020: syrsoN (10)

As is the case with many others who have graced the this year’s HLTV Top 20, syrsoN was introduced to Counter-Strike by his brother at a young age when he was about 10 years old. His interest in the game grew over time, playing CS:Source before making the switch to CS:GO, reaching the highest national competition shortly after the game’s release.

“When I was 16 I competed in the highest German league nowadays called ESL Meisterschaft. At that moment I got my first salary and I was like ‘Wow, what is going on?’, but I didn’t play so much because of school. It was only in 2017 that I started to take it fully seriously because I went into it full time.”

syrsoN‘s first official matches on HLTV date back to 2012, when he represented gamed!de in ESL Pro Series Germany Winter Season 2012. At the time a pure rifler, he was the best-rated player on his team at the competition (1.19 from 18 maps), but despite being salaried and reaching the top domestic level so quickly, he was determined to keep education as his priority. The decision to put the game in a secondary place seemingly reflected on his performances, as it took him five years before he was the standout player for a team again.

Over the next two years, syrsoN recorded just 16 matches on HLTV, upping the ante in 2015, when he linked up with Planetkey, who featured his current teammate Tizian “⁠tiziaN⁠” Feldbusch as well as Sprout Niclas “⁠enkay J⁠” Krumhorn. The team was regularly participating in German competition but didn’t leave a mark in European tournaments, which syrsoN explains wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“I always wanted to play against better teams and players because you can only learn from playing against them. For example, if they punish your mistakes, you can download the demo and see their positions, movements, crosshair placement, and other stuff. To be honest, we weren’t good enough at that moment, if I remember correctly we often tried to qualify for big tournaments but we couldn’t get out of the bracket.”

What followed was a step up to ALTERNATE aTTaX, the organization syrsoN would spend almost three years in, playing with a plethora of different players and undergoing a big role swap later on. In 2016, the team had Kevin “⁠keev⁠” Bartholomäus as their star AWPer, while syrsoN was one of the four less-impactful riflers (0.99 rating from 170 maps played).

ALTERNATE aTTaX lifting the ESWC 2016 trophy

In an individually unimpressive year, syrsoN still managed some big team-based achievements. At the age of 20, syrsoN played his first ESEA Premier season (Season 22, finished 3rd-4th), and took part in his first and only Big Event to date, ELEAGUE Season 2, after a massive upset over Jesper “⁠JW⁠” Wecksell‘s GODSENT in the final game of the qualifier. While the German side crashed out of the prestigious tournament after three maps and losses to Astralis (ranked 13th in the world) and Natus Vincere (third), just a few weeks later they got their first-ever LAN trophy, even including German events, by winning ESWC 2016 as the sixth-highest ranked squad in Paris.

“Winning ESWC was really special for me. With that team, I took my first steps into the international scene by playing against better opponents, which was one of the first goals I had set for myself. We fell off that level because we had some internal problems and we didn’t even play full time, since I was doing an apprenticeship as a bank clerk.”

Shortly after lifting the trophy at ESWC, ALTERNATE aTTaX reached their peak in the world ranking at No.22. Changes were imminent, though, as keev was called up to BIG based on a year of solid showings, while syrsoN picked up the ‘Big Green’, drawing from his sniping experience in Counter-Strike: Source. While the team trended downward throughout 2017, syrsoN‘s individual form picked up as he fully committed to the game. He posted a 1.11 rating in ESEA MDL Season 24 between February and April, but it was only after an in-game leader change at the end of the year that the German AWPer started to flourish and to consistently deliver.

“In 2017, I felt like we didn’t have good AWP players in Germany that we could pick for our team. I had been playing with the AWP a lot back in CS:S, so I just thought about it, gave it a shot, and it worked out.

“AWPing requires being really confident in every situation. Sometimes it can happen that you miss some shots or even die when you make a move or something, and after that, you just need to think positive, keep your head high and focus on the next round. If this scenario happens to me, I download the demo after the game and check what was wrong. For example, if it was a bad timing or bad decision on my part, of the opponent was lucky with his timing or if my positioning was off. It also requires that your money management is on point, that you save for an AWP, switch guns with your teammates, etc.”

The team dropped out of the top100 teams in the world before bringing on Nicolai “⁠HUNDEN⁠” Petersen as their new caller. syrsoN really started getting into his own with the Danish-German iteration of ALTERNATE aTTaX, which also featured Mads “⁠Console⁠” Skovby, Jesper “⁠TENZKI⁠” Plougmann, and Torbjørn “⁠mithR⁠” Nyborg as their coach at different periods in 2018.

syrsoN blossomed in the German-Danish aTTaX lineup

While the team never managed to break into the top 30 or win an international title, syrsoN gained notoriety in the European sub-top, putting up enviable performances in nearly every outing. Across 2018, he played 336 maps and averaged a 1.20 rating, doing slightly better against the best opposition he played with a 1.23 rating against top 30 squads (46 maps). Surpassing his level from 2017, when he had managed just a 1.07 rating for the year, syrsoN had proven his capabilities as a star AWPer, and was on to a new challenge soon.

After HUNDEN parted ways with ALTERNATE aTTaX saying, “I am pretty sure some of the players will be top players later on, but right now they do not want to work enough”, the team imploded, and syrsoN decided against renewing his contract with the organization he had been a part of since 2016. As Sprout were looking to go back to a full-German lineup, the move was obvious, and he picked up where he left off in his last team. With a stronger core of players around him, he took the next step in his career, becoming a part of a fairly consistent top-30 squad.

During the 12 months that he spent with the team, syrsoN only managed to win two domestic titles from DreamHack Leipzig WinterNational and ESL Meisterschaft Winter 2019 Finals, but picked up up a number of second places at events such as Charleroi Esports, Copenhagen Games 2019, Games Clash Masters, and DreamHack Open Atlanta. A big breakthrough came online, though, as Sprout battled through the relegation tournament to qualify for ESL Pro League Season 10. In the four maps played, syrsoN was again the standout player, posting a 1.33 rating against Heretics and NiP.

At the Pro League group stage, which was held on LAN in London, Sprout came out short in all three matches played, but only by the smallest margins. Over nine maps, the German side won more rounds than they lost, leaving a great impression despite the final result.

“We had a lot of good memories together because we often showed what we were capable of. The moment when I realized that we are capable of competing at the elite level was at Pro League in London. Even though we didn’t make it out of the group, we showed really good CS against Vitality, NiP, and Heroic, and it was like one or two rounds that cost us two games, I would say.

syrsoN got more LAN experience with Sprout

Achieving what he could with Sprout and showing an admirable level online (1.16 rating), on LAN (1.18 rating), and against the best opposition he was able to play (1.16 rating vs top 20, 54 maps), his destination was obvious – the German trailblazers BIG. The German giants, who had made history with their runs at the PGL Krakow 2017 Major and ESL One Cologne 2018, had been in turmoil for most of 2019, even falling behind Sprout in the rankings at certain points, but for syrsoN, joining the team alongside Nils “⁠k1to⁠” Gruhne and reuniting with tiziaN was not a hard decision.

“I had two international offers before joining them, but I spent like two days thinking about them before I decided that I would go with BIG. It meant a lot to me because it is the biggest organization in Germany right now. Another factor was the players. I really wanted to play again with tiziaN, who is one of my closest friends, as well as tabseN and XANTARES because I felt like a sponge that wanted to soak up everything, and I did that, day by day, playing with them.”

A poor end to the previous year and two player changes meant that BIG began 2020 ranked as low as 46th in the world, having to prove their worth before syrsoN and co. could begin competing at the most prestigious events, which count the most towards the top 20 players of the year ranking. BIG had a slow start, losing to domestic rivals Sprout in their first match played and failing to qualify for DreamHack Open Anaheim, being eliminated by AVEZ.

The German side also didn’t have a spot at IEM Katowice, the biggest LAN event of the year, but showed signs of what was to come on home soil, at DreamHack Open Leipzig. Despite being the lowest-ranked team coming into it, BIG won the event dominantly, giving up just nine rounds per map played on average, outplacing squads within the top 20 such as Heroic and MAD Lions.

With the restructuring of ESL Pro League, BIG were one of the teams that were left out in the cold, so they decided to travel to Los Angeles at the beginning of March to try to qualify for Flashpoint 1 — which they did, although they ended up skipping the $1 million competition. The global pandemic changed everyone’s plans, though, and with LANs cancelled and competitions going online, BIG were invited to Pro League S11 after all.

syrsoN showed what he was made of in the event, helping BIG to kick off the tournament with group stage wins over fnatic (ranked sixth) and Natus Vincere (first), but his team had to settle for a disappointing 16-18th finish after losing the remaining three games to lesser opposition. The AWPer averaged a 1.10 rating across 13 maps played, with high impact as well (1.22 impact rating) and success both in opening up rounds (0.18 opening kills per round) and clutching (6 1vXs won).

Winning a LAN in front of his family and friends was syrsoN’s favorite moment of the year (Photo: Philipp Neubauer)

As the top teams were busy playing the latter stages of Pro League, BIG kept their form by competing in online cups, winning the first two editions of the Home Sweet Home Cups and placing second in the third one, and finishing 3rd-4th in LOOT.BET Season 6. Putting in the reps paid off in their second Elite event of the year, DreamHack Masters Spring Europe.

The German side was still only ranked 30th going into the tournament, which had seven of the ten best teams at the time, but topped their group and reached the playoffs, in which they swept FaZe twice, first in the upper, then in the lower bracket. A loss to G2 in the upper final saw BIG start the BO5 grand final rematch against the French team one map down, with a 16-6 loss on Vertigo making that 0-2. However, BIG bounced back with flawless showings on Nuke and Dust2 to force Mirage, where things seemed to be back in the control of G2. Nemanja “⁠nexa⁠” Isaković‘s team was sitting on a 14-8 lead, facing a weak force-buy from BIG, and the championship seemed lost.

Until that point, syrsoN had had a respectable tournament, playing an important part in all of his team’s wins, but the display he put up to inspire the comeback went down as one of the most memorable ones of the year. With his trademark weapon, the SSG-08, he found the opening kill on Nemanja “⁠huNter-⁠” Kovač and closed out the key round by taking down nexa. Refusing to slow down, syrsoN finished the map with 41 frags, winning 12 of his 14 opening duels, as BIG turned things around and completed the reverse sweep with a 19-17 victory on Mirage.

“The best moment of 2020 for me was winning Dreamhack Leipzig because it was my first tournament with BIG and I live close to Leipzig, so my family and friends were there and it was just an incredible feeling winning right in front of them. The second best moment was winning Dreamhack Masters Spring because it was my first real tier-1 tournament and winning against the top teams and even against the best team in the final was just a feeling I had never experienced before and I’m really thankful for that.”

With a 1.21 rating for the event, as well as an incredible 1.43 CT side rating and a 1.26 rating in playoff matches, syrsoN scooped the MVP award, the first of his career, but there was little time to celebrate as cs_summit 6 was around the corner. The Germans, who entered the tournament as a top-10 squad, lived up to expectations as they got to the playoffs after two more wins over FaZe before fighting through the grueling double-elimination bracket. Just like in the previous event, they lost the upper-bracket final but exacted their revenge in the grand final, this time beating Vitality.

syrsoN was again a stable contributor to his team and didn’t drop off in the playoffs (1.13 rating), but it was the wunderkind Mathieu “⁠ZywOo⁠” Herbaut from the losing side that snagged the MVP, leaving the German with only a place among the Exceptionally Valuable Players (EVPs). Winning two tournaments in a row saw BIG continue their meteoric rise and clinch the No.1 spot in the world, the first time a German team had been able to reach the top of the ladder.

“Becoming the No.1 team in the world was like a dream come true for me. I still couldn’t believe it two days after the ranking update. I was so proud of our team for the fact that the hard work we were putting in was paying off. It affected me positively because I got so many nice messages from fans, who were also proud that a German team had reached the top spot in the world. Also, my family and friends showed how proud they are of me, especially my big brother, who had seen me as a 10-year-old child sitting in front of the PC playing CS. He was now seeing me reach top 1 in the world.”

BIG cemented their status in the rankings after returning from the player break with a victory in DreamHack Open Summer, a lesser event in which Complexity were the only other top 10 team, but syrsoN showed strong form nonetheless, earning another EVP award.

With 0.47 AWP kills per round, syrsoN was the most proficient sniper in 2020 (Photo: Philipp Neubauer)

ESL One Cologne Europe was the next tournament on the schedule, which they bombed out in last place as syrsoN posted just a 1.00 rating, way below his standard for the year. Things looked better in ESL Pro League Season 12 Europe, in which the 24-year-old proved again that he is one of the deadliest snipers in the game with 0.49 AWP kills per round, helping his team to a 5-6th finish. Unfortunately, his form would fall off again as IEM New York Europe in October was his worst event of the year, averaging a 0.98 rating across seven maps as the team went out in the group stage.

“After the break we directly won the first tournament we played, so we were really confident going into ESL One Cologne, in which we went out in the groups. After those two tournaments, we went into a little slump, we tried everything we could to get out of it but nothing worked. We were a bit frustrated and lost our confidence, I would say, but we kept working hard because we knew what we were capable of and we wanted to finish the year in style.”

As a team, BIG weren’t able to regain the form they had before the player break, but the same cannot be said for syrsoN. In DreamHack Open Fall, he was crucial in the team’s group stage wins over G2 and FaZe, although he wasn’t quite as impactful in the playoffs, in which the team ended in fifth place. From that point on, he was the best rated BIG player in every tournament, starting with IEM Beijing-Haidian, in which he pulled his team across the finish line with a 1.29 rating in the group stage decider match against NiP.

One of the favorites to win Flashpoint 2, BIG fell short in the playoffs to Virtus.pro and OG and had to settle for a 5-6th finish. syrsoN put in a strong performance in the lower bracket match against Aleksi “⁠Aleksib⁠” Virolainen‘s troops (56K-38D, 92.3 ADR and 1.29 rating), and posted some of his highest numbers of the year (1.22 rating, 1.34 impact rating), but to no avail.

“It was really hard to keep up the work ethic and focus because we didn’t have so many breaks in between the tournaments. I think we did the best out of it by adapting our schedule to the tournaments so that we could get one or two off days to relax and refocus for the next challenges.

“The lack of top placings didn’t affect my motivation at all, but rather it brought more motivation because I really wanted to play finals again, which is not easy, of course.”

The year finished with two elite events in December, when the German side managed to get some redemption. Taking down OG and G2 saw them go deep in BLAST Premier Fall Finals, but they were no match for Vitality and Astralis in the final games and finished in third place. BIG faced both of those teams in the group stage of IEM Global Challenge and got revenge on them, with syrsoN posting a 1.23 rating against the latter, but their shot at the title would be over in the semi-finals as they were upset by Liquid in what was their last match of the year.

“The worst moment of the year was when we lost against Team Liquid in the IEM Global Challenge because we had the feeling inside the game that we were the better team, but they just caught us off-guard and punished our mistakes too hard. We wanted to finish 2020 with a really good result because we had worked so hard the entire year and we just wanted to reach the final and end the year in style. We also knew that our coach tow b would take a break in 2021, so we said to ourselves, ‘Let’s also give tow b a special present and win for him’. It’s just little things. Overall, we can be still proud of what we achieved in 2020.

“My personal goal for 2021 is to still learn and get better as a player. My team goal for sure is to stay in the top 10 in the rankings, play some big LAN events, reach the finals of tournaments, or even win them. I also really want to play a Major because I haven’t played one yet. “

Why was syrsoN the 10th best player of 2020?

syrsoN was statistically the best AWPer of 2020, with his 0.47 AWP kills per round ranking him first in this metric and well ahead of the competition. Furthermore, his yearly average is the highest in the history of the Top 20, surpassing Nicolaj “⁠Nico⁠” Jensen‘s numbers from 2013 (0.45) and Ladislav “⁠GuardiaN⁠” Kovács‘s from 2016-2018 (0.44), albeit their peaks came from years when only LAN play was considered.

“No, I don’t think I’m better than s1mple or ZywOo in terms of AWPing. They are still one level above me I, would say.”

BIG‘s sniper was also one of the best at opening duels, ranking second for opening kills per round (0.15) and fourth for success rate (61.4%). That, along with his high number of clutches won (64 1vsXs, tenth-highest) and solid multi-kill numbers (17.4% of his rounds), resulted in a 1.21 Impact rating, the seventh-highest overall.

What ultimately held him back from reaching a higher spot in the ranking was the lack of more notable individual awards. syrsoN has an impressive MVP from DreamHack Masters Spring Europe, one of the eight Elite events in the year, and three EVPs, but only one of them was from a Big event (cs_summit 6), while two were from less competitive tournaments (DreamHack Open Summer Europe and Flashpoint 2).

Nevertheless, he put in very good performances in Elite events overall (1.11 rating from 90 maps) and in Big event playoffs (1.12 rating from 46 maps), becoming the first German player to make the HLTV Top 20 in CS:GO.

“I don’t do special work with the Scout at all, sometimes I play it just for fun in a Deathmatch for like five minutes, but that’s it. I also have to admit that it’s pretty weird that I went from full-time rifler to a full-time AWPer, but I’m feeling really confident playing with the AWP in close duels, in clutches, or just getting entries.

“I’ve started using the AK a bit more often in the last practice games and even official games, and I have also a funny story about that. I picked up the AK and had a 4K, hit some one-taps, won a clutch, and Jarosz (tabseN) was always watching my POV and said, ‘What the f*ck, Flo, why don’t you play more with the AK, man? You are insane with it!’. After that, I started laughing, dropped him the AK, and asked for an AWP drop or even bought it myself. Now it’s like a joke inside of the team, whenever I kill some people with AK I get to hear something like that. Personally, it’s just a confirmation or motivation boost that I can also sometimes play with the AK and don’t need to hide it — but I just love the AWP. [laughs]”.

Bold prediction

Endpoint rifler Shahar “⁠flameZ⁠” Shushan is syrsoN‘s pick when asked for an up-and-coming player who has the potential to reach the top. The 17-year-old from Israel was previously picked by huNter-, who also praised his approach to the game.

Israel Shahar “⁠flameZ⁠” Shushan

“I go with flameZ because I often see him in Deathmatch and I remember one time when I played FPL with him, he asked me about setups and positions and I really liked that. If he keeps up this attitude I think he’ll surprise a lot of people.”

Stay tuned to our Top 20 players of 2020 ranking and take a look at the Introduction article to learn more about how the players were selected. This year’s ranking is supported by:

Xtrfy – Built on experience
GG.BET – Online betting and odds on sport and esports

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