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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

NBK- to play Flashpoint 3 with DBL PONEY

Nathan “⁠NBK-⁠” Schmitt has been cleared to play Flashpoint 3 with DBL PONEY after helping the team during the RMR event’s qualifying rounds, which he played as a stand-in.

The French player had initially stated that the 3 closed qualifier would mark the end of his time with DBL PONEY, the team for which he had started playing after being benched by OG, but he has now been given the green light by Valve, the Flashpoint organizers and OG to continue competing with the squad led by Alexandre “⁠bodyy⁠” Pianaro in the Valve-sanctioned event.

NBK- will continue standing in for DBL Poney at Flashpoint 3

DBL PONEY will start their Flashpoint 3 double-elimination bracket run on May 10 in a derby against Vitality, after which they will be matched with Astralis or OG depending on the outcome of the first round of play.

“It is with great joy that DBL PONEY is proud to announce that Nathan “NBK” Schmitt will be working extra hours with the team,” says DBL PONEY‘s statement. “The DBL PONEY adventure continues with this French Counter-Strike legend for the next RMR tournament by Flashpoint.

“DBL PONEY has received confirmation that Nathan is eligible to play the competition with the team. We would like to thank NBK as well as OG, his agent, Valve, Flashpoint and all the people who helped this tale continue for some time. Thanks also to the community that has been so supportive over the past few weeks.”

DBL PONEY will field the following team in Flashpoint 3:

FranceAlexandre “⁠bodyy⁠” Pianaro
FranceLucas “⁠Lucky⁠” Chastang
FranceAurélien “⁠afroo⁠” Drapier
FranceThomas “⁠Djoko⁠” Pavoni
FranceNathan “⁠NBK-⁠” Schmitt (stand-in)

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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

moses on FalleN’s motivation to play for Liquid: “He was focused on cementing his legacy”

Jason “⁠moses⁠” O’Toole has been hard at work trying to bring Liquid back to where they were in 2019. They have been a far cry from the side that dominated the circuit during the first half of the season that year, with only three players remaining from that exciting squad that won the Intel Grand Slam Season 2.

The 34-year-old coach appeared on Sunday as a guest on the ‘HLTV Confirmed’ podcast and spoke about some of the team’s lingering issues and how he is still working to improve their mental toughness.

It’s been seven months since moses transitioned from a talent member to Liquid’s head coach

“I knew it was going to be hard because I knew when I took this job that it wasn’t necessarily a matter of Counter-Strike itself being an issue,” moses said. “I knew that the biggest obstacle was the objective to change the culture, the mentality, fixing the problem of choking, and falling apart mentally.

“That was one thing that I kind of highlighted as my biggest goal. I still haven’t achieved it yet, it’s always a work in progress. It certainly hasn’t been stress-free.”

moses arrived in Liquid right after the team replaced their longest-standing member and in-game leader, Nick “⁠nitr0⁠” Cannella, with Michael “⁠Grim⁠” Wince. Not only did they have to fit the new rifler into the team, but they also had to basically rebuild their entire system as Jake “⁠Stewie2K⁠” Yip became the shot-caller and Keith “⁠NAF⁠” Markovic started playing more with the AWP.

Meanwhile, Liquid still had to attend multiple online events as the competitive calendar became even busier than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They kept playing to see what they needed to change in the team, with almost no time to fix the problems.

“The online era caused a certain amount of issues,” moses said. “Like the small external problems involved in playing Counter-Strike online for what’s over a year now kind of caught me off-guard a little bit when we initially started. So I kind of went in with the mindset that this is going to be a ramp-up period, in which everyone is getting a little bit used to each other and working on some things, and then we’ll be ready to take those big leaps and starting running forward once LANs come back. And obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.

“If there is one thing that I learned very quickly within this team when I started coaching it’s how important nitr0 was. We always had the conversation on the analysis desk and during matches about how sometimes he probably didn’t get the credit he deserved as an in-game leader, how sometimes he was kind of an overlooked player on the Liquid roster, but he was like the cohesive guy, he was the glue, everyone on the team had some positive relationship with him in one way or the other.”

Liquid didn’t live up to expectations in the second half of 2020, their best result a runners-up finish in the IEM Global Challenge, Russel “⁠Twistzz⁠” Van Dulken‘s final event with the team before he stepped down from the roster. Although the Canadian had been one of Liquid‘s best players since he arrived in 2017, moses quickly realized that Twistzz and the rest of the team weren’t on the same page anymore, inside or outside the game.

“Some of the things we worked on got better, and some got worse,” moses explained. “It was one of these weird situations in teams where I don’t think anyone was necessarily the problem. But it just got to a point where I don’t think it worked well enough in any way to fix it. The option was to spend months trying to fix this kind of problem or just get rid of it.

“It was not like he was the problem, but everyone together was a problem on some level. That was one of the main reasons why I decided to pull the trigger and move Russ on. I think that worked well for him as well.”

Liquid picked up Gabriel “⁠FalleN⁠” Toledo to replace Twistzz, with the Brazilian joining the team ahead of BLAST Premier Global Final, in January. After a disappointing run in the BLAST Premier Spring Groups in February, the two-time Major champion took over in-game leadership duties from Stewie2K, leading the team to a semi-final appearance in IEM Katowice.

“That change occurred the day that we were beaten by FaZe the second time in BLAST (laughs),” moses revealed. “The plan wasn’t always to have FalleN become the in-game leader. I think Stewie reads the game very well and he can be a great in-game leader if he ever chooses to be. The attractiveness of FalleN as a player to pick up wasn’t him just being an AWPer and an in-game leader, it’s just a lot of flexibility.”

FalleN is determined to revive his career in Liquid and be remembered as one of the best

moses admitted to being impressed by how quickly FalleN was able to settle in the team and get comfortable enough in his new surroundings to pick up the baton. Many in the community had doubted that the Brazilian would be motivated after the turmoil in MIBR, but the 29-year-old has shown that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank and remains as ambitious as ever.

“Those concerns were fair and valid, I remember even having those concerns and speaking about them on broadcasts,” moses said, revealing that he asked to FalleN if he still wanted to win trophies. “He was focused on cementing his legacy as a player and his history as one of the best AWPers and in-game leaders, and finding himself another Major. That was obviously perfect for me, I want guys who are going to chase down a legacy.”

As far as objectives go, moses said that the team haven’t set any specific targets, but he stressed that everyone is aware of the lofty expectations that come from representing a storied organisation like Liquid.

“If you’re part of Liquid, even if we are struggling as much as we have at times over the past few months, the expectations and the goals are still to win,” he said. “We haven’t sat down and been like, ‘We have to win a particular event’, but ESL One Cologne is a big goal of mine and ESL Pro League is a huge deal for us. We also got the BLAST Premier Spring Showdown after EPL and we obviously want to qualify for the Spring Finals.”

You can access the full VOD of Sunday’s episode of ‘HLTV Confirmed’ below.

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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Bubzkji: “We had to rethink the whole idea of a six-man roster; I’m going to play multiple maps”

In a press conference ahead of the IEM Katowice playoffs, Lucas “⁠Bubzkji⁠” Andersen has revealed that Astralis‘ view of the six-man roster has evolved in recent times. The 22-year-old has not played for the team in the last month, sitting out the recent Nuke game against mousesports in the first round of IEM Katowice.

According to Bubzkji, the organization’s approach changed following Valve’s announcement of the 2021 Regional Major Ranking system, in which teams will not be able to make mid-match substitutions, like Astralis had done between December and January.

Astralis are going to approach the six-man roster differently

“Valve wasn’t going to allow substitutions for the RMR [events], so we had to rethink the whole idea of a six-man roster and I think we tried to come up with something different,” Bubzkji revealed. “The difference is that I won’t really just play one map — now I’m going to play multiple maps.

“It’s kind of hard to do it the way we have when Valve limits it, so we’re trying to work on solutions around it. We have something coming up — maybe not in the [IEM Katowice] playoffs, but after the playoffs, from Pro League, I think we’re going to see me coming in to do some work.”

Bubzkji struggled to make an impact during his stretch of eight Nuke games, putting up above-average ratings only in the one-sided victories against FURIA and mousesports. He has admitted that his previous positions on the map were not a good fit, adding that his role will change so that he can be more comfortable in the game.

“I think it was no secret that some of the roles on Nuke weren’t perfect for me, and I also think that maybe hindered my performance a little bit, so now we’re going to try again in a new way,” Bubzkji shared. “I think the way we’re going to do it now is going to work better for both them and me.”

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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Spirit coach Certus: “degster is a great asset, but he can play much better than he’s playing now. We will work on that”

A breakout year for Spirit, 2020 saw the Russian team reach unprecedented heights, peaking at No.13 in the world and securing wins over teams such as Vitality, fnatic, and mousesports. Yet as the winter break neared, Spirit lost some steam and were unable to get past the group stage of both IEM Beijing-Haidian and DreamHack Masters Winter. To end the year as only the fourth-best team in the CIS region after showing that they were capable of scaling greater heights was something that the Spirit organisation couldn’t be happy with.

Certus has been with Spirit since 2016

“We grew more and more fatigued towards the end of the year, there was no longer any strength to analyze our defeats, draw conclusions, fix mistakes, and conduct all the necessary work in practice,” Nikolay “⁠Certus⁠” Poluyanov, the team’s coach, said to HLTV.org, echoing what many others had already said about the pandemic-crippled 2020. “All in all, the year was long, difficult and, worst of all, monotonous.”

The veteran coach, 37, added that there are only a few teams that can go through a season like that without suffering “serious dropoffs”, which was a key reason for the roster changes that were made and for the move towards a six-man lineup.

In order to bring in new players, someone had to be removed, and it was the team’s AWPer, Artem “⁠iDISBALANCE⁠” Egorov, who found himself on the chopping block. While critics deemed him inconsistent, the 24-year-old was far from a bad player, averaging a 1.12 rating in 2020, and Certus explained that it was a different reason that led to him being placed on the transfer list.

“We decided to remove iDISBALANCE because we wanted to change our game, and to do that we needed a more aggressive sniper,” he noted. “However, I’d like to state that Artem is an incredible player and teammate, and his lack of consistency was due to the tasks we assigned to him in the game.”

To fill the more aggressive AWPing role, Spirit landed highly-rated youngster Abdul “⁠degster⁠” Gasanov, who, together with Robert “⁠Patsi⁠” Isyanov, had helped Espada reach the top 30 in the world rankings before that team broke apart. “I’ve followed Abdul since his first official games for Espada, sometimes in my free time I even talked to him in TeamSpeak to help him in his progress,” Certus said before revealing that they trialled the AWPer as early as in 2019, but opted to add Boris “⁠magixx⁠” Vorobiev instead. “He wasn’t ready at the time, but he developed very fast.”

Patsi also joined the team on a trial period. His strong individual play and communication, Certus said, explain why the 17-year-old was described as “the best option we could count on” in Spirit‘s announcement. “He just needs time to adapt to our playstyle. With the right attitude, I don’t think his trial will last very long.”

chopper and co. trialed degster before picking up magixx

DreamHack Open January Europe was Spirit‘s first event with the new lineup, taking place just a week after degster and Patsi joined the team. Their potential was apparent, but as only the fifth-highest ranked side in the eight-team tournament, they were dark horses at best. In the first stages of the tournament, their play reflected that, getting into good positions but struggling to close out maps against Sprout and Gambit in the group stage, as well as against BIG in the playoffs, leading to drawn-out and messy series.

“I think this is because we lack experience playing as a team,” in-game leader Leonid “⁠chopper⁠” Vishnyakov said about their inability to capitalize on leads such as 15-10 on CT Train against Sprout and 13-6 on CT Inferno versus BIG. “Sometimes we didn’t know what to do when we found ourselves in difficult situations since we hadn’t had time to play and discuss them in practice. Both BIG and Gambit are more experienced teams – they know how to put pressure on their opponents and don’t grant you many chances to play your own game.”

The grand final against FunPlus Phoenix was a completely different story, though. After four hard-fought BO3s, all going 2-1, Spirit breezed past Chris “⁠chrisJ⁠” de Jong‘s team, securing a quick 3-0 victory in the grand final to win the tournament. “Against FPX it was different,” chopper admitted. “They are a new team like us, so in the grand final we just played our game and enjoyed it – and on that day we were stronger”.

An intriguing part of Spirit‘s run to the title in DreamHack Open January was their handling of a six-man roster, which saw Patsi play multiple maps, replacing different players. The Russian team played with five different lineups throughout the group stage, swapping out every member besides Nikolay “⁠mir⁠” Bityukov.

“For DreamHack and practice before it, I just tried different combinations, sometimes contrary to players’ opinions,” Certus explained. But as the tournament progressed, the coach stopped tinkering with the roster: Patsi played just one map tin the playoffs, the 16-14 Inferno loss to BIG, in which he mustered only nine kills and a 0.64 rating. chopper admitted that their focus moving forward will be on playing as a five-man roster with a substitute player, rather than an active six-man lineup.

“The roster composition will most likely be 5+1 moving forward instead of 6,” the in-game leader said. “Patsi is still in the testing phase, and as he gets more experience we will evaluate where and when to slot him in”. The main reason for that isn’t Patsi‘s poor performance in the DreamHack tournament (0.82 rating from five maps), but rather Valve’s ruleset for Regional Major Ranking (RMR) events, which incurs penalties for every player swap.

“If all tournament organisers have the same clear rules about six-man rosters, we will move towards fully embracing it, but recently, Valve regrettably took a stance that destroys this approach,” Certus says. ” I don’t see how we can play some tournaments with five players and others with six. I haven’t decided yet, but most likely Patsi will be a substitute player in case of emergency.”

mir was Spirit’s best performer in 2020, averaging a 1.22 rating

With mir having reclaimed the form that he had as the star of CIS upset kings Vega Squadron, and with the addition of rising talent degster as a potent AWPer, Spirit have secured two of the region’s hottest prospects. The two players averaged a 1.27 and 1.29 rating in DreamHack Open January, proving crucial to Spirit‘s success in the tournament. But while praise is thrown their way, especially towards the new signing, who has already been labelled the squad’s best player by some, Certus plays down the hype and enforces a team-first view.

“We consider every player to be the best,” the coach said. “Stats can be deceiving – the player who has the best stats is not always the one with the highest impact. degster will give us more aggression, which is something I feel we lacked before. Abdul is a great asset, but he can play much better than he’s playing now. We will work on that.”

Spirit peaked at No.13 in the world rankings last year, and obviously have more to give now. What do they aim to accomplish in 2021? chopper‘s answer is simple: “Our team has the highest goals, we aim to break into the top 10 and stay there, to participate in every tier-one tournament while we gradually improve our team play and become a more stable team internationally.”

Their next challenge is the IEM Katowice Play-in, in which they will begin their campaign with a clash against Cloud9. “Our goal is to show what we prepared in practice, and to play at 100% – but we’re still a new team and qualifying is not a do-or-die situation for us,” chopper added. “Personally, I don’t think about the consequences of qualifying or missing out on the main tournament – I just think about our next game.”

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