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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Gambit sweep OG to win IEM Summer

Gambit have added another trophy to their cabinet with an IEM Summer grand final victory over OG in three maps, Mirage (16-14), Dust2 (16-11) and Overpass, (16-7), while ending the European combine’s dream run in the tournament as Casper “⁠ruggah⁠” Due’s men had previously tallied victories over NIP, Virtus.pro, Evil Geniuses and Vitality without a loss.

This victory marks Gambit’s second Intel Grand Slam Season 3 point and third big title this year following IEM Katowice and their first RMR event of 2021, EPIC League CIS, and is their fifth grand final appearance when including ESL Pro League Season 13 and DreamHack Masters Spring, without taking into account several smaller accolades.

Sergey “⁠Ax1Le⁠” Rykhtorov carried his great form into the grand final, posting the highest ratings on all three of the maps played and averaging a 1.49 rating in the series. The 19-year-old finished the tournament as the third highest player with an average rating of 1.33 across the 15 maps Gambit played.

Ax1Le topped the grand final’s scoreboard with a 1.49 rating

The final IEM Summer series kicked off on Mirage, the first of Gambit’s two picks, and from the start it was a close affair as an early lead by OG on the CT side was turned around by the CIS squad in a tight 8-7 half. Aleksi “⁠Aleksib⁠” Virolainen and company started their offensive getting back ahead, with Mateusz “⁠mantuu⁠” Wilczewski and Valdemar “⁠valde⁠” Bjørn Vangså leading the way, but in the end it was Gambit who were able to win back-to-back rounds, building up an economy and reaching match point, 15-12, before closing the map out in the last round of regulation.

OG came out in full force on Dust2 after barely falling short in the opening map, and took control of proceedings early on with an 8-2 lead, but Gambit hit hard late in the half and brought it as close as could be with a five-round streak to throw the map wide open at the switch. The Russian squad then put up a wall on the defense as OG struggled to break through time and time again, allowing just three rounds on the way to a 16-11 victory and getting one map away from victory after the first two.

The third map in the series, Overpass, started off as did the two previous ones, a close affair between the two sides, this time with Gambit on the offense and OG as CTs. Although it was valde and company who were able to get an early lead, their economy depleted after losing several rounds in a row and it was Gambit, with a brilliant Abay “⁠Hobbit⁠” Khasenov, who took the half 9-6. OG took a very necessary T-side pistol round, but crumbled against the forcebuy after which the emboldened CIS squad sprinted towards the finish line to secure the IEM Summer trophy, 16-7.

Europe

Russia

The final IEM Summer standings are:

1. Russia Gambit – $100,000
2. Europe OG – $42,000
3-4. Europe G2 – $20,000
3-4. France Vitality – $20,000
5-6. North America Evil Geniuses – $10,000
5-6. CIS Virtus.pro – $10,000
7-8. Sweden NIP – $6,000
7-8. Europe Complexity – $6,000
9-12. Russia Spirit – $5,000
9-12. Denmark Heroic – $5,000
9-12. Denmark Astralis – $5,000
9-12. Europe FunPlus Phoenix – $5,000
13-16. Sweden fnatic – $4,000
13-16. Europe Imperial – $4,000
13-16. North America Extra Salt – $4,000
13-16. Germany Sprout – $4,000

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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

How dexter overcame adversity to win Flashpoint 3 with mousesports

mousesports found themselves in a rebuilding period at the start of 2021. The team’s then in-game leader, Finn “⁠karrigan⁠” Andersen, decided against renewing his contract with the team and returned to FaZe, while Chris “⁠chrisJ⁠” de Jong was — once again — benched to make room for an up-and-coming AWPer, Frederik “⁠acoR⁠” Gyldstrand, signed from MAD Lions.

mousesports continued their audacious signing strategy with dexter (Photo: mousesports / Tobias Augustin)

To pull together an out-of-sorts team, mousesports signed Christopher “⁠dexter⁠” Nong, an exciting, yet risky shotcaller hailing from Australia. While his teams had shown promise internationally, upsetting the likes of SK in 2018 and Liquid and Evil Geniuses in 2019, the addition was a speculative one, especially considering that the pandemic had isolated him from top-tier competition for a year.

dexter was thrown straight in at the deep end following his arrival in Europe, in February. Despite common sense, as well as dexter himself implying that it would take time for the team to gel, last-place finishes at the highly-competitive IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League S13 — during which the new IGL averaged a 0.92 rating —, were enough for him to be under fire as an unworthy replacement for karrigan, one of the most revered in-game leaders in the game.

If the difficulties with the team and on the server weren’t enough, dexter was also facing an adaptation period outside of Counter-Strike. He left Australia, a country fairly unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, to live on his own in Germany, where the outbreak was far from under control.

“Honestly, I did feel quite a lot of homesickness, I definitely underestimated the impact that traveling from a relaxed country such as Australia to a COVID hotspot would be like,” dexter tells HLTV.org. “The three months of negative feedback and homesickness, all while being alone during this period, were easily one of the hardest parts of my life mentally.

“I wasn’t depressed, but I always felt there was a huge weight on my shoulders that I couldn’t quite shake — and it was only up to me to shake. So it took a long time for me to be even close to adapting and I’m not even sure how I am now. Better at the very least.”

“Criticism happens a lot, but I think it was mostly my own self-criticism that took a toll on me,” dexter adds, explaining how he quickly got into a negative spiral. “I wanted to try harder, therefore I had less rest, and was close to being burnt out so early into my tenure over in Europe.” With a massive workload ahead of him, having to not only get the team back in form but also individually adapt to playing new spots on all maps, he stuck to it. “No matter what, I tried to improve my new positions and learning at the very least.”

As an in-game leader with limited experience at the top level, having only briefly been inside the top 20 with Grayhound in 2019, dexter admits that he questioned whether his approach was suited for mousesports — a team featuring one of the world’s best players in Robin “⁠ropz⁠” Kool that aims to challenge for titles. “I think I doubted myself [at the start], but I have also learned a lot along the way.”

“The boys had a culture of having an amazing IGL in karrigan who knew what to do immediately: regardless if it was the right or wrong decision, it was a decision made,” he explains. “Meanwhile, my playstyle and leadership skills rely on trusting a lot in my teammates’ abilities and reading of their positions — what the CTs are doing and how they are placed —, and having an appropriate reaction. It is far more relaxed. So at the start, I definitely doubted myself because I didn’t know if it was right to be calling like this.”

Evidence that mousesports were on the right track came in Snow Sweet Snow 3 at the start of April, when the team claimed the title after beating fnatic and ex-Winstrike (now Entropiq), but the defining period of the team came at the end of that month. Because of the overlapping schedule of three tournaments (IEM Summer closed qualifier, Flashpoint 3 closed qualifier, DreamHack Masters Spring), they had to play 14 series over just five days, recording as many as four BO3s in a single day.

Under massive pressure and stretched to their limits, mousesports thrived.

“The atmosphere was good, everyone wanted to win but also understood how bullshit of a situation it was,” dexter remembers. “You can only prepare so much for back-to-back series, mentally, physically, and in-game. We did our best all the time, but it wasn’t easy to perform the best, especially as an IGL by your fourth BO3 of the day.”

Looking at the results on their own, qualifying for Flashpoint while failing to make it to IEM Summer and finishing 9-12th in DreamHack doesn’t seem like much, but the fact that their eliminating losses came against top contenders such as G2 and Natus Vincere puts mousesports in a much better light. Additionally, dexter stepped up individually, ending his streak of five events “in the red” to post 1.06 ratings in both closed qualifiers.

“I felt a sense of growth with everyone after that, something just changed for the better; we understood each other a little bit more,” the in-game leader explains, admitting that the improvement wasn’t indicative of the success that would follow. “It was a mini online bootcamp in some ways. But I never would have expected the results we had in Flashpoint 3.”

dexter found his form during an action-packed period for mousesports (Photo: mousesports / Tobias Augustin)

The relationship between an in-game leader’s individual performance and his calling in a match is a topic often speculated about during broadcasts of the biggest tournaments. In dexter‘s case, there is a strong correlation between his fragging output and his tactical impact.

“Being able to play well as an IGL is important in my opinion, you get more involved with the game and the way you want the team to work,” he explains. “You don’t feel like you’re some sh*t outsider who goes 0-7 every game and instead of thinking about the game, you are thinking about why you can’t frag and contribute on basic levels of CS. Just that confidence was so huge for me personally.”

Flipping the switch and going from a bottom fragger to someone who posted a 1.23 rating against NIP in the grand final of a top-tier event came after a decision that dexter admits was weird — changing his peripherals.

“Being smarter with my gear choice helped a lot,” he says. “I had some pain in both hands and I didn’t know why. It affected my DM sessions and my confidence in my aim. It made me lazy, to say the least, regarding in-game performance. To find a solution, I talked to mousesports and decided to test some different Razer products that they provided me with to try to find the best ones, and the gigantic shift in shape and feel really helped my hand. After that, I was able to trust myself again.”

mousesports had 11 days without officials after the “mini bootcamp” to prepare for the start of Flashpoint 3, the first Regional Major Ranking tournament in 2021. “Flashpoint was important because it had all the major EU teams. Being able to perform here would justify that our work hadn’t been a waste of time and had actually been productive for our future as a team. A morale booster, to say the least.”

With mousesports entering the tournament as the No.8 seed in the 16-team competition, not many predicted a deep run for them. But inside the team, expectations were high.

“We set our goals with our sports psychologist – everyone said different ones, but the most basic being that we wanted at least top 5,” dexter says. “I do remember that Bymas and I said that the goal was to win (laughs). But realistically, top 5 would be satisfying in a way.”

Fast forward three weeks, and mousesports managed a shocking run, dropping just one map on their way to the title. ropz and David “⁠frozen⁠” Čerňanský were both stellar, with the latter picking up his first MVP award, while dexter averaged an impressive 1.18 rating across 11 maps played — reminding everyone of the high-fragging in-game leader he was in previous teams.

When asked about the wins that the team recorded in Flashpoint, dexter highlighted what pleased him regarding beating each of Astralis, G2, and NIP.

“Astralis was a huge win for me personally, a lot of my understanding and experience in how CS should be played stems from watching them and gla1ve,” dexter says. “So being able to beat them as a person who only watched their demos for two years really made me happy and proud of the team and myself.

“G2 was another titan to overcome. They had been beating us by small and large margins for weeks, so being able to lift that curse and beat them in a convincing manner was so important for us.

“NIP was a game of pressure on ourselves I believe, we had two players who were very sick on the day, so it was a final test of teamwork, in the light that we support and bring each other up as much as possible. Therefore I’m just glad we were able to finish the run by coming first, in such a big test of ourselves.”

Just minutes after mousesports secured the title, dexter started his post-match interview by saying that “there is still so much to do, so much to learn”, displaying his unquenchable thirst for development. While the team didn’t go straight back to practice, instead taking some well-deserved time off, which the Australian spent in the mountains of Bavaria, he doubles down on his need to expand his knowledge.

“No matter what, I need to learn more and adapt to how other teams will adapt,” he says, aware of the pace at which teams find new tendencies and exploit gaps at the top level of Counter-Strike. “I need to learn more about myself as an IGL and how to improve in different aspects, all while maintaining my own identity as a player.”

Having failed to qualify for IEM Summer, mousesports are now shifting their attention towards IEM Cologne, which could be their last tournament of the season. Their focus ahead of the event is on mastering Ancient and sticking to a seven-map pool — one of the priorities for the team.

During an era of uncertainty and frequent changes, dexter‘s team rose to sixth place in the world, mousesports‘ highest ranking in almost a year. However, the Australian stresses that they have more to prove before they can be accurately ranked.

“I wouldn’t know where to rate us myself, I think we need to play more of the other regional teams from CIS and NA, and play Heroic to see how we stack up officially,” he says. The team’s long-term goals are simple, though — becoming a top 5 team by PGL Stockholm Major in November. “I want to be top 5 consistently at least, of course any better is awesome. But getting to this level requires consistency in ourselves, and that will be the major test for us.”

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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

OG defeat BIG to win Spring Sweet Spring 2

OG have won Spring Sweet Spring 2 after defeating BIG 2-1 in the grand final to book a spot at LAN Sweet LAN 2022, an event to cap off Relog Media’s tournament series featuring all the monthly winners throughout the year. Both finalists received direct invites to the quarter-finals (alongside fnatic and forZe), with Aleksi “⁠Aleksib⁠” Virolainen‘s troops taking down 1WIN and Fiend, while Johannes “⁠tabseN⁠” Wodarz & co. beat Wisla Krakow and Entropiq en route to the final.

“We needed something like this just to boost the confidence and overall to get the team started on the right path,” Aleksib said after the match. “We’re feeling super hot right now.” OG will be looking to ride the momentum into IEM Summer tomorrow, when they will face NIP in the best-of-one opening round at 16:30