In this interview F_1N speaks about the ups and downs of his decade long career, the great players he teamed with and the style of play which has developed within the Russian CS scene.
The first moment people in the West took notice of you and your team, Virtus.Pro, was at ESWC 2004 so describe your previous teams and when you joined Virtus.Pro.
I've been playing in teams since 2001/2002, so I'd like to highlight emax and a-line. In emax I played with groove, medic, keks, fdk and sally. The first virtus.pro lineup was made of a-line, it was ant1killer, Patrick, MegioN, Sally and me. So I played for Virtus.pro from Autumn 2003 until Spring 2007.
Being as you were still inexperienced at attending big interional LANs, going into ESWC 2004 did you know how good your team was?
Before ESWC 2004 we finished top 8 at the CPL qualifier in Belgrade and we had ~2 weeks to reconfigure our game :D We were lucky with dust2 at that ESWC, I think we played it about nine times. Yes, when we played practice games vs. top Swedish teams we felt confident on all maps except for nuke, so we made it our veto map.
In the second stage of the tournament you drew a group with TSG and NoA. TSG had beaten out some big names to finish second at the American qualifier and NoA were one of the tournaments' favourites due to having just acquired element. How worried were you by that group drawing?
Yeah, I felt kinda like we should win vs. TSG and Clan-IT.no and maybe lose to NoA. In the first game vs. tsg we lost dust2 4:13, I felt like that's it and started to panic maybe, but later we all talked together and everything went really well for us.
Clan-IT was from Norway with zaico, luke etc. and we played them on train. I remember it because the Norwegians considered me a cheater online and I wanted to show them on LAN that I'm good, and went ~20 frags as CT.
How did drawing HeatoN and Potti's SK.swe in the first round of the playoffs affect your confidence?
I really wanted to play vs. that team, and playing the game on stage made us more motivated. They were the best and we were lucky they didn't expect us to play that well. In-game everything was working just perfectly, I can't describe it, it's the game I'll always remember. When ppl ask me what the best match of my career was I always remember that game.
Your team managed to finish third thanks to taking out TSG in a rematch on dust2. why did you beat them the second time when you lost the first?
At that moment we had already improved our dust2 play and when Sally managed to win a 1vs4 on pistol round as T we got a motivation boost :D
Sally was the player who stood out in that dust2 victory over SK.swe with his AWPing but over the years he was kicked or left Virtus.Pro and returned a few times, coulpled with an infamous cheating incident. How would you describe Sally as a player and team-mate?
Our paths became different after ESWC 2005, it seems as though he wasn't motivated enough to play. About him cheating: we played in a uyr tournament vs. some French team and they beat us really easily, 16:2 starting as T on nuke. We thought maybe they cheated and googled to find an aequitas hack, then launched the file we had downloaded on Sally's CS. So yeah we used the aequitas hack to see if it's possible, but that was after the game and in a listen server. When ESL started saying he cheated I asked them to show me logs of when he launched the hack and when the game was actually played, since in the game he had only gotten two frags. They didn't give me the logs.
When he was motivated Sally was a really great player, he was involved a lot in-game. He was a fan of teamplay, so he could be a glue for the team team chemistry. He was awesome with the AWP and his noscopes were really good, I always told him not to zoom with the AWP and just quickscope :D He always wanted to win the round, even if its glock eco, so he had a really nice will to win. He had a really good AK and of course a Russian deagle.
Few still remember the ACON5 event you won in 2005 since there were some problems with smokes at the event. Still you managed to beat coL and win the tournament, so what can you say about it?
The main system of qualification was the most weird thing, they had only one spot for Scandinavia for example. At the event itself everything was just fine, except for the PCs lagging with 32bit smokes. The admins gathered for a short meeting and decided to run event with 16bit, frankly speaking it was best desicion. As a player I appreciated stable FPS more than smokes.
About coL: in 2002, when I played in emax, groove had a lot of tactics and cbble was a primary map for them, so using his ideas, but slightly improved, we had managed to get eight rounds as T. Of course our second round AK drop to LeX boosted our game again :D Then as CT LeX managed to win a 1v4 situation with bomb planted in B. That was one of his best matches I think.
Describe LeX as a player and a team-mate.
Our relationship was changing all the time, now I just think I don't like the way he does things, might be he doesn't like my way as well :D We had some good moments, really good. He was pretty good in-game with all guns, seemed like the game itself likes him, kinda like neo in the matrix. Everything he shoots lands straight as a headshot. In the beginning it looks like luck, but then you realise it's just like that when he does it.
Until Dosia came around LeX was easily the most famous Russian CS player amongst Western fans, and during his prime they would put him in the same category as guys like f0rest, neo, cogu, solo, REAL, zet etc. Do you agree with them?
Yes I do, at that time LeX was one of the greatest players and he proved it many times :D
When a team doesn't win and isn't having good results people will often blame the star player, because the greatest players are usually judged by their trophies. So what can you saw about the lack of top placings LeX has compared to some other famous star players in CS?
He is one of 10 Russian guys who have won a world tournament. It seems for Russians it's kinda hard, don't know why. People in the Russian scene mostly enjoy getting headshots, not many are really ready to work on their game and teamplay itself. Potentially Russian players are very good.
At WCG 2005 in Source you seemed to have a really good chance to win a medal. People didn't know anything about k23 so when they saw you against them in the semi-finals they assumed you'd win and reach the final. Then when you dropped to the third place decider it still seemed like you might be able to beat EG. Instead you left in 4th without a medal. What can you say about that event and that missed opportunity?
The event was really nice except for game. We had to devide our practices into Source and 1.6, as soon as we had some leagues running and events like the Clanbase Eurocup LAN finals were on our calendar. We improved our game at the event itself, we watched a lot how the different teams played and what they did, any significant features, and we were discussing our game a lot.
When we lost to k23 and met EG we lost the first map, won the seond and in the third map we lost 14:16. Yeah, I really feel we deserved third place at least, but we just weren't lucky enough that day :D I liked Singapore itself, it's a really nice city and you can find some European food easily.
One of the tournaments where it felt like you had a strong Virtus lineup was WEG Masters 2006, since you beat project_kr, beat NoA and lost 1:2 to coL. This was when you'd just taken HEL1 into the lineup. LeX told me he thought they switched the rules for tie-breakers to ensure project_kr went through instead of you. How do you assess that period and your strength as a team?
The only team we had problems with in practise was SK. We played 8 maps vs. wNv.gm [the eventual champions] and lost one 14:16 and won the other seven easily :D The Norwegians of Catch-Gamer refused to practice with us after we beat them on inferno really badly, they said we'd ruin their team's chemistry. The next day they won 16:0 over SK on it.
About rules, I'm not sure if they changed anything but they counted round in Bo3 games without letting the games be played to the end. Even thought we played 1:2, 2:1 and 2:0 in our matches we couldn't make it out of the group due to round difference. I think we could have gotten top three there and I think we deserved it. We worked hard and yes our game was on very good level in terms of the rest of the world at that time.
Aside from the tournaments we've mentioned (ESWC 2004, ACON5 2005, WCG 2005) Virtus.Pro struggled during the rest of your time with them, and had a lot of problems. Why couldn't you be consistent?
I don't know, we were sometimes unfocused maybe. I don't think I'd change much if I could go back, I like the way it all went. We had a lot of memorable moments, so I don't regret it at all. Thanks to all the guys for the time we spent together :D
forZe, tp.uSports and UNiTED (2007-2010)
In the space of a few months in 2007 you, HEL1 and Snoop all got removed from Virtus.Pro and all ended up playing together in forZe. Despite having those three famous players in the team though you were never able to get any significant results it seemed. Did you think your career was coming to an end?
I think we lost some time playing Source in the npcl league season 2007-2008, as npcl was one of the main sponsors of forZe, so we had to play it. Then we had some problems with the last player, there was always something happening to him. It was a nice time though, and we managed to win one major CIS event [cybersportarena league] as well. I realised it could be the end of my career but I didn't quit because I couldn't play on a good level anymore, but rather because I couldn't see where I could play anymore. Russia only had two teams.
What was HEL1 like as a player?
He was a really confident player and could take any team down on his own.
His AK tapping was amazing and he was a really strong and smart player.
In 2009 you got to stand-in for tp.uSports (under the name CMAX.gg) at WCG 2009. How did that offer come about? Your team finished 4th overall, so how do you think of that event when you look back now?
At Arbalet Cup Ukraine I asked if they had decided who would go to China as their fifth. I asked HEL1 and then they had a talk on their way back to Moscow and somehow picked me. Anyway due some circumstances we only played three days together before the event. We had no particular IGL but I tried to do it while sat to the side, not in the middle. I hadn't been an IGL before.
Ii think we played kind of well and were lucky that team snG let us advance from the group stage by beating mouz on train, otherwise we wouldn't be able to play in the brackets. We discussed CS a lot while at the event and I think we could have a good team if we'd continued to play together, but we didnt :D
At WCG 2009 you got to play alongside Dosia. Obviously he is really famous now but back then he wasn't well known outside of CIS. Still, even in 2010, when he was on forZe, hooch told me Dosia is a "player from god" and was the best Russian player by far. What do you think of Dosia as a player and has he changed from when you played with him in 2009 to now in 2012?
I think he still hasn't shown his top level yet, he can be even stronger then he is at the moment. He is a really good player with natural aim, I would like to play in the same team as such a great player. During those three years he has evolved a lot and now can be considered one of the most experienced players in Russia, along with hooch, LeX and ROMJkE.
Do you think playing in tp.uSports was what helped you get into UNiTED shortly after?
I think so yes, I kinda showed myself as a player with potential. groove, ROMJkE and hooch thought I could fit into the new UNiTED team.
Your best moment in UNiTED was winning Arbalet Cup February, but aside from that you had a number of events where your team didn't perform so well. The team was supposed to showcase the talent of the CIS region so what was the problem?
We won ASUS Winter also. In UNiTED we were on LAN at the ex-k23 LAN house almost all the time. I don't know what to add. As UNiTED we just didn't build good team chemistry before we split. I just don't feel like it was a good decision to remove me.
What are your thoughts on your ex-UNiTED team-mate AdreN? How good is he compared to other players you've played with like LeX and Dosia?
He is one of those "neos" from the matrix. He is just a very good player, really confident, with nice aim and reflexes. Though he didn't spend a lot of time playing CS I noticed. He is one of the best players I've ever played with.
Throughout your career you always teamed up again with players from those Virtus.Pro lineups. Did you never want to start fresh with a new lineup of players?
It's nice to play with players you know and who you're sure of what they're capable of, so for me I liked to play with them.
One of the areas people always said CIS teams were weak in was tactics, from your Virtus.Pro teams up until M5 now. To Westerners they think Russians just run around the map without much strategy. Taking Na`Vi out of the equation, since they are a team well known for being good strategically, what do you think of that theory?
I consider the old Virtus.pro team as a tactical team, and we proved it :D Players always told us that we had good tactics and nice fraggers. About nowadays: yeah that theory kind of works for Russian teams, it looks like people enjoy just running around and shooting :) I hope I'm wrong about it.
I will list some of the most famous players you played with in your career and you give me non-CIS players who you consider similar. The list: HEL1, Sally, LeX, Snoop, hooch, Dosia, AdreN and F_1N.
HEL1, LeX, snoop, hooch, Dosia and AdreN are all kinda fraggers.
HEL1, Snoop, hooch and AdreN are more offensive players.
Sally is an AWPer, could be something like Ksharp or cogu.
HEL1, Snoop and AdreN are offensive like f0rest, SpawN, mJe and Zeus.
LeX, Dosia and hooch are more like clutchers like whiMp and starix.
I'm like grims and ceh9, I think I have a similar role to ceh9's.
If you had to pick a famous Russian or Soviet hockey player, from any time period, who played hockey the way F_1N played CS who would it be?
I always loved Peter Forsberg to be honest, but I don't think I can pick him for me. Andrei Markov maybe? He is a backup player, defensive and with a good slapshot. I used to watch him when he was with Dynamo Moscow, when he scored from his goal line and they won the Eurocup and played vs. Akbars in the final.
The final words belong to you.
I'd like to say hello to everyone out there :D
(Photographs courtesy of fragbite and their respective owners)
@Thooorin on twitter.
2001-2002 Pro-cybernews (Editor-in-Chief)
2002-2003 Gamers.nu (Lead Editor)
2004-2005 ESportsEA (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2006-2008 ESportsEA (Editor, Community feature host)
2008 TAO-CS volume 1 (Co-author)
2008 TAO-fRoD (Co-author)
2008-2009 WinOut.net (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2009-2012 SK Gaming (Editor-in-Chief)
2012-2013 Team Acer (Editor-in-Chief)
2013-2014 OnGamers (Senior eSports Content Creator)
Pro bono publico:
2001-2002 XSReality (Site administrator)
2003-2004 Team3D (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2012-2013 fragbite (Blogger)
2013-XXXX [POD]Cast (Co-host)
2005 Down with the s1ckn3ss
2009 fRoD Quick and nasty (part 1)
Events attended for coverage purposes:
2001 CPL London (Pro-cybernews)
2001 WCG Qualifier (Pro-cybernews)
2002 CPL Summer (Gamers.nu)
2002 WCG Qualifier (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Oslo (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Winter (Gamers.nu)
2003 CPL Cannes (Gamers.nu)
2003 Clikarena (Gamers.nu)
2004 CPL Winter (ESportsEA)
2009 WEM (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Best of Four (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Cup Europe (SK Gaming)
2010 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2010 WCG (SK Gaming)
2010 WEM (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V European Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Assembly Winter (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V World Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Copenhagen Games (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Summer (SK Gaming)
2011 SK vs. FX showmatch (SK Gaming)
2011 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2011 ESWC (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI Kiev (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI World Championship (SK Gaming)
2012 WCS Europe (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Open Valencia (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Winter (Team Acer)
2012 IPL5 (Team Acer)
2012 HomeStory Cup VI (Team Acer)
2013 IEM VII World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 MLG Winter Championship (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Spring Week 10 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S1 Ro16 (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Summer Week 9 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S2 final / LCS Europe Summer playoffs (Team Acer)
2013 Riot S3 World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2014 LCS Europe Spring Week 5 (OnGamers)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV Asian Finals (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM V Shanghai (ESL-TV)
2011 ESEA-invite S8 (WinOut)
2011 GameGune (WinOut)
2011 SEC (WinOut)
2013 Dreamhack SteelSeries CS:GO Championship (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Steelseries CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Summer (DH-TV)
2014 Gfinity G3
2014 Dreamhack Stockholm CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
Pro bono publico:
2010 ESWC (lvl^)
2010 Arbalet Cup Dallas (lvl^)
2010 GameGune (lvl^)
2010 fnatic PLAY (lvl^)
2010 WCG Nordic (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Winter BEAT IT (whisenhunt)
2011 EPS Winter (whisenhunt/ESL-TV)
2011 WCG (whisenhunt)
2011 IEM VI Kiev EU qualifier (SK Gaming)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup April 28th (FACEIT)
2013 Prague Challenge (District)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup September 8th (FACEIT)
2013 FACEIT Monday Cup September 9th (FACEIT)
2014 ESEA Invite S15 LAN finals (NiPTV)
* Winner of the Heaven Media 'E-sports Journalist of the year' awards for 2012 and 2013.
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HeatoN enters Esports Hall of Fame
SK's Impossible Dominance in 2003
Moments: ESWC 2011
THE NEW JERSEY