Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen caught up with the Turkish Space Soldiers team — Engin “ngiN” Kor, Can “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş, Tugay “TuGuX” Keskin, Çağatay “DESPE” Sedef and Ahmet “paz” Karahoca — in the wake of their first international title at ASUS ROG Summer 2016 in Helsinki in order to find out more about the team, as they rarely receive attention in the media.
Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen: Your team has been labeled “onliners” by many – mostly due to XANTARES – despite failing to qualify for large leagues or finals events online, and having showcased decent play offline at the admittedly few events you have attended.
ngiN: We are on the right track. We are so close to getting to the next level. Online events are harder for us than offline events because of the Internet connections in Turkey. We have a better connection now but we definitely prefer to play offline.
TK: Could you talk about XANTARES in more detail? What is it that makes him so good at Counter-Strike? What is different in him versus the other players in Turkey? What are his strengths and weaknesses as a player?
TuGuX: XANTARES is an extremely skillful player. He plays a lot and tries to master the important little mechanics in CS. While playing he just doesn’t play, he improves play by play. It is very interesting to watch him even playing against bots.
What is different compared to other players is his strive for perfection. He is a very complete player and invests much more time than other players do.
His strengths are his understanding of the game, his ridiculously insane reaction time and mastering the game itself. He doesn’t show any weakness, he plays for the team and wants to win.
TK: Is your team playing full time, or are you either attending school or working simultaneously? How seriously do you take Counter-Strike as a group? And finally, what kind of support does Space Soldiers give you?
XANTARES: We are working at Space Soldiers full time. Our educational stuff still continues, except for ngiN. They are providing us a gaming house, paying our insurance and salaries and everything else you can imagine.
TK: You placed 13-16th at Copenhagen Games 2015 after wins over Lemondogs, Playing Ducks and myKPV. What did you make of this result as your debut? Many forget you went out only after a 16-14 loss to FlipSid3.
XANTARES: Many people don’t know that we just practiced two weeks before that event (before that we just played without any tactics or so). So we had to go through at least five maps in those two weeks. All in all it was still a reasonable achievement.
TK: A year later you made top four in Copenhagen, following a win over Magiskb0Y and Pimp’s SK Gaming roster, and a loss to E-Frag. Were you happy with the result? Was it what you expected, or did you under- or over-perform in your eyes?
paz: We are not happy at losing versus E-Frag. We were leading the game 14-11 on the first map and gave it away due to minor mistakes. We couldn’t recover from this on the second map and lost the whole match.
Our minimum goal was to get into semifinals, so we performed exactly how we expected to.
TK: At ASUS ROG Summer 2016 you lost to ENCE in the group stage, but defeated fxy0’s Millenium and the Swedish duo of drake and disco doplan in the grand final to win your first international title. What were your expectations going into the event? How much did this win mean to you as a step forward?
TuGuX: When we saw the list of the attending teams, we knew that we can beat everyone and therefore win the title. We just wanted to focus on our game and do our best in which we succeeded.
It means a lot to us and should give us a good motivation to even win more events. You are feeling more confident as a team and it is a nice experience overall.
TK: In Helsinki, the biggest surprise to me was the performance of paz, who was mostly invisible at Copenhagen Games. What is his story? Where did he come from, and how was he able to elevate his level of play so quickly? Did ASUS ROG surprise you, or has he played similarly in practice?
DESPE: Copenhagen Games was his first international and LAN event. He joined us one month before CPH Games. He was playing in a local team and he played against us in a tournament, which was held in Istanbul. There he got attention from us. He is absolutely a monster skill wise and he is working really hard to become better and better. His positive approach to the game makes him better, I think.
TK: What is your short-term goal for rest of 2016, and if we look further into all of 2017? How good do you think this roster can become in the next 6-18 months?TuGuX: We want to play and qualify for as many events as possible in 2016. It is better for us to play at offline events. If we look out for 2017, the biggest goal is for sure to attend a major. It is our dream to attend and maybe even succeed in a major.
TK: Are there other teams similar to you in Europe in your eyes who have yet to attend many tournaments, but who could possibly perform much better than expected? Alternatively, are there any players in the lower levels that the casual fan may not be aware of who really impresses you and could break through in the near future?
paz: One team came into my mind and that is Team Spirit. They are playing really well online and they have to attend some tournaments still. I am wondering how they will play at [offline] events.
As for a player, no one comes to my mind right now.
TK: TuGuX, you have previously played with German teams prior to joining up with Space Soldiers. What led to you joining your countrymen instead of playing in the German circuit of EPS and more opportunities?
TuGuX: There was a huge issue in the German scene when I originally quit. As you can see now in mousesports, it only consists of three German players. Besides there is no other team that can really do some damage internationally. Players don’t want to play with other players or upcoming players have the wrong attitude. So it is hard to build a good team in Germany.
The German EPS lost reputation throughout the years as well and again mousesports for example don’t even play there. So one day I got an interesting offer, we met in Istanbul and everything sounded good. As you can see now, that was the right choice.
Cover photo: Santtu Pajukanta/Assembly Summer 2016. Other photos courtesy of HLTV.org.