In Part 1, I wrote about the process of Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko and Mykhailo “Kane” Blagin joining Gambit. Together, they implemented Zeus’ style of leadership to the team using the players: Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev, Mikhail “Dosia” Stolyarov, Rustem “mou” Telepov, and Abay “HObbit” Khassenov.
They found success on both Cobblestone and Overpass and off of those two maps were able to reach the playoffs of ELEAGUE Major and DreamHack Las Vegas at the beginning of this year. But to get further, they needed more. Zeus realized the weakness and got to work.
The remaining maps in the pool were Mirage, inferno, Nuke, Cache and Train. Mirage seemed to be a lost cause as all of the best teams were already strong on that map. So there was no point in wasting practice time trying to master a map all the best teams already played at a high level. That left Zeus with the choice of expanding to the other remaining four maps.
He ended up trying all of them. It ended up being a good choice as Gambit needed to explore every option it could. In the past, Zeus disliked Cache and Nuke, but he needed every edge he could find, and this eventually proved fruitful in the PGL Krakow Major victory months later. Here is how Gambit did on each map:
Wins in 2017: Godsent, Cloud9, G2
Losses: Fnatic, FaZe, SK, SK
Cache at least had the basis of a good setup as the old Gambit team before Zeus played it to a decent level, though HObbit never found a good position where he could find impact on the CT-side. This was another map where I’d say the primary focus of the entire CT-side was on AdreN. He was given priority to find aggressive plays in the early game, the primary examples being against Fnatic in Game 1 of the ELEAGUE Major and against FaZe Clan at StarLadder Kiev. In those games, AdreN is running around the map, taking aggressive positions. Later, he is used more as a rotator akin to his spot on cobblestone or overpass. Overall, AdreN was the primary reason for this team’s success on the CT-side of Cache.
The T-side was a work in progress. Gambit had nothing beyond a basic framework at the ELEAGUE Major and had nothing to show against Fnatic in the aforementioned game. Three months later against FaZe at StarLadder Kiev, Gambit showed a stronger grasp of what it wanted to do as it exhibited a basic A execute and crunches onto the A site from A main and squeaky. Two months after that at DreamHack Summer, Gambit showed it could now take mid control on Cache and use it for A splits against Cloud9.
Before the Krakow Major, Cache was a decent map for the team and one they’d end up using to eventually upset G2.
Wins in 2017: Liquid, HellRaisers
Losses: North, G2
Nuke is the other peculiar one. Gambit was terrible on it at DreamHack Vegas. The map itself doesn’t have any obvious roles for the players on Gambit. The only player who suits the map is AdreN, as he can take aggressive initiative on yard, secret and back of vents. Beyond that, the natural place for mou to be is in yard, but the large open areas put him in a position to engage in AWP duels, which has been one of his weaknesses. Ramp is weird because you could put Zeus there as it’s a low impact role, but you need Zeus in upper to change up the positions. Dosia’s play style isn’t effective at ramp as he can’t play transition defense, so the only option is HObbit. But that puts your second star player in a position of low impact.
The architecture also doesn’t fit Zeus’ style all that well. There is too much area, too many angles to clear and cover, which means that Zeus can’t properly set the map up for his late round hits. So what the team ended up doing was using two players to open up the map and trying to make picks and force rotations. AdreN opened up yard/secret while Zeus rushed vents. It was something, but after two tournaments it was clear that they didn’t have an idea of how to progress the map beyond that.
Regardless, the fact that Zeus tried to incorporate this map into Gambit shows that Zeus was willing to try everything to get this team as far as it could, even trying to build a map he was clearly uncomfortable playing.
The finals two maps in the map pool that Zeus tried to integrate ended up being the two most important maps for Gambit. They were the maps that became the primary reason as to why Gambit won the Major. They were Train and Inferno.
Wins in 2017: Liquid, Heroic, G2, Immortals, Cloud9, Virtus.Pro, Fnatic, Astralis, Immortals
Losses: VP, SK, Fnatic
Train was the natural third map for Gambit. It was a more natural fit for the team on CT-side. The two immediate locks were mou as AWP on a site and AdreN as rotator because those are their natural roles. Zeus was placed in A-site as well because he could play popdog/ebox and take advantage of the close range combat. The final question was where to put Dosia and HObbit. HObbit was eventually put at ivy as it is a critical point of the map, so Dosia was left to hard anchor B. There was an upside to leaving Dosia at B as his most consistent impact kills involve flanking the enemy. So if the enemy team did an outer execute, Dosia could flank by running up B halls and hitting them from popdog.
The T-side used two general ideas. They did the typical Zeus map control style. The only two hard positions were Dosia at IV and HObbit at B. From there, the remaining three changed positions depending on what Zeus called. Mou could play at IV, T-Con or passively in B-halls to pick any CT-players who came up aggressively. AdreN could play at T-Con and entry lurk or help HObbit secure boilers. Zeus went wherever the extra support was needed or took over popdog. From there, the team did an A split. The other option was a B execute. These were the primary two weapons, and they could incorporate lurk entry plays and fakes, but for the most part relied on Zeus’ reading of the game and the map control style to win their halves.
The first time Gambit played this map was at the ELEAGUE Major, where the team looked very unprepared to use Zeus’ map control style on the T-side. Whereas on the CT-side, Gambit couldn’t hold ivy against VP’s aggression, and losing that critical area opened up the entire map for VP to win. Afterward, like Cache. Gambit built the map slowly. At DreamHack Austin, Gambit mastered the two basic tools of the map control style and the B execute. They used it to beat Heroic and Immortals at DreamHack Austin and Cloud9 at DreamHack Summer.
But G2 handed Gambit a critical loss at DreamHack Austin in the semifinals. G2 had an answer for both tools that Gambit had. In six of the rifle rounds, G2 attacked the boilers early. If G2 won the fights or even traded, it ruined Gambit’s plan as Gambit no longer had enough people to do the map control without risk, nor enough to guarantee at least a plant if they hit B. It became a critical loss for Gambit. But the lessons learned from it bore fruit in Krakow.
Wins in 2017: Fnatic, OpTic, SK, Immortals, mousesports, Fnatic, Immortals
Losses: North, Fnatic, Fnatic, Astralis
At the Krakow Major, Inferno was the most important map. No team was so good or so bad at the map that it needed to be banned. BIG used that to its advantage to get out of the groups despite drawing three strong teams. Gambit understood the potential of Inferno early and adopted it right after it was reintroduced into the map pool.
The problem was that it’s not great for Zeus’ map control style. It simply kind of works. For instance, you can take control of banana, leave a player there, then take control of brackets. From there, you can bring your fifth player back at banana and try to split the A-site from two truckside and archside. But that doesn’t clear the problematic areas like graveyard, pit, balcony or deep into the site. If you don’t get the early pick off, the rotator could be at arch or in library, areas that cannot be comprehensibly cleared by the T-side. There aren’t as many angles to cover as Nuke, but there were enough so that Zeus’ map control style wasn’t in full effect.
It was a problem for Zeus as this was his primary way of running the T-side on this map, which made it inconsistent. They tried to incorporate a 4-1 style, but Dosia was too passive for it to work. So in the end, Gambit’s inferno T-side relied the most on skill, barring nuke.
While the T-side was mediocre, the CT-side roles made sense. The initial setup Gambit decided to go with was Dosia and Adren at B, and HObbit, mou and Zeus at A. The reason is simple: HObbit and AdreN are the two most skilled players, so splitting them up will even out the balance of skill of both sites. On top of that, Dosia should be on the B-site as he plays hard anchor the most on Gambit. AdreN can then play the rotator role when the team cheats over a player to A. The AWP can go to either B or A on inferno, but at B you’re more likely to get into AWP duels, so putting mou on A makes better use of him. Finally, Zeus at A allows Zeus to play closer angles when defending the site.
The problem was that Dosia and AdreN did not have good teamwork controlling Banana at the Summit. It had to be resolved, so Gambit swapped the roles of Dosia and HObbit. HObbit works better with AdreN and could be left to solo the B-site. At the same time, his style of transitional defense meant he was more likely to get out alive if he was holding banana solo while the Ts attacked him. This could have hurt the A-site hold, but the passive crossfires between Dosia and Zeus were adequate enough so that they weren’t an obvious weakness.
Still the fact remains is that both sides of the map were dependent on skill. All maps are dependent on skill to an extent, but the difference was that on maps like Cobblestone, Overpass or Train, Gambit only needed its star players to show up. On Inferno, it was all hands on deck. This unsteadiness in Inferno eventually showed when Gambit went on to play at the Krakow Major.
The Major Run
Up to this point, I’ve analyzed the style, the players and how they work out on the various maps. In their 10 months together, the Gambit players had built up as much as they could in their individual skill, teamwork and map pool. They were battle tested across six different LANs. But to win the Major, you need something more. Dota 2 legend Peter “ppd” Dager often says that in order to win a Major, you need the strategy and the polarizing players that can take you over the line.
That is the best way to describe Gambit’s Major victory. Zeus’ strategy gave them an overarching answer to everyone they faced, and it was up to the players to fill their roles to make it work. It gave the players a set framework with which to work. But when things didn’t work out, when the enemy had superior skill, tactics, or teamwork, that was when the players had to step it up.
In the group stage, Zeus’ system was in full force and as it had an answer for all three opponents in the Swiss bracket. The standard T-side and CT-side setup was enough to deal with Mouz. Zeus’ map control style destroyed Virtus.Pro, which played too individually. AdreN was the star of the show as he played his role of first contact on both sides exquisitely.
The real masterwork in the group stage came against G2. It was a rematch from DreamHack Austin, but this time Gambit had a new card to play on Cache. At DreamHack Austin, the playbook was limited to A splits, A executes and a crunch from A main and squeaky. This time, Gambit had unveiled a stronger mid control setup and used that as the launching point for attacks. That opened up the map for Gambit, which could split either A or B without repercussion — and it bamboozled G2’s defense. Perhaps G2 could have made a comeback on T-side, but AdreN pulled off two hero plays in rounds 18 and 20 to seal away any chance for G2 to get the ball rolling.
In the playoffs, Gambit played Fnatic first. The maps were Train, Inferno and Overpass. Fnatic’s overall aggression and skill put a hamper to the Zeus map control style, but Zeus was able to adapt and get rounds on the board with B executes, leaving the half 8-7. The Fnatic play style of spreading across the map looking for duels nearly overwhelmed Gambit, but mou and HObbit stepped up to save the half either by winning these duels early or killing the Fnatic members when they hit the site. Gambit barely escaped with a 16-14 win.
The second map was on inferno, a map where Gambit had played Fnatic three times before. The only time victory was at DreamHack Vegas, where no one had time to practice the map. Fnatic won the two more recent encounters. I said earlier that Gambit’s inferno was based on skill, and man-for-man, Fnatic was a more skilled team that played around that skill. Fnatic was favored on Inferno. That is why it was so crucial for Dosia to have a big performance in this game. Dosia won the force buy on Round 7, spiralling Fnatic’s economy back to the stone age. While on the T-side, he secured post-plant after post-plant for the team to secure the victory. In previous encounter, the system had no answer for Fnatic. The system didn’t have an answer for Fnatic this time either, but it didn’t need one as Dosia became the answer. It was one of many critical performances Gambit needed to win the Major as given how Fnatic performed in the first two maps, a potential third map could have spelled an early exit for Gambit.
Gambit played Astralis next in the semifinals. This was a case where a player had to bail out Gambit again. Overpass was a good map for Gambit, but Astralis was the best team on that map with better tactics, teamwork, skill and consistency. While Zeus’ system could grind out some rounds on T-side, it needed a big CT-performance. They got it, but in a way completely outside of the system and the player.
Mou saved the entire enterprise.
This was mou’s best game of his entire career. It becomes even more fantastical when you realize that mou’s best games on Gambit have been on Train. On top of that, mou gets a vast majority of his impact kills ] from anchoring sites and post plants.
In this game, mou was getting all kinds of impact kills, particularly winning retakes. He won the retake in Rounds 5, 6, and 8. They were all rounds that Astralis was in position to win, and if the economy swings in Astralis’ favor, it likely wins the half. Even when Astralis started to put some rounds on the board, Mou had none of it. In Round 11, Astralis avoided Gambit’s aggression on long and mid by focusing on under tunnels and water. In that round they used dev1ce as a lurk AWPer, where he got a kill in mid and from there, Astralis secured the round. They ran the same round again, but mou knew dev1ce was coming and killed him. Then in Round 14, mou put the cherry on top by getting a 4K, stopping Astralis’ B execute cold.
Astralis then destroyed Gambit on Inferno. It was a disaster on every level for Gambit and highlighted how much mou had saved the team on overpass and Dosia had saved them against Fnatic. The striking thing about this was that Astralis didn’t play well and still got a convincing 16-8 victory.
Train was the decider. This map was a merit to Zeus’ system and leadership. Earlier I wrote how Gambit had received a critical loss to G2 at DreamHack Austin on Train. It was a critical loss that taught Gambit multiple lessons. If you remember, G2 had stopped Gambit’s map control style by attacking boilers early and ruining the setups for the A split or B executes. Gambit pulled the same move on Astralis. It was surprisingly effective and caught Astralis off guard in the early half, exacerbated by the fact that Astralis was in sloppy form. A critical team kill in Round 15 spoke to this lack of form.
In the second half, Gambit ran its map control style, which Astralis crushed. Before round 24, Gambit called a timeout and throughout round 25, Zeus continued to rally the troops on what they needed to do to win. He had figured out the setup of Astralis through the half and decided to pull out a tactical round. Specifically, the SK outer execute: a move Gambit had only done once against Team Liquid at the Summit. The tactic blindsided Astralis. On top of that, Zeus won two critical duels in popdog that broke open the defense, allowing Gambit to win the game before Astralis could adapt. That victory secured Gambit into the finals, where it met Immortals.
The maps were Cobble, Train and inferno. It started off poorly as Gambit was thrashed on the map that had once been its best.
Gambit woke up for the second map. It required Zeus’ system and individuals stepping up to save the series. Immortals attacked boilers early to disrupt Gambit in a callback to what Gambit did to Astralis in the previous round. Gambit was able to adapt to it and had moves that didn’t depend on boiler control, like the outer execute. The tactics were able to let Gambit win the half, and the CT-side closed with Mou having another huge performance as he won duels against the Immortals’ snipers, won a save round with his AWP and anchored down the A-site with multi kill rounds.
In the end, it came down to inferno. The leadership and tactics had carried Gambit far, but Inferno was where individuals needed to perform. Fortunately for Gambit, Immortals didn’t have a firm grasp of the T-side and relied too heavily on skill. When that skill didn’t come, Immortals was crushed and had to resort to full on rushes to get some rounds on the board. The problem was that Gambit’s T-side looked similarly abysmal. Gambit was saved by three hero plays. The first was HObbit getting a 4K in the post-plant in Round 20. The second was Zeus’ smart clutch to win Round 22. The final play was HObbit’s clutching a 1-v-2 in Round 25.
The Major victory was a culmination of everything Gambit had worked to achieve. Implementing tactics on the various maps, learning to develop map control, figuring out how to build the CT- and T-sides of every map. It all came together for the Major. Each mistake and each failure along the way was a lesson in that process. On top of that, multiple players stepped up. AdreN won the MVP of the event. Mou had to play the best game of his life. Dosia won a big game against Fnatic. HObbit saved the team on Inferno. Zeus had critical impact plays on some of the most important games of their tournament run.
This is not a run where you can credit the victory to any sole reason. If at any point one of the links in the chain is broken, the leadership wasn’t good enough, the tactics weren’t developed enough, if one of the players doesn’t step up at the right time on the right map, this entire thing ends. It not only took everything they had, it took more than that as some of the plays made by each of the members boggles the mind. It was a miracle run.
And we will never see it again as the lineup is now gone. But I can’t feel sorrow, because at this Major they pushed this lineup far beyond it’s limits.There was nowhere left where this lineup could have improved. Even this miracle win could not heal the internal conflicts of the team, and so it has ended. But the 10 months that the team spent together, the journey the players took, the Major victory they eventually won — that will go down as one of the magical moments in CS:GO history. The motherfucking Major is theirs and I doubt we will see a team of this ilk ever again.
Screenshot courtesy of Valve. Cover photo by Robert Paul/DreamHack