“Here’s the 5 steps in hopes to explain it. One! It’s me and my nation against the world. Two! Then me and my clan against the nation. Three! Then me and my fam’ against the clan. Four! Then me and my brother with no hesitation, go against the fam’ until the cave in. Five! Now who’s left in this deadly equation? That’s right, it’s me against my brother, then we point a kalashinikov and kill one another.” – K`Naan, Tribes at War
The grand Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev experiment had failed. Liquid had failed just as every team before him had. Hellraisers, Flipsid3 and a bevy of other teams had all tried to tame the wild beast that was s1mple. Liquid had gotten farther than most as they were able to get one miracle run with him as they got to the top four of the MLG Columbus Major.
But that wasn’t enough. The team broke down; s1mple wanted to go home and Liquid was once again scrambling to find a fifth, eventually picking Jacob “Pimp” Winneche. But the problem was that Valve rules didn’t allow Pimp to play in the upcoming ESL Cologne Major, so Liquid still needed a fifth.
And in one final swan song, Spencer “Hiko” Martin argued for s1mple. They already had him on the team; he was the highest skilled player they could get. It was only temporary, just one tournament. Even his teammates could swallow it up for that amount of time?
They did and for one last time, the Hiko and s1mple duo had one final encore. For Hiko, it was his chance to compete with a player he believed could one day be the best in the world. For s1mple, it was his last chance to help a friend and prove that he could beat anyone. There were problems, most notably Luis “peacemaker’ Tadeu had screaming matches with s1mple during their boot camp, but they made it work.
And at the Cologne Major, Hiko and s1mple had their greatest run ever. They came out second in Group C after losing to Virtus.Pro and defeating mouz. This led them into the hardest bracket possible. Na`Vi and Fnatic. Two of the top three teams at that event. S1mple was a revelation as he destroyed the enemy teams and Liquid as a whole were on fire.
It was the greatest performance of their lives, and s1mple had the play of the tournament against Fnatic with his 1-v-2 falling AWP clutch on Cache.
And that was the performance that convinced the world that no amount of behavioral problems mattered when it came to s1mple. His skill was that high that every team should take the risk if they could get him. This eventually led to Na`Vi picking up s1mple for themselves.
Na`Vi was already one of the strongest teams in the world and with s1mple now in tow, the sky was the limit. For s1mple, it was a dream come true. A team he had always revered and wanted to play on. A team he could finally join after defeating them with his hands at the Major.
And now here we are two months later. At ESL New York, Hiko and s1mple will once again reunite — this time not as allies, but as rivals — enemies — when Na’Vi plays Liquid in the preliminary round. Both players’ fates have been intrinsically linked.
When s1mple was on Flipsid3, he was the one who demanded that if they had to play with a stand in that it be Hiko. That performance was part of why Hiko was eventually picked up by Liquid. Standing in for Flipsid3 and meeting s1mple was why Hiko was able to get s1mple to join Liquid. And even after it broke up, Hiko was still able to get s1mple one last chance to play with them at the Cologne Major, which helped s1mple finally land his spot on Na`Vi.
Together they got a top four at Electronic Sports World Cup 2015, another top four at MLG Columbus and the finals of the Cologne Major. But now, that dream is over and this is the world we live in.
The two players that have helped each other up so many times throughout their careers, the players that have achieved so much with each other when neither could do it alone, now they must fight.
The love story has ended. There is no more Hiko and s1mple, s1mple and Hiko. There is only Hiko vs. s1mple. S1mple vs. Hiko.
Or maybe this is a continuation of their love story. They can no longer play together, but now against each other, they will show the world the one thing that had forced them together in the first place: The drive to fight against the world and prove that in this one area, in this one game, in this one competition, they can, must and will win.
Perhaps in a better world, in a better time, the two of them could have stuck together. But it is this world and it is this time and New York is the place where the two brothers meet once again, not as brothers but as rivals.
Cover photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com