Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev is the best player in CS:GO. Arguably the greatest we’ve ever seen throughout CS:GO history. His year in 2018 has been so phenomenal that if he had stopped playing two months ago, I’d still argue that he was the best player of the year in 2018. His skill and talent is so prodigious that the I’ve dubbed him part of the Generation of Miracles alongside Marcelo ‘Coldzera’ David and Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovac. Generational talents who are so good that they will shape competitive CS:GO history through their actions. There is no place better to do that than the CS:GO Majors and at FACEIT Major London, s1mple will have the best chance he has ever had to win a Major.
Throughout his career, s1mple has been to six Majors. His first ever appearance was on HellRaisers in DreamHack Winter 2014 where he they made a shocking victory over Fnatic in the group stages. Even though it was a great upset, HellRaisers were a declining team and so making it to top 8 was already a good achievement for the squad.
We don’t see s1mple at a Major again until 2016. S1mple was an amazing talent, someone who has the making to be an incredible player one day. However that was hindered by his own young and brash personality. He was young, emotional, and too immature to understand how to be a good teammate. This is something that would haunt him for years as he was always good enough to be among the top CIS teams, but because he was so difficult to work with the CIS region completely gave up on him. When s1mple left Flipside, Yegor ‘markeloff’ Markeloff said,
“I feel really awesome that he left, we all feel much better.”
His time on Flipsid3 were formative years for s1mple as a player, but he had far to go as a teammate. Nearing the end of 2015, it looked like he was doomed to stay in the pits of the CIS region. However fate and the growing size of the CS:GO scene gave him another opportunity to shine.
At ESWC 2015, Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin stood-in for Flipsid3 at that tournament. The two of them played together and were able get a fairly good result as they got top four. After Hiko joined Team Liquid, he was searching for a potential player to make the team better and he remembered the time he played with s1mple. He made the call and s1mple decided to roll the dice.
S1mple joining Liquid was one of the most dramatic lineups ever seen in CS:GO. The personality clashes, the drama, and the up-and-down results would have made for the perfect movie. During that time, s1mple played for Liquid twice at the Majors. The first was MLG Columbus where Liquid made a cinderella run to the semifinals. There they played against Luminosity, the favorites of the tournament, and were able to get to match point both times against Luminosity. However LG were far more clutch under pressure and were able to adapt to and then defeat Liquid in overtime on both maps.
S1mple had been a revelation, but he and Liquid were nowhere near ready to win the Major. It was an incredible run and while in terms of raw rounds it looks like Liquid could have maybe pushed past Luminosity, but the result shows the inherent flaws that the roster had.
The second time s1mple played for Liquid at the Major was ESL One Cologne. This was an awe-inspiring performance and arguably the most pivotal tournament of s1mple’s career. At the time Liquid and s1mple had decided to part ways. S1mple wanted to go home and Liquid decided to get a different fifth. So this was to be their last event with s1mple and it showed the incredible potential of what could have been if this roster had figured out all of their out-of-game problems.
At this Major, Liquid made it all the way to the finals of the event. They beat EnVyUs and Mouz in the groups, Na`Vi in the quarterfinals, and Fnatic in the semifinals. S1mple had a phenomenal tournament and his play was the stuff of legends. The most memorable moment came with his falling AWP shot on cache against Fnatic. It was an inspired run, but once again they ran into the Brazilians, now known as SK Gaming. This time SK were even stronger than the last time and they closed out Liquid easily with a 2-0.
In these two Majors, s1mple had reached the semifinals and finals. However neither run was probable. Liquid had multiple issues going into the event, but the high pressure of the event likely created an atmosphere where everything clicked into place, where they could put all of their problems aside and show what they were capable of.
The reason this Major was so pivotal for s1mple wasn’t just the fact that he made the Finals and got a graffitti. It was because his performance forced Na`Vi to consider getting him to join the team. They realized that if s1mple could do this with a team with a completely different culture and a secondary language, that the sky was the limit if they could get him to join their own. Soon after this Major, s1mple joined Na`Vi to form the ultimate CIS team.
Sadly for Na`Vi the coaching rule gimped whatever that lineup could have become. With Sergey ‘starix’ Ischuk muted on the sidelines, the team tried to have Denis ‘seized’ Kostin do the calling. It was a tragedy as it not only didn’t work, but it also killed his game. Not only that, but s1mple had not yet matured to the point of being a good teammate. Internal problems were exacerbated and during this time, his teammate Ladislav ‘GuardiaN’ Kovacs said,
“He [s1imple] is the most talented player in CS History. It’s hard to work with him sometimes because his ego is pretty high. He is like wild beast.”
Eventually GuardiaN left Na`Vi and Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko joined. It was still a mess of a team as Zeus is a leader who takes time for things to build up. At the same time seized had lost all confidence in his game. He stepped down and this forced Na`Vi to get another player in Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov.
It is hard to say what exactly happened to s1mple during this time. It is likely that s1mple always knew that he was or could become the best player in the world. The raw talent and the number of hours he put in can attest to that. However he was didn’t understand that this was a team game, that it wasn’t enough to elevate himself, that he also had to elevate his teammates. In the two Majors he attended that year at ELeague Atlanta and the Krakow Major, both were disappointments. Na`Vi just weren’t good enough to get past Astralis at Atlanta and Krakow had them bomb out of groups.
Perhaps those losses or the continual frustrations of being unable to win were the wakeup call that s1mpl needed. For him, joining Na`Vi was likely a huge dream of s1mple’s as they were the biggest organization with the longest history in the CIS region for Counter-Strike. Yet despite all of his skill, the team worsened into near disrepair. Perhaps it was the wake up call that he needed, perhaps he realized that the common element that broke up all of his teams before this was him, or perhaps he just grew up. After all when he first joined Flipsid3 he was only 16 years old. When he joined Liquid, he lived in the League of Legends academy house and was completely alone in a foreign environment surrounded by people who he had no connection with, not even in the games they played. He just wasn’t ready for that kind of social leap he had to make to create a new life for himself and perhaps that emotional distress made him last out even more. Most probably of all was that he was just too young. He was inexperienced, both biologically and mentally.
However he was learned and he grew. Those days of s1mple causing his team distress have long since ended. By the end of 2017, all rumors of any kind of infighting in Na`Vi disappeared. S1mple had learned how to be a better teammate and role model for the CS:GO community. This was an incredible boon for Na`Vi, even more so as s1mple continued to hone his craft. He became an even more aggressive AWPer, someone who could play positions and take risky aim duels with incredible precision.
Those failures of 2017 forged s1mple into the ultimate player that he was about to become in 2018. We first saw glimpses of it at ELeague Major Boston where Na`Vi were able to get top 4 at the event. Soon after, the first months of 2018 became the s1mple show.
S1mple was unleashed onto the competition in a surge of form that was incredible to behold. It was arguably the highest peak that anyone had ever seen from any individual player in CS:GO. His natural aggression had honed itself into a the sharpest blade. The rough edges and volatility that had marked his play before had been smoothed away. His ability to play with his team both inside and outside the game took a leap forward. He was the finished product and he alone took Na`Vi to the finals of Starladder i-League Season 4. It was far beyond Na`Vi’s means at the time and if they had any other player besides s1mple, then they’d have been eliminated far sooner.
Fortunately for Na`Vi they have started to catch up to s1mple as a team. Electronic became the secondary star, Egor ‘flamie’ Vasilyev became the passive third star. Zeus and Ioann ‘Edward’ Sukhariev played better as their roles and comms started to be fixed. This all came together at ESL One Cologne 2018 where they were able to defeat Astralis in the semifinals and then go win the entire event.
After that victory, Na`Vi were considered the second best team in the world. Soon after they attended two more tournaments: ELeague Premier 2018 and DreamHack Masters Stockholm. At ELeague, Na`Vi were eliminated in the semifinals by Team Liquid. At Stockholm, they were taken out by an incredible North in the quarterfinals. Those are worrying losses in that they exposed a weakness in the Na`Vi map pool. While there are cracks appearing, this is the best team that s1mple has played on going into the Major.
Consider for a moment all of s1mple’s Majors. The first one under HellRaisers he had no chance. When he played on Liquid he pulled out miracle runs, but ran into one of the greatest teams of all time in LG/SK. In 2017, Na`Vi were a wreck of a team despite the skill that they had. In 2018, Na`Vi just weren’t ready at ELeague Major Boston, but they are now.
Make no mistake, Astralis are still the favorites to win the entire event, but among all of the Majors that s1mple has attended so far, this is his best chance. After all, Na`Vi are one of three lineups to have beaten Astralis in a bo3. While it took everything out of them to do it, they have proven to themselves that they can do it. For s1mple this will be his best chance he has had in his career to win the Major.