Gambit Esports’ offlane player Maxim “Shachlo” Abramovskikh opened up in an interview with Taras Bortnik for VPEsports and he took the time to take us on his journey to professional play starting from his childhood memories. From the first consoles, the first computer game to the Warcraft III custom map called DotA, Shachlo talks about his first-ever hero played, what he did in his first game and how he navigated between college, a car service job and official matches with Solo in Dota 2, to the present days as a Gambit member.
What should people know about you in the first place?
I don’t know, that I spent all my life at the PC? It all started with the consoles, Dendy, Sega, then the computers appeared, then the Internet, then Lineage 2 appeared on the Internet. My childhood was ordinary: I walked, rode the bicycle, set fire to all kinds of garbage, walked around construction sites until eventually, I discovered the internet.
Do you remember how, why did you launch Dota for the first time?
Yes, I even clearly remember which hero I played. I came to a computer club with my friend. I don’t remember how it happened that we sat down to play Dota. We played various custom games back then and we saw this other custom map. I thought: “Well, nothing interesting.” I remember playing Enchantress. I went to beat the tower on the first level, but it didn’t get destroyed. And I remember that I was buying recipes.
Ah, well, everyone did that. It was a typical mistake for the new players back then. So, what year was that?
Hmm, I don’t know exactly, but I know that Spectre was added about six months after I started to play. [Ed. note: Spectre was added on March 15, 2006].
If I’m not mistaken, you made your debut in the pro scene in 2013, or was it even earlier?
I don’t know (laughs).
Then, when did you start to consider yourself a pro player?
I still don’t consider myself a professional player. I’d say I started to take the game more seriously when I realized that I really like it.
By general definition, a professional is a person who receives money for some kind of employment. When did you get your first payment for playing Dota?
Most likely, the first money earned was for the M5 Cup. I was playing on a team with Solo, Xi. Nobody knew about us back then, and we took second place there.
When did you sign the first contract with an organization?
When I played for Power Rangers (2014)
How much did you get paid then?
500 dollars. But I know that my teammates were paid more.
Did it bother you that they were paid better?
It confused me. I remember that I talked with the manager about that and he said: “if you play better, there will be more salary.” I really didn’t play very well back then. I lost half a year in PR, then they kicked me, deservedly so. I was approaching the game completely unprofessionally. I was playing for fun. I was playing only heroes that I wanted…
When did this change? Please, do not say that in Gambit.
No, not here. This happened most likely after a series of setbacks. At first, I was in PR, then in HR, then Flipsid3, Effect. I think I was with Effect when I started to play more seriously, but I had other problems there. Perhaps more of the psychological nature. I think the seriousness and the more professional approach comes gradually.
It’s not like yesterday you were playing just for fun and tomorrow you are all of a sudden serious, a professional player and all. It comes with gaming experience and growing up. Perhaps it happens when you understand that you are spending your time on something that you want to make it work.
Did you have a moment when you worked, had a job in parallel with playing Dota 2?
It was like that in the beginning. When I played with Xi and Solo, I was studying engine diagnostics and I was working in a car service. I was earning enough to buy something for myself, and to stop my parents nagging me.
Did you get your university degree?
No, I don’t have one. I went to college several times, but it all made me so depressed that there was absolutely no motivation to continue.
Did you enjoy working with cars, could you do engine diagnostics right now?
Yes, I could. I would certainly do one for fun (laughs).
Correct me if I’m wrong. Before Gambit, your biggest achievement in terms of tournament results is the second place with HellRaisers at D2CL.
In fact, I believe that the Cup of Russia victory is higher than the victory in the online tournament. I don’t remember anything about D2CL, but I have good memories from Russian Cup in 2018.
Up until 2018 you had more or less one decent result. Why couldn’t you find something consistent?
It’s very difficult to do something in CIS as team but without an organization. You begin to play together, show at least the slightest results – they pay attention to your players and they take them away. It’s always like that and that’s why you see so many stacks forming and reforming all over again.
So, roughly said, the strong eats the weak. Were you earning enough during all the time you played for various stacks to make a living?
Financially, I was tight. There was something to eat, so to speak, but it wasn’t chic.
Enough to rent an apartment?
I have my own.
You are lucky. What was the worst period that you had?
Sometime between 2017 and 2018. In September 2017, I joined Comanche and it so happened that they did not pay money. Someone eventually bought Comanche, there were some promises, but we never received the money. Then there were slight delays in salaries at Gambit, and for a long time paid prizes for the Cup of Russia. It was a hard time after I left Effect, prior to joining Singularity.
So, that’s actually about a year and a half. Did you think to give up during that time?
Yes, I thought about that.
What made you stay?
The longer you play Dota, the more time you invest in it, the more valuable it is. Just the realization that you have already spent a lot of time. If you give up now, having spent the best years of your life playing Dota, then it means that the healthiest years of your life were just wasted.
Was there a moment when you just didn’t know what to expect from playing Dota?
No, not really. Over the past 7-8 years, I have not stopped playing Dota at all. The maximum time I took a break was for a week or two. Dota is definitely an integral part of my life.
Were you surprised when you were invited to Gambit?
Very much. After Singularity, I was no longer hoping to get an invite into a good team. I thought it was the time for me to start streaming. I thought that people who could call me on a team would not do this because of my age.
Nix said in an interview that the CIS teams face a psychological barrier when they go to qualifiers. There are only two slots for the Majors and they are always taken by Natus Vincere and Virtus.pro. Are you feeling the same way as Nyx?
To be honest, I think I personally was even a level lower than those struggling for a Major slot. I had to fight for even getting into the closed qualifiers. When we passed the closed qualifiers and even showed ourselves there, for me it was more like staying afloat and having a good performance on the Minor stage. If you do not do this, then you face a collapse.
Many players, especially the young ones, often say in interviews “I will win the Aegis.” Did you ever think about this, about you winning the Aegis one day?
But you have to believe that you will win it at some point in your career.
I believe that I have a chance to win it.
You guys had a rough time playing without gpk and then having him back. At what point did you find out that gpk will return?
I think I knew it all the time. I guessed, so to speak. From the moment gpk left, he and I were chatting every day. I treat him well, despite his decision. He is young, impulsive. He was just wrong – let him understand that he was wrong. I’d say I was 95% sure that he will come back.
Obviously, the team goal is to qualify for The International, but if we talk about personal goals, what is important for you, what have you set as a target for yourself before you reach 30 years old?
For me, this question is a little strange. To be honest, I often can’t say what day of the week it is and what date. I really try not to think about time.
You are the kind of a person that takes everything day by day?
Yes, most likely.
Is age a problem for pro players?
Who are the three best offlane players now, in your opinion?
One of them is definitely Zai. I’d say Zai, 9pasha and iceiceice. iceiceice is a god. He has been playing for so many years and he is doing it f***ing awesome.
What separates you from the super-top offlaners?
To wrap-up our interview. Having played in the offlane for a long time, what is your favourite period/patch for offlane, which style do you like the most?
I can say that I definitely did not like it when the carry heroes were played in the offlane. I think it was too much responsibility on such heroes. Carry heroes are not space creators, they don’t have the tools for such a play style. I prefer more to buff my team, die for the team, create space and gain time. I love the two versus two or three versus one metas.