One of the best stories to come out of 2017 was the victory of Gambit at the Krakow Major. It defied all expectations as the roster of Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko, Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev, Rustem “mou” Telepov, Abay “HObbit” Khassenov, and Mikhail “Dosia” Stolyarov shocked the world with their performance. In the afterglow of that victory, people hailed Zeus as the God-King of leaders, someone who had led his underdog team to the top of the world. And while Zeus deserves those plaudits, fans came to realize that it was the star power of the players on Gambit that had been the real driving forces behind that victory and the two biggest reasons were because of the star duo of AdreN and HObbit.
The rise of these two players is the most shocking thing of the 2017 season. Both hail from Kazakhstan, one of the weaker countries in Counter-Strike history. The context alone is crazy enough. After all, the history of Counter-Strike has evolved around national lines. In a majority of cases, the best teams have come from single-nationality mixes. Naturally then, the nations with the largest Counter-Strike populations had a natural advantage to draw from as they had a larger talent pool that competed and improved each other. The real kicker to the stories of AdreN and HObbit is how they have defied expectations as both veteran and rookie in their 2017 career.
AdreN for most of his career in CS:GO was a support player. The best line-up he ever played in CS:GO prior to the current Gambit was the original Virtus.Pro/Astana Dragons line-up from late 2012 to the end of 2013. He was part of the CIS team that ended the 87-0 NiP streak and the rivalry between the two teams was one of the hallmarks of the era. Beyond that period though, he was never on a contending team and he was left behind as the better players of the region formed stronger teams and he was left with the scraps.
But at the end of 2016 something changed. By that point in time, AdreN was a long time veteran of the game. For a majority of veterans, they get stuck in their ways. It makes sense as they have played the game for so long that their passion for the game has died out. They have found the most comfortable way they like to play and they no longer grow or improve. AdreN bucked that trend as his game continued to grow. His growth coincided with Zeus joining the roster.
“ When we assembled Gambit, I thought to myself: ‘What the hell? I’ve always been a star player.’ That’s when I set a goal to become one of the best. That’s the way it went.” – AdreN on his improvement as a player.
AdreN became one of the best and most versatile players in the game. He could create huge impact on both sides of the map at any point in the round. It was incredible to see and he became the engine behind the entire team. It was his star performances that gave Gambit a chance against any team in the world and his performance marked him as one of the best players for the first three-quarters of 2017.
An equally impressive rise of form was the new rookie of the team HObbit. He was a player on no one’s radar, but at his first LAN with the team at DreamHack Winter 2016, he won the MVP award of the tournament. It was a promising start, but many of the young talents had promising starts. It was the continued sustained results that forced them to drop off as other teams and players started to scout and counter their tendencies.
This never happened to HObbit. He consistently played his roles within the Gambit system and slowly expanded what he could do over time. While his roles were more rigid than AdreN’s, he was also a player that could impact the game on both sides of the map at any point in the round. It was an incredible performance to see and made some people question how the hell HObbit had gone for so long without being discovered.
HObbit’s most impressive game is still the final game of the Krakow Major Finals. In that game, Gambit had run out of ideas of what to do on the T-side of the map so it came down to two huge clutch rounds from HObbit to seal the deal against Immortals and to win the Major.
On one side we had the veteran support player who had transformed himself into becoming one of the best players in the world. On the other side we had a rookie in his first year constantly putting up great performances that never fell off. The combination of the two was the winning formula for the team, but Gambit now have a problem.
After Zeus left, many assumed that Gambit would fall to the wayside. This didn’t happen as the amount of skill in the team was still strong across the board. In Zeus’ place they got Bektiyar “fitch” Bahytov, another prospect from Kazakhstan that proved his worth in Gambit’s first outing at DreamHack Malmo where they got to the semifinals of the event.
But the problem was that there was no leader left and has left confusion in the ranks as to who should in-game lead. At first it was AdreN, then Dosia, and now both AdreN and Dosia. This leadership issue has coincided with AdreN’s fall from one of the best players in the world to merely a good player. The other problem with the leadership is that Gambit is no longer evolving. During the Zeus era, the team slowly built up the map pool over a period of 9 months. This team showed immediate strength on Mirage, Cache, and Train, but have yet to prove they have expanded their map pool in any significant way. On top of that fitch is not HObbit. Where HObbit was able to consistently perform once he got to the top level, fitch has had problems with adjusting to players and teams countering his play style making him much less impactful than he was at his debut at DreamHack Malmo.
Though Gambit is still a dangerous team in the world, they are riddled with problems. AdreN’s falling form, the lack of coherent leadership, and the ability to evolve as a team are all problems that Gambit must face as they head into the ELeague Major 2018. But the winning formula for Gambit to go far in this Major is the same. It will depend on the experienced veteran who became a superstar player and the new rookie who became one of the best in the world. The old mountain and the rising tide. AdreN and HObbit, the dual stars of Gambit.