Richard “shox” Papillon and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub are France’s two greatest CS:GO players in history, yet they have not successfully sychronised their efforts and produced a consistently elite (or S Class) line-up, despite having played together for the majority of the last two years. What should have been France’s dream finally manifest, their two finest talents united, has instead turned such promise into a false bill of goods.
Two priceless gems
shox and kennyS are the two best French CS:GO players in history. Indeed their play and accomplishments transcend their nationality and have established them as two of the very best players in the game’s history, likely both worthy of a top 10 ranking. Both have been the best player in the world at one point in their illustrious careers.
shox helped supplant GeT_RiGhT and NiP as the best player and team in the world, respectively, in the latter part of 2013. kennyS rose up in the midst of FNATIC’s initial attempt to establish an era to display a peak level of CS:GO that had never been seen before and was only matched with the arrival of s1mple to peak form, at least thusfar, early this year. Aside from their peaks, both have returned from dips in form to again and again attain elite status as individual players over the many years of their careers.
Let your brother have a turn at the top
Admittedly, their peaks of world beating form have often not overlapped or coincided, but as well as being consistent with their erratic motivation levels, both of which are infamously well known in the scene, they also essentially took turns to be in the best French team over the first four or so years of CS:GO. In fact, the two have replaced each other in the best French team of the time on three notable occasions.
kennyS was kicked from VeryGames in the Spring of 2013 and shox was his replacement, with VeryGames months later attaining the top spot in the world for the first time. That honeymoon looked set to turn into something more long-term, but was cut short when shox left exactly a year to the day after having joined, seeing kennyS this time replace him in what was then called Titan.
Having fallen from world number one status in the last tournaments with shox, Titan relied upon kennyS to keep them relevant as an elite team and they remained top tier; though their poor run of form at the majors was not just underwhelming but a direct catalyst, along with LDLC’s rise with France’s left-overs, for “the first French shuffle”, which saw kennyS remain in Titan and shox form a new look LDLC line-up which proved superior and would eventually be crowned both major champion and ranked world number one.
Much as in his VeryGames days, shox’s success with LDLC, who became nV, was frequent early on, but gradually begin to fall away. This time, it was an attempted coup d’état on his part, to become the in-game leader rather than Happy, which saw shox departing the team, ousted in “the second French shuffle”. kennyS, who had dipped from the peerless form of earlier that 2015, was the obvious choice to replace the outgoing shox again. nV’s early form was superlative, making the final of two straight majors, the furthest kennyS had gone at that point, and winning one with their Dreamhack Open Cluj-Napoca campaign. Both players had now been crowned major champion.
United at last
With shox reasserting his individual excellence over in G2, where he was eventually made IGL, he managed, along with ScreaM, to carry that team, who on paper were expected to be second fiddle to nV, not only to surpass their domestic rivals but become one of the best teams in the world legitimately, famous coming close to winning beat Luminosity to win the EPL S3 title and later completing the feat with their win at ECS S1.
G2’s unexpected success rightfully drew the envious eyes of their fellow Frenchmen and shox held the power in “the third French shuffle”, in early 2017. Finally, this saw kennyS and shox placed into the same starting line-up. Joined by fellow major champions apEX and NBK, the latter having been one of the connecting threads between both French major winning campaigns, France had assembled it’s first “super-team”.
The players themselves and the public at large imagined what could be possible with shox, France’s best rifler and clutch round player, pairing his talents with kennyS, the country’s best sniper. Their playing strengths didn’t even overlap, making it seemingly a dream coupling. Surely France was now set for an even better version of 2016, when shox and ScreaM had been arguably the strongest one-two punch in the game.
Less than the sum of their parts
As it happened, 2017 was a year with some success for G2, winning big tournaments like the ESL Pro League S5 Finals and Dreamhack Masters Malmo, along with the smaller Dreamhack Open Tours. Outside of those tournaments, though, their placings were famously underwhelming and at times downright depressing. By the end of the year, the team’s rampant underperformance was highlighted by a streak of failing to win a single play-off series for a period spanning around six months.
In this G2 line-up, shox was the in-game leader and took a very different approach to the previous year, emphasising the team over setting up his own individual game and then attempting to transfer edges he gained individually to the team as a whole. A biproduct of this approach was that shox was nowhere near the individual player or star he had been in years gone by. Only at the end of that line-up’s time together, when play-off succeess had deserted them, did shox begin to again reassert himself individually.
kennyS had not just been the team’s star during 2017, at times he had been their only star. A team which had been expected to boast either two monster fire-power super-stars or at the very least a strong average fragging level, ended by beginning and ending with their future hall of fame AWPer. When the line-up began to draw to a close, kenny’s form sank with it.
Once again with thinking
Perhaps, one could theorise, it had been the lack of a sturdy tactical system to play in and separate but experienced in-game leader to lead them, that had led to such lacklustre outcomes. shox certainly thought as much, as when he announced in the Spring that he had to take time off to have surgery on his injured wrist he also explained that the G2 organisation had agreed that if the line-up used in his stead did not accomplish significant results then shox would again be given the line-up of his choice.
This time it would mean the return of Ex6TenZ, storied and accomplished in-game leader of both kennyS and shox in the past, in fact former IGL of all members of the new line-up except bodyy. shox and kennyS had both arguably been at their career peaks, as the best player in the world, under Ex6TenZ in VeryGames and Titan. Famously associated with methodical tactical play, which had made him the greatest in Source and a decorated player over the early years of CS:GO, the style even seemed an appropriate fit for what the two former super-stars had been lacking in G2 those past years.
When NBK’s placeholder team failed to materialise the relevant wins and placings, shox was given the go ahead to implement his concept. The only downside was the rest of the line-up being put into active duty. The return of SmithZz, former team-mate of all three players and someone who had been retired for over a year, came only at shox’s behest and drew much criticism from the community. With SmithZz, Ex6TenZ and bodyy in one line-up, kennyS and shox would clearly need to provide a heavy fragging presence in the game and if not then they would likely need at least two of the other three to out-perform individual expectations.
Still, if prime kennyS and prime shox could be summoned again, then surely their efforts in tandem would be not just a spectacular sight to witness but even the driving force behind a potentially world class team?
That primary condition for success never materialised in the server. shox was understandably weak in his return, coming off surgery which had prevented him from even practicing. With the burden on his back, kennyS hard carried the first two events with this line-up, only to then take a nose dive in form for the rest of the year. Sure, when you’re kennyS then a bad tournament still often means solid numbers for many other players in the top 10, but when you’re kennyS being solid is not enough and for this G2 line-up solid was to prove not nearly enough to get close to the objective.
As kennyS flagged, shox seemed to have found the metaphorical fountain of youth or his surgery and new role proved a success. Soon he was back to strong form individually, both in terms of fragging and winning clutch rounds, his two fortes historically. Sadly, his super-star AWPer was not awaiting his return and ready for battle.
G2’s best placings in their six months or so together was their top six run at ESL One Cologne. Beyond that, they were not a relevant team, failing to even make the play-offs or deep runs in some of the smaller “tier two” tournaments in the scene, often populated by teams outside of the top 10 of the world rankings.
Without two super-star players, G2’s additional fire-power had to come from Ex6TenZ and as much as he at times defied expectations, his contributions were nowhere near enough to make up for lacklustre play from the others or underwhelming impact from his sniper. G2 had failed, this time abjectly so, to make this would-be-world-beating duo work yet again.
Is that light or a reflection?
With Ex6TenZ removed, unwilling to take a secondary role in the line-up and give up leadership to shox, G2 entered 2019 with some weak replacements drafted in, relative to the stature of the team in past years and the status of some of their former players. Again, the world looks to shox to see what choices he will make. Will he go the route of NiKo in FaZe, acknowledging himself as the most effective piece on the chessboard right now and maxmise his individual level by calling to his strengths and then seeing if the rest of the team can adapt and complement his play? Such a throwback to shox’s approach in 2016, also forced to make something of seemingly lesser or rejected pieces, perhaps holds some spark of finally igniting this seemingly power-laden yet ineffective duo.
Should shox adopt some of the mentality to leadership he displayed in 2017, though, seeking to be more IGL-first than star-first, then not only is it far from likely the team finds great success, but any loss of his own individual level and identity again could see G2 sink to depths unimaginable before, especially in the context of having two such storied legends of the game in their ranks. kennyS was an unstoppable and always box office star sniper. shox was the master of the clutch round and a phenomenal rifle talent for a number of years, even ending last year showing flashes of that kind of ability. Alas! They could not be both together. Now the question is whether they ever will be.