Thorin's Take: Aleksib the Redeemer - Dexerto
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Thorin’s Take: Aleksib the Redeemer

Published: 11/Jun/2019 18:16 Updated: 4/Dec/2019 15:29

by Duncan "Thorin" Shields

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Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen, in-game leader (IGL) of ENCE, has redeemed the dormant or dying Finnish Counter-Strike scene. During CS:GO’s history the country’s only significance had come in the form of its imports, the talented and experienced few who flew the flag by working with top teams from other countries. Under Aleksib’s leadership, however, ENCE rose up with four unproven players to accomplish astonishing feats and now find themselves poised to potentially become the world’s best team.

You used to be beautiful

In the early days of the Counter-Strike franchise, Finland was among the key players in the global scene. While their scene lacked sponsorship opportunities early on, denying them the opportunity to attend some of the early North American CS majors, namely the CPLs, within the European scene Finland was always a viable source of solid sides. At their lowest points, Finland’s finest would still be a top 10 side in the world and at their best they produced elite tier sides, even briefly boasting the best team in the world in early 2007.

Certainly, no majors were won by Finnish sides and rarely were big international tournaments of any stripe, but that spoke more to an issue of mentality as opposed to skill or depth of quality players. Names like zet0r and ruuit were rightly considered some of the very best players of their days, stars to be pitted against the likes of HeatoN and f0rest, respective to each’s era. While Finland typically only had one elite level side, their talent pool allowed for at least two who would compete at a notable level of play.

Hailing from the Nordic region, Finland cannot reasonably match up to the epic accomplishments and dominance of Sweden, nor can it point to an era-defining team like Denmark’s mTw.dk. Even Norway’s best imports, such as elemeNt or XeqtR, have much more decorated careers and longer-lasting names than Finnish legends like mysse and natu. Nevertheless, Finland was in the mix in 1.6 and had its highs when its top teams fought the titans of CS history and ever was the country relevant, even up until near the very end of the game’s competitive life-span.

Fragbite69N-28E seen winning NGL One S2 in 2007.

Finns on the road

In CS:GO, Finland was nothing for a long time.  In the early years, natu was a part of some line-ups who showed brief flashes of competence but with nothing exceptional and over a span of time in which the number of teams capable of competing at the top was significantly less than currently.  Instead, Finland’s relevance was maintained through the efforts of its exports.

Natu became one of the first real coaches in CS:GO, following up on the more friend-orientated relationship pita had manifested as NiP’s first official coach, and helping guide NiP during their transition from revitalised world contender into solid top 10 team with decaying once-world-class components.

Under him in that edition of NiP was allu, the last remaining link from the top Finnish teams of 1.6. The last year 1.6 had been allu’s arrival onto the international scene, a 19-year-old rookie learning under experienced IGL lurppis and tasked with replacing the special all-around talent naSu. In CS:GO, allu had come into his own as a player. In mousesports he was one of the best players gob b had at his disposal.

When NiP decided the fiery Maikelele was too much strife they benched the Swede and brought in the icy cool allu to take over his sniping duties and replace his “hype” style with a more serious and calm demeanour. While allu seemed a successful addition to the Ninjas, their results could not maintain at such a stellar level, where they had been contenders at every tournament prior to his addition.

NiP’s slide from relevance meant there were not big international titles during allu’s tenure in their team, but the Finn was able to next find a home in FaZe, a flawed project of international talents who had yet to make any kind of meaningful headway into the play-off portion of big tournaments. When karrigan finally joined allu in FaZe, the team took off and with later roster moves would eventually vy for the number one spot in the world, become a Legends status team at the major and win a big title at StarSeries S3.

The final name of note in this tale is, of course, suNny.  The former mouz starter, who even featured in an ENCE line-up years ago, broke out in PENTA, an internationally-mixed line-up akin to FaZe and mouz but on a smaller scale of resources. Parlaying this into a call-up to mouz itself, suNny went from being a solid member of the team’s trio of star talents, along with oskar and ropz, to legitimately establishing himself as one of the very best riflers in the world by the middle of 2018. For the first time in CS:GO, a Finnish player had one of the elite talents in the game.

ESL

Redemption arc

That Finnish Counter-Strike history lesson is to establish the context of the world Aleksib emerged from.  Finnish CS:GO was not considered a hotbed of potential talents. The assumption was that anyone good enough would either show up in FPL and find themselves an international team or be recommended by the likes of suNny and allu. The notion of an entire team of Finns rising up together to battle the world’s best, eventually prove themselves consistently worthy of similar status and even go on to win international titles would have been dismissed as delusional and rightly so.

Under Aleksib, ENCE has managed many wonders in the last 14 months or so.  It all began with their shocking big international debut at ESL One Cologne, qualifying for the event and then besting NiP and mouz, losing only to Astralis and Na`Vi, two of the best teams in the entire world. When most top teams skipped StarSeries S7, ENCE pounced on the opportunity and took the title at an event featuring teams like mouz, North, OpTic and BIG, who would all have been more likely candidates to rush into the vacuum of world beaters and take the trophy.

While 2018 was about impressive debuts and early upsets, this year has been the true coming out of the ENCE line-up and Aleksib’s impact on the squad. At IEM Katowice, the first major of the year, ENCE would have been celebrated merely for exceeding expectations by making it to the Legends status of the play-offs, but sergej and company went much further than that, taking down tournament favourites Team Liquid and previous finalists Na`Vi in Bo3 series play. Upon reaching the final, an unthinkable feat already, ENCE could not hold up against Astralis, but who could blame them?

Since then, ENCE has shown strong performance at two Blast Pro Series events, most notably winning the Madrid edition in spectacular fashion. Aleksib’s boys not only reached the final this time, but broke Astralis’ seemingly impossible 31:0 nuke LAN streak, gave them a rare series sweep loss and also ended the Danes’ run of not losing two tournaments in a row since reaching world number one status.  ENCE had arrived in Katowice, but now they had made a permanent home among the world’s best teams.

As irrelevant had Finland had been for so many years in CS:GO, in terms of producing entire teams to compete at the international level, now the country stands behind one of the most exciting and intense sides on the circuit, capable of theoretically winning any tournament, though many more trophies are still required for the push to the absolute summit of the scene can be realised. ENCE has a more impressive resume of results over the last three months of play than Astralis, the team whose era only just ended.

Victories over Team Liquid, Na`Vi and Astralis represent the biggest scalps a team can collect in the game. Astralis were the dominant force of 2018 and are the two-time reigning major champions, fresh off arguably the best era in Counter-Strike. Team Liquid are perhaps even stronger than the stellar form of 2018, having themselves beaten Astralis and now won a number of tournament titles of their own. Na`Vi have been far more flawed than last year, but still boast the best player in the world (s1mple), possibly ever.

Quite the resume of victories for an IGL who hasn’t even been competing at this level for an entire calender year.

DreamHack / Adela Sznajder

What we have to work with

It’s not as if Aleksib was given his own FaZe-esque set of talents to craft into a cohesive and effective side. The only proven piece at his disposal was allu, the man ENCE’s CS:GO team had essentially been resurrected to provide a home for. Certainly, allu has been a very competent player at the international level and at times verged upon star level play, but his time in FaZe and later OpTic did not have many expecting him to be a hard carry of a team at the level ENCE now occupy.

Indeed, he has not been that kind of player and has instead contributed strong sniping form, his years of unique experiences and a strong mentality to offline play in a stage environment. All of that cannot be easily overlooked, but the point to be emphasised is that the presence of allu has not given Aleksib a super-star level player to operate around.

The other four names, Aleksib himself included, are new to the top level of competitive play in CS:GO.  Stand out sergej was barely 16 upon joining ENCE around the same time as Aleksib. The young Finn has had super-star level tournament performances from time to time, but has not been a hard carry force in the vein of s1mple or NiKo. As much potential as seems clearly present within the youth’s game, ENCE’s epic run to the major final, for example, came with him in a relative slump.

Aerial will, understandably, being mistaken for a young player himself, due to how fresh his name is at this level, but is in fact 26 and would have been categorised as a “never was” up until recently. Nevertheless, echoing the arrival to the Danish scene of the similarly older-than-you-would-assume valde, Aerial has been a surprise performer for ENCE, even earning MVP honours in their victorious Blast campaign. Was this really a talent nobody else could identify within the Finnish scene? Perhaps, but Aleksib’s use of him as an entry component and working directly with him on the T side has developed Aerial far beyond the level many could have anticipated.

XseveN is the final name rounding out ENCE’s quintet and looked set to become the man singled out for replacement when the team reached the major play-offs. With mouz having failed the minor and ENCE’s rise being so surprising yet exhilerating, many would have eyed xseveN as the player who should be sent to the bench to allow the team to bring in suNny, the best Finnish player, into the best Finnish team. XseveN’s heroic performances in the play-offs put such thoughts to one side. Playing a supportive role, xseveN’s contributions are hard to argue against, when one considers how cohesively the team has played and their string of strong finishes.

It would have seemed a certainty that suNny would have been a part of any Finnish team which could rise into the top five and especially one which could best teams like Astralis and Team Liquid and win titles of their own. Instead, Aleksib and ENCE have done it on their own, for now.

Epic Esports Events

ENCEstralis

It is a compliment of the highest order than fans have at times jokingly referred to ENCE as “ENCEstralis”, highlighting the Finnish sides similarities with the mighty Astralis as teams whose tactical style controls the game, empowers their map pool and makes their players more than the mere sum of their individual parts.  Their map pool showcases their unique status as a tactically-powerful side, as their strength on the normally troublesome nuke and train T sides attests.

ENCE are still not a team with a player who would be considered a top five talent in the world, with sergej perhaps cracking the top 10 for more experts.  Man for man, they are not a line-up who exude raw skill or monstrous fire-power, especially in a scene with the likes of Team Liquid hanging around, yet they routinely defeat and outplace more high profile names, more decorated players and more skilled opponents.

ENCE are a team who win through their tactical control of a match and their admirable team-work, often colloquially referred to as “team-play” in Counter-Strike.  ENCE also mirror Astralis in how strong their understanding of the fundamentals of the game are. They do not exhibit the wild moves of FURIA or the power fragging of FaZe.  Here is a team who use core CS principles like the trade frag, map control and utility usage to repeatedly engineer victories against even the best teams in the game.

Such qualities begin with the in-game leader.  Teams who explicitly commit to a tactical style and play with the controlled approach of ENCE live and die by their tactician’s aptitude at preparing his troops, calling within a match and ability to read and vary his approach as a game develops.  In these areas, Aleksib scores highly and can now be considered the best IGL in Counter-Strike.

Vectorama

Calm hand at the wheel

A primary descriptor that comes to mind when watching ENCE play is “poise”.  For such an inexperienced and arguably under-powered squad, the Finns do not seem rushed or brittle in their mental state.  When down in a match, they continue to grind and limit the damage until a break is found and a chance to come back secured. When leading, they are not prone to wild mistakes and nervous gambles in an over-eager effort to close a match out or halt an opponent battling back.  This is a team with a champion’s understanding of the key rounds which decide a match, understandably very rare for a team who had not meaningfully been champions at this level before.

That mindset is more inspiring when ENCE are facing an uphill struggle in a match.  When under the gun and fast facing an incoming loss, ENCE are certainly capable of being blow out, but on many an occasion they have displayed “sisu”, a Finnish concept of tenacity and grit under trying circumstances.  As such, it is no wonder they have fast accrued a legion of dedicated fans for their play.

Not only do such qualities eminate from the leader of a team, but can be seen in the mentality and attitude of Aleksib himself.  He is a man who seems under control during his games and at home in both games in which he is comfortable with the setting of both teams but also in wild matches which veer into chaotic territory and force rapid adaptations.  This is a rare quality within the lineage of Finnish Counter-Strike history.

StarLadder

Game changer

The top Finnish 1.6 teams spoke of previously were practically always limited by their lack of poise when in control of a match and composure under the pressure of a big stage game or difficult battle.  They were fantastic front runners and had teams of skilled players, some of which worked well together, but in the big moment could be reliably expected to fold. There are so many stories from the great Finnish 1.6 players of the maps they “almost won” and the times they “were so close to beating [the best teams]”.  Certainly many more than the tales of accomplishments which actually took place.

Stylistically, Finnish teams were practically never considered among the best tactically.  They played to the strengths of their individual talents, often giving them free reign and basing the rest of the game on the whims of their best players.  Finnish Counter-Strike was early on known for rushing and up-tempo play, as a result. In later years, primarily under the leadership of lurppis, the IGL who accomplished the most top finishess for the country, Finnish Counter-Strike sought to allow the best talents to coexist and simply hoped they would not combust on a personal level, as sadly was often the case.

Hence why I have singled out Aleksib as the most important and integral part of ENCE.  As skilled as sergej may be, there are other young talents in the world who can showcase similar form and arguably even better, as Vitality’s ZywOo is showing us.  allu is a wily veteran with a sturdy mindset, but is hardly unique in the qualities he possesses. Aerial has been a relevation from the Finnish scene, but is not even always a starring presence in ENCE’s wins.  xseveN has exceeded all expectations, yet does record poor statistics for his performances with regularity. No, ENCE’s best piece is their leader.

A strong case could be made that ENCE are the second best team in the world right now.  They don’t have the best star, the best veterans or the best supportive elements. They do have the best in-game leader, though.  Aleksib has redeemed the Finnish scene and elevated them to heights as yet unseen and the promise of a future in which Finland is remembered as a country of winners and land of a never-say-die attitude.  For fans of Finnish Counter-Strike and even ice hockey, this is reason enough to celebrate Aleksib as the redeemer of their hopes and dreams.

CS:GO

How to watch the DreamHack Masters Winter 2020: stream, schedule, scores

Published: 1/Dec/2020 23:45 Updated: 1/Dec/2020 23:57

by Alan Bernal

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The DreamHack Masters Winter 2020 is upon us and here’s all you need to know to keep up with the action, including the CS:GO streams below, schedule across all four regions, and how the $250,000 prize pool will break down as placements start to wrap.

Spread across four regions, DreamHack are hosting some of the best teams in the world with stacked brackets in Europe and across its events.

With the qualifiers out of the way, all participants have been confirmed and are moving through the different brackets to see who will make it to the playoffs.

As we get deeper into the brackets, the online era of CS:GO is going to give us a unique DreamHack experience that’s bound to result in some wild outcomes. So check out our guide below on everything you’ll need to get viewing.

DreamHack CS:GO Streams

All of the games are going to be broadcasted on DreamHack’s Twitch channels, with a few events taking place at the same time. We’ve embedded the active ones below, and will add more if anything were to change.

DreamHack teams

Europe – 16 teams

Group A Group B
Heroic Astralis
c0ntact Gaming GODSENT
FaZe Clan Team Liquid
Team Spirit mousesports
Complexity G2 Esports
ENCE Nemiga Gaming
Cloud9 FURIA Esports
Gambit Esports North

North America – 8 teams

Group A Group B
Chaos Esports New England Whalers
Rebirth Esports Mythic
Rugratz Team oNe
Triumph Yeah Gaming

Oceania – 4 teams

Teams
Avant Gaming
ORDER
Renegades
Chiefs Esports Club

Asia – 4 teams

Teams
Invictus Gaming
TYLOO
ViCi Gaming
TIGER

In the current era of CS:GO, most of the world’s top-level competition have made the move to Europe, so it’s no surprise to see many recognizable orgs listed in the same event.

However, for Asia, Oceania, and North America, lesser known competition will have a fantastic opportunity to put their name on the map. Teams like TIGER, Renegades, Chaos, and more will all want to make a splash in their respective regions.

DreamHack Masters format and schedule

Due to the disparity in participants across the four events, there’s going to be slight differences in how they all play out, but all DreamHack events still have the typical bracket play with teams competing in a Best-of-Three to advance.

The DreamHack Masters Winter 2020 starts on Monday, November 30 through to the Grand Finals across the four respective regions on Sunday, December 6.

Schedule & Results

Europe

November 30

Group A Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Round 1 Heroic 2-0 c0ntact Gaming 4am 7am 1pm
Upper Bracket Round 1 FaZe Clan 0-2 Team Spirit 4am 7am 1pm
Upper Bracket Round 1 Complexity 2-1 ENCE 11am 2pm 8pm
Upper Bracket Round 1 Cloud9 0-2 Gambit 11am 2pm 8pm

 

Group B Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Round 1 Astralis 1-2 GODSENT 4am 7am 1pm
Upper Bracket Round 1 Team Liquid 0-2 mousesports 5am 8am 2pm

December 1

Group A Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Round 1 FaZe Clan 2-1 c0ntact Gaming 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm
Lower Bracket Round 1 ENCE 0-2 Cloud9 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm
Upper Bracket Round 2 Heroic 2-0 Team Spirit 11am 2pm 8pm
Upper Bracket Round 2 Complexity 0-2 Gambit 11am 2pm 8pm

 

Group B Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Round 1 G2 Esports 2-0 Nemiga 4am 7am 1pm
Upper Bracket Round 1 FURIA 2-0 North 4am 7am 1pm

December 2

Group B Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Round 1 Astralis vs Team Liquid 4am 7am 1pm
Lower Bracket Round 1 Nemiga vs North 4am 7am 1pm
Upper Bracket Round 2 GODSENT vs mousesports 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm
Upper Bracket Round 2 G2 Esports vs FURIA 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm

December 3

Group A Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Round 2 Complexity vs FaZe Clan 4am 7am 1pm
Lower Bracket Round 2 Cloud9 vs Team Spirit 4am 7am 1pm

 

Group B Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Round 2 TBD vs TBD 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm
Lower Bracket Round 2 TBD vs TBD 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm

December 4

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Quarterfinals TBD vs TBD 4am 7am 1pm
Quarterfinals TBD vs TBD 4am 7am 1pm
Quarterfinals TBD vs TBD 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm
Quarterfinals TBD vs TBD 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm

December 5

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Semifinals TBD vs TBD 4am 7am 1pm
Semifinals TBD vs TBD 7:30am 10:30am 4:30pm

December 6

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Grand Finals TBD vs TBD 7am 10am 4pm

North America

November 30

Group A Game PT ET BST
Opening Matches Chaos 2-1 Rugratz 2:30pm 5:30pm 11:30pm
Opening Matches Triumph 1-2 Rebirth 3pm 6pm 12am

December 1

Group B Game PT ET BST
Opening Matches Team oNe vs Yeah 2:30pm 5:30pm 11:30pm
Opening Matches Whalers vs Mythic 2:30pm 5:30pm 11:30pm

December 2

Group A Game PT ET BST
Winner’s Match Chaos vs Rebirth 11am 2pm 8pm

 

Group B Game PT ET BST
Winner’s Match TBD 2:30pm 5:30pm 11:30pm

December 3

Group A Game PT ET BST
Elimination Match Rugratz vs Triumph 11am 2pm 8pm

 

Group B Game PT ET BST
Elimination Match TBD vs TBD 2:30pm 5:30pm 11:30pm

December 4

Group A Game PT ET BST
Decider Match TBD vs TBD 11am 2pm 8pm

 

Group B Game PT ET BST
Decider Match TBD vs TBD 2:30pm 5:30pm 11:30pm

December 5

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Semifinals TBD vs TBD 11am 2pm 8pm
Semifinals TBD vs TBD 2:30pm 5:30pm 11:30pm

December 6

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Grand Finals TBD vs TBD 12pm 3pm 9pm

Oceania

November 30

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Round 1 Renegades 2-0 Chiefs ESC 8:30pm 11:30pm 5:30am

 December 1

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Round 1 ORDER vs Avant Gaming 8:30pm 11:30pm 5:30am

December 2

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Final Renegades vs TBD 8:30pm 11:30pm 5:30am

December 3

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Round 1 Chiefs ESC vs TBD 8:30pm 11:30pm 5:30am

December 4

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Final TBD vs TBD 8:30pm 11:30pm 5:30am

December 5

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Grand Final TBD vs TBD 8:30pm 11:30pm 5:30am

Asia

December 1

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Round 1 TYLOO 1-2 TIGER 12am 3am 9am

December 2

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Round 1 ViCi vs Invictus 12am 3am 9am

December 3

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Upper Bracket Final TIGER vs TBD 12am 3am 9am

December 4

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Round 1 TYLOO vs TBD 12am 3am 9am

December 5

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Lower Bracket Final TBD vs TBD 12am 3am 9am

December 6

Playoffs Game PT ET BST
Grand Final TBD vs TBD 12am 3am 9am

DreamHack Winter 2020 Final Placements and Winnings

Europe

Team Prize Money (USD) Pro Tour points
1st TBD $60,000 400
2nd TBD $30,000 265
3rd-4th TBD $12,000 160
TBD
5th-6th TBD $5,000 75
TBD
7th-8th TBD $5,000 65
TBD
9th-12th TBD $2,500 45
TBD
TBD
TBD
13th-16th c0ntact Gaming $1,500 N/A
ENCE
TBD
TBD

North America

Team Prize Money (USD) Pro Tour points
1st TBD $35,000 320
2nd TBD $15,000 190
3rd-4th TBD $6,000 105
TBD
5th-6th TBD $2,500 N/A
TBD
7th-8th TBD $1,500 N/A
TBD

Oceania

Team Prize Money (USD) Pro Tour points
1st TBD $8,000 185
2nd TBD $4,000 85
3rd TBD $2,000 45
4th TBD $1,000 NA

Asia

Team Prize Money (USD) Pro Tour points
1st TBD $8,000 185
2nd TBD $4,000 85
3rd TBD $2,000 45
4th TBD $1,000 NA