Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke is one of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive's lost talents and tragic cases. While the OpTic Gaming player is still considered the star of his team, it is largely by virtue of the reputation attached to his name, as he barely even stands out statistically in a team that is fighting to even earn top 10 status.
Asked to theory-craft reasons OpTic would have a chance against Team Liquid, arguably the most skilled line-up in history, at Dreamhack Masters Malmo, many experts would suggest k0nfig having a big individual game as a potential win condition. In reality, his team accomplished their big Best-of-1 (Bo1) upset win with k0nfig posting only 11 kills, second worst in the server behind only NAF from the losing team. One would struggle to find any credible expert who'd pick him as even a top five individual player in Denmark right now.
Matters used to be very different for k0nfig and the teams that fielded him, though.
A time to shine
k0nfig is a player who had others within the Danish scene talking about his potential and raw skill level upon his rise to join the SK Gaming line-up in the latter part of 2015. A year later and he was considered one of the strongest young stars in the game, winning HLTV's MVP award for Dignitas' surprise win at EPICENTER, a stacked competition featuring only series play. Another year after that, in late 2017, k0nfig was considered one of the best individual players in the entire world and a strong contender for best Danish player, with device's health issues understandably taking him off the board.
North (as Dignitas' line-up became known) were not often at the level of Astralis, but k0nfig could shine individually at a level equal to or above Astralis players on many occasions. As such, his reputation as a stud quickly grew and fans even anticipated the potential for him to be the player who replaced Kjaerbye in Astralis, an opportunity eventually offered to k0nfig's former Dignitas/North team-mate Magisk.
Instead, his story has largely been a downhill fall from grace since, not a consolidation of the experiences and trials undertaken thusfar and building into a hall of fame level career. For now, k0nfig is a "what if" for most CS:GO fans and someone they have practically given up on. Yet the Danish prodigy is only 22 years of age.
Most will have heard the old adage that "hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard" and there are few players in the scene that saying fits better than k0nfig. Every former team-mate of his I ever asked about him, whether they liked him or disliked him, has told me essentially the same story: he is the most skilled player they have ever played with, in a pure ability and mechanical aptitude sense, but his mentality has been and will be the limiting factor to his success.
We're talking about players who have played with device, dupreeh, Magisk, cajunb, Nico and other individually spectacular players, depending on their relevant time in history, yet k0nfig ranks at the top for potential and ability. What would have been a wonderful compliment is transformed into a gnawing feeling that something is wrong in the house of k0nfig and a yearning sensation for the return of the player who began to tear up the scene at the highest level in late 2016.
The Danish scene is not known for super-star talents like s1mple, ZywOo or Twistzz - unbelievable raw aimers whose freedom in the game makes them roving tornados of destruction. Instead, the Danish scene has built its success on systems-based approaches and more regimented roles. k0nfig is the exception to that rule, where even device has been a dominant player more for his ability to play within his specific team and add extra value rather than as a routine highlight clip generator, a characterisation more fitting to those other names.
Talent vs. work
k0nfig is a player who embodies the dilemma of talent. Talent can get a player like him to the top level but then hard work and diligence, in and out of the server, will determine whether he can stay at that elite level or whether he will fall back into the pack of average-to-good players that make up most of the professional scene. Too often, as seen with names like kennyS and f0rest, talent can become a crutch to allow a player to still perform at a good or even sometimes great level, in contrast to his peers, but means they can get away without being as dedicated as others, especially graded against their own staggering potential, which often far outstrips their rivals and peers.
In contrast, a player like ENCE's xseveN has already accomplished so much that would have been deemed near-impossible for a player of his raw skill level, which is visibily far lower, and, as far as one can tell from the outside, such success has come as a result of diligent practice and a productive mentality towards team-mates. The great contrasting example to f0rest's erratic but superlative individual level, which was attenuated by wavering motivation over the years, has always been long-time team-mate GeT_RiGhT's exceptional drive and dedication to practice and thus his enduring consistency for the better part of a decade.
One can even see these differing backgrounds and paths taken in the playing styles of players on different ends of the spectrum. Xyp9x is a player who essentially gave up focusing upon his raw skill in order to become the greatest supportive player in CS:GO history. His movement, decision-making and firing style all boast of his intelligence and the heavy practice hours he has dedicated to becoming excellent from a position of consistency for his team. A player like k0nfig is beloved for his aggressive and risky playing style, which aligns with his strengths but also leaves far less margin for error than that of a Xyp9x.
Put simply: give Xyp9x k0nfig's aim and he'd be the best player in the world, nearly unbeatable. Put k0nfig's brain into Xyp9x's body, though, and you will have a player you would likely never hear of or consider a relevant CS:GO pro.
This is where the dilemma of talent arises, though, as one is forced to question whether k0nfig would have been as slipshod with his dedication to improving if he did not have the crutch of talent to prop him up. One suspects this dynamic is at play on both ends of the spectrum.
What makes k0nfig a unique figure in the CS:GO scene is he is one of the very few players who is held back almost entirely by himself. For a player like gob b, literally hours and hours of CSDM (deathmatch) a day could not make him a strong individual player. No amount of demo study will make Dosia the smartest player in clutches. Yet for k0nfig, the power to succeed and excel lies largely in his hands and his alone.
Here is a player who has repeatedly, over the years, been cited as having attitude problems as far as practice hours, quality of practice and general attitude towards his place in the team go. In that sense, he stands as a Danish s1mple, more talented than practically all of his peers and yet excluded or overlooked for attitude alone. In some senses, k0nfig should be judged even more harshly than s1mple, since the Ukrainian never let his individual level of dedication slack and arguably lashed out at his team-mates largely from frustration at them not being good enough, where k0nfig's negatives have seen him let his own game slip in an irresponsible manner.
Even k0nfig's playing style leaves one asking questions about how he conceives of his place as a professional. In North he was eventually moved out of the entry pack and even spent some time secondary AWPing. This is a player who stood as one of the best stars in the game while playing as an entry; one of the most deadly follow-up players that could be found, near certain of trading the first player ahead of him and tearing open the site from there. With a pure first bullet AK headshot the likes of which few even star players ever possess, k0nfig could be unstoppable and thus cranked up his teams' chances of success significantly.
In his time under the OpTic banner some may have noticed a similar approach seemed to disappear. Even with niko, a player who had played as a hard entry in North briefly, k0nfig didn't seem to go in second or utilise his team-mates in the same manner. Sometimes he would go in as the hard entry himself, to much less success, and sometimes he was simply an above average player in games he, by all rights, should have dominated. Yet still, there would be a deagle headshot or an instant AK kill that reminded spectators of what k0nfig was capable of.
k0nfig stands at a crossroads. If he can improve his mentality and dedicate himself to greatness, then there is still time to turn these last two years into a blip on the radar, reinventing himself as one of the great players in the manner Magisk has done in Astralis, where so few even remember his own period in OpTic prior to joining the juggernaut team he has won three majors with. The other alternative is more of the same or worse, as Denmark's most talented son fritters away his gifts as just a good player and who is left to simply tell tales of years ago, when he was someone and could have been one of the greats.
I know which I'm pulling for, but it's the outcome that's looking increasingly less likely as the months pass. In the end, k0nfig will have to put in work between his ears if he wants to earn a career as exceptional as the abilities at his disposal.