We looked at the remarkable rise of CS:GO phenomenon Ilya ‘m0NESY’ Osipov, G2 Esports’ new signing, with the help of his former coach and mentor Amiran ‘aMi’ Rehviashvili.
“When I’m 16, I plan to be part of a good team.”
M0NESY has had it all planned out from an early age. In February 2020, he appeared, brazen and uber-confident, in front of a camera, and mapped out his future in his first interview with NAVI.
He was only 14 years old at the time and had barely got his feet wet at a semi-pro level, yet he was talking up his potential and spelling out his thoughts on some of the game’s most decorated players and storied teams with such remarkable self-assurance that you’d think he’d seen and done it all.
Almost two years later, a 16-year-old m0NESY finds himself in the highest echelons of the Counter-Strike scene, his prediction proving uncannily accurate. He is taking his first steps away from his roots, hoping to launch a successful career with G2 Esports, who agreed to pay a reported $600,000 fee for the player.
It is a hefty sum for any player, let alone a teenager still finding his way in the world. But G2 did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past and did not hesitate to open their checkbook to land a player they hope will propel them to the next level.
Becoming a teenage phenom
M0NESY’s meteoric rise has been a surprise to no one who has been around the teenager, especially Amiran ‘aMi’ Rehviashvili, the man responsible for bringing the Russian wonderkid to NAVI.
After hearing a lot of buzz about this “little kid who was insane”, aMi, the head coach of NAVI Junior, set about finding out all he could about the player.
By that time, m0NESY had an impressive 3800 FACEIT elo – a number that represents a player’s perceived skill level – and had already been competing at a reasonably high level in the CIS region, but he was still green and lacked fundamentals in many areas.
“Mechanically, he was good at his level, but he didn’t know how to play proper CS,” aMi told Dexerto. “But I saw great potential in him, the same as with b1t. He was shooting great but didn’t know what to do properly.
“We decided to sign him, and I knew that if he did everything right and if he listened, he would become a great player.”
M0NESY joined NAVI Junior in January 2020, initially on trial. To land the player, NAVI had to beat off competition from another CIS-based organization, Hard Legion, who were close to signing him as a streamer.
We got a new addition to our #navijunior unit! 😏
— NAVI (@natusvincere) January 7, 2020
In his first year with NAVI, m0NESY didn’t see much action. Because of his age, he wasn’t allowed to play in most tournaments for NAVI Junior. Consigned to a backup role, he still featured for NAVI Youth, the organization’s third lineup.
With opportunities limited, m0NESY buckled down and continued to develop his craft.
“We were working all the time, watching demos and talking about how to play properly,” aMi said, adding that he saw in the player traits that are common in special talents. “I couldn’t forbid him from doing some things. Some players, great players, can do what they are feeling in the moment. He was this kind of player. I had to change my plan on how to work with him.”
In March 2020, just two months after joining NAVI, m0NESY was invited to play in the FACEIT Pro League (FPL), the most prestigious matchmaking league for pros and streamers in the game.
I GOT IT. THANKS FOR EVERYONE, I LOVE YOU <3 <3 <# pic.twitter.com/k7y9rIHzdl
— G2 m0NESY (@m0NESY13) March 15, 2020
At the time, Denis ’electronic’ Sharipov expressed fears that the toxicity in FPL could break m0NESY, but the teenager has handled himself very well.
“I wasn’t afraid of toxicity because I knew his potential,” aMi said. “And many good players helped him in the beginning, like Loba [Lobanjica] and sometimes s1mple.
“I was happy that he was invited there because of the experience. You’re playing with better players, getting more experience. He was dominating FPL-C but couldn’t qualify for FPL because of the structure of the qualifiers. He’s doing well there, so it wasn’t a mistake.”
At the same time, m0NESY also had to learn how to deal with abuse from some people in the CIS community, who were unhappy that had joined Navi Junior despite not having attended NAVI’s Esports Camp, a project that marked the launch of the academy program.
Emerging onto the global stage
Promoted to NAVI Junior’s starting lineup in March 2021, m0NESY quickly began tearing up the tier-two scene in Europe, but the team’s lack of experience prevented them from making deep runs in international tournaments.
Enter the WePlay Academy League. Created in July 2021 in partnership with some of the biggest esports organizations in the world, the project has proved a springboard for young, talented players looking to make it to the biggest level.
With LAN Finals and a production quality that puts most established tournament organizers to shame, the academy league has become an important element of present-day Counter-Strike as big-money player transfers have become a rare sight and a number of organizations have moved on from the game.
M0NESY set the academy league alight in Season 1, averaging a season-high 1.64 HLTV rating despite NAVI Junior finishing in fifth place and failing to make it to the LAN portion of the tournament.
- Read more: Best CSGO players of 2021
After bringing in veteran Egor ‘flamie’ Vasilyev, the team made big improvements and reached the final in Season 2, with m0NESY once again very high on the charts (1.37 HLTV rating in the regular season and 1.30 in the LAN finals).
“I thought he might be a bit afraid at first, but he was dominating the academy league from the start and I understand he was going to be a great player,” aMi said.
“In the second season, we f**ed up the two matches against MOUZ NXT, but he played the other games super well. He was one of the reasons we finished second.”
But with the path to NAVI’s main team blocked for him, m0NESY found himself looking for opportunities elsewhere – a move even suggested by Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev himself.
Because of their role, m0NESY has often been compared to s1mple, but aMi believes that the teenager still has a long way to go to be on the same pedestal as the Ukrainian legend.
“We can’t really compare the two players,” he said. “Sasha is the best player in the world, and I think he will continue to be so for a few more years, while m0nesy still needs to grow.
“The road to becoming the best player is long, and he needs to work, work and work. I hope that in two or three years he’s going to be close to s1mple’s level.”
Reaching new heights
Expectations for the new-look G2 will be through the roof with m0NESY’s arrival as it allows them to fix one of their biggest problems. Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač himself has said that he expects the team to get to the next level with a main AWPer, admitting that they struggled “a little bit” when playing against quality snipers.
But there’s a valid concern about whether m0NESY, a player still in the early stages of development, is already tier-one ready. Moreover, how will he cope with the pressure of playing for a team shooting for the stars and that will see anything other than winning a Major and dethroning NAVI as a failure?
According to NAVI head coach Andrii ‘B1ad3’ Horodenskyi, m0NESY still gets “really nervous” in important matches and doesn’t perform at his best level.
G2’s biggest task as an organization will be to make m0NESY feel that he doesn’t have the weight of the world on his still fragile shoulders. They will need to insulate him from the criticism if the team doesn’t come out of the gate swinging in 2022.
“I think I’ve said this before, he needs time,” aMi said of m0NESY. “I’m not sure he’s ready [yet to play at the highest level], but he has great potential.
“Maybe I’m wrong and he’s going to play really well, but I think he still has a lot to discover and learn.
“He needs to gain experience from better players because there are some things that I cannot teach him, like the experience that you get by yourself from playing in the tier-one scene.”
M0NESY’s emergence as a world-class talent and subsequent big-money transfer without playing a single game for NAVI’s main team is testimony to the good work being done by the Ukrainian organization’s academy project.
But he is not even the biggest success story out of NAVI Junior. Groomed to play for the main squad for over a year, Valerii ‘b1t’ Vakhovskyi has elevated NAVI to new levels since nailing down a permanent spot in the starting lineup, winning the PC Rookie of the Year award at the 2021 Esports Awards for his influential role in the team’s historic 2021.
“All of our young players are inspired by b1t,” aMi said. “This was a great year for him, he won everything. IEM Cologne, the Intel Grand Slam, the Major…
“It’s the goal for every kid. We have the goal to create super players, not just average players, because NAVI isn’t an average organization. We need to have stars.”
When aMi sat down for this interview, m0NESY’s transfer to G2 was still more than a month away, though it was already clear that NAVI were listening to offers for the player.
For aMi, there is a mixed bag of feelings on how to process waving goodbye to a player like m0NESY.
“I would be happy if he gets to play for a tier-one team, achieve good results and win tournaments, but at the same time I’d be sad because we worked together for two years,” he said.
“He was a super little kid and he grew with us, with the Junior team, with me, and I’m going to be sad. But our goal is to help players learn everything.
“In the end, it’s good that our academy is bringing these players up. B1t is with NAVI, m0NESY can play for NAVI or any other tier-one team.
“My dream would be to see b1t and m0NESY together. I think they would make a great pair and show great things together. I know they want to play with each other. I hope one day that can happen.”
But there’s no time to dwell or get teary-eyed. A new season is starting, and aMi has a fresh crop of players to work with, new talent to shape and mold.
In the NAVI camp, the work never stops.
“I’m sure that in the near future we’ll have new talented kids,” aMi said. “We announced our new NAVI Youth lineup a month or two ago, and they’re already practicing. “Sometimes, I watch what they’re doing, and they have great potential.
“I’m sure that in 12 or 18 months we’re going to have new, maybe even better players.”