European Champion in chess Ian Nepomniachtchi: “Hearthstone is more like sudoku than chess”

European Champion in chess Ian Nepomniachtchi: “Hearthstone is more like sudoku than chess”

The best Russian chess player, and number 7 currently in the world, according to the FIDE rating, Ian Nepomnyashchiy, talked about his passion for video games and esports. In an interview, he recalled how he first found Dota 2 and Hearthstone, and compared the popular card game to chess. Cybersport caught the Russian chess player and discussed his time with esports.

You met chess when you were four years old. And when did you first get into games? How did it all start?

I had no computer as a child. Our friends, when they left for another city, left us 386 or 486 with MS-DOS. They had different games: “Field of Miracles”, airplane simulators and stuff like that — that was my first acquaintance with games. But it is not very fascinating. A few years later, when I was 11, they showed me “Heroes of Might and Magic.” It didn’t run on my computer, but every time I had the opportunity to play with others, I did it with pleasure. By the age of 12, I had the first laptop on which such games were played. And the first thing I did was buy a CD with the fourth “Heroes”. I was very happy.

How did you get acquainted with esports?

DotA was shown to me relatively late, in the year 2006. Therefore, I am not a super old school player compared to NS or Lost. I liked the game because it required teamwork, it could be played with friends. Even against bots at that time was interesting. Now it also becomes interesting to play against bots. After playing for a year, I learned that there are strong teams. At that time, SAY_PLZ was still playing, that is, sP — old school players will probably remember. He played for Virtus.pro. I don’t remember in what year, maybe in 2008, I came to ASUS event on Pyatnitsky highway. There I felt the atmosphere, but it was far from professional playing.

My skill gradually increased, and I began to play a lot in various in-house leagues. I was in the same clan on Battle.net with Dread and Solo. It was about 12 years ago. Besides Dota, I also play Hearthstone. Such a discipline for a solo player is more convenient. It is clear that you need to train there, you need a sparring partner with whom you discuss theory, debuilding, etc., but in fact you can do everything alone. Sasha Dashkevich aka XBOCT introduced me to Hearthstone. He said that’s “a very good game, beta just came out, you should try it” At first I didn’t like it — it looked kind of childish, stupid, but I slowly got pulled in.

Why didn’t you become a professional player? Not enough time or no desire?

I have never had a professional team because I didn’t have much time. My main occupation is chess, there is my priority. For me, the turning point was the ASUS tournament in Kiev. I flew in from a major chess tournament in the Netherlands, and I had a few days off. I was called to the DotA event, and I agreed since I had never been to Kiev. We went, took first place, it was a surprise. Received a prize, divided it with the team and just barely made back the cost of the tickets. At that time, there was no money in esports, at least in DotA. I thought that there was no big sense in all of this since it was difficult to earn money.

Ironically, in 3-4 months they announced the first The International with a massive prize pool. I appreciated the irony because by that time I was not tightly involved with anyone, the teams were already completed,  line-ups were formed. And I did not have an opportunity nor desire to self-insert somewhere.

The first The International was a big breakthrough with which the esport began to flourish. That was the start of the boom.

Do any other chess professionals compete in video games to your knowledge?

Very many. For example, Peter Svidler is an eight-time champion of Russia, a multiple world champion in the national team, an Olympic champion. I showed him Hearthstone at one of the Olympics, thinking that Peter Veniaminovich would play less poker, would play more HS; to somehow unload it. He liked the game. Since 2014, he still plays it. I do not know about poker, but, apparently, that’s another thing for him to indulge in (laughs).

Young grandmaster Kirill Alekseenko played a lot of Hearthstone. He went full grind mode, went to the top 50 in Europe. At the same time he is a very capable chess player. Another member of the Russian national team, Zhenya Tomashevsky, plays HS as well.

Hearthstone is unpretentious, you can play it over the Internet, from any place, you do not need to carry anything with you. It doesn’t matter whether you play from a tablet or phone. If you have time, you can play.

I know a lot of well-known chess players who play DotA, but not at a professional level.

I heard that Magnus Carlsen is a fan as well?

I communicate on the Internet with world champion Magnus Carlsen. Once he wrote to me late at night:

“What are you doing? Not sleeping?”

“Not sleeping.”

“Are you watching the Major?” I was surprised, to say the least. I said: “What? Major? No. Who’s playing?”

“Well, this is cool, this and that, EHOME is playing.” He said that sort of thing.

He took a picture somewhere at the airport with Puppey and was very happy about it. There is also a Hearthstone player — StanCifka. He was one of the top players. He is an international chess master. But as a chess player, I don’t know him at all, only as a streamer and player.

Hearthstone developers often like to compare their game with chess. But ordinary esports fans believe that such a comparison is inappropriate. So is it possible to compare these games?

Regarding the developers of HS, at some point the CEO of the game corresponded with me and Peter Svidler. He asked us what we want to improve, change, what we like and what we don’t, what we think about additions, mechanics. It lasted several months. The developers tried to collect for themselves a useful backup of feedback.

Comparing Hearthstone with chess is difficult, since HS, like any card games, is a highly probabilistic game. The game is rather a bit like sudoku. Although I have never played it, but I know that there are a lot of small scores, some numbers. In general, the principle of thinking is a bit similar, you need to think all the time; There are options for how to proceed. As for strategies, it is difficult for me to judge, because I did not play HS professionally. I entered the top 10 of Europe in the ladder, but I did not grind on servers. This is quite a serious occupation, as in WoW, where in order to be in the top guild, you need to have five pumped-up characters, who then buff each other and prepare to take the world’s first and server’s first. Same in HS — you need to invest a lot of time.

There is a lot of small counting in HS, you need to constantly keep your brains in good shape. This is similar to chess, but, on the other hand, everything is overshadowed by a large number of randomness and unsuccessful changes in mechanics. Last year I played quite a lot, and it was absolutely disgusting that after two moves, in principle, you could win the match, because the players understood the deck archetypes.

Did you play the popular chess game for Dota 2?

I played it of course, as soon as it appeared. At that moment I was in the chess tournament in Holland, I went to Dota 2, I downloaded the custom game, but I didn’t figure it out: everything was in Chinese, there was no localization yet. I thought that this was another settling mode, but for some reason, then it just spread on Twitter. I returned home, I looked, that everyone plays only Auto Chess, all the Hearthstoners were in it, all the top streamers played it. I started to play a little. I can not say that successfully, I play more for fun, public with friends. Played a couple of hundred games.

Dota Auto Chess is a bit long for customs. Still, in HS the game lasts half an hour, if a matchup is really long, and the average duration in Auto Chess is 30-40 minutes, during this time you can play a game of Dota 2. But the custom mode is interesting, it is clear that the developers are trying, doing something with the balance. But I am not sure that we will see it soon at esports events, everything is still damp there. With chess, however, the connection is small, except for the 8 by 8 board, it is difficult to grasp something in common.

You were a statsman at one of The Internationals. Have you considered doing that again?

Back then I had a free month, and I wanted some tour. V1lat just wrote to me that there is a vacant place of a statsman. At that time I was a little bit inactive, I have played little in the past few years. But learning to process information is easy. Valve paid for it, so money-wise it was not particularly expensive, but I wanted to see the World Cup for this game live. Specifically, I wouldn’t want to be the statsman in the future, because it is very hard work. You really sit at a computer 10-12 hours a day — the commentators change, the statsman remains. You can not rest, work on all games. But to sit in on the analyst desk or comment — I would prefer that.

I came to RuHub once, they called me to comment on a couple of games. I don’t know how it happened, but they didn’t seem to be disappointed with me. But, probably, it is not worth for them to do this too often, so that the quality of the content is higher.

It was at ESL One Hamburg 2018. Will we ever see you again in such a commentator role?

There is a desire, but I am afraid that there is no possibility. This year, the chess calendar is as severe as if it was made in Chelyabinsk. Since May, tournaments go one after another. Until September-October, I will have only three weeks to rest. This is not enough, because this time should be used to recuperate. But in theory, commenting is fun. One of the problems of chess — on the Internet, no one looks at it in in the same way they do with popular games.

In such a tight schedule of chess tournaments do you manage to follow a little bit of esports?

We still live in the 21st century. In 2019 people watch the Internet, surf. I go to the news feeds in the morning. When a big event like a Major is taking place, where our teams play, it is clear that I will not watch all the games, but if there is time to watch the grand final, I will do it with pleasure.

Not so long ago, bots from OpenAI defeated OG, and then won 99% of matches against regular teams. How do you view AI in games?

Google took up the intellectual games — for a start, they beat a man in Go, although nobody had succeeded in doing this before. This program was called AlphaGo. The victory turned out confident, and after that, Google began to play chess. But their computers have long proved that they are stronger than man. For example, there is Stockfish’s strongest chess program, and the AlphaGo neural network beat Stockfish from 100 games about 25 times, the rest in a draw. This program is self-taught. Every hour it spent on learning and development. Therefore, it is not surprising that this happens in games.

The first bots — for example, in Warcraft — were able to finish off creeps, but with this, their powers ended. And now it all stepped forward — bots have a temperament. Of course, it’s too early to display the AI ​​team at The International, the project is still raw, but the progress is impressive. It has only been a couple of years since Dendi played a show match against a computer. Over the years they have created a team of bots that wins almost all matches. Yes, some teams have found tactics against them, they have found patterns, I read an article about the fact that they do not normally define invisibility. But now the bots will take the time to educate themselves against it.

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MagicaL: “We had to learn to be independent in some way”

MagicaL: “We had to learn to be independent in some way”

After a stellar performance at ESL One Mumbai, where the CIS-based Natus Vincere finished 3rd, ahead of TNC Predator and TEAM TEAM, team’s midlaner Idan “MagicaL” Vardanian answered the most pressing questions.

Even though they started the event with a loss against Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao’s TEAM TEAM, they quickly came back with two straight wins against compLexity and TNC Predator. After defeats against Mineski and Keen Gaming in the playoffs, Natus Vincere had to make do with a third-place finish at the Indian event.

But considering recent performance, this could still be a great result for the team. The last few years in DOTA 2 were less than successful for the Ukrainian organization. Four-time The International attendees and three-time finalists NaVi find themselves desperate for top positions.

Last week’s ESL One Mumbai 2019 was meant to serve as a way for the CIS team to bounce back. The 20-year-old midlaner Idan “MagicaL” Vardanian talked about the event, esports in India, stand-ins, and many other topics.

How did you like India?

We lived in a very nice hotel. It turned out to be very cool. But there was a very big contrast: as soon as you leave the hotel, there are people that sleep on the street.

What about the spectators and the fans? Were they rooting for you?

Yes, the mob of fans were very “pumped”, we felt the support. Even when we were just coming out, they supported us a lot.

Did you try any Indian food?

ESL provided its own food, they did their best, and we had access to it all day. I tried Indian bread: it’s something similar to matzo.

How are you feeling?

I feel okay, in a working spirit. We are not tilted, top 3. Need to get home and practice.

How did you like Misha as a teammate?

A good guy, brought a lot to the team. Even though he was just a standin, he was involved in the team. I liked playing with him, I think it’s mutual.

Why did you choose Misha as a standin?

Chuvash has a good relation with him, and Misha is also a captain.

Playing with standin, is that a useful experience?

I think so, yea. Especially when it is the captain. When Akbar left us, there was a lack of calls, information. Everyone had to get involved, offer something of their own, throw ideas around, take responsibility. So this is useful. We have learned to be independent in some way.

Keen Gaming players said they lost to you “by chance”. What do you think about that?

They did mistakes, we did mistakes. As for me, we deservedly won the first series, and they — the second.

What heroes would you like to add to your pool?

Ember Spirit. Of course, I play Ember, but I would like it to be my signature hero.

Whom would you call a favorite in the upcoming Major tournament?

Same old teams. Team Secret, Virtus.pro, Team Liquid. I think Liquid should show a good result.

Dendi left Tigers. Where do you think he will go next?

I don’t know really. He plays well, he practices a lot, he just needs to find the players, or that the players find him. It just didn’t work out in the Tigers.

What teams would you like to play against?

Against the strong teams. Team Secret, Team Liquid, Virtus.pro, PSG.LGD.

Could you assess the team atmosphere on a 10-point scale?

Actually, this is my only team, where we have a friendly atmosphere. There is no such thing that people try to blame each other. I think it’s 10, we just need to work more.

To whom would you give the MVP title of ESL One Mumbai 2019?

Blizzy. Actually, I already wrote that the midlaner of Keen Gaming is worthy of that title. He is one of the strongest on the laning stage. I re-watched the replays, watched how he played, and this person knows what he is doing.

Who is the toughest to face on mid?

Against No[o]ne-, perhaps, SumaiL, Midone.

Besides Vici Gaming and PSG.LGD, who is the most interesting Chinese team in your opinion?

In the Chinese scene, everyone is very cool. In China, right now it is like a slaughter: seven teams that are battling each other. I would highlight Keen Gaming, they play very cool.

What country would you like to visit as part of LAN-tournament?

The United States. Doesn’t matter where exactly. Los Angeles, New York, Miami …

Share your thoughts on the Dota Pro Circuit format.

The fact that the top 12 goes to The International is appropriate. As for the Major and Minor tournaments, I would immediately invite the top 3 of the Major to the next Major tournament.

The best heroes on an offlane in this patch?

Beastmaster, Dark Seer and Pangolier.

What heroes would you buff or nerf?

I would nerf Mars or even remove him from the game. And I would buff Storm Spirit, Zeus, Queen of Pain and Shadow Fiend.

Would you be able to play the Carry position in official games?

I think so, yes, but would need some training.

Why not swap during the official matches with Crystallize?

We can do it, but we won’t be able to show our best, what we are really capable of. We need certain practicing to do, both me and Vlad, so that there is synergy with supports. But we will train it.

What can you say about the TEAM TEAM scandal?

In general, it is very sad for the guys, since one of the players bought tickets, booked a hotel for his parents. You spend your energy, you qualify for a Major tournament, it’s a shame.

Do you consider yourself as a tier 1 mid player?

I think not yet. I lack the skill and experience. But I’m close to that.

Which tournament was most memorable for you this season?

I think EPICENTER will be most remembered. This is the most important tournament, with the exception of The International.

Highlight your favorite talents.

I listen to Lex, Olsior, V1lat and CaspeRRR. Among the English speakers are ODPixel, TobiWan, SirActionSlacks, Redeye.

How do you like the idea of the OpenAI?

It’s cool. I do not quite understand the concept for what it is, but, in general, I would like to practice 1v1 on the midlane.

Would you like your own set for a hero?

Yes. For the Templar Assassin.

If the mid is taken in a pub game, what do you do?

Recently, this has not happened. And yes, I raised my MMR. If it happened in the past, I would just go to another lane.

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Mag: “You can’t just adapt and give the captain’s role to the new player”

Mag: “You can’t just adapt and give the captain’s role to the new player”

Natus Vincere bounced back after a crushing defeat at the DreamLeague Season 11 and took 3rd place at ESL One Mumbai last weekend, taking home $35,000 dollars. Andrey “Mag” Chipenko talked about their performance there.

The last few years in DOTA 2 were less than successful for the Ukrainian organization. Four-time The International attendees and three-time finalists NaVi find themselves desperate for top positions lately. The last win for the team was over 18 months — a first place finish at Adrenaline Cyber League. And even that was with a completely different lineup.

These days NaVi have a much younger, less experienced roster. According to team owners that was at least partly intentional — the players are still growing, but they are improving quickly.

At DreamLeague, however, NAVI suffered defeats against Evil Geniuses and Vici Gaming in the group stage and a crushing loss against Clinton “Fear” Loomis’ J.Storm in the Loser Bracket Round 1.

Last week’s ESL One Mumbai 2019 was meant to serve as a way for the CIS team to bounce back. Even though they started the event with a loss against Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao’s TEAM TEAM, they quickly came back with two straight wins against compLexity and TNC Predator.

After defeats against Mineski and Keen Gaming in the playoffs, Natus Vincere had to make do with a third-place finish at the Indian event. But considering recent performance, this could still be a great result for the team. In an interview with cybersport team’s coach Andrey “Mag” Chipenko talked about the event.

How do you like the tournament in India? Were there any concerns about the quality of the tournament?

Probably everyone had their concerns about the tournament but in reality, we got a sick hotel, there is very good cuisine, everything is organized well and comfortable. There are practice rooms in the hotel. There are no issues and everything is great. In my memory, this is one of the best hotels that has been provided for the tournament.

Did you manage to try something from the local cuisine?

I don’t really want to try the local cuisine. Even though I lived for two months in Malaysia, I don’t really like spicy food. At the tournament, we have some fresh delicious fruit. Personally, I eat here rice and fish.

There is also a swimming pool on the tenth floor. If you have free time, 15-20 minutes in the evening after the games or early in the morning you can just go there and chill out there.

Do the locals like Dota 2?

I can not speak on that yet, we haven’t gone anywhere. We will be at the venue only tomorrow, we’ll have an autograph session. It seems to me that there are quite a lot of Dota fans out there, and for them, this is a first major event.

How much did you manage to play with Mikhail “Misha” Agatov? Did you have a bootcamp before the tournament?

There was no bootcamp because the team just finished playing qualifications for the Minor (bootcamp was during the qualifiers), and there will be no bootcamp with a stand-in before another tournament — we had to rest.

We played online with Misha for about six days after qualifications. Had time to strategies some stuff. Evgenii “Chuvash” Makarov previously played with Misha for a quite some time in Comanche. So between the supports, there is a good synergy.

As a coach did you have to change strategies and picks because of a stand-in? Or did he adapt to the role of Akbar “SoNNeikO” Butaev and his duties on the map?

You can’t just adapt and take the captain’s role. Imagine that a player just comes in and takes the role of Puppey (laughs). But I can say that Misha was perfectly able to fit in our team in such a short period of time, and he was able to bring something of his own views.

The first days of online practice I tried drafting, then Misha volunteered. I decided to give him such an opportunity, and I, in turn, tried to advise and help. And watched how it would turn out.

Who makes calls in-game currently?

They all do calls themselves. Without Akbar, they began to take the initiative. At first, we didn’t do very well, but there is already some progress. During this time, we have improved the understanding of the game plan for the first 10-20 minutes, due to this it has become easier to play, we have a general understanding of what we want on the map at any given time.

What went wrong in the match against us TEAM TEAM?

We were leading by 5k in the first game, we could easily win with the Hex on the OD, we just performed poorly. There was a moment where we made a mistake in mid, and lost about 3 or 4k net worth advantage, after that, it was harder to play.

The main mistake was that one of the carries had to play more greedily, but we were playing an all-in build — one went for Hex and the other got Diffusal blade and Manta style. And when the enemy got BKB’s, we did not have enough damage. We did not have a clear plan for the game, we made a mistake and lost.

And in the second game?

In the second game, there were difficulties with Ember. We didn’t have any “catch”. We could only kill him with Doom’s Ult, we were not ready for this hero. Because according to Dotabuff they didn’t play much with Ember, but they took him at this tournament, and we faced some difficulties.

But we had a chance to win the game — to the point that we went on to the throne, but something somewhere didn’t add up, used our buttons poorly, we died without buybacks. If we would have used our skills better we would have killed the opponents and closed out the game.

We then analyzed these games, broke down our draft, made some changes, came to the next day and already played better.

What knowledge did you have about the opponent before approaching the game against Keen Gaming?

They have a 100% win rate with Dark seer, Disruptor and 90% with Doom. It all went from there. We understood that they were favorites. I initially considered them the main favorites of the tournament, because they entered the top 6 of the previous Major.

We surprised them in the first game. They did not expect Dark seer from us. We understood that if we didn’t take him as the first pick, they would most likely take him. They weren’t ready for that, and we managed to win the first game.

The second game we got outdrafted. We could have taken other heroes … and it was difficult to play, we got crushed.

In the last game, we had a good draft, but they managed to do better on the lanes, and so we faced some difficulties. But they didn’t have a hard carry. They have Tiny Ursa, Death Prophet — and so you know that they are on time limit.

They do not have a save for the DP — this is a huge weakness. And so DP is hitting the rax with the Cheese, we jump on her, and no one can save her. We killed her even before she managed to use Cheese. That’s when we started coming back.

The first game gave us confidence because it was a victory against a strong team. Everyone understood that this was a serious opponent, but thanks to the victory, the barrier was removed, and we realized that we can easily win this series.

What do you think about Mineski?

We played scrims vs them. In fact, what is there to say… It is my former team (laughs). Of those guys with whom I played with left only Michael “ninjaboogie” Ross. I caught up with him, chatted a bit. Mineski plays well. We still need to prepare for the drafts. I think we can win. We’ll see how it goes.

You had a few days rest before the finals began. How did you prepare?

We did not rest. We had an autograph session scheduled, and after that, we planned to play scrims in order to prepare as much as possible for the finals of the upper bracket. In practice matches, we only played against teams from Southeast Asia or against those teams that were there. In this regard, there weren’t many options.

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Boo1k: “If we play relaxed, then we definitely play much better”

Boo1k: “If we play relaxed, then we definitely play much better”

Six months and four additional qualifiers, that’s how long has it been since The Kuala Lumpur Major — the last Major Gambit attended. Anatoly “Boo1k” Ivanov, coach of Gambit’s Dota 2 squad, said that the team is approaching qualifiers for the Major in a bad state of mind.

At The Kuala Lumpur Major last year Gambit were eliminated in the group stage after two straight losses against Fnatic and Tigers. Since then followed a series of unsuccessful qualifiers and regional events.

But while heavily underperforming at the online qualifiers, Gambit proved time and time again what they are capable of on the biggest stage. Just last month they finished second at ESL One Katowice 2019, just behind Clement “Puppey” Ivanov’s Team Secret.

Team’s coach Anatoly “Boo1k” Ivanov addressed those issues in an interview with Maincast, he also said that the players were already accustomed to playing in front of an audience, and also named the most comfortable conditions for the right performance.

About playing on stage

“I think the guys have no jitters, nothing like that. We played ESL in Katowice on stage. There was a fairly large audience. Therefore, for us it is not the first time. If it were still something new, perhaps uncomfortable situations would appear.

And there is more motivation for us too: when there are spectators, it seems that the tournament is a little bigger than when you play in a closed room and silence around. ”

About Major qualifiers

“At the Major qualifiers every time something goes wrong. We cannot solve it or correct it somehow. Probably it’s still early for us. It seems that three months have passed only, and during this time we have not been able to show the result we want in the qualifiers.

But we played only two qualifiers to the Majors. Yes, they were unsuccessful, but it seems to me that if we take a long distance — a year or half a year — then we will probably show better results.

To be honest, it seems to me that we are just trying too hard. We very much want [to pass to the Major] and from this, when something goes wrong, we get even more upset. It all accumulates like a snowball.

As a result, we are not very worried because we need to win a Major — we just want to play better. It stars in complete chaos due to the fact that we are not in the best shape to qualify for the Major. So it coincided. I hope this will all be forgotten in the long run and we will simply perform well, regardless of whether it is a Major or something else. ”

About unusual strategies

“If we play relaxed, then we definitely play much better. I do not know which ideas we steal, or where we get them, but we test a lot of ideas during clan wars. Perhaps, therefore, it seems that we are playing with not the weakest teams and they take something from us.

The fact is that there is no strong pressure on us, and we are just starting to try to implement some ideas. Someone, perhaps, may like these ideas, and then they take them from our practice to themselves. We have a lot of ideas. If we do not have any pressure on each other or in our own head’s, we can realize our ideas in-game. It happens to me too.

In the grand finals of the past minor, I had a wild realization. In one of the games I said: “Guys, I don’t understand what is happening at all. What about our draft?”. I was so annoyed with myself — I am the coach of the team, it was on me. I stand and think: “Here I am a moron.”

It is also excitement, pressure, or maybe lack of experience. I do not know how to justify it. Returning to the clan wars: when we set ourselves a clear task and we have a great idea on how to achieve it, we play much better. ”

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NaVi CEO: “Investments will be necessary in the future. Esports does not stand still”

NaVi CEO: “Investments will be necessary in the future. Esports does not stand still”

The man behind the Ukrainian NaVi, Yevgeny “HarisPilton” Zolotarev, talked in-depth about running an esports team, expanding into international waters, creating a winning team and remaining profitable in highly competitive esports scene.

Natus Vincere CEO also talked about the appointment of Andrey “B1ad3” Gorodenskiy to the role of esports director, the opening of the academy team, recent struggles of their Dota 2 team and much more.

Recently Andrey “B1ad3” Gorodenskiy joined for the role of esports director. How did this idea come to be?

Similar thoughts started long ago. We are quite familiar with Andrey, we even played on the same team, but somehow all this time we went parallel to each other. Nevertheless, we constantly communicated, shared opinions about CS and everything else.

I have always considered him an intelligent specialist, he has a good eye for young talents, a lot of experience on the professional stage: a player, a captain, a coach. His main advantage, unlike the other 90 percent of former esports athletes, that he has a high focus on the business component, he understands the development of the club as a business. I think he is very suitable for this role.

Previously, Na’Vi did not have such a position?

Not for the last 2.5 years, but even earlier I myself was in this position when Alexander “ZeroGravity” Kokhanovsky appointed me in 2016. I worked there for six months and then took the position of CEO, combining it with the esports director, and ZeroGravity went into inactivity.

The position can be called new, but it is necessary for large clubs. Team Liquid, for example, have several general managers at once, who have distributed disciplines and regions among themselves. Na’Vi, like any other multigaming, requires personnel enhancement as well.

He will only deal with Counter-Strike?

No, by all teams, it will include Dota 2. An esports director is a person who is responsible for all the compositions of an organization. Transfer policy, tournament schedule, bootcamp schedule and more.

I took Andrey as an experienced specialist to build a vertical search, training and education of players. As a general director, I still have operational work, finance, media and marketing, the rest went to B1ad3.

With his signing, you will also open a youth academy?

Yes, in the near future it will really appear. By this time, the market had matured, and our organization had matured, human and financial resources appeared to implement these plans. All other details will appear very soon in the official announcement.

I can only say that there will be many opportunities for young players. I really want to realize our accumulated experience in working with young people.

So talking about your Dota 2 team. One cannot help but wonder when you have a team as well supported as yours, where are the results?

The conditions are really good, but if the players did not work at the same time or if we had questions about their discipline, then we can say that the organization slacks off or something else. Speaking specifically about the composition of Dota 2 — the team has no disciplinary problems at all, the guys worked and continue to work with maximum commitment, even after defeats.

I cannot say that we are pleased with the results, but we see their return, they live on DotA and there are no problems inside the team. There are only game moments that we are trying to fix.

Nevertheless, there are positive things — some players six months ago were considered to be unknown to anyone, and during this time they were seriously tightened up from the point of view of the skill, the pool of heroes, the LAN experience and so on. I try to look for a positive in everything and we will continue to work for it.

Do you participate in the life of the team? Can you suggest something or express displeasure?

There is a manager, coach, captain and even an analyst who works with players remotely. For the last bootcamps, we have attracted such a person as a mental coach, with whom we plan to continue cooperation.

I am not competent enough in DotA to prompt guys. First of all, I appreciate the game as a fan, I can be dissatisfied, angry about why they made a pick for that hero and not for another, to draw conclusions based on the words of commentators or analysts. With my game level, I do not allow myself any in-game recommendations.

Na’Vi was among the first to announce the opening of a division in Apex Legends. Right now you already announced the signing of two Quake world champions — Cypher and clawz. What went into this decision?

There’re a lot of unknown moments, the game itself faces certain difficulties.

Regarding the region: in the case of Apex — this is still two players from the CIS. When we choose the composition, the criterion of the region is not in the first place. We are after the players that we want, everything else is secondary.

We will take players and look at what the publisher will do, how much their efforts will be directed to the development of the esports component of the discipline. In PUBG we are now seeing a big recession, for instance.

Are you disappointed in PUBG?

It is too early to talk about our position, but we have serious concerns. The start of a Major league cannot be called successful. As an average person, I don’t see sponsors, I don’t see any views, and at the same time I see high costs associated with moving the team to Berlin.

The failure in the results of the team are related to this?

To a lesser extent, the season has just begun, the first phase has ended. The results are unsuccessful, but there is time to correct them. The concerns are tied to the discipline itself.

After a very long break, you recently signed foreign players. What led to that decision?

Fortnite is definitely a western game, not popular in the CIS region. Rainbow Six Siege — we wanted both a competitive line-up and the team that has a slot in the ESL Pro League. In the CIS, there is no choice in this regard, there is only one team — Team Empire, which recently signed the guys and did not intend to sell.

And getting more foreign fans while at it?

Of course, we perfectly understand that it is necessary to improve monetization. Unfortunately, this is hard to do in the CIS region.

We do not intend to leave the CIS esports, here are our roots. We, like any other major multigaming, are just trying to increase our presence in other regions. For example, in Team Liquid, FaZe Clan and Ninjas in Pyjamas, the compositions for Rainbow Six Siege are Brazilians.

Recently we could see stagnation in tier 2 esports — fewer sponsors, less audience interest, fewer fans. Do you think it may have a negative impact on esports?

In order for sponsors to pay good money, you need to show good numbers: reach, audience, views or results.

Sponsors calculate ROI (return on investment) — clicks, transitions and everything else, the more videos you watch, comment, etc. the better you’re off.

NaVi right now has no such problem. From the point of view of the business model, Natus Vincere can be called an independent asset, and it can sustain itself right now, but one way or another, investments will be necessary in the future. Esports does not stand still.

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KuroKy: “As a pro player you have to give it your all, nothing less”

KuroKy: “As a pro player you have to give it your all, nothing less”

After the abysmal performance at DreamLeague Season 11, Team Liquid will be looking to redeem themselves at MDL Disneyland® Paris Major next month. Team’s veteran Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi talked about the mindset within the team, preparing for events, and his career.

Earlier this year, at the Chongqing Major, Team Liquid found themselves one man short and were playing with Chu “shadow” Zeyu as a stand-in. There TL finished in respectable Top 8 position, considering they were missing one of their leaders, Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barkawi.

In an interview with XBOCT, Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi talked about what it means to play with a stand-in at a professional level, playing with someone who doesn’t speak the same language, why they changed a coach, as well as his plans for the future.

About shadow

“Suddenly he [Miracle-] could not go to this tournament, and we had to very quickly look for someone to replace him. We talked to shadow, and he agreed. He were to play with us until the end of the tournament.

In general, this is a cognitive experience. Shadow is a very hardworking and modest person. It is easy to communicate with him because he knows how to listen. But it is difficult to communicate with him because he does not understand us at all.

He does not speak English, so if he wants to tell us something, he takes out the telephone and uses a translator. Here he wants to say: “I think this hero will suit us” — and shows me the phone with the translated text. It is such a small annoyance. But he tries hard and works hard. In general, we did our best.

The biggest difference for me as a leader is that I gave him a lot of guidance on the microgame. We discuss the subjects — he asks for advice on what to buy. I try to tell him when to engage in fights or just farm.

I think he experienced undue stress playing with us. For him, our game system is new. He does not know when we want to fight, gank the enemy or something else. So I tried to help him all the time. The effectiveness of my game from this, however, suffered a little, but it was worth it.”

About playing with a stand-in

“My personal goal was to find suitable strategies under the current conditions. When Miracle- could not come, the biggest problem was that the strategy pool shrank by more than half. I lost about 60% of my workpieces.

The fact is that our team is built around the rotation of the positions of MATUMBAMAN and Miracle-, but Shadow doesn’t really want to play in mid. So it is worth paying tribute to MATUMBAMAN because now he had to stand in the middle lane all the time and did a good job. He is truly one of the best players in the world.”

About changing the coach

“The coach is a very exhausting position. You can’t do this for long. And it seems to me, Heen is a little tired of this. He wanted to do something new. And together we came to the conclusion that yes, we had a good many years, won the International together and a whole bunch of tournaments …

It seems to me that at a certain moment the team wanted to change something. Not necessarily the players, just change at least something that would bring new ideas and fresh blood to the team. In such cases, you just change the coach.

I think Virtus.pro acted in a similar way, changing ArtStyle to ArsZeeqq . After The International, as for me, both us and VP were in a very similar situation. We felt that we needed to change something, but the team was good, and everyone knew that we could continue to win. And really won this composition. So somehow it all came to a change of coach.”

About goals

“Win The International for a second time. And the win two more Internationals.”

About the difficulties in the team

“I think the hardest thing we had was when you win one The International everything goes down. We had a desirable goal, and we put all our efforts to win the most important tournament.

And after we did I made a mistake, because I began to squeeze all the juice from my team. I want to win another TI, and they also want to win, and in general we had a very good season. We hit the top a lot of times, won one Major and two Minors. And when the time came for TI, we were completely exhausted. 

After the end of TI, we decided to take a big break. We missed the first Major to refresh our heads and take up the game with new forces. After all, be that as it may, the main goal of any player is to win The International.

This is a huge test — to win a second time with the same team, because these people have already won. But I accept this challenge, and I hope we can make it happen. As for me, this is a great motivation: to become not just the first two-time TI champion in history for myself, but to make it a whole team.”

About his career

“If you give in to the life of a pro-player, then you have to give it your all completely, nothing less. Career is your whole life. You have, in fact, no privacy. It does not give me problems. Many at first suffer, but quickly get tired of living like that. I still like this life.

When I finish my career, I will certainly spend almost all the time with my parents. As time goes by, parents grow old, so spend time with them at least sometimes.”

About unpleasant teammates

“Sometimes, when playing solo, you come across ruiners who just want to waste your time, and you don’t want to play with them. In general, yes, there are people with whom I hate to play. I don’t even know their names. I don’t care about them. I don’t even turn off the sound for them. I don’t even want to quarrel with them — it’s a waste of time.

Yes, I am sitting at the computer, I understand — you just play, but for me this is work. I have to get better. And I just can not do anything, just sit and endure. And then I will either allow the negativity to devour me, or try to keep calm and play on.”

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DreamHack Open Tours 2019 starts today

DreamHack’s return to a small French town of Tours starts today, with a $100,000 dollar Counter-Strike event featuring 8 up-and-coming teams, including mousesports, AVANGAR, Valiance, Ghost Gaming, G2 Esports and others.