Kolento: “I do not know what to do about it. On Twitch everything will be bad”

Kolento: “I do not know what to do about it. On Twitch everything will be bad”

Winner of the StarLadder Ultimate Series 2019 and a legend of the game, Alexander “Kolento” Malsh, talks about Hearthstone, his favorite decks, other Collectible Card Games, and his future as a Twitch streamer.

Kolento established himself as a top competitor since before Hearthstone was officially released, after his victories at Viagame House Cup #1 and Prismata Cup #2 early in 2014. Since then the Ukrainian player went up and down the world rankings but constantly remaining in tier 1 globally.

His recent victory at StarLadder Ultimate Series 2019 further proved the talent of the 27-year-old player. There he secured wins against SK Telecom T1’s Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert and a then soon-to-be world champion Casper “Hunterace” Notto.

Which hero do you think is the strongest in the current meta?

Rogue. She has the best cards as well. Until the end of the patch, meta can be changed only if these cards are nerfed, and even then — barely.

Before Hearthstone, have you tried yourself in other games? Why did HS become your profession?

I just liked Hearthstone more than any other game. I didn’t play another CCG before, and I liked the way Hearthstone looks, how it works.

Outside stream, I still play other games. Usually multiplayer, but sometimes alone. The latter is Lara Croft, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Have you tried Artifact?

You could almost say I haven’t tried Artifact — well, I tried it for 30 minutes. I didn’t continue because I like CCG very much, but since I have been playing them professionally for about four years, I sometimes want to start something else. I still have broadcasts, usually, for at least five hours a day I have to stream Hearthstone. After that, I don’t want to include other card games, that’s all.

It sounds sad. So tired of professional gaming?

Well, no. I just do not want to overstrain myself with CCG, considering that I also need to stream them later.

What was your first game?

I do not remember the very first, I was very small, only three years old. And already in the conscious age, I remember, I liked StarCraft. Another one was “Tetris”, even before the computer.

Did your nickname appear at the time of the first StarCraft or later?

My name just came to me by chance. Eight years ago I was playing one MMORPG, and one of the alternative characters had this name. I did not put any special meaning into it — it’s just a word.

What profession would you choose if you weren’t streaming and gaming?

Something light that would allow me to play in my free time: this is my most important hobby. Anything that does not take much time. I worked in tech support before Hearthstone appeared. Especially nothing straining and that it wouldn’t take much time. Salary wise, I think, even this would be enough — I do not need much.

Did not think to invest the earned money in some business?

No. I just put them down for the future. If I’ll ever need it, I’ll spend it, if not — let them be.

In 2014, you said that you would not change anything in HS, even if you had the opportunity: then you considered all the cards to be balanced. Has anything changed since then?

It is difficult to name specific changes. You need too many cards to make all the classes playable. It is easier to simply strengthen other cards that the classes already have and which are not very playable now than to introduce the new ones.

How do you feel about the new Twitch Rules?

I heard something like that, but I myself do not swear in such a way as to directly insult someone. And I don’t think anyone in Hearthstone was banned for it. I know that several Russian-speaking streamers were blocked, but those with whom I often communicate were not affected.

And about the so-called Article 13?

About Article 13 I heard that everything will be bad. I do not know what to do about it. Probably, it will not be difficult for me to simply get permission from Blizzard to stream Hearthstone. Remove all logos and unnecessary references from the frame is also not difficult. I don’t listen to music anyway. And the rest will be bad, on Twitch everything will be bad.

Besides HS, are you interested in other esports disciplines?

I follow StarCraft, most of all I’m rooting for Terran — I played for Terran myself. I support Bly a little, sometimes I communicate with him — he is also from Kiev. I still like Polt, he played very well. Maybe he’ll come back one day. I sometimes watch Fortnite if a channel is accidentally appears in front of me. Maybe even Rocket League.

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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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Pavel: “My future in Hearthstone depends on Blizzard’s plans”

Pavel: “My future in Hearthstone depends on Blizzard’s plans”

2016 Hearthstone World Champion Pavel “Pavel” Beltyukov spoke about a trip to the most recent World Championship, shared his opinion about Artifact and the esports system in Hearthstone.

Beltukov was just 18 when he became a world champion in the world’s most played collectible card game. Since then, the Russian player won several top-level events and remains one of the biggest names in the game.

Unfavorable qualification system that involves grinding the ladder and attending as much Tour Stop events as possible, kept the young Russian from attending the World Championship this year. This, among other issues, Pavel “Pavel” Beltyukov discussed in an interview.

How did you like Taipei?

It is difficult to say, I haven’t seen much of it. I arrived on the 22nd. On the 23rd I spent most of the day in my room, because many people hadn’t arrived yet, and I don’t like walking alone. On the 24th we, together with other players, sat by the pool, swam a little, went to eat and went to bed. And after that, I just did not have free time.

Did you like the stage for the event?

Yes, the scene is very beautiful. I really like the way the light equipment is set up here and the fact that the picture on the scene changes depending on the situation in the game.

Hearthstone is a lonely discipline. After winning or losing you are left alone with your emotions. How do you deal with it?

I think everyone gets upset after the defeats, but with experience, you are much calmer towards it. I usually don’t share these emotions with anyone: experience helps, but how important a particular tournament is for you is also very influential.

If this is just another tournament for you, then you don’t get very upset, and if this is the World Cup, you had to win all the qualifications, then win another tournament or in the top 4, then it’s a shame to lose.

How do you like the esports system that you just mentioned?

Everything is fair because everyone who has shown good results in a ladder and at the tour stops has a chance to get to the championship. True, tour stops aren’t for me: there are too many of them, but I do not like long flights. Plus, the prize fund for them is too small, it is unprofitable to go to every single one of them.

Do you play something other than HS?

I played Auto Chess, and I really liked it, but lately it got a little boring. Before Hearthstone, I still played a lot of Warcraft. Recently, my friends and I returned to it and played several times.

Did you try to participate in Auto Chess tournaments?

No. Those people who are streaming are mostly invited there, but I haven’t streamed lately. I was called to a couple of tournaments, but for some reason, they were canceled.

Did you play Artifact?

Yes, I initially liked the game: it’s relatively difficult there — you need to think, it’s great. But since Artifact did not grow and lost its audience, I am not playing now. Plus it has already become a bit boring to me.

The biggest problem is that some players got access to Artifact much earlier than me. Someone has been playing since January 2018, and I managed to play only at the end of the summer.

Valve is now reworking Artifact to bring back the audience. If they succeed in something, is there a chance that you will go into this discipline?

It is very unlikely that I will go to Artifact. The only chance is that I will play Artifact alongside Hearthstone. If it works out and if they invite me to tournaments, of course.

You said that you got bored of Auto Chess and Artifact. And what is so special about HS? Why isn’t it boring?

Hearthstone is now my job. Of course, it used to be more interesting to play than it is now. But when new add-ons come out, I like to play.

Name the best and the worst parts of being a professional player.

I personally like the professional community, the Hearthstone community. And I just like to meet and communicate with people. And annoying… I did not like the previous system, where I had to play a lot of ladder. And I don’t like flights, but the only problem is that there are almost no direct flights from my city to the border.

How do you see Hearthstone evolve in five years?

I did not think about that. It would be nice to introduce a tournament mode, although in fairness it should be noted that for most it will not be interesting. Only for a small part of the players. And my future in HS depends on Blizzard’s plans.

What do you find interesting besides games? Hobbies, professions …

It is difficult to say with a profession: you must first try to understand whether you like it or not. As for hobbies, I like extreme sports, if you can call them that. Ride a motorcycle at high speed or ski down the mountain. I also like to get out into nature with friends.

You made your first name into your nickname. Why?

I just didn’t want to bother with it. And I like my name. Therefore, I decided to choose such a nickname. This was specifically for Hearthstone.

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BunnyHoppor: “All of my time is occupied by Hearthstone”

BunnyHoppor: “All of my time is occupied by Hearthstone”

With Hearthstone World Championship 2019 now behind us, Samsung Morning Stars’ Raphael “BunnyHoppor” Peltzer looked back to his career as a professional Hearthstone player and just what it means for him.

The German player had a strong start at the international event. In the opening match, he defeated Wu “BloodTrail” Zong-Chang in a five game thriller, followed by a 3-2 victory against Guan “Jing” Zhendong.

In the quarterfinals he faced off against Mihai “languagehacker” Dragalin from Lazarus, defeating him 3-1, securing a spot in the semi-finals. There, BunnyHoppor had to face another German player, Torben “Viper” Wahl.

Peltzer joined Samsung Morning Stars earlier this year after 9 months with SK Gaming, where he finished first at the HCT Summer Championship 2018 after defeating Illuminar’s Kacper “A83650” Kwieciński in the grand final.

What was your very first game?

It was called Comic. There was a little kid with fireballs who jumped up and down and passed the level. In general, it is very similar to Super Mario but is called Comic.

Tell me about your favorite computer game. Is it HS or do you play something non-competitive?

Of course it’s HS. Or Battlefield II. Thanks to Battlefield, I made friends with people whom I still communicate with. But I love Hearthstone, it’s always fun to play. I met almost all of my friends there, so it’s hard to imagine a game that could compete with that.

You used to be part of Virtus.pro, and this was your first serious organization, right?

Yes, it was the first year when I started playing Hearthstone on a serious competitive level.

Then you played for SK Gaming, and now you are representing Samsung Morning Stars. Remember what it was like to play under the VP tag in comparison with other organizations?

I like Samsung Morning Stars, it is a great organization that provides me with everything I need, but I remember the time when I played in VP with Naiman and DrHippi. It was rather sad to leave when the Hearthstone division was closed, but they had good reasons.

Did you learn any Russian there?

I only know “hello” and “good health” — what you say when you drink. I asked DrHippi and Naiman to teach me a couple of Russian words, but they only had fun. I miss these guys.

Tell the story of your nickname — BunnyHoppor.

I came up with it in the days of Battlefield II. I was pretty good at the game, and there were a lot of movement techniques — bunnyhops included. All good players used it, but people outside the public server constantly tried to insult me, calling me a “bunnyhopper”.

I thought that if I’m called a bunnyhoppar, then people would no longer be able to insult me. They will just call my nickname. So my nickname is just a way to troll them.

When I created an account in Hearthstone, I could not even think that it would grow into something serious. Although my tag has always been Luffy, like the anime and manga character from One Piece, but somehow it turned out that I became BunnyHoppor.

If you didn’t play Hearthstone, which profession would you choose? Do you still like theoretical and organic chemistry and computer simulations?

Yes, chemistry is definitely what I would like to do in the future. But I would not work in this area, but would find a more stable job — most likely, in development. I am very interested in the process of creating locations or something else. But so far, all of my time is occupied by Hearthstone, and right now I am trying to focus on this particular path.

You used to play chess — from childhood up to 18 years old. Do you do it now?

Occasionally. When I come home for Christmas, a local chess tournament takes place in my town. There I meet guys who I know from childhood and who are still playing.

Many are sure that it is stupid to compare Hearthstone to chess because there is a lot of randomness in HS. What do you think about this?

Of course, there are differences. But it seems to me that understanding the essence of chess helps to better understand Hearthstone — and vice versa. These games are definitely similar in their essence.

Have you ever played DotA?

No, but I love to watch it. When the Virtus.pro players compete in the majors, I still support them.

Do you know that the Dota Auto Chess mod has appeared in the game?

Yes, and I even tried to play it. I think this mod is pretty funny, but I still decided to focus on Hearthstone: for me it is more important. Maybe I’ll still go to Auto Chess, but it’s one thing to play other games for fun, and quite another to be completely focused on my game.

If you had the opportunity to make friends with one of the characters in HS, who would it be?

Oh, there are too many options … I, probably, will not choose among all the cards, and I will take only heroes — it will be easier to decide. Give me a minute. This is definitely not Garrosh, not Valira … I think Malfurion is pretty cool. A sort of conservationist. I am not particularly strong in the Warcraft lore, so it’s hard for me to judge, but I think it would be interesting to meet Malfurion.

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