On August 1, a showmatch took place between Natus Vincere’s golden era Counter-Strike 1.6 roster and the organization’s current CS:GO team. For Danylo “Zeus“ Teslenko it meant a return to competitive CS, if only for a single match. The Ukrainian has been inactive in the scene since September of last year after he left Natus Vincere. In his last event, BLAST Pro Series: Moscow 2019, NAVI failed to deliver and finished last without tasting victory in any of their games.
NAVI 2010 became one of the most dominant teams in the history of Counter-Strike after an impressive year that saw them win a series of international titles, including the IEM IV World Championship, ESWC, WCG and DreamHack Winter. The Ukrainian team went on to pick up a few more titles in the last two years of 1.6 — most notably the IEM V World Championship and the IEM VI Global Challenge Kiev — before making the transition to CS:GO in late 2012.
The showmatch, while wasn’t supposed to be taken too seriously, drew a lot of interest from the esports community. It was the legends of the CS 1.6 era against the current stars, battling it out over both games. Surprisingly or not, NAVI 2010 secured a victory on CS 1.6, winning both Train and Tuscan, but losing on Inferno.
In CS:GO, however, it was a different story. The experience wasn’t enough to carry the legends and the lack of practice was a key factor in their defeat against the NAVI 2020 roster on all three maps. In an interview with cybersport before the showmatch, Zeus discussed many topics, including his past with the game, the best teams in the history of the esport, life after retirement, his future, and many more.
– Let’s start with the main news of the last days – the show match of the NAVI gold roster. What were the expectations from the confrontation with the young?
– Of course, I could catch up with a lot of unnecessary information here and say that I expected something special, but … Considering that we did not practice at all, that someone, like markeloff , did not touch CS at all, then in CS:GO we knew we had no chance. But in 1.6 we could fight. I myself wanted to play CS the week before the match, at least to get some form. Lately there have been a lot of things to do, so I played very little, or rather never played at all (laughs) . We tried to get together and practice, but we forgot somehow.
– Duncan Thorin Shields , with whom you have a long history of love and hate, recently said that 2010 NAVI is possibly the best team in CS history. How much do you agree with this statement?
– I think the most professional team in CS history is Astralis. The Danes showed how seriously they can take the game and the training process. But in terms of history, NAVI 2010 was indeed a team that came out of nowhere and suddenly became the world champion. In this regard, we have some kind of zest. But well, if Thorin thinks so, let’s not argue (laughs).
– Fans in such disputes often cite the example of NiP’s first roster, which won 87 matches in a row. In your opinion, is this the same legendary team as you and Astralis?
– They certainly deserve respect. NiP have made a huge contribution to CS:GO, but all the teams on this list have their own accomplishments. Astralis showed maximum professionalism and remained on the first line of the world rating for a very long time.
NiP has a different story. They became the first in this race, the first to take the risk of seriously switching to a new game and also held the lead for a long time.
We are the guys from whom no one expected that they would be able to climb the pedestal. In fact, we made a major leap forward in a short time. Everyone has their own way, and who was better — then let people judge for themselves.
– You had another achievement with a team that no one expected anything from – with Gambit Esports. Mou recently offered you to play a show match with that championship squad. Would you agree?
– Of course, I think it will happen. I’m lucky in this regard — I have several championship teams (laughs) . So I can play there and there.
– It seemed that you parted Gambit not on best of terms. Is that true?
– Not really. It seems to me that we all together then missed a great chance. After winning the Major, we could continue to work and, perhaps, repeat the success. But we did not find a common language and as a result we parted. I am saddened that everything turned out that way. Because in the end, I went back to NAVI, the hard work started there again, and by then I was already 29 years old.
After winning the Major, Gambit and I wanted to “skim the cream” — to earn victories, because we played very well. In addition, we then knocked out new contracts for ourselves with good conditions and salaries, because a new investor came to the organization. But instead of going to tournaments and winning them, I went to NAVI.
Of course, I was very happy about this, because NAVI is my family, I communicate very well with all the guys from the club. But at first we just flew around the world and lost all the competitions. It was only later that electronic came to us, with whom we quickly found a common language, and, finally, began to win. Something like this. And the relationship … Time has passed, we did not do global nasty things to each other, so we have normal relations with everyone from that composition. All bad things are forgotten.
– Do you think you could have built on that success at Gambit?
– I am sure about that. I saw how the team played after me — they looked very strong. I’m sure everything would be cool. But nothing, then electronic came to NAVI, and we were also able to win tournaments.
– Leaving NAVI, you said: “I am 32 years old, I am very tired.” But since then you reformed pro100, launched pizza delivery service, and started participating in show matches. Did you manage to relax?
– I’m tired of that pace of the game, trips, tournaments, this crazy pace. And rest … (Sighs) Yes, I rested (laughs) . Everything is fine with me.
– What is your typical working day like now? What do you do when you retire?
– Well, here I am, lying on the couch (laughs) . In general, last month I threw my main forces into sports. Plus I develop my projects and work. We are now completing the construction of an esports arena in Kharkiv — for me this is such a dream project. This will be the first such establishment in the city: 100 computers, stage, PlayStation, food — well, everything, everything, everything. We want to arrange a grand opening, invite bloggers, show everything in media.
Then I got pizza delivery business – it took us about four months to launch because we wanted to make a quality product. We worked these recipes with the chefs, developed the style, logo, menu, wanted to make a good website. There is a global project that we are also working on — the CIS Esports league. Now we are attracting investments in this project, everything is already at the final stage.
We are also preparing a very interesting esports story, but … Unfortunately, I cannot tell you exactly what it is about. But it will be related to global esports. We have been doing this for the last six months. So yes, I have a couple of projects that have not yet been announced, but, as for me, these are the most global, the coolest of them. We are now at the final stage in two projects. We plan to launch one at the end of August. The second, I hope, will succeed early. Wait for the announcements!
– Do you have enough time for CS with your busy schedule? Do you follow the matches?
– I follow a little, but not too closely. Now the teams in general, I saw qualifiers for the Major, for example. I monitored how NAVI played there, how VP was doing — our YEKINDAR plays there.
I saw what strange things began to happen to Astralis. It is interesting that now the scheme, which Kane and I had long proposed — with the expansion of the roster to six or seven players — began to gain popularity. In principle, this is a convenient model — it would have helped us, given our schedule. It’s very difficult to pull out two tournaments a month, some players get tired, especially those that are of an age like me.
When you have replacements in your team, it is much easier to maintain such a schedule. But yes, at the same time it is not clear how to distribute people by positions. So far Astralis has not shown any serious results with this approach, but maybe everything is still ahead.
– When did you and Kane suggest this? After all, when Astralis introduced such a model, everyone hyped how bold and revolutionary it is.
– We offered NAVI when we just came after Gambit. We were actively discussing everything. Kane, as a coach, tried very hard to push this topic through, because we faced problems. Now someone has a birthday, then some kind of trips, then fatigue — that is, someone constantly dropped out. And it was even hard to blame someone in particular because from time to time all kinds of external circumstances arise for everyone. We were confident that an extended roster could solve this problem.
– And where to find players willing to sit on the bench until they are called in to replace someone?
– It’s not so — you will be a full-fledged team, you can all train together. You just have to agree on who will play in which tournaments.
In some situations, this might actually help. For example, once we had a small tournament in Europe. We flew there, played and after a short break went to China – there was StarLadder, which we won. Of course, bootcamps are still running in parallel. From China, the day after the tournament, we immediately flew to Miami to BLAST, where we successfully lost, because we were completely out of strength. This is, of course, a unique situation, but it still shows how busy the tournament schedule can be. Perhaps, gradually, teams will really learn to use substitutions.
– Why do you think they started talking about burnout and the need for replacements only now? There have always been such crazy series of tournaments.
– It seems to me that there is more money on the market and new opportunities for organizations. Considering the level of players’ salaries, this was simply not possible before. Additionally, Counter-Strike players have some of the highest salaries in esports. It’s hard to keep five here, but imagine how it feels when there are six or seven players, and even the coach is with them?
Astralis, of course, now wanted to stand out a little by showing such a model. It’s still a team with perhaps the most professional approach on stage. This applies to all sorts of things: how they behave; how they go for a walk, train, have breakfast together – they have a very tough discipline, the most sporty and professional approach.
At the same time, they are the champions for the majors won in a row, which means that their example is indicative, these are such trendsetters. So far, we see that even Astralis has not brought any super results. Well, let’s look at the distances.
– A question that you will have to answer endlessly: is there a chance that you will return to big esports – as a coach or some kind of mentor?
– I don’t see myself as a player. As a coach, yes. If I want it, if I’m ready for it mentally and physically (laughs), it is possible.
– In pro100 or in NAVI?
– Yes, rather in NAVI. The pro100 has a different path so far. I would join the team in which I see potential, the team with which we could win the world championship in the first place. Who it would be is still unknown.