Cologne Preview: Why Gambit Are The Best In The World - Part 2
"I got a back-up plan to the back-up plan,
To back up my back-up plan" - Big Boi
I continue with an analysis of why Gambit are the world's best CS:GO team. In Part 1, I used the three pillars of CS to take a broader look at Gambit's success. In this article, I'll dig a bit more into the depth of Gambit's tactics and strategy.
The community often bundles Gambit's style with the classic CIS style of slowly taking the map, and making a last second call. While Gambit fit into the archetype, the personal details make Gambit a unique entity unto itself. Analysing a Gambit round reveals an almost unending layer of depth to their style of play. I'll just take a look at one example to illustrate the point. The round comes from the Upper Bracket Finals against Na`Vi at Blast Spring Finals on Mirage.
In the round 7, Gambit opened with a 2-1-2 default on Mirage. They opened with a two-man pick towards B-hall with Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov and Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov. Abay "Hobbit" Khassenov, Timofey "interz" Yakushin, and Vladislav "nafany" Gorshkov are controlling palace, T-ramp, and mid. The first plan is obvious, let sh1ro get a pick. To try to bait that, Hobbit and interz use their mollies to force back any aggressive pushes towards ramp or palace. Gambit are hoping that Na`Vi will try to aggressively look for info at B-halls.
When that doesn't happen, the second plan comes into play. Ax1Le goes for a lurk entry play into B while interz rotates towards mid where he throws the smoke for window. Ax1Le dies in his entry attempt, but created space with his death. Sh1ro uses his molly to prevent someone from jumping for info, so if Na`Vi want to know what's going on, they have to take a bigger risk.
This combination of three actions forces Na`Vi to rotate and get info. Denis "electronic" Sharipov pushes towards ramp, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev rotates out, and Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov looks towards mid. This lets the third plan come into play, as Hobbit comes out of palace and backstabs the rotation. Electronic trades Hobbit, but the combination of boomb looking towards connector and electronic trading Hobbit from T-ramp lets nafany intuit the setup.
Then comes the fourth move as nafany goes for the lurk play into connector to get electronic. Na`Vi need to rotate again to do a 2-1 setup, which leads to Gambit's potential 5th move. Interz and sh1ro go into the site and trade 1 for 1. This forces s1mple to rotate towards B and nafany has already lurked deep enough to get the advantageous angle and position on s1mple. Interz keeps running forward to confirm Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy’s position at bench.
Gambit then make the decision to rotate back towards A. Nafany holds for the potential rotation through kitchen and when the timing is up for that, he goes towards window to cover sh1ro. Sh1ro in turn uses his last smoke to cover potential fire from Perfecto and the smoke draws Perfecto's crossfire towards connector, which gives nafany the upper hand when he peeks out.
In one round, Gambit gave themselves six potential chances in winning the round or gaining a decisive advantage: sh1ro's pick, Ax1Le's entry, Hobbit's lurk, nafany's lurk, the two-man trade into B, nafany's final lurk, and the mid-round call. If none of this works out, and Gambit are in a bad spot, they’ll save the guns and come up with an ad-hoc tactic that makes the best use of whatever buy they have in the next round. This is what makes Gambit so hard to deal with.
Gambit are a structured tactical team, but a lot of their moves allow a level of freedom and individual choice that makes it impossible to predict. The team is so drilled that they continually make sure to never make shortcuts whenever they make plays, whether as individuals or as a team.
Gambit's deep lurking style is their best weapon, but it's not their only weapon. Like all modern CS:GO teams, Gambit are well versed in the myriad ways of CS. They use that knowledge to inject variance into their play which creates a spark of unpredictability to their strategy.
For instance, if I was defending against Gambit, I'd consider cutting is the initial CT-side default smokes as Gambit rarely rush. OG did this in their finals against Gambit at IEM Summer as they delayed the monster smoke. Gambit saw this and in the 13th round, they rushed at OG so hard that even Andrei “arT” Piovezan would have spammed his W in salute.
Gambit can take this a level deeper as they are willing to use the same play, but only commit two or three players into the rush before pivoting into their typical deep lurk style that gives other teams fits.
Gambit's Map Pool
The final level of analysis to look at is Gambit's map pool. They play six of the seven, with their permaban being Nuke. They have great win rates on all their maps as they are the best team in the world. Usually, a top team has a particular speciality map they lean on to guarantee a victory in any bo3 series they play. I've looked through the records and I don't think it holds true for Gambit. When Gambit first came out, I thought they were fantastic on Inferno, but they've gone away from that map. At IEM Summer, they shifted more towards overpass and Vertigo, even though their inferno was still strong. At BLAST Spring Finals, they beat everyone on Mirage and Dust2. They also prepped Ancient as a potential snipe pick against Na`Vi and counter-snipe for G2.
Gambit's prep, scouting, style, and versatile players has translated into a shifting map pool that lets them mask their map strategy from their opponents.
Gambit are the favourite to win Cologne. The only teams that have beaten Gambit in a bo3+ are: Vitality, Na`Vi and Heroic. Heroic beat them in the finals of EPL 13 months ago, but that was Heroic at their absolute best. Na`Vi certainly has the firepower, but Na`Vi's inherent volatility means that teams can upset Na`Vi before Na`Vi even matches against Gambit. As for Vitality, Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut is a godly player, but Vitality isn’t there as a team right now. Unless everything clicks, it's hard to imagine them pulling that upset again.
Overall, Gambit's style of play should translate to LAN. The only other question mark is whether they can replicate their refined level of play, scouting, and tactics when they are on the road. Even if that affects Gambit’s play, Gambit should still be the best team in the world. As it stands, Gambit are in prime position to solidify their spot as the best in the world on LAN, win the IEM Grand Slam, and be the best team of 2021.