Markus Kjaerbye - The World’s Oldest Wonderkid
It’s the 26th of January, 2017. You, and the rest of us so-called gamers, were sat in your underwear watching Astralis taking on Virtus.pro. That day, however, was likely young Markus Kjaerbye’s best day ever. At eighteen years old, he almost single-handedly dragged an Astralis team notorious for choking, over the line to their first Major win. And you, at 18 years old, are on a losing streak on FACEIT. In your underwear.
This ridiculous performance saw Kjaerbye as the only player on the Danish team who went positive in the Grand Final and earned him the MVP. At 18, Kjaerbye had already completed the dream of anyone who even thinks of going pro. And… well, sadly, after the peak, comes the trough.
Kjaerbye was often cited as a weird fit for Astralis, largely as he was seen as a raw aimer who needed to go in first, which was a role that dupreeh was known for. Though he was the MVP of the Major, he had struggles with inconsistencies and swapped roles with dupreeh from time to time.
From inconsistent to inconsistent
That was, until February the following year. Out of nowhere, Kjaerbye had decided to join North to rejoin MSL, a player he felt got the best out of him on Dignitas. He spent a little while being called a snake for leaving Astralis, but after picking up Magisk, they quickly forgot to care. North, meanwhile, continued their trend of occasional brilliance punctuating long stretches of mediocrity.
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Kjaerbye was North’s best performer in the first period and weirdly looked more consistent. Of course, this came with a more consistent star role, but North continued to be somewhat underwhelming. Rosters came and went, and despite the occasional good performance (DreamHack Stockholm) Kjaerbye never had a team like he had at Astralis.
How much was his fault? It’s hard to say. He was expected to be the superstar for North (and rumours suggest he was paid like one, too) and he sometimes popped off like one, but he was never a consistent carry. But, as mentioned, North have been through many players, and none of them have been able to perform extremely consistently.
Even a change or three in the in-game leader role hasn’t helped. valde, Gade, Cadian and MSL have all had periods drinking from the chalice that we can only assume is poisoned, and under none of them has Kjaerbye - or any North player, truly, been consistent. We’ll never truly know whether Kjaerbye was held back by North, or whether North’s consistency issues plagued Kjaerbye - ‘til we see him in another team.
He has now been moved to the inactive roster by mutual consent, with rumours of kristou - the player who filled in for him - becoming a permanent fixture. This would leave Kjaerbye without a team - something which seemed impossible just a few years ago.
What lies ahead?
Kjaerbye is widely renowned for being one of the best players in Denmark at his peak, and rightfully so. His bizarre spraying style has earned him plenty of sceptics among the cheat conspiracy communities, but really his spraying is not what makes him dangerous. He has electric first bullet aim and an acute awareness of where the gaps are in the CT defence. Though he was an entry-fragger on Astralis, his best games on North have often been when he was able to puncture defences with his map rotations and outsmart them in clutches, more than just straight out-aiming them.
Kjaerbye came on the scene about as hot as possible, and while the star is still shining, it’s a little duller than the wonderkid we saw. The future is not yet written, though.
Rumours of an Astralis return are a little weird. Though Kjaerbye has spent time out before leaving North recently, making him in theory perfect for a 6/7 man roster, a talent like his, going to waste on the bench, would be sad. However, the management knows him and it would make some sense if he’s willing to be less of a superstar.
As a North fan, a straight swap with Bubzkji would be ideal as they often play similar roles, but I’m not sure Mad Lions could afford Kjaerbye and I also doubt Bubzkji would move to North.
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That leaves Heroic, who don’t need him, or international rosters. Mousesports have been dire as of late and Kjaerbye would be an extremely interesting choice for them, while ISSAA hasn’t set the world alight on OG and could also see his role under threat. FaZe Clan could maybe use him, but realistically there’s not enough space for another star player on that team.
Whatever happens to Kjaerbye, I really hope we see him at his peak again. His peak killed Virtus.pro, and since they’ve never been the same again - I sincerely hope the case is not the same with the youngest ever Major MVP.
What’s bizarre is that Kjaerbye still feels like untapped potential. At 18 years old he looked like he was going to be one of the best in the world - and he still has some time to fulfil that after this detour - but his next move has to be the right one, or he might just be Counter-Strike’s Michael Owen.
It still feels like Kjaerbye can find that level in another team, it still feels like he can become a true superstar. He’s 22 now, making him a bit too old to be a wonderkid in Counter-Strike. Another spell like this one might see him confined to the same pigeonhole that Joe Cole found himself in - forever a young player with potential, without ever quite breaking into the top tier. But if he can re-find that Astralis form once again… well, the sky's not even the limit for a superstar.
Images via ESL