PGL Stockholm Major: All Eyes On s1mple
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) Majors are grand events. The nexus and culmination of legacies: of teams, lineups, and players. They act as the capstones of history, the first achievements we look at when we weigh the measure of a player's career. PGL Stockholm Major is on an even higher plane.
It is the first CS:GO Major in two years, the culmination of two years of play. The landscape has utterly changed. Astralis the GOAT lineup is gone. The Liquid of 2019 has faded into memory. New players have come in, some have swapped teams, others have retired. In these two years, everything has changed... well, almost everything. Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev stands at the vortex of this Major.
s1mple was the best player for two years before the pandemic. s1mple has been the best player during the two years of online play. S1mple is the greatest to ever play the game. The only achievement left is to win a Major. This is s1mple's Major to win, and all eyes will be watching to see if he can do it.
An Overview of s1mple's Major History
s1mple's career spans all the way back to 2014. In that event, we saw a glimpse of s1mple's potential. In the group stages, he carried HellRaisers to victory against the legendary Fnatic squad of Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson, Jesper "JW" Wecksell, Robin "flusha" Ronnquist, Olof "olofmeister" Gustafsson, and Markus "pronax" Wallsten in a 16-14 victory.
s1mple, for all of his raw skill, was still too young, too raw, too immature to fit into a team. He played under Andrii "B1ad3" Gorodenskyi's Flipsid3 for a period of time, but things broke apart. He floated between lineups, never finding a permanent home until he got the call from Spencer “Hiko” Martin to join Liquid. Hiko had played as a stand-in for Flipsid3 at ESWC 2015. He and s1mple had played together and got along. When Hiko was looking for teammates to help him win the Major, s1mple popped up. The call changed s1mple's career and arguably CS:GO history. For years afterwards, s1mple called Hiko the best teammate he ever had, an honor he kept until s1mple played with Denis "electronic" Sharipov.
S1mple's six-month period was turbulent, but this was the most transformative period of s1mple's career. The decision to leave the CIS region because he couldn't join any teams, the decision to go to America and play, fighting against and with his NA teammates, and the two Major runs: 4th at MLG Major Columbus and 2nd at ESL One Cologne changed s1mple's career trajectory. Cologne was pivotal, as s1mple was the star in Liquid's upset victory against Na`Vi in the quarterfinals of the Major. That head-to-head victory opened a new possibility for s1mple as Na`Vi saw his talents first-hand and subsequently recruited him into their team.
From 2017 to 2019, s1mple's individual couldn't compensate for Na`Vi being a bad team. They had strong potential talent, but no uniting centre or identity to bring it together. Astralis outclassed them at Eleague Atlanta and at Kraków, Na`Vi fell out of the group stages.
Na`Vi in 2018 were strong, but flawed. The addition of Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko gave them the leadership they needed to cohere together for the most part, but it was also the period when both Zeus and Ioann "Edward' Sukhariev had big slumps in individual form. Na`Vi consistently made deep runs, but were often outclassed by more complete teams. FaZe beat Na`Vi at Eleague Boston.
By the time FACEIT Major London started, the Astralis era had firmly cemented itself, and Astralis were the greatest team of all time. London was the closest Na`Vi got to a Major victory, but even then it wasn't close, as Astralis smashed them 2-0.
That was the peak of the Na`Vi lineup with Zeus as the team started to slowly decline with diminishing returns. Na`Vi got top four at Katowice Major 2019 with ENCE beating them 2-1 in the semifinals. Na`Vi then placed top eight with a loss to NRG at StarLadder Berlin.
That was the last Major before the pandemic.
s1mple's Unending Endurance
Every adjective, every superlative, and every explicative has been used to try to describe s1mple's play. He is a transcendent player, an all-time great that stands heads and shoulders above the other all-time greats.
When I think of s1mple, a cliché comes to mind which goes, “Effort can beat talent when talent hardly works.” s1mple is not only one of the most talented players in CS:GO history, he is also one of the hardest working.
Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund, one of the all-time greats, told VPEsports: “A few years ago he was good, but nothing special. When he put hard work together with his talent, he became literally the best player in world.” Duncan “Thorin” Shields points out that s1mple has more highlight clips in a single tournament than some great players have in their entire careers.
If you ever ask Tomi “lurppis” Kovanen, he'll bring up a twitter exchange where he said something along the lines of how Na`Vi needed to step up since s1mple couldn't possibly reach a higher level. S1mple tweeted back he could, and in the following year, reached even greater individual heights.
If you asked me, I'd say the freakiest thing about s1mple is that his underrated and overlooked skill sets are still world-class. His understanding, rotations, game sense, discipline puts him on the same level as any of the most cerebral players you'd care to name. His sheer endurance and longevity of his peak puts him in a class far above his peers and other all-time greats.
By my count, he has been the best player in the world since late 2017. He has kept his form longer than Astralis, than both iterations of the great Liquid lineups of 2018 and 2019. On an individual level, s1mple has outlasted all of his rivals: Nikola "NiKo" Kovac, Marcelo “Coldzera” David, Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, and Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski.
The only other player left in the conversation is Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut, who has only had a good year in 2021 (comparable to s1mple's 2017) and still needs a few more years to match s1mple's peak longevity.
s1mple hasn't only outlasted his rivals, he's kept his form long enough for Na`Vi to catch up to him. It has taken years, but Na`Vi has finally constructed the right team around him. Denis "electronic" Sharipov joined Na`Vi in 2017. Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov and Andrii "B1ad3" Gorodenskyi joined in 2019. Ilya "Perfecto" Zalutskiy joined in early 2020 and Valerii "B1T" Vakhovskyi at the very end of 2020.
s1mple has played at a world #1 level for four years in hopes that Na`Vi could eventually construct a world destroyer around him, and now they finally have. In 2021, they took over Gambit's spot as the best team in the world, both online and on LAN. Na`Vi no longer have any viable rivals in all of the world CS:GO, and are the world's best team.
The time is now
In many ways, the PGL Stockholm Major was made for s1mple to win. It has been two years since the last CS:GO Major. Only scant months since we have come out of the online era, with LAN tournaments slowly coming back. As fans, players, and community, we are ravenous for a CS:GO Major. We have patiently waited and endured for years for this tournament.
Yet we have only waited for two years. S1mple has patiently waited his entire career for this moment. And this is the moment. S1mple is at the apex of his powers, Na`Vi have come into their own as the world's best, all of s1mple's rivals have faded away. S1mple's time is now.