G2 Esports may not be at the heights they occupied mid-way through 2020, but they have been the talk of the CS:GO scene for good reason: their recent signing of star rifler Nikola “NiKo” Kovač may shape the scene in a way few roster swaps have before. But the story leading to his arrival matters just as much.
AWPer Kenny “kennyS” Schrub has endured 2020’s rollercoaster journey directly, from transitioning to English communication to the up-and-down results. Inven Global was able to chat with him before the team’s entry into BLAST Fall, where they face tough opposition in Group C with FURIA and Astralis ready to test them.
The following is a transcription of the exchange, with minor parts lost due to inaudibility.
You've been part of a lot of French lineups before the end of 2019, and I have to wonder: with NiKo's arrival, that's three players who don't speak French. That creates an interesting dynamic. Can you please tell me about the transition you've had to go through?
The transition has been... I really didn't know what to expect in the beginning, but I was first of all really excited because it was something new for me. It's a new challenge, as people like to call it. I feel more comfortable speaking English, but it's slightly different during the game as I've been used to speaking French while playing CS, which means that callouts and principle names were in French in the past. So, I would say that, as a player and as a person, I've had an adaptation of one or two weeks in order to learn things like [switching from] the French stuff I want to say and the English stuff I have to say.
It just took like one or two weeks to get used to thinking and speaking in English in-game. The first weeks were more like: I think about the game in French, then I try to translate it into English right away. I had that small period of transition that was really hard in the beginning, but then it became really natural pretty quickly. I may be one of the players among the Frenchies here that had the easiest adaptation, I would say.
The fastest adaptation, even though I could feel that, in the beginning, you wanted to say something, but at the same time it's rough to wing it and say it in English. It would create delays in communication. Since you weren't the only player having this transition, I can imagine that it would get a little hectic.
Yeah, it was complicated. But in the end, it was still more complicated for JaCkz as he was not speaking English at all at the time. AMANEK had a bit of experience with Misfits back in the day, so maybe it felt good. But that's naturally the thing in the brain: You see something, your natural [process] is to state it in French, but you cannot, so you need to think about it and say it in English. That's why the transition was a bit hard.
And now, when I play CS in French, I have the opposite: I naturally speak English for the callouts for example, and it isn't that natural for me to play in French any longer.
"Now [with] my international experience, I'm not sure I want to go back to a French one."
You'd have to go through two weeks minimum to flip it back... So kennyS on a strictly French lineup won't be happening anytime soon. That's completely different from the past — and I would go way back to VeryGames — when it was French lineups and that was it.
Yep. Of course, now [with] my international experience, I'm not sure I want to go back to a French one. I don't mind playing with French players, but I kinda like it more to have a surrounding that is English-speaking.
Multicultural? Different people that you could speak with?
That's quite eventful all things considered: you go from being able to play with not that many people on a competitive level to, all of a sudden, the possibilities being kind of endless as long as they fit with you and you fit with them on a playstyle point.
Absolutely. As long as they speak English, people can literally play with anyone. The pool of players is much much bigger than it used to be.
Initially, it kinda worked pretty well for G2 from the end of 2019 until June 2020. Tell me about how things were going internally at the time.
The first thing that [comes to mind] is that we managed to build relationships outside the game straight away, especially considering that JaCkz and I are really expressive people. I think nexa and huNter- really liked it. They're straight away with us, and despite the fact that JaCkz didn't speak good English, he was able to show himself as the person he was, so people liked each other despite they couldn't really communicate things with each other.
The chemistry has always been really great among the players. Literally, we're having a lot of fun. We spend a lot of time together, and even though we started having issues in the game and we started losing more than we used to — we've had three bad months before NiKo joined that were really bad — the team always had a strong bond. That's something that I really enjoyed with the arrivals of nexa and huNter-.
So now, we have to bring NiKo into that good chemistry we always have, but I don't think that is going to be an issue considering that he's also huNter-'s cousin. We also had some opportunities to hang with NiKo in the past, especially when we were in the bootcamp in Belgrade.
"We also wanted to improve our CT side and NiKo is one of the players that has really helped us improve [there] already."
Oh, so you had a boot camp in Belgrade?
Yeah, that was a few months ago. We had a boot camp in Belgrade, and we were hanging out with NiKo because he was in Belgrade, and we were there with nexa and huNter-.
So, the move doesn't come completely out of the blue that NiKo's move became a possibility. Then again, when I look at NiKo, I'm reminded that he's a guy with really crazy individual play, but who became more of an in-game leader gradually. What type of NiKo is G2 looking for?
To be honest, we started practicing, and I can say that— You can feel that he is really dynamic, and really taking part in the game and the setups in general. He likes to talk, organize stuff. That's a big help for nexa. Playing with him, I know that he's a really skilled player and that he was able to in-game lead, but I didn't really know what he would bring outside of that. It happens that he brings a lot of dynamics into the game. For a player like me, it's even easier to play, you know?
Fewer variables to take into account, more focus on the play itself.
He's a really smart and invested player, so he's really good for the team. Considering that we had some issues on this side as well, it's nice to have someone at rotation; we needed a rotator because we didn't really have one before NiKo got into the team. That's also making a difference. We also wanted to improve our CT side and NiKo is one of the players that has really helped us improve [there] already.
"Bringing NiKo was the dream for huNter-. It helps us improve on our other aspects [that] we couldn't improve with our former roster."
When looking at the lineup, I still have to think about how you have six players on the roster. How are lineup permutations going to work, especially heading into BLAST Fall and the teams you'll face, with Furia coming first? This event will help you figure things out, but how is the 'figuring out' thing going at the moment?
So far, we are playing with the same lineup since NiKo arrived, which means that someone else is on the bench right now. What our side management wants to do is to give equal chances to the two players that are fighting for the spot. I think maLEK did a video about it. [inaudible audio]. I'm just focused on playing and winning with my team.
Bringing NiKo was the dream for huNter-. It helps us improve on our other aspects [that] we couldn't improve with our former roster. Our roster is filled with really great players, people who are motivated and are doing their best. It's really hard to say: "he's coming, and we have to remove one player." It's hard to say "you deserve to be out of the team" because none of us deserves it. But you're gonna leave the space for NiKo because, obviously, he's really making the difference. But right now, I don't think we have a six-man roster because I don't think that it has been decided yet.
It looks to me, right now, as if it could become what Team Vitality are doing with Nivera…
That's not our goal, to be honest: we don't want to change between maps. We want to try the best lineup possible, and with that, we have to try to spend time with one player for a while, then one more player, then we decide. I don't think that's the kind of solution that we want: if I work, if I play the game, I don't want to be subbed because I want to be the winning team. I don't want to be on the bench, or that kind of thing. Vitality does what they do, but that's not the plan that we have right now.
With that in mind, looking at BLAST Fall, what are your expectations?
It's really hard to say. I think the objective has always been the same: we wanna win this group. Even though we don't have a lot of practice with NiKo, we're going to do our best with it. Despite the fact that we didn't practice that much, we still have the room to shine. Wait and see, but it will be interesting. We are really looking forward to starting playing together in official games. I've been waiting to play our [first] game [at BLAST] for three days, so it's really interesting, and we are really motivated. Even though we don't have the preparation we would have liked to have, we would be hard to beat still.
Alright. Now, as far as you're concerned, 2020 has been a weird year. How have you been doing through the motions?
2020 has been really difficult socially for all human beings. There is much worse than us. But in general, everyone that is touched by what's going on with governments taking decisions that will force you to change your lifestyle, that is really hard for everyone. Considering the format of the season, the fact that we all play online, it's also hard for the players to be entirely motivated and focused for the whole year because you're playing tournaments, tournaments, tournaments. Sometimes, you're playing tournaments for the major but there is no major. It's just hard to find the motivation.
This year, this game on Monday is the one I'm looking forward the most about. Some games, some tournaments before, you don't really know why you are playing, so that's really good for people that there is [an] objective. There's players that are rookies or that have been here for a second year, and they don't necessarily need objectives to play the game [well], to feel motivated. But there's also players that are here for a longer time, such as me, that really need objectives to actually be really good at the game. That's why I'm looking forward to Monday: that's a really big objective for all of us, and that's important for players to have objectives. That was the biggest challenge of the year.
Is there anything else that you would like to add - beyond PSG winning their game on Saturday?
[laughs] While PSG is making me happy — they win — I'm not that happy in the end. They are playing really... it's not satisfying at all. But we've been winning, we take it. But other than that, I don't have anything to add.