ESL One Cologne is only days away, and all the competing teams are trying their best to be prepared for the event. We sat down with Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács to talk about his team Natus Vincere, their chances in Cologne and his thoughts on what will be the deciding factor at gamescom.
ESL: Hi, GuardiaN. You’ve been on a roll recently with a second place at DreamHack, the StarLadder Season 9 win on home turf and the Caseking of the Hill 1 title just last week. What triggered this streak?
Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács: I would say it was the result of the hard work of each player in our team. We have been doing great job, hitting our shots, working on our strategies and improving and fixing our mistakes in game. Adding some new tricks and tactics also helped us to keep going and winning the important games, but yeah, sometimes you can lose even to a dark horse team.
ESL: It all started in the Ukraine, where you won the home tournament and extended the impressive streak of hometown heroes winning CS:GO events. How does it feel to play in front of your own fans?
GuardiaN: It is a great experience, feeling and mental support for players. Hard to explain, but it triggers some special energy inside you and then you just start to play better and better round by round. That’s something you need to experience so you can understand what that feeling is about.
ESL: How much of the noise the crowd makes actually gets through your headsets?
GuardiaN: Since we are not all same-language-speaking players, we are more focused on information from other players, which is still a problem sometimes, so listening to casters or outside information is something absurd.
ESL: Do you see a risk in ‘overextending’ some plays to get the loudest cheer possible?
GuardiaN: Sometimes, yes. For example, when a player is defusing the bomb, the crowd goes wild, and from the crowd's reaction the other players learn that the bomb is being defused. Some of these overextending actions make the games different.
ESL: Now that no home team is playing in Cologne, do you see any decrease in fan participation or are you of the mindset that the established and popular teams can get a crowd just as excited?
GuardiaN: I see it as a neutral place for each team. Now it will be more about the stronger mindset of each player and team rather than about the preparation and pure skill. That’s why this event is going to be the deciding factor for identifying the number one team in the world.
ESL: I mentioned a winning streak, but the qualifier kicked off with you getting upset by London Conspiracy. What happened in that match?
GuardiaN: As I mentioned above, sometimes even the best team in the world can lose to a dark horse. We did not have any knowledge about their players or game style so they just ran over us. They were better skill-wise, strategy-wise and completely in all factors of the game. Now we are having bootcamp and doing our best to avoid the same upsets again in the future.
ESL: Can you see London Conspiracy pulling out even bigger upsets in the LAN environment?
GuardiaN: They showed us great games at Gfinity in London, even beating the champions of Virtus.pro, also drawing with iBP if I'm not mistaken, as well as playing many more good games. I think they are the true dark horse who can show us even more with more practice.
ESL: Are they the dark horse with the biggest upside or can you see another team making a run?
GuardiaN: Well, they can show us great games, but the team to make the most upsets is going to be the dAT team from CIS, in my opinion. They are experienced players with some young blood. If use the last few days of practice in the best way possible, they are gonna do good.
ESL: You are entering the competition as one of the favorites - who do you see as your biggest competition?
GuardiaN: The biggest competition for us will be ourselves. If our players can overcome the overconfidence, the pessimism and start to believe in each other, I’m pretty sure we can play much better than we did in past official online games. But if we take a look at the team lists, I think it’s Virtus Pro, the new Fnatic lineup, Dignitas and Cloud 9 .
ESL: How much experience do you have with Cache, Cobblestone and Overpass?
GuardiaN: We don't really have much experience with these maps, but we are trying to practice them as much as we can to understand the rotations and timings of both sides. About strategies - it will be really hard to play as Terrorists, I think, but everyone will pull some crazy strategies to take as many rounds as possible as attackers.
ESL: Do you think any of the major teams will take a chance and choose to play on one of these maps?
GuardiaN: I think after practicing these maps every single day, every team will have one strong map out of these two and will not veto them. So I personally think we will see a lot of new maps being played in this tournament, and will see some strong performances on them.
ESL: Why is Cologne the best place to revive the winning mentality Na’Vi was known for back in 1.6?
GuardiaN: Well, since it’s neutral soil, it will be more about the team mentality, team spirit and the prepared game of the teams. The best-prepared team will win the tournament, and we think that with our strict preparation we can do it. Let the best take the championship!
ESL: Thank you very much for your time, Ladislav. Enjoy your stay in Cologne!
Looking for more details about the tournament? Check out the official ESL One website. Still want a chance to be part of the action in Cologne? We have the last tickets for the sold-out gamescom 2014, where you can see all your favorite teams in action!