• Anthony Vitale

The Journey Back: allu's Re-ascension

Finding his start in a slew of regional Finnish teams and making his way to the top, Finnish AWPer Aleksi “allu” Jalli has proven time and time again that he has what it takes to hang with the best, pulling himself from the abyss of what seemed to be defeat on numerous occasions, and finding his footing in the most recent iteration of the ENCE esports lineup is no exception.

Geographical Bar

The 27 year old allu gets his alias from the common nickname given to those Finnish people by the name Aleksi, and has been a member of the professional Counter-Strike scene for nearly 10 years now. He found his beginnings as most players had; competing with the best players they could find from their home country, speaking their mother tongue. While allu had been given the short end of the stick in terms of his home country, he made the absolute best out of the hand he was dealt in life.

Throughout his career, the Finn sniper had wiggled his way in and out of the ENCE esports organization in between top teams with the goal of forming a “Superteam” out of the Finnish players at his disposal. At the time, his intentions were somewhat far fetched given the names available to him, but reaching the 2018 revival of the ENCE CS:GO roster, he had finally found the proper combination of players capable of challenging the top echelon of the Counter-Strike world.

Acknowledged by the Ninjas

Source: DreamHack

allu had squared off against the Ninjas once or twice in his career prior to his early 2015 signing, showing his prowess with the sniper on multiple occasions and admittedly faltering with the weapon on others. Regardless, NiP saw something in him that they had to have, and upon joining the roster he showed the team just what they wanted to see. Replacing Mikail “Maikelele” Bill, he demonstrated his capabilities of out-sniping some of the best in the game at the time, keeping up with in-form names such as Jesper “JW” Wecksell and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub. An HLTV LAN rating of 1.05 against teams in the top 10 over his stay with NiP is nothing to scoff at. He was as an AWPer with little-to-no top tier experience at the time and putting up those kinds of numbers was quite the accomplishment.

Come December 7th 2015, allu and the team had decided to mutually part ways once allu’s contract had expired. Many speculate that this was due to a greater communication issue, but Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund is quoted as saying, "We wanted to go back to a full Swedish team, and if he were, then he would probably still be in the team". At the same time, allu looked to form his own superteam out of Finnish players, featuring the currently team-less ex-mousesports entry-fragger Miikka “suNny” Kemppi.

In his attempt to create an international competitive Finnish lineup, he was only able to find a group of players capable of regional dominance. ENCE ran away with offline first-place finishes at Finnish occupied events of Assembly Winter 2016 and Vectorama 2016, but when it came to confronting fellow tier 2 European opposition, they were consistently unable to close the skill gap presented. They would see a multitude of top four placings during their time together with little to no development as a unit to justify the squad sticking together moving forwards.

Another English Speaking Opportunity Emerges in FaZe

With the end of his 7-month campaign to restore the Finnish Counter-Strike scene with ENCE came the offer to play alongside the up and coming international lineup of FaZe Clan. This proposition was one that was too great to refuse. FaZe had benched their primary AWPer Maikelele, a name I’ve referenced allu succeeding earlier, in favor of French rifler Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey. The team would thereafter use Ricardo “fox” Pacheco in his place for some time. Once things had begun to roll downhill, the team turned to allu to treat their wounds.

While they still struggled with a lack of leadership, this was unquestionably a step in the right direction for the crew.

Source: DreamHack

The blockbuster signing of Nikola “NiKo” Kovač at the start of 2017 would aid in their efforts of becoming a truly elite team, landing them instantaneous success. FaZe would land four Premier grand final appearances, finally overcoming the Danish superpower that was Astralis to secure the StarLadder Season 3 trophy along with $125,000. With all the success came high expectations for the team’s sharpshooter, who was trusted with one of the team’s most round influencing roles. A bitterly disappointing last-place finish in the PGL Krakow Major in the heart of that same year led to some reconsideration in regards to their active roster, eyeing up replacements for both the aforementioned kioShiMa and, of course, our point of discussion, allu.

The number one priority for the team was legendary Slovakian AWPer Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, who was approached in the days following his benching from Natus Vincere. While allu was a more than serviceable sniper, the prospect of having the heavy hitting GuardiaN on the roster beside a monstrous NiKo was an opportunity they could not squabble. The decision to move forward with a roster full of star players left allu with some time to think.

FaZe and OpTic Reach an Agreement

Instead of heading back to Finland in an attempt to kickstart another national lineup, he would be transferred to rivaling organization OpTic Gaming within the month. He and other players temporarily ejected from their own regions formed a new core of players in another international excursion. Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas lead the search for players to join him on this European rendition of the OpTic lineup, picking the inactive Danish star Emil “Magisk” Reif from North, Swedish veteran Adam “friberg” Friberg from the NiP bench, Kevin “HS” Tarn from the PENTA Sports active roster, and having allu transferred from FaZe to complete their five.

A majority of the LANs the team had attended ended in very little success, however, they had finally gotten a grasp on things at IEM Oakland 2017, outlasting the likes of the “French Superteam” iteration of G2 Esports, Team Liquid, Gambit Esports, and Renegades. They had found three consecutive top six placements in Premier LAN tournaments with the ESL Pro League and ECS Finals that followed. Alas, the progress they had found so late in their crusade led to OpTic dropping the roster and allowing for other teams to approach their players for transfer.

The main issue of the roster came with travel, as they had all migrated from their respective homes in Europe to boot camp in North America at the OpTic HQ, which took a toll on the players. It was unfortunate that allu’s performance had taken a downturn following his time in FaZe, with a 1.00 HLTV LAN rating against top 30 teams during his time with the team, but this could easily be attributed to by the aforementioned travel, homesickness, and lack of stability within the roster, as multiple changes were contemplated during their time together.

Once his outing in North America had come to a close, he looked to return back home to analyze his options moving forward. Over a month on the OpTic Gaming bench left him with a fair amount of time to reflect on where he wanted to take his career from then on. What he found was that it was about time he returned to his roots at least one last time.

Finland’s Perfect Five

After countless endeavors in creating an internationally ambitious Finnish squad, allu had formulated the definitive superteam of players from his home country, recruiting the 16-year-old up-and-comer Jere “sergej” Salo, ex-HAVU in-game leader Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, SJ Gaming entry-fragger Jani “Aerial” Jussila, and supportive rifler Sami “xseveN” Laasanen. This was a core of players who had to build their legacy from the ground up over the coming months, attaining early lower tier dominance on LAN, overcoming fellow Finns at yet another Vectorama and in the GG.Bet Majestic event that led to their qualification for ESL One: Cologne 2018.

It was expected that the team would have to start off slow and snowball toward prosperity, and their Premier debut at Cologne was just the spring they needed. An opening defeat to Astralis could’ve been anticipated, but wins over the likes of NiP and mousesports 2-0 in best-of-threes were quite the shock. Between this and their next Premier LAN, ENCE would place second in DreamHack Open Montreal after falling short to Team Kinguin in the finals. StarLadder Season 6 would be their first significant achievement as a team, claiming the trophy over Vega Squadron 3-2 in the nail-biting grand final. They would go on to win DreamHack Open Winter that same year and continue their dominance regionally leading into the IEM Katowice Major at the opening of 2019.

All of the team’s accomplishments up to this point were against a majority of lesser adversaries, grinding out wins to advance in their climb to the top. Nonetheless, the Katowice major would be a different story, as qualification came naturally over the teams they had squared off against comfortably before. Come the New Legends Stage, ENCE struggled against the Renegades and HellRaisers and were sent into the 0-2 win/loss pool early on, meaning one more loss would result in their elimination.

Source: ENCE

Fortunately for allu and co., their 2-0 match would be against the dysfunctional BIG Clan to help boost their confidence moving into their following match against G2 Esports. The G2 lineup was also in a grace period of transitioning from their latest roster changes, meaning ENCE’s longstanding chemistry as a team had paid off in overcoming the Frenchmen. Ultimately, it was AVANGAR that stood amidst them and a spot in the playoffs. Most spectators and analysts were awaiting a close matchup between the two on-the-rise lineups but despite this, ENCE had come out on top in a relatively clean fashion, taking the best-of-three 2-0.

A stunning 2-0 over Team Liquid in the quarterfinals sent the North American favorites home early and booked them a place against Natus Vincere in the semifinals. A nail biting series ensued and ENCE had, once again, emerged victorious and sought to challenge the world’s #1, Astralis, in the grand final. While they would understandably fall short, they would find their revenge in BLAST Pro Series: Madrid to sweep the Danes and claim yet another trophy for the shelf. A top-four finish at the fourth installment of cs_summit and second place in DreamHack Masters Dallas just last week in a 2-1 setback versus Team Liquid.

An unbelievable increase in efficiency from allu has occurred since the team’s formation, putting up a 1.12 rating against top 30 teams with an astonishing 1.82 opening kill ratio with a 1.16 opening kill rating overall has opened up rounds for his team time and time again. His opening kills nearly double his deaths, showing his versatility on both opening up rounds as well as closing them out. At the age of 27, Aleksi Jalli will likely be fighting for his place at the top for some years to come, as he has proven that nothing can keep him down, at least not for long.