The s1mple Story: from Toxic Young-gun to Trailblazing Title-Winner
Updated: Feb 14, 2019
There has always been a distinct skill gap between those that are legendary and those that are simply great in the Counter-Strike world. During the CS 1.6 and Source days, we had legends such as Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg, Filip “Neo” Kubski, Christopher “Get_Right” Alesund. These superstars would define the optimal way to play CS and create the meta that is still utilised and adapted to this very day. Players that will forever be remembered and honoured by those who aspire to be the next CS legend. In the Global Offensive era, we have witnessed the rise of young stars such as FaZe Superstar Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, danish AWPER Nicolai "device" Reedtz and Brazilian terminator Marcelo "coldzera" David. However, the most intriguing of them all is the Ukrainian prodigy, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. s1mple is one such player that is slowly but surely building his one of a kind career and a legacy that can never be rivaled.
After being crowned the greatest player in terms of accomplishments and pure mechanical skill by not just 2018’s HLTV top 20, but the people as well, it is important to remember that the young man has had many ups and downs throughout his career. It hasn't been a simple journey to the top (pun intended) but definitely one of the most interesting of the Global Offensive era.
S1mple began his journey in 2013 with Ukrainian team LAN DODGERS. After a short duration, he would be discovered by Team Courage in the next year. They would later rebrand as Amazing Gaming. On this lineup, little is known, but it is clear that s1mple showed his value to other teams in the scene. By winning tournaments such as SLTV ProSeries X under the Amazing Gaming team and being the only bright spot in the Team Courage lineup. However, not much more is known during this period of his career. In that same year, at just the age of 16, s1mple’s career took off to the next level by dwelling into the international side of the scene with HellRaisers. Joining long-tenured stars such as X-God Mikhail “Dosia” Stolyarov and the priorly-mentioned 1.6 AWPing legend Yegor "markeloff" Markelov. In his very first tournament with the side, he would end up beating the prime-time fnatic team in the group stage of the DreamHack Winter 2014 major. This would end in a surprising underdog run to the quarterfinals where they were ultimately defeated by the other Swedish superstars in Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Two months later, s1mple would be forced to part ways with HellRaisers, banned from all ESL tournaments due to toxicity and the use of cheats in 2013. Even after he was caught red-handed, s1mple would stupidly decide to participate in the qualifier for the EMS One Katowice 2014 major. Eventually, the organizers of the tournament some way or another found out about this and would decide to disqualify his team, adding two more years to his ban from all ESL Tournaments. The timing of this ban could not be any worse, as ESL would be granted the host of both majors of the year. This ban would expire at the beginning of 2016.
The next road we shall travel down in his not so simple journey (I’m sorry this is the last time I’m making this pun), would be a short stop at the predominantly Ukrainian “Flipsid3 Tactics” team. Sadly he was still banned during this period, resulting in the organization having to use multiple stand-ins for him during ESL tournaments. With Flipsid3, s1mple would play under their green banner for a period of 6 months in 2015. In that time, s1mple would play several tournaments and would achieve the following accomplishments:
4th at Copenhagen Games 2015
1st at CS:GO Championship Series Kick-Off Season Qualifier
1st at CIS Championship Voronezh
5-6th at DreamHack Open Tours 2015
3-4th at Electronic Sports World Cup 2015
These tournaments would summarize s1mple’s time on the Ukrainian side. Things would abruptly turn sour as his teammates would turn against him. Markeloff, the legendary AWPer of 1.6, would be cited as revelling in s1mple leaving by saying, “I feel really awesome that he left”. After s1mple decided to leave the team at ESWC 2015, markeloff would state that this was not a big loss at all for the side. As he would often yell and argue with teammates at the time. On the positive end, he would also cite that he was an outstanding player with immense confidence and someone who possessed godlike aim. His arguments within the team were due to a lack of knowledge about the game from s1mple as stated, since he could never quite comprehend the team-based element. Markeloff would state that he would yell and argue all the time with his fellow teammates damaging the team chemistry. His departure would result in the 1.6, AWPer and top 5 player, Markeloff, revelling in his departure and stating that they could now focus on the game more, rather than the constant arguments with a “toxic kid”. This was another learning experience for the prodigy. On the other side of the story, s1mple vowed to never play with some of his FlipSid3 teammates following their semi-final departure
Following another short tenure, s1mple eventually left the Ukrainian squad in mid-2015 because of said internal problems and would later announce that he would be going inactive. However, a few days later he would take a complete illegal U-turn at a random intersection and join the revamped roster of Evolution, marking the beginning of his shuffle through various lineups for the rest of 2015. This period of uncertainty would end with s1mple standing-in for his former team, HellRaisers, after the surprising departure of the before mentioned star Dosia. His team would attend DreamHack Stockholm 2015, which was actually a qualifier for the next major in the cycle, DreamHack Cluj Napoca 2015. They would lose to French Superpower, Titan esports, and were upset by the then Polish side, “Vexed Gaming”. Despite their 9-12th finish after being one of the heavy favorites to qualify for the major, s1mple was not discouraged by the embarrassing defeat. In fact, it was a turning point for s1mple, their failure to qualify seemed to motivate the young star even more.
During his time raising hell, s1mple would meet his future teammate and lifelong friend Spencer “Hiko” Martin, while standing in for Flipsid3. As such, when clouds form it also rains the liquid of victory. Hiko would go on to recruit s1mple onto Team Liquid as the rosters fifth, marking the beginning of his tenure of absolute dominance. A period in which he reshaped the definition and role of what a carry could do for a team such as Liquid. Regardless of what the other players brought to team Liquid, it was clear that the CIS player was hands down the best of the once fully NA roster. No matter what people would say, s1mple was the star player that would make history by bringing the NA roster to consecutive Major Grand and Semi-Finals in 2016. This was the first big victory for NA since the CLG days during the early years of CS:GO history and until the miraculous run made by Cloud9 in Boston.
This would be a sacrificial time for s1mple, as he would end up giving up his dream of going to university to end up making it big in the CS:GO esports scene. A scene that was continuing to grow to never before seen viewership numbers and money in the scene. During his time on Liquid, even though he never won a major, he would bring the NA organization into two consecutive top 8 finishes at the Majors of 2016. At MLG Columbus, he would find himself playing Luminosity gaming in the semi-finals. In this series, s1mple would try his very best, but would eventually fall to the Brazilian Major winners. He would show North Americans the absolute passion, desire and resilience it requires to win in global Counter-Strike. He showed North Americans that not only would players need to be mechanically skilled in terms of aim, but they would also require the tactics and teamwork.
Typically speaking, teams in NA would grow up playing aiming games such as Call of Duty; a game with fewer tactics and teamwork than a team from other scenes in the world. For a scene that had previously been dominated by the Swedish, French and other European powers, the revelation for a scene that had been neglected and often been considered as the tier 2 of the world. This was both a learning experience for Team Liquid and young stud, s1mple. He would learn an immense amount about what was required of him to win majors. In his second major of 2016, ESL One Cologne, s1mple would technically be standing-in for Liquid. Yet, he stood up to the challenge. Ultimately meeting the same Brazilians at a different home, SK gaming. This would be the first time in which an NA team would be in the grand final of a major. The first time a foreign player moved halfway across the world to become the best of the best and play beside his companion, Hiko. A valiant and brave effort from such a young player. At the conclusion of this strange journey, halfway across the world from home on one of the largest organisations in America, s1mple would learn what it would take to win. Subsequently, he would realise how to persevere through immense stress and pressure. Most importantly, he would become more mature as he spent time away from his family and friends from Ukraine.
Sadly conflicts swiftly arose within the team. s1mple’s allegedly toxic behaviour and Hiko would come face to face for one last time. His toxicity and un-teamlike play would soon peak its head above water as he was once again thought to be toxic, like his time during Flipsid3 Tactics. This was Deja-vu for s1mple. Ultimately, he created a conundrum for his best friend. Hiko was forced to choose between a life-long friend and his organization. An ultimatum that eventually resulted in Hiko choosing Liquid over his friend. The decision wasn’t easy, but it had to be made. The other players on the squad such as Liquid players Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella and Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski would face internal personal issues with s1mple and would deem him immature. In an ESEA interview, former Liquid player and their current 2019 coach, Eric "adreN" Hoag would state that s1mple was, “worse than people thought” and that he had ways to go in regard to his maturity level. On the contrary, he would also state that he can be a great player and to work on being a good teammate to others - a clear signal of his inability to work well with others, as at the time s1mple was still a young teenager lost in his ways.
The next, and current stop, in s1mple’s journey, involves CIS superpower Natus Vincere. Replacing long-time Navi player and in-game-leader Zeus, an intelligent leader who had previously led the team to 2 major Grand Final finishes. Unfortunately, the beginning of his tenure with the team would not be as smooth as he wanted. With the departure of their long-tenured IGL, they lacked leadership. Someone had to step up to ensure the tactics and strategies implemented were up to standard with the best tiers of Counter-Strike. Denis “seized” Kostin was the brave player to do so, and in putting his hand up he would sacrifice his own personal play. Luckily, they had s1mple to make up for the firepower seized would be losing by picking up the role of IGL. This changed seized, as he was unable to seize his superpower status that he had previously achieved.
After many failures, Navi triumphed at ESL One New Year 2016. This was the last big victory of the lineup, before both seized and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács would eventually find themselves team-less and in another phase of their career.
In 2018, with the addition of young-gun and up-and-coming Russian CS:GO talent Denis “electronic” Sharipov, s1mple and co. were finally able to take off. With this inclusion, s1mple would find himself with all of the back-up required to win tournaments. However, the real question for a talented player such as s1mple, was if he would be able to win a major during his career. Especially with the existence of teams like Astralis and MIBR in the world. Throughout 2018, there were even whispers of the Brazilians swapping TACO and Ricardo “Boltz” Prass for s1mple and Egor “flamie” Vasilyev of Na’vi. This is the scenario that could have redefined the impact that last year had on s1mple’s playing career. This year, he learned that he would have to do more for his team if he wanted to be consistent in their results. They went for victories such as StarSeries & i-League CS:GO season 5, CS:GO Asia Championships 2018 and most importantly the cathedral of Counter-Strike ESL One: Cologne. Currently, s1mple has been crowned as the HLTV number one player of 2018 and is the undisputed best player of his era. He would also pocket himself numerous MVP’s throughout the year, even in losing efforts.
BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen 2018
ESL One Cologne 2018
CS:GO Asia Championships 2018
StarSeries i-League Season 5
DreamHack Masters Marseille 2018
StarSeries i-League Season 4 2018
This was a year of absolute brilliance. He has matured as a player and has shown to the world that he is no longer the toxic player people once thought he was. s1mple has changed. Even at Tournaments such as DreamHack Masters Marseille and StarSeries i-League season 4, he would find himself winning the MVP even though Na’vi lost the grand final. This is how good of a year s1mple had. Even in a loss he would still the best player on any given map, on any given day. He is simply brilliant.
In 2018, at the FACEIT London Major, Natus Vincere would find themselves making their third Major Grand Final in the history of the organization. During this major, the Na’vi side would dominate MIBR, former SK gaming core and NA players, in the semis before facing possibly the best team of all time in Astralis. They would end up losing in 2 agonising maps on Nuke and Overpass, 6:16 and 9:16 on each map respectively.
However, when we look past the championships and glory, will s1mple continue to improve his level of play to one day winning a Major? This is the reality that s1mple must face if he wants to be considered as one of the greatest of CS:GO History. Without a major, s1mple becomes the esports’ version of Karl Malone: an undisputed high scorer and one in a generation kind of talent that never ended up winning a Major. This must be s1mple’s major goal of 2019. To win a Major. By doing so, he will cement himself as the greatest of all time in CS:GO. He must win one for his legacy to be forever remembered. As Michael Jordan once said, “Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” To s1mple, his work ethic and absolute mechanical prowess mean that the only factor that can hold himself back is clear to him. It is himself. At this rate, with his growth and dominance in the scene in terms of his play, he does not look like he is slowing down any time soon. He has matured, grown and thrived in the opportunities earned by him. Yet, the only element stopping s1mple is himself. It’s not rocket science, it’s as simple as that.
Written by William "willy2k" Egerton.