YEKINDAR: Latvian Superstar
The CIS region is home to many of the world's most mechanically gifted Counter-Strike players. From Natus Vincere's Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev and Denis "electronic" to Team Spirit's Victor "somedieyoung" Orudzhev and Nikolay "mir" Bityukov, the scene has never lacked firepower. Consistency is key, however, and many players hailing from the region fail to maintain it when playing the aggressive style the CIS is notorious for.
Talents come and go, they rise and fall, but that isn’t always the case. Latvian superstar Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis is an incredibly promising and underrated player whose career has only been on an upwards trajectory.
Introduced to video games by his father, young YEKINDAR began playing StarCraft, Warcraft and CS 1.6 at the age of 6. His nickname came to him when creating a League of Legends account and holds no meaning beyond sounding quite cool.
The Latvian started taking CS more seriously towards 2017. Just like Robin "ropz" Kool, Helvijs "broky" Saukants and other talents from the region, YEKINDAR got his start by attending various Baltic LANs. He made a name for himself while playing with Wolsung, a now-famous moniker in the local scene.
It's in one of these domestic LANs that YEKINDAR was scouted out by Russian veteran Dmitry "hooch" Bogdanov and offered a tryout in Elements Pro Gaming. He played under EPG's banner for half a year and even managed to find some success in small online tournaments. Though the Latvian learnt a lot while playing under hooch's leadership, an unsuccessful qualification process for the FACEIT Major: London 2018 prompted him to leave the team, averaging a 1.14 HLTV rating over the span of his tenure.
Another team that made changes in the aftermath of the CIS Minor was pro100, Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko's organisation. After trying out a few players, pro100 decided on signing YEKINDAR due to the team managing to qualify for TOYOTA Master CS:GO Bangkok 2018. Though pro100 finished 5-6th at the main event, YEKINDAR still had a great showing, averaging a 1.12 tournament rating. He showed plenty of promise, especially considering it was the biggest tournament he had attended thus far.
YEKINDAR's time in pro100 was crucial to his development. He played alongside some of the region's most promising talents and experienced veterans, such as fellow countryman Vadim "Flarich" Karetin, former EPG teammate Alexey "NickelBack" Trofimov and FlipSid3 Tactics duo Georgi "WorldEdit" Yaskin and Jan "wayLander" Rahkonen.
At the end of 2019, pro100 won two back to back events in the form of DreamHack Delhi Invitational 2019 and Qi Banja Luka 2019. YEKINDAR finished both events as the top rated player, boasting a 1.47 and 1.32 rating for each tournament respectively.
A last place finish for team at ESL One: Road to Rio CIS was a massive blow, especially to YEKINDAR considering the Latvian finished as the 6th best rated player.
Luckily for him, his performance didn't go unnoticed. Iconic Russian organisation Virtus.pro quickly approached YEKINDAR following Timur "buster" Tulepov’s benching. Feeling a surge of ambition and motivation, Mareks helped his new team win their first event, BLAST Premier CIS Cup, over the Russian side of forZe.
Virtus.pro swiftly found further success in its Major qualification process subsequent to YEKINDAR's addition. The team placed third at WePlay! Clutch Island and is currently in a great position to qualify as a Challenger for the upcoming ESL One: Rio 2020 Major.
It's no secret that VP's core has been struggling since leaving their former home of AVANGAR. Leadership issues are brought up time and time again and it's highly unlikely that YEKINDAR will fix that. What he brings to the table, however, is consistent firepower.
Mareks is a player that adapts to any level of play. He embodies the region's notorious aggression but has the mechanical skill and intuition to back it up. His playstyle is very hard to read, thus incredibly deadly and 58.3% of his career kills have been headshots. Due to his great instincts, YEKINDAR is a fantastic clutch player but also an insane entry fragger. With a 1.14 opening kill rating and a 73.3% round conversion rate following his openings, YEKINDAR has shown that he is not only an effective player, but also an impactful one. He's exactly what you look for in a star: comfortable with the rifles, able to wield the secondary AWPer fluidly and capable of turning the tides of a round with just a Desert Eagle. His impressive mastery over the game's weapons makes him a reliable multi-fragger, exemplified best when he is opening up bomb sites on his own.
Beyond his in-game capabilities, YEKINDAR also stands out with his maturity and attitude. He holds himself to a high-level and is self-critical, given that he is highly aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He takes individual and team practice very seriously, starting his daily routine with aim_botz and deathmatch before joining his team for theory and scrims. At the end of the day, he often streams FPL in order to maintain his individual form and practice his English, an asset that many from the CIS overlook. He's also very involved in nurturing the team’s chemistry. He often pushes his teammates to scrim before official matches in order to warm up the communication and synergy. Given that Virtus.pro is a team that often starts slowly in series, YEKINDAR's idea will prove to be a fantastic tool in the long-haul.
Overall, he's a humble, charismatic and funny guy who cares about maintaining a good team atmosphere. His gameplay, along with these qualities, will inevitably lead him very far in his career.
YEKINDAR has always showcased his talents and performed outstandingly, even when the rest of his team is struggling. His biggest challenges in Virtus.pro will be to maintain consistency at the tier 1 level and translate his performances into wins. Provided the leadership issues plaguing his team are resolved, he will be in a fantastic position to strive. VP is a legendary organisation with an extensive coaching staff and Mareks will only grow as a player while facing the best teams in the world. The worst case scenario is that the Russian organisation decides to overhaul its roster, but YEKINDAR's skill and attitude virtually guarantee his spot on future rosters. If he were ever to leave, it'd most likely be because NAVI came knocking. Considering his proficiency with English, playing in an international team would also be an option for him moving forward.
It’s only a matter of time before YEKINDAR is acknowledged as not only the Latvian superstar, but a global superstar.