A week after one of the worst tournament performances in organization history, the Fnatic Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team claimed the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship in Katowice, Poland on March 4.
The win was the third IEM title in Fnatic’s history, but it was the first championship of any kind for the current CS:GO roster, which assembled over six months ago when Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson and Maikil “Golden” Selim joined in place of multi-title winners Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Dennis Edman.
Since the roster change, Fnatic has had their fair share of ups and downs. But their title win at IEM Katowice 2018 was undoubtedly the biggest achievement for the team. Following their incredible triumph, Dot Esports sat down with Golden, Katowice MVP Robin “flusha” Rönnquist, and head coach Jimmy “Jumpy” Berndtsson to talk about Golden’s improvement as an in-game leader, the team’s progression, and their bounce-back showing in Poland.
Golden, you spent nearly a year on the Fnatic Academy roster. What was your development like in that year and what did you learn that has helped you on the starting lineup?
Golden: I wasn’t an in-game leader before, so it was the first time for me. That whole year I was dedicating myself to being the in-game leader that was needed for the Academy team. So I was just watching a lot of demos, analyzing stuff, and putting in a lot of hours into the team. And then I started calling better and better and six months after Academy started, I guess my individual skill started to rise because I didn’t find in-game leading as hard as before. It was like I was transforming into a more complete player.
Golden, what helped you the most to become a better in-game leader?
Golden: I found in-game leading hard at the beginning but when I got to Fnatic and started playing beside flusha and the veterans and with Jumpy, I developed my in-game leading more. Before, I was leading the Academy team a lot and I didn’t have someone else to help me develop my in-game leading skills so I did it by myself mostly. Our coach in Academy just more analyzed the enemy team and I made up a plan behind it. But now with Jumpy and the other guys, it’s more that I adapt my in-game leading to them and the team. We got synced up together, I guess.
Jumpy, what relationship do you have with Golden and the rest of the team?
Jumpy: I have an especially close relationship with Golden. We have tactical meetings and we can meet up and talk about our days, tactics, smokes, and stuff like that. Then we come up with a gameplan and try to practice it in-game. That’s my relationship with Golden, and I think it’s been working out pretty good. It’s been really good with him coming up with ideas and being open-minded to what I have to say and my experience.
And with the rest of the team, I think it’s like any other team. I give my input on what I see about what we can do better and what we already do well at.
Flusha, what do you see as the big differences between this roster with Golden and Lekr0 compared to the previous roster with olofmeister?
Flusha: The difference is the hunger. We got two new teammates that hadn’t had big wins before and they didn’t know the feeling [of winning]. They just wanted it a lot more.
We also had some different roles before. With dennis and olof, the roles were all over the place and everyone didn’t know what their real role was. But now, it’s all set and we all know what we’re supposed to do and how were supposed to do it. I think that’s helped a lot and that’s why we showed we can win in Katowice.
What are the biggest or most important things that you guys have learned in the six months you have been a team?
Golden: I’d say, as a team, we’ve learned a lot from our losses. I’m thinking of the Kiev tournament we had and we didn’t do so well and we didn’t know what the problem was, but we learned that we can still be good despite what we did in Kiev. And coming into Katowice and winning it, it shows a lot of hunger and to me, that says a lot. I think we’re still a growing team.
And for myself, I think that the guys have helped me. I’m not nervous on the big stage. I have so much experience now that I feel I can take it to the next step.
Flusha: I’ve taken a bigger role in showing experience within the team. I’ve always played with more experienced or similarly experienced players before, so when Lekr0 and Golden joined, we as a team had to tell them how we saw it, what our experiences were, and how we could break it into them faster and easier. So that’s one of the things I’ve learned from playing with these two new players.
Other than that, just re-learning the game with a new in-game leader. We’ve always played the same before with pronax as IGL and when I was in-game leader. We were always playing the same way. Those are the two main things.
A week before Katowice, you guys go winless at StarLadder and finish in last place. How does a very talented and proud team come back from that?
Jumpy: At StarLadder, we felt so off-sync. One thing we were really getting good on lately was how to play together even if it was a structured or free round. We always were trading and playing off of each other and backing each other up. And I felt at StarLadder, we had none of that. Even if we just needed to take the last guy out, we didn’t have the sync to do it. After losing the first match or two, we started to feel worse and worse and it was like a downward spiral. So after the event, we decided to take a break from the team because we had been together a while for bootcamping, then we went to the major, and started practicing right after it, so we just tried to play individually, re-focus, and get the team spirit back for the next tournament. I think it worked out pretty good.
Golden: I think Jumpy said it right. We have no clue what happened there.
So you guys finish last in Kiev and a week later, you're raising up a championship in Katowice. Was the break the only thing that got you guys back into the right mindset?
Jumpy: I think it was the break combined with talks within the team to get our mindset right. I think we also started off pretty confident against Heroic. I felt that was a good win to start off the tournament.
What was going through your heads when you guys finished off the final game in overtime to become IEM Katowice champions?
Golden: I was very happy. I don’t know how to explain it, but playing with flusha, JW, and KRIMZ and seeing them on top before and not being able to win in two years, it kind of breaks my heart. But when we won, I was so fucking happy about it. They really deserved it more than me.
Flusha: Of course I felt happy. I felt proud of myself and my team that we actually showed our real playstyle—especially after first map, when we didn't play how we should at all. We came back from map one and had a mental reset before second map. We played our game from there on. so I'm proud of that. And I'm just happy that we won and I could share a win with this team and especially Golden, who has sacrificed a lot for us and the team. We've also tried to help him so much and I think we have taught him alot and I just hope that we have taught him the correct things.
Your IEM title is Fnatic's third in organization history. What does it mean to be a part of such a prestigious organization and be a champion under Fnatic?
Jumpy: Fnatic is a legendary brand in Counter-Strike, so it's always nice to add another trophy under the Fnatic brand. And for me, it's kind of special because my brother was in the first lineup of Fnatic and he was watching the game and he really proud that we took the title.
Golden: It's an honor to be a part of it. I can't even explain it. I was very happy when I joined Fnatic Academy and was able to just play under the Fnatic brand. That was just mind-blowing for me. But this is--whatever you wish for, it will come true--that feeling has come to me and that's the best way I can explain to someone else how big it was for me.
Prior to IEM Katowice, you guys had played FaZe Clan four times at premier or major events in the last few months. Two of those times were in best-of-three series and you lost both of those. But at Katowice, you played them twice and beat them twice. What was the difference between this event and previous events in your matchups against FaZe?
Jumpy: We had a mental block against them before. We would play them and it wouldn't even be close. But when we played them in Katowice and we knew that we would qualify for playoffs win or lose, the pressure was off and we were able to play our own game. And when we won that, it gave us a lot of confidence going into the final.
Golden, as a Katowice champion and the leader of one of the top teams in the world, do you think your name belongs as one of the top in-game leaders?
Golden: I wouldn't say that. I want people to make up their own mind rather than me telling them how they should feel about me. I can't say I should be there or not be there. I want to let people make their own mind and see me as who I am.
Flusha, do you think you deserve to be in the conversation for one of the best players in the world?
Flusha: Maybe. I need a few more tournaments to prove it. But of course, if I keep playing like this, it really shows to me that I can still perform at the top and I'm still just as good as any other player. We’ll see in the upcoming tournaments if I can keep performing. I’ll answer after that.
How do you keep this momentum up in future tournaments?
Flusha: Going into WESG, we obviously want to win but even with a top two or top four finish, it’ll be a great performance for us. We just need to keep getting good results and hopefully, we'll get a big win over SK or C9 there and that'll keep our confidence up.
After winning IEM Katowice, where would you guys say Fnatic ranks among the best teams in the world?
Jumpy: That’s a hard one. It's kind of up in the air right now. Liquid has had a few good tournaments. Mousesports has had a few good tournaments. I would say that Faze is number one and then there's like five teams right behind. I feel like SK dropped off a little bit in the last few tournaments while other teams got a little bit better. So I'd say it's hard to say right now because it’s up in the air. The next few tournaments will probably decide where teams are.
Golden: I think Dreamhack Marseille will decide a lot. Teams have a long break—approximately 6 weeks—and I think that will show who’s on top right now.
Do you guys have any final comments?
Jumpy: I’m so proud of the players in my team. They’ve played so good and helped each other so much. Especially the older guys, they have really helped with everything.
Golden: I’m very proud of the team and thank you to all the fans for supporting us and ESL for a great event as well.
Flusha: Thanks to Fnatic for the continued belief in us. Thanks to Golden and Jumpy for dedicating a lot of their time to make us better. I'm just proud of the team and all of our tournaments--except Starladder of course.
Golden: Very honest and very true.