It only makes sense that at the first CS:GO Major in two years, several players are inevitably be making their first appearances at the most prestigious event of the year.
With PGL Stockholm just around the corner, we’ve taken a look at some of the top young players in CS:GO playing in their first Major.
Dmitry “sh1ro” Sokolov – Gambit
Sh1ro is one of the overall breakout stars of 2021. The 20-year-old AWPing Russian sensation has delivered time and time again during a legendary 2021 season for Gambit that includes two huge IEM victories and the BLAST Spring Finals trophy. He even earned MVP honors at IEM Katowice and IEM Fall – CIS. Outside of former winner H0bbit, all of the Gambit roster is making their Major debut. But all eyes will be on sh1ro.
He’s been one of the best statistical players of the year, posting a 1.25 HLTV player rating and the third-best overall player rating against ranked opponents behind only s1mple and ZywOo. Of all the players making their Major debut in the New Legends Stage, sh1ro perhaps has the highest individual expectations.
Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora – Ninjas in Pyjamas
Outside of REZ and, of course, the four-time Major winner dev1ce, all of the young NiP roster is making their Major debut. One of the foundational pieces of this revamped NiP lineup is the 19-year-old rifler, Plopski. Prior to the acquisition of dev1ce, Plopski was a huge contributor to the Ninjas in late 2020 and early 2021. Since bringing in dev1ce, he’s slowly been adjusting to the new composition, but it’s now coming together.
He’s put up his best main event performances since the dev1ce signing in the last two events, IEM Fall Europe and BLAST Premier Fall. Plopski had some tremendous moments and performances late in both of these events and NiP fans are happy to see him step up right before Stockholm. So much will rely on dev1ce, but there have been several instances of the young Ninjas, including Plopski, delivering while the Danish star has been quiet.
Mareks “YEKINDAR” Gaļinskis – Virtus Pro
Virtus Pro enter the Stockholm Major at the bottom looking up from the Contenders Stage. Their latest addition to the roster, YEKINDAR, joined in May 2020—and he’s the lone player on the team appearing at his first Major. He’s also only the second player from Latvia to ever reach a Major alongside fellow first-timer broky from FaZe Clan.
YEKINDAR’s breakthrough moment came at IEM Katowice when he finished with the second highest player rating behind only s1mple. And like Plopski, two of his best performances came from his two most recent events at IEM Fall and BLAST Fall.
The VP roster has some experience with deep Major runs. Having YEKINDAR operating at a high level going into his debut could lead to VP’s first deep Major run since 2017.
Rafael “saffee” Costa – paiN Gaming
Saffee’s path to pro is definitely a peculiar one. The 26-year-old Brazilian AWPer is a veteran in one sense, having attended local CS 1.6 events in 2011. But he didn’t think about pursuing an esports career until 2018 after he witnessed Team oNe upset the Major-winning lineup of Cloud9 at the WESG World Finals. He had played CS:GO just once in all those years, in a Zombie mod server in 2014, but was determined to become a pro player.
Saffee put all his effort into the game and made his professional CS:GO debut with the New England Whalers in 2019. He remained in the shadows of the Brazilian scene until early 2020 when he joined Paquetá and became a primary AWPer for the first time. It’s like the “Big Green” was made for him because his numbers immediately exploded and he was called up to play for paiN Gaming. He bolsters an average rating of 1.26 in 2021 and is paiN’s highest-rated player by a large margin.
The coronavirus pandemic has delayed saffee’s dreams to play on LAN for the first time in CS:GO and it seems like destiny wanted him to make his debut on a big stage. And there’s no bigger stage than the Major. Fans will soon get to see how he does against some of the best teams in the world and how well he can deal with the pressure.
Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi – Natus Vincere
Not many pundits would have imagined that a youngster like b1t could have such a decisive impact on Na’Vi, a team that basically has the deadliest duo in the professional scene in s1mple and electronic. B1t was promoted from the org’s academy division in December 2020 and was a rotating member of the CIS powerhouse’s lineup until April 2021 when he permanently took over Egor “flamie” Vasilyev’s spot.
The 18-year-old rifler proved to be the missing piece in Na’Vi’s puzzle. He helped the team win four of the seven events he attended, including IEM Cologne, ESL Pro League season 14, and the Intel Grand Slam. B1t averaged a 1.22 rating in Cologne, his first big LAN event, and Na’Vi fans are counting on him at the Major to be that third star that the team needs.
Other players making their Major debut at PGL Stockholm
- Michael “Grim” Wince, Team Liquid
- Helvijs “broky” Saukants, FaZe Clan
- Owen “oBo” Schlatter, Evil Geniuses
- Ismail “refrezh” Ali, Heroic
The PGL Stockholm Major is set to take place from Oct. 26 to Nov. 7.