olofm - The Measure of the Master
Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer is the best CS:GO player in world and one of the greatest in history. That he plays for the best team in the world (FNATIC), and the best one of this era, may not seem surprising, but those statements very likely would no longer be accurate if the first were not. Understanding the significance of that delicate dynamic between his performance and his team's continued success is essential to appreciating the importance of olof's reign as the game's premiere player.
"Greatness shouldn't be invoked so casually, or measured simply by the numbers. It requires context. An appreciation of history, and not just a recitation of it."
Getting to the top without unlocking his full potential
FNATIC had already climbed to the top of the CS:GO world and become the dominant team back before olof's ascension individually. Even their initial struggles, if you can truly label what would be wonderful results for most teams as struggles, hinted at the quality of the line-up. FNATIC had a top four finish at their first event (Gfinity G3), a narrow upset loss in the final of their first major (ESL One Cologne) and fell to an inspired kennyS and Titan for another top four finish at Dreamhack Stockholm. The Swedes even picked up a smaller title by winning the StarSeries X finals. That those were their difficult days now seems the obvious omen that they were a team destined for greatness, yet olof's part to play was still far off.
FNATIC rose to the position of world number ones on the back of KRiMZ and JW's play. KRiMZ was the statistical monster, delivering pristine, beautiful and poised performances game in and game out, demonstrating how to play fundamentally sound Counter-Strike. In almost clashing contrast against KRiMZ's and FNATIC's solid, adaptable and coordinated style, there was JW, the sizzle of the steak that was FNATIC's red hot form. His unpredictable, unrestrained and unstoppable performances were as inspired as they were ever erratic, yet they were also devastating to opponents.
With KRiMZ, a grinder opponents could not avoid, and JW, the intimidating force whirling across the map, FNATIC had little need of a third star player and olofm was the most skilled luxury asset in the game. While the team's two stars pushed them to the top, he was known for his impressive team-play with KRiMZ in sites, as well as intelligent understanding of when to make use of his ex-LGB team-mates' strength at holding sites alone, allowing olof to rotate over to load up the other site's defenses.
FNATIC had racked up a total of four titles by olof was even really needed in a carry capacity, taking the FACEIT Season 2 Finals, ESWC and fragbite Masters Season 3 Finals trophies to add to the cabinet. At the aforementioned fragbite finals, he showed signs of star power in one key map against FNATIC's key rivals of the day, LDLC, but the FNATIC train rolled on whether he carried or not. This was a change of pace for olof, having been the primary star of his former team, LGB, and considered one of the premiere individual talents in his native Sweden.
Early days as a carry
When the first LGB line-up, featuring his current FNATIC team-mate KRiMZ and former NiP AWPer Maikelele, had made noise at the first CS:GO major (Dreamhack Winter 2013), taking world number twos NiP, the most successful team in history, to three maps in the quarter-final, it had been olof whose first map performance, the only winning map of the series for the underdogs, which attracted the most attention.
LGB, with player changes, would go on to truly break into the top end of the scene less than four months later, reaching the semi-finals of EMS One Katowice, CS:GO's second major, and claiming the notable distinction of being the only team in that tournament to take a map off eventual champions Virtus.pro, and their best (mirage) at that. At the following tournament, Copenhagen Games, LGB would again face Virtus.pro, this time in the quarter-final, but again fall to the Polish elites.
Over that run of bold form, it was almost universally agreed that the stand-out players for the Swedish team were olofm and dennis. Already, some began to speculate that olof should be considered as a replacement for fifflaren, the player considered weakest in NiP's line-up. When LGB fell apart over the Summer, failing to keep the pieces together to land a deal with Alliance, a major European organisation, and FNATIC picked up KRiMZ and olofm in late June, it was fully expected that olof was to become the new star player of FNATIC.
FNATIC had already won a major before olof's arrival, shocking the world and NiP at the previously mentioned Dreamhack Winter 2013, but since then their form had steadily dropped tournament by tournament, going from a top four team to a top eight team and then risking dropping even further. A primary problem for pronax's men had been a lack of star power and some times firepower. JW still struggled to replicate his at times superlative online form in big offline matches, and so the team relied upon the consistent fragging of schneider and the ballsy lurking aptitude of Flusha.
Up and down
After FNATIC had reached their peak of sheer dominance, marked by their victory at the fragbite Masters Season 3 finals, the team found the gap between them and their competition was closing almost as quickly as they had wrought it open. LDLC pushed them to near breaking point in the quarter-final of the next major (Dreamhack Winter 2014) and FNATIC's victory, thanks to a game-breaking boost, would see them eventually forfeiting the last map and thus their chance to win the title.
At the ESEA Season 17 finals, Virtus.pro, an opponent they had convincingly beaten numerous times, was able to score a clean 2:0 series win over KRiMZ and company, even if FNATIC came back through the lower bracket to win the title in impressive fashion over the same team. The first event of 2015 had seen olof's team-mates finishing in fourth place, losing a heart-breaking close semi-final to NiP 1:2 and falling without putting up a fight against device's Dignitas after that. KRiMZ had once more locked in to power the team through those series, but JW was off his game, olof was nowhere to be found and flusha was flagging.
Many, understandably, wondered if MLG had marked the end of the FNATIC era, as LDLC took the title, adding it to the major they had won at Dreamhack, and prized the number one spot from FNATIC's hands. A consistent team performance at IOS Pantamera would ensure FNATIC didn't go two international tournaments without a title and sneak them back into the top ranking position.
Nevertheless, there was a definite danger in the air for FNATIC, as they seemed to be the best team by virtue of consistency against the field, their deep map pool and thanks to a good match-up against EnVyUs (the new name for LDLC), who could seemingly beat anyone but them in a series. They were on top of the world, but they were not dominating in the fashion they had during the previous year. Luckily for the orange and black, the team who were barely the best in the world were about to discover by far the best player.
The master arrives
"I know what I can do and I know what I'm good at"
-olofm (fnaticTV 2015)
FNATIC had won seven titles already, firmly placing them in the pantheon of great CS:GO line-ups, but they not won a major together. When ESL One Katowice had finished, FNATIC had added that missing major title to their haul, cemented their status atop the world and seen the arrival of a new super-star.
The final had been a painfully close affair, going three maps and with the two FNATIC secured seeing at least 29 rounds of play. NiP's almost mythical ability to hang in games might have won them the title against any other opponent, but olofm was undeniable. In FNATIC's two map wins, he was the best player in the server. When the series had finished, he had put 79 kills on the board and delivered his team the trophy. The master had arrived.
Where KRiMZ had delivered a few tournaments in a row of excellence and JW had kept the front page of HLTV.org regularly stocked with scintillating highlight clips, olofm was to embark upon a run of form up there with the greatest in the game's history, and which continues to this day. What has set olof's peak play apart from the best efforts of the game's past dominant players is that he has not been locked into a god-mode where every game, series and tournament over a span of a few months sees him dominating. Instead, he has consistently shown the ability to frag in all kinds of matches, but will then punctuate tournament campaigns with singularly superlative maps of play.
The four previous gods of CS:GO all had their obvious strengths, which in themselves defined the weaker parts of their game, though often weaker was a relative term which highlighted just how stellar their best qualities were in contrast. GeT_RiGhT was the lurking deity, always able to pressure the map, find an uncanny timing to push into enemies and seemingly unflappable in clutch round situations. Yet GeT_RiGhT was a dedicated rifler, barring occasional auto-sniper rounds.
shox was a bulldoser in the mid round, decimating opened sites, routinely closing out 1vX situations and a magician on pistol rounds. Much like GeT_RiGhT, you knew he would have a rifle in his hands, though. kennyS was the the man against the many, hard carrying his Titan team to relevancy when his team-mates were often out-matched by better players on the opposition. His AWPing was at a level defying belief and he would understandably be equipped with it every round his team could afford it, ensuring he had the tool needed to put another 25 or more frags on the scoreboard. Limited to a rifle, though, kennyS became merely a good player, not a great one.
When olof completed his team's championship campaign at ESL One Katowice, the world welcomed the first dominant player in history who was an all-around talent. Primarily a rifler, olof's aim and consistency ripped apart teams on both sides of the map. With the pistols he was unstoppable on the first rounds of games and ever a danger when saving, and thus equipped with the tec-9 or cz.
"[Do] I think I can compete with the best snipers in CS? Yes, I think I can do that [...] It's also hard because I'm not playing it all the time. Yes, I think I can compete with anyone."
-olofm (fnaticTV 2015)
What has made olof the most unique of the great ones, though, has been his sniping. With an AWP, he is the most consistent on his team, despite playing alongside the exceptional JW, who hits shots plucked out of the wet dreams of snipers. Purely with the big green gun, olofm is legitimately one of the world's best. Full mastery of all weapons ensures FNATIC's final boss is a threat to the enemy no matter his team's economy.
Extending beyond his mastery of the game's weaponry, olofm is the most versatile player in CS:GO history. On the Terrorist side of play, olof is a rare star who willingly entry frags, leading his team into battle and seeking out the opposition. When the tactics call for a slow set-up, olof can frequently be found working the opposite bombsite, securing ground and lurking to scout information for his team. If his team attack the other site, then he can provide presence at his site and pressure the map.
On the Counter-Terrorist side, olof is both a lock-down player, working with his site partners to put up a brick wall defense, and yet also often a rotating player, ready to immediately move to the other site and follow-up on his team-mates' efforts there. His site play with long time team-mate KRiMZ is now the stuff of legend, having seen them both shut down so many offensive pushes from enemies and win 2vX clutch round situations that seem impossible even upon reflection. As long as olofm is still alive, one feels as if FNATIC is never quite without hope of the round still being won.
On both sides, olof shows a haste to engage the enemy and take aim duels, which he will frequently win, thanks to his phenomenal aim and spraying. As a Terrorist, he works one or two spots on a half and alters only the method of engagement, from the angles he approaches at to the use of equipment to gain a momentary edge, but never the nature of his style. Every olofm T side sees him going to his spots and actively seeking duels with the CTs who plays there, each time confident he can get the better of the initial fight and any ensuing skirmish.
"We're not scared to play any team on any map"
-olofm after FNATIC's win over Na`Vi on train in the Dreamhack Summer final (HLTV.org, 2015)
To highlight olof's confidence and the crucial role he now plays in FNATIC's success, one can look at the many close train games they have played against the top teams on that map. FNATIC's CT side is understandably strong, being a hallmark of the line-up's entire time together across practically every map and predicated so heavily upon their excellent intuitive team-play and efficient communication.
It's on the Terrorist side that one comes to realise that the team's chances of victory rest upon olofm's shoulders. As Terrorist he will repeatedly walk out of the T main or into the alley, looking for aim duels, knowing his AK is deadly at all ranges and not afraid to even peek into AWPer's angles. FNATIC do not have any world-beating Terrorist rushes or executes, they let olof go to work and then they play off him. If he calls some of the spots as clear outside, then they will rotate men outer from an inner set-up. If he can open on an outer push, they follow up, keyed by his actions.
To this day, it is difficult to realistically call train one of FNATIC's strong maps, yet they have made teams like Na`Vi and Cloud9 sweat on it, such is the proficiency of olof on the offensive side, coupled with their naturally powerful CT side defenses. With his play on this map allowing FNATIC to risk playing it, one gains an understanding of how the Swedish side remains so flexible with their map pool, already at home on so many other maps.
Likewise, they have been able to adapt their CT strengths to make overpass winnable against so many teams, even though it also was not one of their best a few months ago. Playing an aggressive and proactive CT side, FNATIC push out of the small site and rely upon the play of two man units to scout, engage and hold off the Terrorists before they can fully advance into the site. olof again plays a key role, some times holding long by himself, to let his team-mates take up advanced positions in the toilet area. If he does not spot an opponent early, he is willing to push up and trade positioning for information on the enemy's whereabouts.
In the ESL ESEA S1 PL final, FNATIC were in a deep hole, forced to win round after round on their CT side, but olof, who was having an unusually poor game, especially contrasted against his domination on the previous cache, was able to make himself useful in a low fragging performances, clearing out areas, eliminating possible lurk spots and ensuring his B site players had the right calls early enough to anticipate an attack. Many players can play aggressively and with confidence when they are racking up kills, but on train and overpass, olof finds a way to impact the game regardless of his fragging status that game.
olof's confidence can be deceptive when contrasted against the other gods of the game. GeT_RiGhT put the pressue all on himself and decided he had to get those kills, otherwise the round loss was his fault, so constant pressure counter-intuitively became his home environment. shox played exactly the way he wanted and demanded the game be played, ensuring he was comfortable by being able to select when and how he would approach each round. kennyS had the team built around him and his team could not win without him, but still might lose even with him, so he was simply to do his best and the result would be decided not always by his efforts.
olofm seems mentally unshakable in all situations. If he engages an enemy and they pull back, he repositions or pushes on through to continue the fight. If his team is lacking kills, he goes to work and consistently puts numbers up and gives them openings to win rounds. olof has said that he does not consider himself the best player in the world, and was indeed forthcoming about kennyS's status as such during the earlier part of the year, but I don't know that such a statement should be taken at face value.
He does seem earnest in acknowledging that players with such unique skill-sets as KRiMZ, JW and flusha show their own strengths and some times must carry him, so he need not think of himself as the best even in his team. Nevertheless, I cannot imagine he deep down believes any player outside of FNATIC to be better than him. When he is engaged in a match, he cannot conceive of the opponent winning the next aim duel.
Even an ear surgery in late May has not altered the FNATIC's stars boldness or performance level.
The escape artist
As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, the fact that FNATIC remains the best team in the world is primarily because of olof's ascent to Counter-Strike god-hood and not merely the environment in which it occured. FNATIC continues to be a consistent team in terms of results and possesses a wide map pool, but that consistency has repeatedly been possible due to olof carrying them through difficult games, series and opponents.
Without his peak level play, FNATIC would likely have won a couple of titles and continued to deliver top four finishes, but nowhere near the five titles, eight finals appearances and 10 straight top fours they have managed since he achieved his final form in Katowice. That first tournament saw him carrying his team past a dangerous NiP which, with allu at least, has never looked as vital again. Thus, the major did not slip from their grasp, but returned home with FNATIC after all.
At the fragbite Masters Season 4 finals, his team was going up against the TSM team which had beaten then in three offline series that year and two more recently. That should have been reason enough for his team to be worried about facing the Danes, finally going against an enemy who had a reliable edge on them. olof seemed determined that rivalry would start to swing FNATIC's way in their first meeting at fragbite, in the upper bracket final.
The Swedish assassin dominated a three map series in which his team lost the opening map on mirage in overtime, in spite of a monstrous solo effort from olof. After his team leveled the series on the second map, he again powered through device and company in the decider, cache. Finishing +38 for the series, he had momentarily given FNATIC and the world reason to believe the match-up was not to be so one-sided in favour of the Danes. Of course, TSM would return from the lower bracket and convincingly handle FNATIC in the final of that tournament, showing themselves to still be FNATIC's Kryptonite when the best player in the world did not wrench control from them single-handedly.
At Dreamhack Summer, a Na`Vi team which was on the rise, and has since gone on to win ESWC, looked primed to give FNATIC a tough series, but olof came with a +18 performance over the final and saw his team to another title.
At the ESEA ESL Season 1 ProLeague Final, FNATIC were forced to face TSM in an elimination game in the group. The overpass match was a nail-biter and cajunb's ludicrous 35 kill performance for the black and white should by all rights have secured their tournament lives, only olof matched him practically blow-for-blow, putting up 33 kills himself and edging the game to FNATIC 16:14. FNATIC has only found one answer for TSM: olofm.
"That game was more scary to play than a semi-final or a final, for me at least, since there was so much pressure and so much [at] stake.
At 14:14, I was scared, I'm not gonna lie"
-olofm about the group stage match vs. TSM at ESL ESEA S1 PL (HLTV.org, 2015)
In the semi-final, Virtus.pro looked in fearsome form, but olof controlled the Poles on the first and third maps, granting FNATIC wins on both and seeing them through to a fifth straight final. They would go on to win the tournament, almost a tedious formality for a line-up which has enjoyed near limitless success.
Last week, at the FACEIT Stage 2 Finals, FNATIC faced NiP in the decider of Group B, again with elimination status riding on the game. NiP summoned all of their force and came with a performance that well could have slain FNATIC in the opening map, but were foiled 16:14. The second map saw the world's best player remind us of his status, as olof put 39 kills up in a 16:14 win, putting FNATIC into the play-offs. NiP could hardly feel out-played by FNATIC as a team as much as by a single player, unrestrained in his impact on the outcome.
Reviewing these performances, one can see the impact olof's big games and series had upon FNATIC's fortunes. At ESL One Katowice, they almost certainly lose the final, perhaps even 2:0, without his heroics. At fragbite Masters, he carried FNATIC to a top two finish, even if they could not secure the title. At the ESL ESEA S1 PL, FNATIC would have been out of the tournament in last place without him neutralising cajunb's power play. Elimination there would have meant no routine top four finish.
That top four finish would have been the limit of his team's accomplishment in Cologne, had the stupefying Swede not taken on the mighty Virtus.pro and bested them two out of three maps, delivering a level of performance none of their stars could match. That victory ensured the finals appearance and from there on he finally got to rest, barring his second map awakening on cache, as Flusha and his team carried him to a title, for the first time since his ascension.
At Dreamhack Summer, Na`Vi really could have taken FNATIC into the deep water of a third map and potentially delivered upon their eventual elite status an event earlier, but he stopped them before they could get that opportunity, again giving a trophy over to his organisation. Finally, FNATIC's campaign at the FACEIT Stage 2 Finals realistically may have ended in the group stage without his superhuman effort on train. Instead, FNATIC were able to reach the semi-final and tie EnVyUs' record of 14 straight top four finishes for the second best streak of all-time.
Take away such performances, the likes of which few players are capable of, and certainly not with such frequency, and FNATIC would be much diminished in all levels of accomplishments. olofm was their leader, in the most literal sense of being the man who they followed behind; their carry, again and again giving them the fire-power and the star quality to match the biggest weapons of the opposition; he was their hero, pulling them out of difficult situations and rescuing them from near certain defeats.
The king of cache
The architecture of olofm's kingdom may as well be that of cache. It has always been one of FNATIC's better maps, but during olof's reign as the game's best player, he has with an almost baffling consistency shown himself able to make that facility a slaughterhouse and give FNATIC a chance to win series they otherwise may well have lost. More than just FNATIC's strength on the map, it has been all-star level performances from the master which have sealed wins for his team.
A repeating trend for FNATIC has been that they lost a map in a series against a tough opponent and then relied upon olof's cache supremacy to tie up the series or secure them the win. In the event which preceded his Katowice coming out party, at IOS Pantamera, FNATIC were facing EnVyUs, then briefly ranked number one in the world, in the semi-final. nV had won the opening map, dust2, in close fashion. The second map was cache and FNATIC were able to wriggle out of a tense overtime game thanks to a god-like 35K/9A/22D performance from olof. They would go on to take the series on the deciding map and later win the title.
In the final of Dreamhack Tours, FNATIC again faced nV. Yet again, nV had won the first map, once more dust2, and this time FNATIC had tied up the series on a different map. The decider was cache and olof's 20K/1A/10D scoreline was part of a 16:5 rout for the Swedes, this time securing another title directly.
At Gfinity Spring Masters II, FNATIC had lost cache in the semi-final to Titan, but prevailed to reach the final anyway. In a Bo5 series against Virtus.pro, who looked scary after dispatching Na`Vi in a tight semi-final, FNATIC had won the opener on cbble. With VP well known as one of the best cache teams and in some senses the first European team to prove dominant on the map, the complexion of the Bo5 could have been entirely different had they tied up the series right there. Instead, olof put together one of the most perfect halves in the game's history.
In the 13th round, with his team up 12:0, he sat on a score-line of 19K/2A/0D and an ADR of 138. FNATIC would lose the remaining three rounds and yet his score-line still shone with 23K/2A/2D and 141 ADR. With VP mounting a respectable comeback on their own CT side, the eventual 16:10 win would have been much less certain without another masterpiece from FNATIC's genius. FNATIC went on to close the series out 3:0 on the following map and earn another trophy.
In the upper bracket final of fragbite Masters Season 4, olof had gone crazy in the first map, mirage, but still seen his team lose in overtime. As if angered by that outcome, he channeled his fury into the second map on cache. 39K/2A/12D later and TSM had been crushed 16:8 by olof and his squad. They would go on to win the series and reach the final, eventually being forced to settle for a rare runners-up finish.
Finally, in the most recent championship campaign, at the ESL ESEA S1 ProLeague Finals, FNATIC faced a revitalised and red hot Cloud9 in the final. C9 stole the first map, cbblestone, considered a certain win for FNATIC, and went into cache looking to go up 2:0. cache was one of C9's home maps and many considered it a must-win for the North Americans. Having won it twice against nV earlier in the tournament, they were expected to be a threat for FNATIC on it.
Angry olof arrived again and this time unleashed his frustrations on his opponent from the Terrorist side of the map first. After FNATIC had cruised to a 16:6 win, olof's score-line read 24K/2A/10D and FNATIC were tied up in the Bo5. With the next two maps being nail-biters, FNATIC would edge the series and take the title, with the only dominant win in the series being thanks to olofm's shutdown performance.
Keeping FNATIC great
Perhaps FNATIC would have won over nV at DH Tours and VP at Gfinity without such magnificence from olof, but his play kept those games from being close and the other matches may well have been straight losses without him defending his home. Examining the significance of those wins on that specific map, one sees how instrumental his peak play has been in guiding FNATIC to their accomplishments, even if he has not always carried each series outright or been the dominant force on every map.
FNATIC are the best team, so it is not only on him as to whether they win or lose, but when olofm can seemingly always deliver one monster game in an important series along the way, it gives FNATIC an uncanny edge in BoX series, and his pattern of digging them out of holes is practically unparalleled even among the rest of the game's current crop of star players. The game's best player plays for the best team and they are worthy of that title thanks in large part to him and the play he is capable of.
Without olofm becoming one of the game's gods, FNATIC would still have been one of history's great sides, not least due to what they had already accomplished, and would likely have continued to place well and win titles. Still, it can be observed that his greatness has contributed towards making FNATIC a legitimate contender at every tournament they have played in and for the title of the best team of all-time. FNATIC was great, but olofm has ensured they remain that way.
Photo credit: ESL, Dreamhack