One might argue that s1mple has been the single best player to ever touch Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. From 2014 onwards the legendary player has constantly defied expectations and destroyed virtually every opposition in the game. But his personal history in CS:GO is far from perfect.
A Rocky Start
Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev began his CS:GO career in 2013. Under various amateur teams, he began making international headlines and showing potential. This led to him being signed by HellRaisers in late 2014. Unfortunately, an earlier cheating ban prohibited him from playing in ESL-organized events and with both Majors in 2015 being presented by ESL, HellRaisers had to let the young talent go. Often times, internal issues were cited and behind the scenes, everybody knew that this was down to his difficult personality. A prominent CS:GO analyst, Duncan “Thorin” Shields, even penned a lengthy personal letter to s1mple. In it, he explained what it would take for him to finally not get booted from his teams.
His time at HellRaisers would remain his only professional stint, until FlipSid3 Tactics finally came around to giving him another chance in early 2015. At ESWC 2015, one of their players was unable to attend due to visa issues, forcing the team to look for a substitute. They found a replacement in North American player Spencer “Hiko” Martin, on very short notice. The team performed decently well and made it into the Semi-Finals of the event. Here, s1mple and Hiko had their first team experience together. However, s1mple was once again let go. The rest of the team wanted him gone, so much so that they didn’t even care how much of their recent success could be attributed to him.
Looking For Success In North America
When Hiko’s own squad, Team Liquid, decided to bring a European player on board, he knew that it had to be s1mple. His edges were rough and his attitude was difficult. Nonetheless, Hiko was determined to take this young, promising talent and mold him into a professional player. His ban had just recently come to and end, so there was finally potential for s1mple to carry a team to Major tournaments.
And indeed, s1mple immediately brought fire to the team and at MLG Columbus 2016, their first Major together, they made it into the Semi-Finals. But once again, the players were showing him the door. Never had a North American team had such high aspirations and never had s1mple had such competent teammates. Nonetheless, the members of Team Liquid felt that they were better off without him. When the team later scrambled to find a substitute player for ESL One Cologne 2016, s1mple was temporarily brought back into the squad, as he was still under contract.
s1mple’s Last Moments With Team Liquid
With s1mple on board, Team Liquid had already announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with. At ESL One Cologne, they took their joint success one step further. Nobody would have anticipated them to reach the Grand Finals, but they did nonetheless.
In the Semi-Finals, they had to face a tough contender. Fnatic had already had massive success in 2016 and were definitely in the race for another Major trophy. To the surprise of the analysts, Liquid took the first map on a 16-13 scoreline. On Cache, fnatic would have needed to strike back. In the first half, it looked as though they were losing control again. Just as they were about to finally get a foot into the door, s1mple struck with the ultimate maneuver. As dennis and KRIMZ were about to enter B-Site, he jumped down from the balcony and delivered two quick no-scopes to end the round.
“This is not FPL! This Is a Major!”
The arena erupted into cries and cheers as s1mple completely embarrassed fnatic within three seconds of time. The casters couldn’t believe it and neither could the fans in the Lanxess Arena. James Bardolph had an entire meltdown trying to understand how s1mple would ever think of doing this, let alone how he was actually able to make it work. This play has forever been ingrained into our collective CS:GO memory. After the Major, it was commemorated with a beautiful graffiti on the old Cache map.
Despite faltering in the end against SK Gaming, Liquid delivered an amazing tournament. Most importantly, they achieved the first ever Major Grand Finals appearance for a North American CS:GO team. Obviously s1mple had a huge part in making this happen. After his departure from the NA scene, it would take two years before another team from the U.S. would make it this far in a Major tournament again.
Struggling With Natus Vincere
So many hopes were put into Na’Vi after s1mple finally announced his venture into the most prominent CS:GO squad within the CIS region. Unfortunately, to make place for him Natus Vincere cut ties with in-game-leader Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko. This ultimately proved to be a major detriment to the team, as they would struggle to compete on a tactical level. Taking over the leading position, the performance of Denis “seized” Kostin suffered massively. The raw talents of s1mple were not enough to carry them to the top. Meanwhile, Zeus won his first Major trophy under Gambit Gaming at PGL Major Krakow 2017, proving his value beyond raw KD-stats.
This motivated Na’vi to bring Zeus back into the squad in August of 2017. This saw the team gradually improve as the months went by. A DreamHack Winter victory over mousesports was all that they could muster during the remainder of the year, but in 2018, they finally started to pick up some speed. During that time, s1mple was the unrivaled top performer. With the addition of Denis “electronic” Sharipov, he was finally met with another uniquely talented player. Nonetheless, s1mple has not stopped raking in those MVP titles and +1.3 ratings at big events. Most importantly, his attitude has improved massively. At that point of his career, he was finally working on the one aspect of his professional career that was holding him back – and it showed!
2018 saw s1mple finally bringing home the coveted ‘HLTV Player of the Year’ award. This came as no surprise after he had universally dismantled every opposition in CS:GO. With a level of play so ridiculously far removed from every other player in the game, everybody expected him to remain at the very top of CS:GO for some time to come. And indeed he is still that insane performer. But now, another contender has stepped onto the scene. Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut was speculated to become the next star of CS:GO, but nobody predicted him to explode the instant that he was let into a top team. Now it is the year 2020 and ZywOo has stolen the 2019 HLTV award away from s1mple.
What Does The Future Hold?
While s1mple is certainly not at the end of his career, he might already have peaked. With so many new players bursting onto the scene and starting to challenge the old guard, there is an increasing pressure on him to finally bring the big trophy home. It is almost ridiculous to think that a player as talented as s1mple might never earn a Major trophy in his career, but Natus Vincere are not particularly looking like Major material just yet. Their newest addition, Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy appears to gel well with the team. So they might finally receive the firepower upgrade that the team had so desperately needed in 2017 and 2018. And indeed, initial results had looked promising, but the coronavirus is severely skewing results. Maybe Na’Vi’s online performance might not be representative of what they’re actually capable of offline. Individuals like ZywOo are pressuring from one side and the super-tactical teams like Astralis and mousesports are pressuring from the other.
He will have to make a difficult decision. Does he stick with Natus Vincere, or does he heed the call of one of the international super teams and try his luck with FaZe Clan? Neither option offers a guaranteed Major win for him, but the clock is ticking ever faster.
One has to ask the question – How long does s1mple have left?