YEKINDAR Interview: esports path, Virtus.pro transfer, and getting settled in a new team
YEKINDAR Interview: esports path, Virtus.pro transfer, and getting settled in a new team ⚡⚡⚡ Esports news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!
A month ago, on May 23, 2020, Virtus.pro officially announced the signing of a new CS:GO player. The 20-year-old Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis has joined the roster from pro100, replacing Timur "Buster" Tulepov, who temporarily went inactive. At the moment, Virtus.pro managed to break into WePlay! Clutch Island Playoffs - the second RMR tournament in the series to gain precious points to be able to get to Rio Major. We could not miss the opportunity to chat with one of the most promising players in the CIS, so we made you a great interview with Mareks — go read!
Let's talk about the origins. There are still very few interviews with you, you just entered esports, and we know little about you. Can you recall the moment you found Counter-Strike?
Honestly, no. Speaking about all the Counter-Strikes, including 1.6, I received a disk with a game at the age of six as a gift. From that moment, I started playing. And, well, I lost that Steam account because I did abandon the game for a while. I doubt that I played well then [laughs]. Well, of course, I knew players like markeloff, Zeus, starix, and all the legendary five. And also knew the mTw team, but did not think about esports.
You once said that you'd practised taekwondo for seven years. Were you paying attention to traditional sports when you started your way into esports?
Yes, I continued to practice. This was my sixth year of taekwondo classes. Even when I started going to LANs, when the desire to win, to get somewhere, to play tournaments on an ongoing basis started burning in me, I was attending sports for a whole more year. It was very difficult. If earlier, for example, in the first five years of martial arts, I could freely go to four training sessions a week, then closer to the time when I got a black belt, I went to classes much less often and went to competitions less. There was simply no time because I set myself other priorities. It turned out that I had two, or even one day a week to train. Indeed, the last year of taekwondo completely intersected with my path to esports.
Was taekwondo your decision or your parents?
I did not choose where to go. Parents decided that it would be best for me.
And how did they react to the fact that you decided to do esports?
I initially told them that I did not really like taekwondo. Of course, I trained, even started going to competitions, but at one point I asked: "I get a black belt and then I can leave, right?" They agreed, and this idea became a clause. I got that black belt, and literally the same day I stopped training because there simply was no time for everything.
Regarding their reaction to my desire to do esports... My parents are very loyal; they are understanding; they always appreciated my desires and respected my decisions. Basically, they set me tasks as I said before: get a black belt and you can leave taekwondo; study well at school, get an average 7.5 on a 10-point scale, and as a result, they didn't push me. Due to the fact that I was achieving the assigned tasks, it was impossible for them to claim something.
In the end, I did what I liked, but at the same time spent the right time on things that were important to my parents. We did not have any conflicts or anything else.
You mentioned that traditional sport gave you an understanding of the discipline. You are young, and you made your way through all the levels of esports. Can you call yourself a toxic player?
In general, if asked about this a year ago, I would say no. Recently, I began to give a lot of emotions. Now I could call myself a toxic player. I have such a bad habit that I'm trying to get rid of, probably the fifth month in a row now, and maybe more. At the end of the time, when I was playing at pro100, I wanted to achieve more and more. Because of such ambitions, I wanted my teammates to tighten up their game too, wanting to do something. It happened that I saw that a person can do something, but does not devote the necessary time and attention to CS. I could tell him something in a "toxic" tone, "run over" him.
Now, after I got to Virtus.pro, everything is a little different. I've met the guys not that long ago, and they are more experienced and mentally seasoned than my past teammates. I didn't even think about toxicity or something like that. It's easier now; I feel that I can get rid of this bad habit because toxicity does not lead to anything.
How do you cope with failures? You know, losing streaks happen, many players get tilted. Did you have moments when you wanted to give up, maybe even drop Counter-Strike?
Yeah, I had. Even in my first team, I mean the team with which I had my first contract - EPG. I played with Hooch, El1an, we also had spaze with us and then krii and NickelBack appeared. This period was difficult for me. We didn't reach Minor back then, and before that, we just kicked NickelBack, with whom I played in pro100 after. And they kicked him 2-3 months before Minor. Just so you understand, we lost the final game, which was for reaching Minor, to Nickel and his team.
Then something broke. We had to reach this tournament, even though we weren't favourites. That year I was just finishing school, and I had the opportunity to go to university, which I did. I started to devote less time to CS and said that I would no longer play for EPG, and they let me go pretty easily.
It was a coincidence that I didn't drop CS. Nickel's team, who beat us on the way to the Minor, had one person who could not get a visa to London. I was offered to go instead of him and, probably, it gave me the main motivation, because the tournament was quite high class. Afterwards, such tilts didn't happen to me.
Speaking about the deals. You said that you were "scouted" by Hooch, and you broke into the CIS esports. But you really know English well, and you probably had thoughts of joining a European club. Did you have any offers from Europe?
Well, I can't name the organizations. There were offers, interest in me, including the buy-out suggestions, when I was still playing in pro100. But I had my priorities. I refused the offers; I told the teams so that they should not even waste their time.
Even when I left EPG, a lot of European teams offered me to play, but they were below level. This is not to say that they were FaZe or some other organization of the same level at that time. Now, just recently, there were good offers.
But you finally decided to stay in the CIS.
Yes, because there was already information that they could call me to Virtus.pro, so I decided so.
Zeus made a lot of impact. He told us about the player's diet, about proper nutrition, about the psychology of the game, shared some tips that did not concern the game itself.
A little about the essentials: with all the quarantine changes we are having, you are young, energetic, and, for sure, you want some kind of activity besides CS:GO. How has this situation affected you and your life outside of esports?
Now it is easier. The first months were difficult, literally the whole spring passed by. I myself am a very open person, an extrovert, constantly walking along the street, I like to go to a club in the evening, hang out, relax. It's very difficult for me without it. The thought appears in my head that this routine is constantly repeating and repeating. Because of this, I started running, do some kind of sports in order to be distracted. Well, quarantine is now weakened, you can go out somewhere. But at first, yes, it was very difficult psychologically not to burn out because I constantly sit at home and play.
Listen, but some young people at your age dream of being locked at home and finally play 24/7, how about that?
I believe that this needs a measure. The results of a player very much depend on his psychological state and health. If a person desires "to really play CS:GO," it is really the best time to develop in this direction. Now, if you have no desire to play CS — there is no mood — then go do something else! Make it so as to distract from the game even for a short while, for one evening, a week - it does not matter. After this, you will come back with new forces, ideas, with a clear head in terms of thinking — relaxed. It gives me a good boost. Everything, of course, depends on the person.
Did your home self-isolation somehow influence your in-game skill and passion?
Yes, definitely. I began to play more, began to stream. Now I stream less, surely, because it takes a lot of energy. That's when the transfer took place - we weren't practicing; I did not know what to do. If there was no quarantine, then maybe I was doing something else, but it turned out that had days t spend, so I played FPL. I even got the first place there the last month; this month was fourth or fifth, maybe.
You also took second places there.
Second place was in January, and in March, yes.
That is, you still progress.
Yes, now I have such an achievement: I won the FPL. All this is not even for the sake of money, but simply for myself, for understanding where I am going — additional motivation to move on.
Let's move on to your pro100 times. You spent almost two years there, and these were actually your first steps in serious esports. Can you tell me what you learned during this time? If you take the YEKINDAR who just got to pro100, and the one that left it, what are the differences?
In any case, I progressed. Firstly, Zeus made a lot of impact. At first, it was not that active, but in the end, when he left NAVI, he gave us a lot of time. He told us about the player's diet, about proper nutrition, about the psychology of the game, shared some tips that did not concern the game itself. For example, how to deal with stress during LANs. In addition to this, I grew up and as a player, for sure, considering how many hours I spent in this game. There were many hours of theory.
When you play as a team, you have a desire for it to achieve more. You always want to progress. Progress is noticeable only when you make some effort. If you just sit, play, and do not think about development, nothing will work. Now you asked me, I thought about it and I see that there is progress, yes, I grew up as a player, but usually, I don't think about it. I play, enjoy it, and want to win.
I am a person who is not ashamed of anything. I'm not shy. I'm not afraid to speak out in public, am completely open, do not get scared.
About Zeus. You said that he gave general recommendations on discipline and so on. If we talk about the game itself, did he give any tactical, strategic skills?
It depends. In the end, when we won India (DreamHack Delhi Invitational 2019, - ed.), Bosnia (QI Banja Luka 2019, - ed.) in the winter — Zeus very often visited our bootcamps before that, in October-November. We looked at theories a lot, looked at our mistakes together. He shared his opinion on how to act in different situations. Yes, he helped us in the game, but the priority was still on our coach. Let's just say that they somehow managed to work together; they understood each other very well.
In November, I talked with Dmitry "def" Lemeshchuk about reshuffles in the CIS, which also included pro100. He told me that reshuffles are necessary steps when a team hits the ceiling. You also noted that you were all into the game; you saw moments when a person did not want to break through this ceiling. In your opinion, the reshuffles that took place in pro100 gave some positive changes in the team, or, looking at the past; you would say that you had to do something different?
It is hard to say. Initially, when I arrived, there was a lineup in the form of me, Flarich, def, kenzor, and AiyvaN. Maybe kicking def was the wrong decision, it seems to me. He contributed a lot to our game and helped us.
In terms of other replacements, when we took wayLander, WorldEdit, and Pipson as a coach, it definitely helped us - again, this is my opinion. Flarich also was a very good player, in my opinion, it was September before he left for HR, then I really liked to play and spend time with the team. It so happened that he was bought by HellRaisers, and then it was necessary to come up with something with this replacement.
To be honest, I did not expect dimasick to fit so well into the roster. We even won these two tournaments, showed some pretty good results, but it was also periods. It wasn't so that we played well all the time. Everything was somehow in our mood; I don't know, it even bothered me [laughs]. That's true, one day we can play well against the current Virtus.pro on Road to Rio and win against them, and then we lose to the team at a lower level.
In general, I would not say that there were some reshuffles to which I reacted negatively. Everything was useful, informative in any case.
Winners of DHDelhi2019,but no time to relax! Bootcamp and Qi Banja Luka lan in Bosnia inc! pic.twitter.com/LHgEI6pXjI— YEKINDAR (@yek1ndar) December 9, 2019
When you moved to Virtus.pro, Zeus had an interview with you, and it was clear that he was really proud of you, your achievements, and the FPL as well. You two spoke about a peaky topic — s1mple once spoke quite emotionally that you don't feel the game and advised Zeus to explain to you where the enemies are during the force buy. How did you internally respond to such an attack?
Well, I didn't. I have always been self-critical enough, if a person is ready to explain to me a problem that he sees in me, I will accept such criticism in any case. I want to improve my game, so I won't say that it somehow hurt me. It bothers me more that people come to my stream and troll using his quote [laughs]. Well, guys, this joke just too old.
Did it motivate you?
Sure! I began to think a little differently in such rounds. I would say that it gave me some progress. It helped more than demotivated. This is definitely a good experience.
Tell me how you broke up with pro100. Did it happen in a good way?
It was online because of the quarantine; we couldn't even visit the bootcamp, that is, in any case, it left its mark. The guys just congratulated me; they said that I did well. Everything was very friendly. In pro100, people are understanding. They know that if they were offered such an opportunity, they would not refuse. There are no guys who are jealous or something like that; they were happy for me and wished good luck.
As in any team, we had some bad moments, but there were a lot more good ones. I am glad that we parted on such a positive note, and not after the conflict, as it sometimes happens.
Let's move on to your current team. You made a big jump up the career ladder; all this is new to you now. What is the difference in approaching the game in your new team compared to the last?
Huge difference! Literally, starting with analytics before the game, where everything is as it is: starting from the psychological state of the team to the analysis of details like an individual game, aiming, and a bunch of different things. The big difference in terms of players - it is clear that we are on the same wave and everyone wants to progress, they spend a lot of time in Counter-Strike, which made me very happy.
You can talk a lot about this; this also applies to organizational issues. Virtus.pro is a famous tag; the attitude towards the players is completely different. A lot of things, but so far, it's hard for me to talk about it. It seems to me that I have not yet felt all the features and subtleties; it takes more time.
Pro100 is a calm and quiet team, which so far has not developed its media very much. Here, you immediately jumped onto the hype train. Doesn't such an avalanche of glory scare you?
I would not call it an avalanche. I am a person who is not ashamed of anything. I'm not shy. I'm not afraid to speak out in public, am completely open, do not get scared. Yes, more fans appeared, numbers began to grow, they began to write to me, add to friends, but this is not bad. In any case, for me it's a plus, it's even nice.
Of course, there are more haters [laughs]. Haters, on the other hand, are motivators that help you play better and do more.
When a newcomer comes to the team, he has to agree with the rules and customs accepted. Qikert recently gave an interview where he said that you helped them take a fresh look at the game. What did he mean? Can you say that your recommendations on the game have a certain weight, that you can offer some idea, and they will accept it?
Yes, definitely. Let me think about how to say... In general, the situation is: I come to a team where there are four players with whom I am almost unfamiliar. These are not the guys I used to play with before, nor are we very familiar in real life. I saw them only a couple of times before in tournaments; we did not communicate. Maybe, I spoke with SANJI in Kiev when I was at the pro100's bootcamp, but a little bit at all.
So the transfer happens, and now I come to the team, where I understand that there are four strangers, as well as coaches and other employees. I come and immediately understand that I am not going to "speak out". At the same time, I am such a person that if I don't like something, I'm talking about it right away. It's better to tell the truth, and whatever happens, rather than hide something, I will keep it to myself, and nothing good will come of it.
I am sure my teammates understand that I play well, I understand something in the game, and they accept what I say. So yes, they give me the floor.
AdreN was the moodsetter. Even if we drop 1-14, he is like: "Yes, everything is fine, boys, relax!"
You said that the guys gave you the opportunity to choose the roles that you are comfortable playing. Does this mean that someone from the team will have to close other positions, and will this not affect the overall success?
Well... It happened like this: when I arrived, I immediately said that most of the roles buster played I did in my previous team. There were, of course, differences on certain maps. But three or four generally had no issues with the roles. Regarding the rest, I said that I have some position priorities. That is, I would not want to play any role, but if necessary, I'm ready. In any case, this is an experience; it is always good when you try and learn something new for yourself.
We simply agreed among ourselves that, for example, on the same Overpass buster played for CT in a specific way, while I always played B-rotation. As a result, we made it so that SANJI plays as buster did, AdreN plays a B-rotation now, and I generally play A [laughs]. I don't know how to explain this, it's just that really all the wishes of the players are heard, and we are trying to find the optimal solution.
In your opinion, the quality will not fade?
Surely, they also understand that I am the same player as they are. If they were in my place, they would also like to play roles that are comfortable for them.
If you play for a long time on a certain plant, and then you are suddenly put on the opposite, you begin to feel not very comfortable, timings and other things are lost.
Yes, it's difficult, but FPL games helped me a lot. There I don't choose my roles. I don't care what I play. I just choose the last thing that remains on the positions after the others have disassembled them. It turns out that I have the experience to play any role. It may not be great, but I know all the default roles. When you know them... For example, now I play Dust 2 on B for CT, although the last time I played there two years ago [laughs]. Due to the fact that I kept in shape on FPL, sometimes I played middle and B — I understand how the game and the player duos work, it helped me a lot.
Minor starts tomorrow— YEKINDAR (@yek1ndar) January 15, 2019
I think this guy is ready to get some bread pic.twitter.com/MMS3rOkZMP
Say a few words about your coach. Among fans and analysts, many did not quite understand why it was not some experienced player to take this position, but Alexey "Flatra" Zlobich. Have you already had any contacts, joint training, what can you say about his impact in the game?
It's hard to say. We, of course, communicate. There was a period when Alexey was just joining the roster. He also was a newcomer, didn't know anyone, just imagine such a situation. He does not know what he can advise, what influence on, and what is to leave for the team's decision. So far, we are at the stage of getting used to each other, testing. I think it's too early to talk about this and draw conclusions, we will see in the future.
Let's then talk about practicing. You are now at home in Riga. How do you manage to train normally in this environment without bootcamps? After all, you may have problems with ping and some additional distractions.
It happens all the time [laughs]. We recently played a tournament, qualification for the EPL, and we had a lot of problems. At BLAST, when we played the last game that didn't mean anything, Adren's motherboard simply died [laughs]. We had to make a replacement.
Constantly some losses, pings, friezes. There it is, all of it, but how it can't be if it is online. Thank God, I don't have such problems, but everything will continue this way. Well, what to do, you need to play, you need to train.
About Clutch Island. You start the performance in the main stage. Did you have some kind of online bootcamp to prepare for this particular tournament and for specific opponents?
There was no targeted training. We prioritized Clutch Island, as it is more important to us than other tournaments. We just play and get in shape. It was just very difficult recently. We had gained unreal tempo because there were games at BLAST, pracs, analysis, plus the guys needed to explain the whole theory to me, play through map positions — all this had to be done quickly, we were in a hurry.
And now we have chosen the usual practices because people are starting to get tired of this pace. It's me, a new one who just joined the team, rested while the transfer was taking place, I'm still fine. In addition, a new team boosted my motivation. For teammates, this is also an additional motivation, but they had this tempo for a long time, so we decided to slow down a little.
In fact, all this happened only after my specific tasks had already been told to me, and we started playing all this when I got used to the new team, and the guys got used to me. Now we just play pracs, and there are a lot of them, about five a day, as well as a little theory. You just need to breathe out a bit before the tournament so that there isn't such a thing that we outplayed and burned out because of this.
I can refuse any specific interviews or offers, but I try not to refuse the Latvian ones, in order to somehow popularize this in my country, to develop this topic and esports in Latvia.
Let's talk a little about your teammates' characters in order to better understand what Virtus.pro is. After all, sometimes organizations post TeamSpeak records on the public. What is your team's atmosphere, fun, and easy?
Not necessary. It all depends on how the day proceeds, and if we're playing well or not [laughs]. That is, there is not much difference between whether we win or lose. At the same time, we understand that psychologically this somehow affects a person. Even if you want this to have no effect, it doesn't always work out. We definitely don't have someone being toxic. We understand each other, support each other; they all want to win; we don't give up to the end. For example, we recently played against GODSENT. There was an unpleasant score for us on two maps, but we did not give up and played until the end.
Well, okay, no toxic. But who is your main ringleader? Who leads the team into battle and raises teammates' morale even in the most difficult situation?
Actually, I try to be this person, but sometimes I also have a mixed state [laughs]. There is also AdreN. He is generally a person who is very experienced. Even if we drop 1-14, he is like: "Yes, everything is fine, boys, relax!" [laughs]. Alexey Qikert can also say: "Everything is fine, guys, we will win the next map."
So you came to Virtus.pro. You are now one team that has goals to reach. You probably also have some marks that you want to get along with the guys. We will not talk about distant prospects, but share your desires, which in the near future you want to achieve with this roster.
I see that we can get into the top 10 of the world ranking. This is not even a goal for me; I just feel it. It's hard to say that there is any specific goal, I just want everything: win both Majors and DreamHack, and all that [laughs], and we will try to do this, I believe in my team. I know that all this is possible.
Do you often think about the future? I do not mean plans for a conditional five months in advance, but much greater distances?
It happens. Right now, I don't think so much about it, because in the near future I will play anyway. When the time comes, then I will think more. Now, for example, I began to develop my media more, communicate with fans, show that I am not only a player but also a person. I want to have a base for my future. Perhaps someday I will create my own organization, like Zeus. I don't know how it will be, but I look forward.
You said that in Latvia esports is in a very poor condition. Theoretically - can it happen that you decide to "boost" esports in your country? Perhaps you would like to create some kind of national team of Latvian players?
It is hard to say. Of course, I would like that. I can refuse any specific interviews or offers, but I try not to refuse the Latvian ones, in order to somehow popularize this in my country, to develop this topic and esports in Latvia. I try to somehow improve it. If, in the future, there will be players, talents to believe in — why not create an organization, a team that can become a national team?
Perhaps the most serious question today. We know that you are interested in anime, so the guys from the editorial office wanted to ask you: who is your favourite waifu?
Oh! Can we skip this? [laughs]
That is also an answer!
I don't really think about it, it's hard for me to say [laughs]. I don't watch anime that much these days.
Thank you for the frank interview, it was nice to talk, good luck at our Clutch Island, we believe in you! If you want to convey something to teammates and fans, now is the time.
Boys — do not relax! Fans — thanks for the support, it's always nice. Even minimal support is always felt and helps us, so my respect for such people.
Translated by: Arseny Kuzminsky