A Hobbit’s tale, or there and back again
Success in sport or esports is what every single player is striving for, or at least the vast majority. Some may be more motivated by money than others, but even that requires you to win, or play for iBuyPower if you want to lose and still get paid, so it’s safe to say that every player in pro CSGO is fighting for the same tiny pool of prizes, and the best prize in that pool is a Major.
Sure, you might get more cash for WESG, but a Major is worth more than just money. With it comes prestige, a reputational buff that lasts for years, and a good payday too of course, and the likes of Xist and others have dined out for years on their records in those events. So how do you go from being the star of a Major winning team to being benched by a side that make no impact at tier-two events in just a couple of years?
From Tengri to top ten
Flash back to July 2017, and Abay "Hobbit" Khasenov was pretty much on top of the CSGO world. He had just won a Major with Gambit, overcoming a Brazilian roster that was not long for this earth in the final, and was shortly to be voted the eleventh best player of 2017. A year before he was hardly known, playing for Tengri, but in a short time he burst onto the scene and showed the world what he was capable of in Krakow, lifting a Major title and playing like a star in the making.
Just a month later, aged 22 and with the world at his feet, Hobbit settled down and tied the knot with his beautiful bride as his smiling team-mates looked on, and things were looking rosy, at least for him. Surely he was set for a long career at the top of CSGO, driven by his ability and the success he’d already achieved, alongside other stars of the CIS region, right?
As things turned out, that assumption was little premature, and here and now the player finds himself in a very different situation, benched and transfer listed by a HellRaisers team incapable of winning against tier one opposition. To make matters worse, his replacement is no star, but a player from NoChance called Žygimantas ‘nukkye‘ Chmieliauskas, who at 21 years old is essentially just the ‘new’ Hobbit. We should call him Frodo…
Will to win
How this happened is anyone’s guess, but there are a few clues that have led to speculation online. The desire to succeed is incredibly strong in any top competitor, but how people react to success can vary and for many it is hard to maintain the same work ethic and level of dedication once they feel like they’ve made it. Becoming a father and marriage is equally a new priority the player did not have before he won the Major, and should rightly take up a degree of his time and attention, meaning once again CSGO has to come second.
This is all speculation, of course, and it’s far from a universal rule that any player who has a kid or wife will become less effective. That certainly hasn’t been the case for Dennis ‘electronic’ Sharapov of Na’Vi, but people are all different and it’s easy to see that the player we all thought Hobbit would become and the player he is in 2019 are very different beast, with very different futures ahead of them too.
It may sound harsh, or sad to say, but not being good enough for this HellRaisers team is a massive fall from grace, and should be a wake up call for the player. He has the ability to play on a team at the very top level, and with the continual failure of Na’Vi to convert on the ability of flamie, electronic and of course s1mple there is still the potential for a true CIS superteam, one not burdened with the torpor of Edward and the ego of Zeus.
If Hobbit doesn’t turn things around, we might have already seen his last performance at a tier-one event, or a Major even. A move to AVANGAR wouldn’t make a lot of sense for an org of that size as the player would be expensive, and his form wouldn’t justify the investment, and there is no reason for a better team than HellRaisers to cut a player when Hobbit is in such poor form either, meaning he’s pretty much out in the cold.
In a world that moves as fast as esports, it’s still shocking to think you could be on top of the world one moment, and not good enough for HellRaisers the next, but CSGO is a tough game, and the hunger you need to stay at the top is considerable. Those of us who watched him in Krakow and during 2017 are desperate to see the old Hobbit come roaring back, but it may be that he won too much, too young, and his future is nothing more than a cosy cottage in the shire, with a Major medal hanging over the fire, having already had his own adventure.