Team Liquid winning ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals in Montpellier was obviously the story that grabbed the majority of the headlines when the dust had settled over southern France and the last bomb had boomed, but that was far from the only thread to be followed at the event.
As the North Americans kissed and caressed the rather brutalist trophy, another group of players left the stage, heads hung low in defeat but soon to be held high again with the thought of what they had achieved.
After many months - or maybe years - in the slums, it was finally time for the greatest Frenchmen ever to touch CSGO to return again, as Richard ‘shox’ Papillon and Kenny ‘kennyS’ Schrub played like we have been wanting them to for years. G2 esports may have lost on home turf but seeing their star men back to something approaching their best will have been great consolation after the long months of watching them flounder and fail.
It’s not just that these are two legendary players, as we have our fair share of former greats that could come back to the top, it’s also what these two players in particular represent. Put simply, no French team has won a major without one or the other, and kenny and shox are two of the most thrilling, talented and clutch players in the game, as well as being two of the most talented people ever to touch an FPS in terms of pure skill, aim and understanding.
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We’ll start with Mr Butterfly, who was recently married to his sweetheart, and appears to be one of the most unique people in esports. As a man, he is all about the experience of life, the joie de vivre if you will, and has taken career-harming decisions to ensure he has a good time in game. For most people, this would be career suicide, as would all the drinking and partying he did before he became a dad, but shox is so bloody talented he got away with it for years.
Even to this day, people know he has his flaws, be they an extreme attachment to team-mates that have no real value at the top level or his insistence that happiness is more important than success, something the ‘most successful org in esports’ G2 would probably dispute. They don’t though, instead allowing him to shape multiple teams around him, in the hopes that one day they’d be rewarded for their loyalty with ‘the real shox’.
Well, at ESL Pro League Montpellier, in the wake of his wedding and waving to a home crowd, we saw the real shox. The question now is whether this monster will rear his head again, or if this was a one-off, spurred by matrimony and mother France. If shoxie is truly back to this form, then G2 are well on their way to being a top team again, and he will be back in the top five before too long.
The flicky frog
Alongside shox stands kenny of course. In the conversation for the greatest AWP player in CSGO’s history, he is already assured of a place, not just for his talent but his record as a player. A Major title with EnVy’s French team back in 2015 came when he was just 20 years, old, and it’s easy to forget how young he still is due to the incredible level he’s been playing at since basically 2012.
kennyS crazy vs FaZe
Of the two, shox is the guy you’d want in the 1v3, purely as he is a rifler that feels the game on an almost supernatural level, where kennyS is the sort of playmaking AWP star that is so rare and valuable, when he wants to be. His speed, aim and instincts are insane even for top level CS, and the only things that have let him down are his work ethic and dedication to being a top player, which manifests in-game with reckless peeks and needless risks.
When he’s finding that balance and getting his practice hours in, there is no mortal player like kennyS on the AWP. In terms of level, he’s capable of s1mple-esque acts, and while he lacks the all-around danger the Ukrainian has in-game, when he’s got his AWP and an aim in mind kennyS is close to unstoppable. That is not to say he’s jdm-levels of bad with a rifle either, just to highlight that s1mple is frankly a different species at this point.
Back for good?
There are differences that shoxie and kenny need to respect of course, as they are no longer quite that exceptional. Where shox was a freak at this peak, there are now players like Twistzz, NAF, electronic, NiKo, Valde and others who are just as insane at times, even if they lack his experience. Where it was once considered that only GuardiaN could be compared to kennyS, we now have not just s1mple above all else, but ZywOo, dev1ce and a whole heap of crazy kids who are capable of unbelievable flicks that used to be purely kenny’s domain.
However, now they have a functional supporting cast and the will to win back, we can only hope this is the true return to form of two of the greatest players CSGO has ever seen. If they carry this level and motivation to Cologne top four is very achievable, and 2019 would be all the richer for the return of two kings, and a renaissance for French CSGO, rather than just a re-Vitalisation.
Pictures: Copyright Bart Oerbekke, Helena Kristiansson / ESL