Team Liquid, self-belief and the right to win
This has been a year of big advancements in CSGO, with the meta being driven by a dominant leader, but there is one constant that has continued to be a large factor in the scene. In fact, the very same competitive trope affected Astralis for so long that they even got the reputation of being ‘chokers’, simply because they hadn’t developed one attribute at that stage, which they now have in spades. Put simply, they did not believe they had the right to win.
To clarify, what we mean when we say "the right to win" is more than just ability or results. There are teams in world CS that have stacks of ability and virtually no results to show for it, while other players with bulging trophy cabinets may never have possessed the same natural talent as their less-decorated peers. Much of that comes down to the players, and teams, not believing they can beat an opponent that is ranked above them, or that they have struggled to beat previously.
We spoke to Sujoy Roy, Luckbox's Director of Esports, about his experience of this. During his time as a professional player Sujoy reached the very pinnacle of the Quake world and remembers well the difference between the players who came in as favourites and those who had the skill, but maybe not the self-belief to win at that stage in their career, as well as what it was like to be on the ‘winning’ side of that equation.
From chokers to champions
While it is true in 1 v 1 games such as Quake or many FGC titles, this also applies to team sports and esports, as we saw with Astralis. In their days as TSM and prior to their Major win in 2017, the team regularly lost semi-finals and finals, but working with a sports psychologist and simply getting into good habits for competition has changed their mentality completely. Today, no team wins more games from losing positions than Astralis and no side has more belief in their right to win.
From a negative point of view, the team that this has affected more than any other in CS terms has undoubtedly been Team Liquid. The North American mix is the most talented collection of players ever to come from that region but, compared to the less talented, more hardened Cloud 9 players, the difference in believe and drive appears to be night and day.
When Stewie and Tarik led their team out for the final of the Boston Major there was no doubt they deserved to be there in their own minds and that played a massive part in their overcoming of favourites FaZe. The former was relatively new to pro CSGO, let alone C9, but had no problem leading and calling out veterans such as Skadoodle for their perceived failures, and you can see to this day there is no player too ‘big’ to be questioned if Stew believes he is correct.
To some extent, this is why the fact Liquid haven’t won many events and why their SuperNova title victory in Malta was held up as such a big deal by many, but the steps that team needs to take have just begun. Even while they were stomping the competition at SuperNova, TACO was giving interviews where he referred to any series vs Astralis as starting 1-0 to the Danes, if they played Nuke, showing the Liquid five simply don’t believe they can take that map ever.
The winning habit can be acquired though, even if it is one of the more difficult skills to learn
Wins at Supernova and Summit are sadly not likely to be the answer, as the world’s best aren’t in attendance, and it may be that this five already has a mental block so massive that they cannot beat the Danes. If that is the case, a change of personnel could be the answer, with a new leader the best way to introduce a culture shift, but there is hardly a surfeit of amazing IGLs to pick from.
The winning habit can be acquired though, even if it is one of the more difficult skills to learn, and there is no guarantee Astralis will hold it forever. Just as they seem to win when they deserve to lose due to their own self-belief, a couple of years ago SK Gaming were untouchable, even if you were in possession of a better collection of players, but look how far they have fallen.
Liquid simply need to believe, and increase that belief by any means, if they want to convert their talent into trophies, otherwise they will never win, or believe they should.