Liquid's Stewie2k: North American CSGO's GOAT?
There are a lot of ways a player can be underrated, from their technical ability to their tactical mind or even their impact in-game, but sometimes one comes along that seems to defy all attempts to classify them. That might be the case for Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip, entry-fragger and catalyst for Team Liquid, and one of the most important CSGO players in North American esports history, and the second half of 2019 could be even bigger for the man who is already king of his own domain.
It might sound ludicrous when you consider the talent on Team Liquid aside from Stewie, or the insane adaptability and skill his former colleague autimatic has shown since being burdened with the role of carrying Cloud9, but the man they call Yip is the best player in NA CSGO by some distance. For that we're not talking about mechanical skill, of which he has buckets, or even intelligence, which he also possesses, but that pure, Ronaldo-esque ability to influence games and make things happen that help his team win, which is the one factor all true greats have to share.
Sure, there are always those players in a generation that seem to be the true gods, incredibly talented and above the rest when it is their day, but the majority are only able to show it in flashes. Jason Williams in the NBA, or maybe Man City legend Georgi Kinkladze if you’re a certain age, and from a certain place would be good examples, of competitors that could do anything they wanted on the court but often struggled to turn that into actual wins. Of course, in the case of Williams he learned over time to adapt and win, but Stew needed no such lesson.
From the moment he joined Cloud9, he looked like he belonged at the top level, and he was the crucial factor in their Boston Major win too, driving a talented group of players well beyond their limits and into the history books. It is no coincidence that the likes of Rush and Skadoodle looked at their best in that side, as the impact Stewie has on his team mates is both mental and actual, making space for them to play and giving them the instructions they need to win.
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More than a smoke criminal
In the clip above you can hear his former teammate autimatic discuss that same impact, talking about not just the way that Stewie starts games, but also the way he adapts to what is happening mid-match. This is a crucial attribute to have at the top level of any competition, and is vital to team success too if you have a leader that can run out of ideas, or be bamboozled by a clever anti-strat, as is often the case in CSGO.
What is more important even than his ability to split bomb sites and bang heads though is Stewie’s effect on a region that has never been known for winning. It’s no coincidence that he is part of the first team from NA to reach number 1 in the rankings in CSGO, just as it was no coincidence that he played a crucial role in the Major win, or that Liquid have discovered some steel since he joined, and started to clutch out tough situations.
When Cloud9 were on the brink of losing to FaZe in Boston, it was Stewie who came up with the goods on B-site as Inferno hotted up, and the most recent example of his ability to act as a catalyst and drag his team over the line came in Liquid’s win over ENCE at DreamHack Dallas. The crucial 3k that secured the bag came from Stewie adapting the way he was playing banana and surprising ENCE with his positioning, and displayed a level of playmaking bravery that is that much harder to come by when you’re on the brink of taking a title.
Big money, no whammy
This has all translated into a degree of success for Stewie that no other NA pro can manage, at least financially, with young Jake the highest-earning NA pro in the history of CSGO, and ahead of such luminaries as NiKo, kennyS and s1mple in that list. While money isn’t everything, that reflects once again the fact that he gets results wherever he goes, and his time with Liquid is unlikely to hurt his per-annum income from tournament wins, especially when compared to the MIBR days.
Esports is a results business now and his record speaks for itself when it comes to tier-one CSGO
And yet, for all his achievements there is still a sizable part of the community that will laugh if you suggest he’s a better player than a f0rest in 2019. There are more talented players than Stewie, although not as many as you’d think, but esports is a results business now and his record speaks for itself when it comes to tier-one CSGO. On top of that, his decision to leave Cloud9, which at the time looked a terrible mistake, has worked out nicely too, with him on the top NA team and having left an org that clearly lacks a commitment to being a contender.
With all of that in mind, it seems amazing that Liquid only got the chance to sign Stewie after MIBR decided to dump him, but the same happened in Denmark where Astralis were forced into becoming the greatest team in CSGO history by Kjaerbye’s decision to stall on signing, and then eventually not sign his new contract. The future is bright for them as a result though, as they now have not just the best team in NA history, but maybe the best all-around player the region has produced when it comes to what matters, winning games of CSGO.
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Pictures: Helena Kristiansson / ESL