Daniil 'Zeus' Teslenko is a veteran of the Counter-Strike scene.
He's one of only a handful of players to have attended every single CS:GO Major so far, continuing that streak with a Top 8 performance at the ELEAGUE Major in January.
theScore esports caught up with the Gambit Esports team captain to talk about his transition from Natus Vincere, his feelings on playing on Infer-new and his thoughts on each of his Gambit teammates.
In 2016, we saw your departure from Natus Vincere after nearly seven years with that organization. Tell us about your transition into Gambit.
I want to refresh the chronology of events that happened in 2016. We took a lot of second places in a row. There were a lot of such defeats, let’s take StarLadder in Kiev, where we gave up to Virtus.pro and got the second place. That was a pity. All the time we understood that the victory is so close and we play better but we could not prove it with the first place.
Some teams, which couldn’t win the tournaments and met us then at the finals, had a kind of confidence they would shut us down. That was the reason for a psychological problem in the team. However, because of our taking second places all the time we became a stable team and thus in the middle of 2016 we got to be the world's top one team.
The problem of our squad was that when there were hard times some members just couldn’t be like a part of the team, they separated somehow. When someone outdid us we needed to pull together but we just became weaker and lost. As the result, you already know from my profile that we didn’t make it work with Natus Vincere. I thought about what I would do next for several months and decided that I go on playing. That was how I got to Gambit.
I don’t know what awaits us further but I feel like playing with these guys and I think we can succeed. The more we were training the more I enjoyed the gaming process itself, that was something I didn’t have in the previous team. I’m happy that today I play with them. We have a chance to prove ourselves. Now we’re in Las Vegas and we want to show good Counter-Strike. We still have loads of tournaments ahead and whatever we perform here we won’t be desperate in case we lose, or over-the-moon in case we win. We see there is a lot of work ahead.
Joining Gambit went smoothly and relatively fast. Quitting from Na’Vi got to be a difficult process. It was tough mentally and psychologically. I have special relationships with some of the players from the team and generally I have positive memories because still we played together for a long time.
How did you feel about the number of events you played in 2016, was overplaying an issue? Will you look to reduce event attendance in 2017?
Actually I don’t think it’s anything special here. I don’t think there was a problem with the number of tournaments we took part in. It’s just the opposite, thanks to the tournaments we were little by little becoming better. We try to participate in the majority of the tournaments.
As we are a young team and we haven’t yet fully established ourselves among the top teams we don’t get a lot of invites, so we need to play at the qualifiers. We lose some qualifiers, we’re not in the first division in some leagues, sometimes we play at the qualifiers to play at the qualifiers. It’s okay.
I think it’s fair to say that you’re the most experienced player on the team. Do you consider yourself a father figure or bigger brother on the team?
I realize that I’m the captain, the example for the team and a lot depends on me so I need to keep myself with dignity. I’m a fair man and I try to make the fairness work for the team as well, so that there wouldn’t be a space for my supporting someone more and someone less. I try to do away with the conflicts, to get rid of the difficulties and move further. This is concerning my role in terms of the psychological component in the team.
How would you describe each of your teammates?
Talking about each player: mou is a strong player, whose game is built upon motivation and I’m still puzzled about what it depends on. It’s for sure not about the prestige of the tournament or the prize fund, it’s something else he gets it from, and I still haven’t found the answer.
Rustem is a calm player, and as a rule the team needs such players.
Dosia is very calm as well, and very experienced. He has his own style and his own extraordinary vision of the game, which appeals to me.
Misha is stable, he can play better but he needs a good motivation and discipline.
AdreN is one of the emotional and strong players, who works the most. He is an example of the man, who wants to achieve something, to win.
After HObbit got MVP DreamHack Winter, he relaxed, but now, when he got the visa, came to the Major and got the Legend status, he pulled himself together. I think he should move further, develop and listen to the captain. He has a great future!
You were the subject of one of Player Profiles for the Major. How happy were you with the short film?
The profile turned out really cool. I enjoyed the way we filmed it. The film crew are professionals. Everyone, who took part in the video, my parents, my girlfriend and me also, were satisfied. Actually I’ve been doing different videos for a long time so it’s not an unusual process for me. Everything went great so the result of the profile occurred cool. When I saw the video I felt encouragement. I hope it had the same effect and was interesting for the spectators as well. Thanks Valve for having made such a nice profile!
Right now you are still a top contender, but have you considered your career in esports (or outside esports) beyond being a competitor?
For now I haven’t thought about that. Now I want to play, win and take part in different tournaments. I want our team to succeed. I’m highly motivated now and I think that situation with Na’Vi worked well for me so now I’m more serious about the game. There is more inspiration for me in this team so now I want to play, and will see what’s next.
Are you happy with the team’s performance at the Major? What needs to improve going forward?
We weren’t psychologically prepared for the tournament. As for the game, the team was ready much better. I’m pleased that despite the psychological stress the team had, we managed to fulfill our minimal task. First of all we need to hire a psychologist, for example, Astralis has one and he helped them to cope with the difficult situations and with the hard match and the strong team. All in all, I think the team needs a psychologist.
And we should work on our game, make it better, to unite the team, to work on the mutual understanding, team play and all these.
DreamHack Masters Las Vegas comes just a handful of weeks after the end of the ELEAGUE Major and notably features all Top 8 teams from the Major. Do you look at DHM Vegas as a “revenge tournament” for the Major, or is it just like any other event?
To be honest, we had a lot of different troubles. They were connected with HObbit getting his visa for a long time before the Major. We almost got confident we wouldn’t get one. Really, it was kind a magic he got it (he got a one-off).
Now he was getting the new one and that’s why we couldn’t do a full preparation, so we used a bit different [training] system ... This tournament hasn’t as much at stake compared with Major. Maybe each team has the same feeling so they will play a bit more relaxed and will be able to show themselves from the other side, I don’t know.
This tournament can only work for us. We must be less nervous, approach this tournament calmer and play a bit differently.
DHM Vegas will be the first event to use the latest map pool, so Infer-new instead of Dust II. What are your thoughts on this?
The exclusion of Dust II wasn’t a problem for us. We had a good attitude to the comeback of Inferno to the map pool, we like it and the team plays on it, and I hope we will manage to show good CS on it!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
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