The roar of the crowd deafened the Agganis Arena. The NA crowd was jubilant with excitement as Cloud 9 had done the improbably and won an incredible finals to defeat FaZe in double over time. Confetti was flying down. Millions more watched on stream and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham teared up from the victory. As all of this happened, FaZe watched despondent. Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs watched the proceedings with a thousand yard stare. He had lost again.
For GuardiaN the Boston Major was his third Major finals. GuardiaN’s first ever Major finals was at DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015, GuardiaN was the best player at the event. He was the superstar player of Na`Vi and they made a run through the tournament as they beat Luminosity in the quarters and NiP in the semifinals. In the finals of that event Na`Vi got a great map draw of Train, Cobblestone, and Dust 2. It didn’t matter. The first game of the finals was a close affair with EnVyUs winning the 30th round to take the first map. On the second map of the finals, it was a blowout. Na`Vi crumbled mentally and even though GuardiaN kept on fighting, it was a losing effort. One man could only do so much.
GuardiaN’s second Major finals was at MLG Columbus 2016. In that finals Na`Vi defeat NiP and Astralis to make it to the finals. GuardiaN had an injury that forced him to play with four times the sensitivity, but Na`Vi as a team and unit were strong enough to win that finals. It still didn’t matter as the same scene played out again for GuardiaN. The first map was an incredibly close affair that had Luminosity win in overtime. The second map was a blowout. This time GuardiaN could do nothing as a player. After the finals he lamented on twitter how the worst fate wasn’t losing, but being unable to help your team.
GuardiaN’s third Major finals was his most auspicious. GuardiaN had joined FaZe and together they had become either the best or second best team in the world by the end of 2017. Their biggest rivals and worst matchup was SK. Fate had given them a helping hand as SK could not use their full lineup and instead had to use a standin. Thus the biggest worry for FaZe in the tournament was weakened. This time GuardiaN didn’t have to worry about injuries and FaZe were able to get to the finals of the Major by defeating Mouz and Na`Vi in the playoffs. The finals of the tournament had FaZe play Cloud 9. The first map of the game was another incredibly close game. This time GuardiaN was on the side that won the close map as FaZe won 16-14. GuardiaN had set a record on the map with 25 AWP kills in the game and he had been the biggest reason as to why FaZe took it over Cloud 9.
At last it looked like GuardiaN could finally get his Major victory. The second map of the finals was Overpass, a map that was heavily in FaZe’s favor as this was one of their best maps. They should have closed it out here, but none of the FaZe players got into the server until it was too late. Cloud 9 ran up a huge 12-3 side on their Ct-side.
The third was a classic map that will go down in CS:GO history as one of the best single maps. Cloud 9 started the game with a bang by winning the second round forcebuy on T-side. They front ran for a bit, before FaZe took over the game. FaZe were at a substantial lead, closing in on the game in the second half. One bad antiforce round where FaZe rushed down mid had them reeling as Cloud 9 were able to get their economy back and this allowed them to setup their CT-side defense perfectly. The game slowed down as FaZe tried to close out the game in a safe manner by using utility to buy map control. For Cloud 9’s part, they didn’t contest map control. Instead they saved their nades, held their positions and depended on the late round utility and hero plays from Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip on the B-site to hold with his AWP. The move worked as the game went into overtime and the game devolved into a mad scramble as FaZe tried to force their way through with individual skill and GuardiaN in particular kept saving FaZe with awe-inspiring AWP and clutching. In the final round of overtime, he won a 1v2 situation with a rifle spray that extended FaZe’s life into the second over time.
It wasn’t enough. GuardiaN was arguably the best player at the tournament, most likely the MVP of the entire tournament. But CS:GO is a team game and on that day Cloud 9 were better as a team. The dead stare of GuardiaN said it all. The only thing left was the emptiness that comes after such a loss.
GuardiaN is a player that has done everything he could to reach the top of competitive CS:GO. In order to join a better team he started to learn Russian and this was what allowed him to join join Virtus.Pro, the team that killed the NiP 87-0 streak. Soon after, everyone on that Virtus.Pro lineup ditched him to make Astana Dragons. The Virtus.Pro team rebuilt to the all Polish lineup we know today and GuardiaN was kicked. His only way out was to join Na`Vi and biuld that team. He did all of that and he became their best player, their shining light as they grew together as a team. By 2015, the system built around him and Na`Vi had grown strong enough to challenge for a Major title. They failed at Cluj-Napoca. The team got even stronger, despite GuardiaN’s injuries in 2016 and he got another chance at MLG Columbus. It wasn’t enough. He then got a third chance after joining FaZe to make the all-star team. This was to be the Major that was finally his. It wasn’t enough. Three times he has climbed to the Major Finals and three times he has lost.
As painful as it sounds GuardiaN’s many tragic attempts to lift the Major trophy are part of why the Majors are so special. Cloud 9 winning is the other part. Cloud 9 is the dream that every team and every player wishes to fulfill. To one day lift that trophy, to be seen by millions of fans across the world, to etch their names into CS:GO history. GuardiaN’s trials are the cruel reality. You can play the best CS:GO of your life and not win. Your team can be playing the best CS:GO of their life and you are injured. You make the right moves in your career to get on the best possible team, and it may still not be enough. The dream that Cloud 9 has fulfilled has meaning because of the countless dreams it has to murder in its wake.
GuardiaN will go down as one of the greatest players to have ever touched this game. One of the greatest AWPers in CS:GO history. Yet his dream of winning a Major may never be fulfilled. Guardian has stated that, “FaZe will be my last home before I retire.” With only two Majors a year there are only so many chances to grip that trophy. GuardiaN has already done more than you could expect out of him as a player. He was the best player at Cluj-Napoca on one of the best teams in Na`Vi. They failed. At MLG Columbus he was injured, but still played his heart out and it wasn’t enough. At Boston Major GuardiaN was on FaZe, the team favored to win, and he was the best player of the event and it still wasn’t enough. He had come so close so many times and it wasn’t enough. That kind of loss can weigh a player down, break them.
GuardiaN up to this point has seemed unbreakable. He has risen from a small CS country in Slovakia to the top of competitive CS:GO. He has broken past all obstacles to get to where he is today. The anecdote that best exemplifies this was the Virtus.Pro break up in 2013. The other players on the team left to create Astana Dragons leaving GuardiaN behind. Anton Cherepennikov, the CEO of ESF, recalls that, “It was really GuardiaN that saved Virtus.pro. Alone on the roster, he refused to transfer to Na`Vi and said he was going to wait until we got a new lineup together for him. This player’s tenacity and loyalty made him worthy of respect.”
Anton wanted GuardiaN to be a part of the new Virtus.Pro with the Polish players, but it didn’t work out as Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas was insistent that it had to be an all Polish lineup. At a standstill, Anton discussed the move with GuardiaN and he remembers Guardian’s reaction, “He[GuardiaN] said calmly that if those people didn’t want to play with him, he’d go to Na`Vi and make the Polish remember him once more in the future.”
This small episode in his career has replayed itself in each of GuardiaN’s Major Finals. He was an incredible player, someone worthy of the respect. A player that fights on despite whatever circumstances falls his way, a player that can set your heart ablaze. But it always ends in heartache. It always ends in second place with GuardiaN having done no wrong. Virtus.Pro went with the full Polish lineup. Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca went the way of EnVyUs. MLG Columbus went the way of Luminosity. ELeague Boston went the way of Cloud 9. GuardiaN fought with everything he had, he is a player still looking for a Major victory despite being in three of the Major Finals already. He is a player who hasn’t let the bad hands in life stop him, who has proved he can fight on despite whatever circumstances come his way.
Yet I look at that line, “FaZe will be my last home before I retire.” and I wonder how much longer GuardiaN will keep on the fight. This is a player who loves victory, who yearns for it and the Major is the biggest victory of them all. And that dream is worth all of the nightmares you must endure to get it. This is GuardiaN’s story and his story is one that all CS:GO competitors can see in themselves. The struggle to win the greatest achievements, the battle to never give up, the battle to win the Major. I don’t know if GuardiaN will ever win a Major, but win or lose GuardiaN was right. We will remember him. We will remember the man who is one of the greatest AWPers of all time, we will remember his battles at the Majors, and win or lose, we will remember the name of GuardiaN.