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24 markeloff moments

By Duncan 'Thorin' Shields
Feb 13, 2012 19:57


ImageIn honour of markeloff's 24th birthday, which was yesterday, come on a journey through 24 moments in the Ukrainian sniper's incredible CS career.

Yesterday, February the 12th, was the birthday of UA Yegor 'markeloff' Markelov and he turned 24 on that day. In celebration of this fact come on a journey through 24 moments in the career of a player who has already made an indellible mark in the CS history books as one of its greatest ever players. Matching his incredible firing speed, accuracy and ability to deal massive amounts of damage with the AWP markeloff's career has seen him race to major accomplishments and a significant impact on the game in less time than any who came before him.

During his career the man from Dnipropetrovsk, in the South East of Ukraine, has helped his teams win over $345,537 in prize money, two IEM World Championships back-to-back, ESWC and won a WCG gold medal. As the driving force of UA Natus Vincere , the team of the year for 2010, markeloff was the player of the year for 2010 with his incredible finals performances, which set the bar for excellence on the highest pressure stages even higher than it had ever been before. markeloff's Na`Vi team not only won an incredible three World Championship level events consecutively but also made the finals of a fourth such event in their very next attempt.

Yegor "Markeloff" Markelov, aged 24 (born February 12th, 1988)


1) In 2005 markeloff was only 17 and far from a well known player even in his native country of Ukraine. He first pops up, under the name E. markeloff, placing 5th at CyberBlizzard in Moscow, Russia, with a UA dtc lineup which featured players who would be future team-mates of his also. Phoenix would play alongside him for over a year and half in the early HellRaisers teams and markeloff would be reunited with pops when he joined UA DTS around three years later.

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2) UA HellRaisers may be a familiar name to modern fans but the lineups which markeloff played as a part of for 2006 and most of 2007 would be anything but recognisable to those who remember their later success in 2009. After winning the 2006 WCG pre-qualifier held in his home city, Dnipropetrovsk, markeloff and his men headed to the main Ukrainian qualifier and placed fourth overall. Most significantly the team's losses came to UA A-gaming, featuring B1ad3 and strike, in the semi-finals and then UA eXplosive, starring craft1k and starix, in the semi-final. Both series had seen markeloff and his team take a map from teams who featured superior players.

3) In late 2007 HellRaisers had an entirely different lineup, save for markeloff, as they featured valentiniCh, basta, Johnta and skif alongside our future Na`Vi man. After some mixed results they managed to win the UACAP final in December of 2007. Along the way markeloff beat out the top Ukrainian teams of the day. In the upper bracket final HR met Zeus, future captain of Na`Vi, and kane's UA pro100. Then in the final itself HR lost the first map narrowly to starix's mighty A-gaming, only a couple of months removed from their impressive bronze medal finish at WCG 2007, but took the second to take the title and $217 in prize money.

4) Early 2008 had seen ANGE1 join up with HellRaisers in place of skif, seeing another longtime team-mates in markeloff's career make their first significant impression. Fresh off a victory over A-gaming at the Ukrainian KODE5 qualifier a month prior HR and markeloff took down the first title of significance in their careers, winning the DTS-Cup in April.

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Not only was $2,506 in prize money a huge step up but the team defeated numerous more well known names en route to the title. In the group stage they beat a very well known FI roccat lineup (ruuit, contE, naSu, plastE and lurppis) and in the playoffs continued to slay names which were either famous then or are now. The quarter-finals saw a two map victory over DE hoorai.de, featuring the likes of silver, Blizzard and fleks, and the final itself was a three map win over xek's EYEsports.

5) Having won the aforementioned Ukrainian KODE5 qualifier markeloff was off to Moscow, Russia, in May of 2008 for the first big international tournament of his career. A date with eventual champions DE mTw in the quarter-finals meant his HR team would not leave with a sniff of the prize money but the group stage had seen them make their mark with international fans, taking down FI roccat once again and tying the DE mouz lineup (Kapio, gore, TIXO, cyx and gob b) which had won the IEM II finals a month before. These were significant scalps to capture for a young Ukrainian team of international unknowns.

6) The rest of 2008 did not quite live up to the promise of potential those international results had hinted at, markeloff did not take down a single title of note in the CIS region. He had even taken a chance and joined A-gaming, initially as the Ukrainian WCG qualifier stand-in for the Russian hooch, but later as a permanent member. Failure to win the qualifier and a loss to Edward and Zeus' RUUA Virtus.Pro in the ASUS Autumn final saw the end of that experiment as markeloff left to play with his friends from HellRaisers, though this time under the UA DTS name and with pops instead of basta.

The new DTS lineup had struggled domestically, losing to a number of the top teams, and there was nothing to suggest they would be a team to watch when they attended the KODE5 Spain qualifier, which was simply held in Spain and open to anyone, in April of 2009. A loss to ES x6tence in the group stage not only put a dent in any expectations for the Ukrainian team but also paired them with mTw in the first round of the upper bracket of the playoffs. Still boasting the lineup which had dominated 2008 and set a new standard for tactical excellence mTw had won the IEM III European Championship title and placed third in the Global Finals two months before, so if anyone was going to beat them it was surely not going to be a team of upstars from Ukraine.

In that playoff match on inferno DTS edged the IEM European champions 16:14. Having gotten revenge on x6 in the upper semi-final markeloff and his men met FI CrackClan (naSu, lurppis, SPIKEONE, plastE, contE) in the upper bracket final. markeloff beat the Finns yet again with a 16:7 train win. Despite all of these upsets DTS was unable to win the KODE5 spot, losing to mTw handidly in the rematch when the final rolled around. Nevertheless the world was taking notice of DTS and in particular their star player: markeloff! Forums quickly began to buzz about this Ukrainian player who was capable of competing with the world's top talent, a situation which had only ever occured once before in CS history: when Edward had become known as the Ukraine's best player.

Image7) DTS finally got a KODE5 spot by winning the Russian qualifier in May and heading the final the same month. The bracket draw once more seemed fated against success for markeloff as he drew the SE fnatic 2009 lineup which was in the process of tearing up the Counter-Strike world in vicious fashion. There would be no miracles this time as DTS lost in two straight maps. Nevertheless the opportunity to impress was there and markeloff managed it. The second map was inferno and on the back of a 21-5 performance from markeloff DTS led at the half 11:4. fnatic rallied to win the second half 12:2 and take the match 16:13 but the markeloff bandwagon got a few more fans that day and the chatter only intensified around this emerging talent.

8) Despite struggles at the DTS and Arbalet Cups, also in May, the month quickly became the most significant of markeloff's career to that point in time as his DTS team had taken on Edward and would win ASUS Spring and, what was then a huge prize of, $4,345. As well as establishing what would become the best 1-2 punch in the history of Ukrainian Counter-Strike, and one of the best of all time, the event saw DTS beat up on all the top teams of the region. The ex-Virtus stars in forZe fell in the quarter-final, AdreN's best ever KZ k23 lineup were dusted off in two straight in the semis and then in the final a three map battle with RU Virtus.Pro (LeX, Xenitron, ROMJkE, diNGo, hooch) went markeloff and DTS' way.

Image9) The rest of 2009 had been far from consistent as DTS suffered numerous losses to go along with a couple of bright spots. In September the team had used v0lt instead of pops for the IEM IV Ukrainian qualifier they placed second in, behind Zeus and ceh9's pro100. That exact lineup left DTS and returned to HellRaisers, leaving pops behind. Here they attended the WCG Ukraine qualifier and found their first success in many months, winning the WCG spot for Chengdu, China.

The new look HR team scored wins over a number of the Ukraine's finest as they beat UA KerchNET (starix, craft1k, lmbt, Kucher and vad1k) and A-gaming (B1ad3, strike, weiss, xaoc and valentiniCh) in the semi-finals and final, respectively. The WCG Grand Finals in China contained little to write home about as markeloff and his men beat a lurppis-less US EG in the group stage and lost in two straight maps to lurppis' other former team-mates in FI PowerGaming in the Ro16.

10) The rest of 2009 was up and down. The same month as WCG HR had placed 2nd at ASUS Autumn, losing only to Dosia and Fox's RU tp.uSports, which was fresh off a fourth place finish at WCG. markeloff's team had managed to beat the new RUKZ UNiTED side (AdreN, N1ck3L, Hooch, ROMJkE and F_1N) and a KerchNET team which looks now like it should have been much better than it was, housing Zeus, ceh9, starix, Kucher and craft1k. The down part of the story came in December as Arbalet Cup Europe in Stockholm, Sweden, had the Ukrainians sent home in 9th-12th place.

December 17th marked possibly the most important roster change of markeloff's career: the construction of the lineup which later became known as Natus Vincere, or Na`Vi for short. Made up Edward and markeloff from HellRaisers and Zeus, ceh9 and starix from KerchNET they had the backing of the wealthy Arbalet and, crucially, starix's IEM IV European Championship finals spot from KerchNET. The latter point also carried significance due to HellRaiser's having lost their chance at that event after mouz refused to reschedule the playoff match which would have been played while the team travelled home from Stockholm.

Nobody knew it at the time but this lineup created in late 2009 would become the most dominant team in the world the very next year, break the prize money record fnatic had set in 2009 and seize all three World Championships in a single year. markeloff's DTS teams had been successful at upsetting bigger names and the second era of HellRaisers had united him with Edward but Na`Vi would take him to higher levels than he could have ever imagined, just as he would them.

11) The way January's IEM IV European Championship ended for Na`Vi, playing under the name KerchNET for that tournament, obviously held major significance looking back on it now, as they had the series vs. mouz on the second map but were unable to close the deal on that map and then suffered a nuke loss to be eliminated outside of the top four. With the fact Na`Vi would drop nuke all year long in international competition and found themselves in a similar scenario against the same DE mouz team at the World Championship which they had to overcome many of the famous 2010 storylines began in that series. Nevertheless the real moment on which everything hangs for Na`Vi took place in the group when they met mTw.

mTw came in as one of the favourites for the whole event, despite lacking Sunde the team who had placed 2nd at Dreamhack Winter and Arbalet Cup Europe were using ArcadioN, who had stood-in at the latter event, in his stead. Na`Vi had lost two of their first three group stage games, falling to mSx's FR oXmoze and SE fnatic, so the Danes had no reason to expect Na`Vi to be anything but a good chance to rectify their own 1-2 record in the group.

ImageThe map was train and things began really well for ave's men, going up 12:3 as CTs over the first half. Swapping over mTw won the pistol round and Na`Vi were in huge trouble, a loss here would have seen them fail to qualify for the playoffs. On this map, which would become Na`Vi's best, and against mTw, the opponent markeloff would relentlessly torture for the next year and a half at least, the Ukrainians began an epic comeback following an eco round win in the second half. They didn't lose another round and after a 13 round winning streak, in total, had taken the map. It's incredible to think how many of the storylines, patterns and themes we'd see played out over the coming year began in Bruhl that week.

12) The very same month Na`Vi, though they had still not quite acquired the name, attended their first Arbalet event. markeloff and Na`Vi won the Arbalet Cup Asia title and $10,000, the first five figure prize of his career. Wins over both CN TyLoo squads in the playoffs and Dosia's RU forZe in the final was enough to secure the first event victory for the Na`Vi name. It was also following this event that the competition to name the team was undertaken.

13) The first domestic heartache of the Na`Vi era had been delivered at Arbalet February as forZe and UA PinG, the second best Ukrainian team, made up of ex-team-mates of Na`Vi, had left them in fourth place at the end of the event and thus without any prize money. A theme which repeat throughout 2010 was that Na`Vi would lose a smaller tournament prior to winning a major event, almost as though those losses helped to debug the team and work out minor or major problems prior to the moment they needed to peak.

Going into the IEM IV World Championship in March nobody knew any such pattern existed yet and Na`Vi were not favourites for the title as DE mouz had won the IEM European Championship, SE fnatic had placed second and SE SK had just acquired Gux. Na`Vi made it out of their group in second place, suffering a dust2 loss to the latter team, and saw a mouz awaiting them in the quarter-finals. As if replaying the script from Bruhl the Ukrainian team won dust2, got close to the finish line on inferno and blew it again to see a third map decide their fate.

This time nuke had been thrown out so it was tuscan, a map famously good for German teams and upon which mouz had just won the European title over fnatic less than two months prior. Little did the world know it but Na`Vi would turn out to be one of the best tuscan teams too and they pulled out the map and series with a gutsy performance in the last round. The semi-finals matched them up with EG and markeloff lived up to his promise to "show to fRoD some new things" in their AWPing battle, getting the better of the American and the the opposition to win in two maps and reach the final.

Reaching the final was momentous enough for Ukrainian CS, no Ukrainian team had ever reached the final of a major event in the history of their scene. It didn't help matters that f0rest and GeT_RiGhT's fnatic stood in their way. Thanks to the manner in which fnatic had crushed SK in the other semi-final everyone seemed set that fnatic would take down this title and continue to be the world's best team. Instead Na`Vi shocked the world once more.

After winning on the first map, a train game which saw markeloff's AWP effective against all levels of opposition once more, the second map had the Ukrainians facing their inferno demons once more. Forced to fight back on the terrorist side, the side which had failed them twice against mouz, Na`Vi and markeloff managed to rally and win the map and the title. Edward's pistol round dominance had swung the advantage ever in Na`Vi's favour, Zeus had crushed fnatic at lower inner on train as CT and ceh9 had gotten some crucial kills on inferno in the final but it was markeloff who stood out as the tournament's MVP. His AWPing and all-around play had been the force propelling his side to the top against seemingly any and all opponents.

markeloff was a world champion, Na`Vi was $50,000 richer and the Na`Vi era had truly begun.

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14) Arbalet Best of Four in April was written off by some as gimmicky in its exhibition nature but thanks to Na`Vi's IEM win the top teams were all scrambling to figure out exactly who was the world's best team at that moment. Na`Vi had taken that title and then returned home to clean house domestically, taking down Arbalet Cup Ukraine. fnatic had two IEM runnerup finishes to their name and a level of consistency to brag about. The other two teams invited to the Kiev tournament were SK Gaming and UNiTED, the CIS superteam. The structure of the event saw each team play one of the others over all five competition maps on each of the three days. After the three days were completed the winner was the one with the most map wins.

On the first day Na`Vi took the lead in the tournament with a 3-1-1 record against SK, winning the first three in a row, tying the fourth and then losing the fifth. On day 2 they steamrolled UNiTED 5-0 to take a huge lead going into the final day, where they'd face fnatic. The rematch of the IEM IV World Championship final was the series everyone wanted to see and fnatic knew they'd have to win at least four maps to tie Na`Vi, and all five to win the title outright.

Na`Vi took down the first map and then the second, tuscan, began with Edward's epic CT pistol round ownage. After securing the tuscan win Na`Vi had won the title and though fnatic won the additional maps, and extra money put up by Arbalet to try and motivate both teams to continue to compete, Na`Vi had proven a point to the CS world. Those who pinned Na`Vi as a flash-in-the-pan had been shown to be painfully off-base.

Image15) In May Arbalet Cup Europe returned to Stockholm and Na`Vi took second at the event, losing to fnatic in the final. That's not the key moment I wish to highlight here though. Instead the semi-final vs. mTw springs to mind as another chapter in the story between the two teams. mTw had taken that hard-to-swallow loss on train at the IEM European Final but they could always have put it down to lacking Sunde, their star AWPer of 2008 fame. With Sunde back in the lineup mTw would meet Na`Vi in the first group stage in Stockholm, losing 3:27 on inferno. Later the two teams would rematch in the semi-finals and Na`Vi continued to run right through them, winning in two straight maps and sending a message to the Danes: you will never beat us! Indeed they never would.

16) The pattern of losing an event before winning an even bigger one repeated that Summer as Na`Vi fell to SK at Dreamhack Summer, leading to mTw winning their final international tournament. Going into ESWC the playing field seemed wide open again. fnatic's victory at Arbalet had been decisive, with their monsterous win on inferno, and now SK had gotten the better of the Ukrainians, not to mention mTw returning to the top tier fully. When Na`Vi struggled in the second group stage, squeaking through, nobody expected them to hit a new peak of form beyond anything we'd seen before, perhaps ever.

The playoffs of ESWC were one of the most brutally overwhelming runs from one team in the history of Counter-Strike, with markeloff right in the centre of it owning teams left, right and centre with his AWP. In the quarter-finals Na`Vi met fnatic again but this time returned the favour of that Arbalet Cup Europe inferno map as after winning the first map, train, the Ukrainian team annihilated cArn's men on dust2 16:1, with markeloff repeatedly picking off f0rest near the CT double doors. If Arbalet Cup Europe had reopened the debate on who was the world's best team then Na`Vi had just emphatically began to restate their case.

In the next round they met mTw in another semi-final. After rolling over the Danes 16:5 on dust2 ave's men offered some resistance as they won an overtime tuscan game to knot the series. The third map was more unbelievable domination from Na`Vi as they put another 16:1 victory on one of the world's elite teams, winning the train decider after a first half 14:1 as CTs. SK had not won an international event all year but the Swedes were Na`Vi's opponent in the final and Gux and company were all that stood in the way of Na`Vi claiming their second World Championship level title.

SK looked to be in good shape as they became the first team in the playoffs to withstand markeloff's dust2 AWPing, taking the first map. The next map was train though and Na`Vi showed why they will go down as one of the greatest, if the not the greatest, train teams of all time. A 16:5 thrashing from markeloff's men, as his AWP locked down the outside bombsite with a fearsome ferocity, and the series was going to a third map: inferno. Any concerns that inferno would betray them again were unfounded as Na`Vi rolled to a 16:4 win and the ESWC title.

After the two major titles of the year had been contested Na`Vi had captured both, already heading for one of the all time great years. markeloff's men took down a very tasty $36,000 in prize money to boot.

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17) That same July Na`Vi took down another Arbalet event, winning Arbalet Cup Dallas and $25,000. fnatic had chosen not to attend and SK had just lost Gux, leaving the dangers to Na`Vi at mTw and mouz. When they drew mTw in the quarter-final it was certain one of the world's elite teams was going home with a very disappointing final placing and despite the very best efforts of the Danes it wasn't Na`Vi watching the rest of the tournament from the sidelines. mTw had pushed Na`Vi and markeloff to their limits over two maps, both going into overtime, but a mixture of Ukrainian clutch play and starix stepping up secured both for Na`Vi.

In the semi-final underdogs EG initially surprised Na`Vi with a map one stomping on tuscan but then fell by the wayside all two easily on the next two maps. Na`Vi was through to the final and all that stood between markeloff's men and another title was the mouz team they had matched up so entertainingly with in the two IEM events. The series was highly competitive, as mouz pushed map one into overtime, but Na`Vi took both maps and another title for their resumes.

Na`Vi had reached almost $150,000 in prize money in less than seven full months of the year. markeloff's winnings for the past two years combined had amounted to less than $22,000 in total. 2010's most effective player was on top of the world in every sense.

18) Amazingly it would be over two months before Na`Vi won another event. GameGune had seen single elimination and nuke put them out without too much of a fight, an all-time great semi-final series vs. fnatic at IEM V Shanghai had not gone their way and domestically they had been upset a number of times. They had, however, won the Ukrainian WCG qualifier and were off to Los Angeles on a quest for the third and final World Championship of the year. The previous two wins had been incredible enough, surely they would not triumph in LA too and take the triple.

That Na`Vi faced one of the most brutal sides of a playoff bracket is an understatement, and even more crazy when one considers they would have faced mTw in the quarter-finals had the Danes not thrown a game to get on the other side of the bracket. Wins over SE Lions in the Ro16 and PL Frag eXecutors in the semi-finals setup another Na`Vi-mTw confrontation, this time for the WCG gold medal.

ImageNa`Vi took the first map and on the second, tuscan, were in position to push through and take the medals right then and there. Instead mTw mounted a huge comeback and tied the series, leaving train the decider. train had never failed Na`Vi in an international tournament and it didn't now. Despite the game going into double overtime Na`Vi were always the team pushing the pace in those high-pressure sessions, mTw forced to claw back into the game. Eventually the Danes relented and Na`Vi had scored the seemingly impossible triple in modern day CS: winning the IEM World Championship, ESWC and the WCG. Another $25,000 went in the books for Zeus and company.

markeloff's AWPing had once again been the engine driving Na`Vi's impeccable train CT sides. He now had a gold medal hanging around his neck, one year removed from his first ever WCG appearance.

19) Events without map dropping or Bo3 structure were not Na`Vi's friends in 2010 and a fourth at WEM had shown their difficulties with single elimination again. Amazingly though it had been two train losses which had eliminated them. The final event of the year for all the top teams was to be Dreamhack Winter. fnatic's Gux lineup had boycotted the WCG but they would be at the Swedish event, mTw had taken in ArcadioN in Sunde's place to try and change things up and FX were hungry for another title after starting slowly that year.

The fnatic lineup had mentioned a number of times their map record being favourable vs. Na`Vi and having beaten the Ukrainians at GameGune and IEM V Shanghai felt like perhaps adding Gux back in had put them over the top vs. the Ukrainians. The two teams met in the quarter-finals at Dreamhack and Na`Vi put the Swedes in check with a win in the three map series. FX fell in two straight in the semis and mTw likewise couldn't take a map from Na`Vi as the Ukrainians closed out 2010 strong and taking the $14,326.

Na`Vi had broken the prize money records of yesteryear, won more titles in a year than anyone in history, won all three of the World Championship level events and left the rest of the CS world scrambling to shuffle their rosters to find a lineup which could best the team from Ukraine. markeloff was not only a member of the world's best team but he was the world's best player and found himself looking at his split of $211,725.
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20) 2010 had been so spectacular that markeloff and Na`Vi's fall in 2011 was all the more shocking. January's IEM V European Championship had them losing group stage matches to new look fnatic and Lions teams. In the semi-finals they once more lost to fnatic, this time on a deciding third map of train and had to sit back and watch that Swedish team go on to the title. The third place decider saw even more disappointment in store as a strong FX side beat them into fourth place.

The long wait until March's IEM V World Championship had given everyone plenty of time to ruminate on Na`Vi's losses and many were calling it the definitive end of the Na`Vi era. Sure they might win a tournament here or there but it seemed as though they would never dominate again. In fact they wouldn't, but they would remain one of the most clutch teams in the biggest tournaments.

mTw and FX looked to be the strongest teams on paper, each having impressive showings in Kiev, and being almost assured to progressed from their group. Getting out of their own group in second put Na`Vi on a collision course with both if they were to take the crown. Beating BR coL.br in the quarter-final setup another mTw semi-final matchup. mTw had to hope the addition of ArcadioN could somehow change the matchup, even if hadn't at Dreamhack Winter 2010. Na`Vi won the first map, yet another train win, and lost the second, inferno, to the Danish side.

The decider was tuscan, the map mTw had won at ESWC and WCG. Throw in that the Danes had pushed Na`Vi into overtime on the same map at Arbalet Cup Dallas and that they were one of the world's best teams on the map and surely this was mTw's chance to finally beat Na`Vi if ever there were one? No, a 12 round terrorist first half from Na`Vi quickly crushed Danish dreams of the title. mTw rallied for a comeback but much too late and saw the final pass them by as they were shunted into the third place decider.

Despite that win over mTw Na`Vi were not necessarily the favourites going into the final. FX had looked incredibly strong in Kiev, losing an impossibly tight semi vs. mTw and then beating up Na`Vi in the third place decider. Here in Hannover they had survived a resurgent SK Gaming team in a nail-biting third map decider. Both of the teams in the final had won an IEM finals title before, though admittedly FX's 2007 title was not close to being as prestigious at the time as Na`Vi's 2010 version. Whoever took the title would become the first team to two, and Na`Vi had the chance to repeat as champions for the first time in history.

The final began on train and despite a very solid CT first half FX were unable to deliver their classic T side aggression in the fact of Na`Vi's amazing CT defense. The Ukrainians ran out the game 12:1 in the second half to take map one. The second map was dust2 and again the Poles put a solid first half on the board, winning 9 T rounds. Again Na`Vi swapped sides and blasted past NEO and company. 10:1 as T saw Na`Vi cast aside the golden foursome and repeat as IEM World Champions. A somewhat less impressive $30,450 for this title couldn't dampen their spirits as they went four for four in World Championship level events and once more struck fear into the hearts of the CS world. Na`Vi were back, it seemed.

markeloff's patented big game performances had been less noticable at this event, but Edward had picked up the slack to keep Na`Vi on top.

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21) Following the heartbreak of the IEM final in Hannover the Poles of FX seemed a team possessed when they headed to Kiev for the ICSC7 LAN final only a few weeks later. Charging to the final to meet Na`Vi one had the feeling that they wanted to get in there and face the Ukrainians as soon as possible to prove that they were capable of beating them and helping wipe out the memory of the IEM letdown. Everything was going to plan on map one as FX won nuke, which Na`Vi had chosen not to toss, 16:12. dust2 was the second map and FX narrowly lost 14:16 as they fell short of equally Na`Vi 11 round T side performance.

The decider was inferno and 9 T rounds gave FX a big chance at victory as CTs. Each team went on runs in the second half but FX had some key rounds go their way and were coming on strong late in the game. The final round had them 14:15 down but big kills near the top of the banana left markeloff in a 1v3 with the bomb planted and low health. Gambling by choosing to stand behind the double box nearest the CT arch entrance to the site, where CTs often spam bullets for someone hiding/standing, markeloff managed to find everything go in his favour as he pulled out a heroic round win.

NEO bunnyhopped past the box, being instantly headshot by the Ukrainian. TaZ was stood behind the wall to his right and markeloff spammed right into his head. The last man was loord, who was slowly coming up the banana prior to his team-mates deaths and then decided to rush in from behind markeloff, who had adjusted his position and sprayed the Pole down. Na`Vi had won ICSC7 and cemented in FX's minds that they would not be beaten by them when it mattered.

22) The rest of 2011 saw no trophies of note for Na`Vi and markeloff saw a string of third places added to his list of accomplishments. In spite of all of this he remained one of the world's best players and continued to put up impressive performances, even in some Na`Vi losses. The rest of the year's tournaments had been won by SK and FX, the Delpan-equipped Swedish side hovering up a bunch of events and FX taking e-Stars from them in overtime. That meant that despite the lack of trophies markeloff and Na`Vi only had two teams who could stake a claim to being better than them. At the next two events Na`Vi would beat those two teams, one at each event, to remain relevant as an elite level team.

At SEC Na`Vi found themselves facing SK Gaming in the quarter-finals and beat them in two maps straight, though ended the event with an infamous loss to AGAiN in the final. In winning that quarter-final Na`Vi had become the second team in 2011 to beat SK, crucially suggesting that their loss at Dreamhack Summer in the semi-final had not been so definitive on the matchup. At ESWC they would face both teams again, once more failing to win the title but once again beating one of the world's best teams.

ImageIn the semi-final of the Paris-based event markeloff's men met the Poles as each sought another World Championship, and Na`Vi hoped to tie Pentagram's record of back-to-back ESWC finals and victories. AGAiN made the same mistake SK had at SEC, by allowing tuscan in the map pool, and suffered a two map loss of their own. Na`Vi reached an incredible fifth straight World Championship final, a record which will surely never be matched, and there lost to SK. The first map had markeloff and company go up big, see the game pulled back to even and then lose in overtime. The second, dust2, was SK all the way and the Swedes pushed past them to the crown.

23) Dreamhack Winter was another event which had Na`Vi reach the final four, fail to win the event and finish up with a top 3 placing. It had its own special moment though for markeloff: the quarter-final game vs. SK. When the two teams had been drawn so early in the bracket it was another case of two elite level teams battling to be the one who had a chance of going home with a respectable placing. Na`Vi cleaned up on the first map, dust2, and markeloff showed off his classic catwalk exit AWPing from the rail ramp in A.

Map two was train and SK began with a solid 10 CT rounds. The two teams were trading early on Na`Vi's CT half and it meant SK were able to reach map point at 15:10 overall. Na`Vi faced the task of winning all five remaining rounds to reach overtime, and knowing they couldn't slip up once and have a site irrepairably overrun by the SK AKs. markeloff went to work with his AWP, which is always so fluid and devastating on CT side of train, but there was plenty of help from his team as different players were called upon to win in high pressure moments to keep Na`Vi alive. They reached overtime but the pressure from the Swedes was not close to over.

Two overtime sessions came and went with the same exact pattern played out: SK would win the CT half 2:1 and then go up 3:2 in the second half of the overtime session. Then Na`Vi would have to win the last round to force overtime, never being in a position to actually win the game themselves. Every time Na`Vi faced elimination another player from their lineup seemed to pull out a big play at the right time. Finally in the third overtime the Swedes could no longer push the pace and it was Na`Vi's turn to take a stab at winning the match.
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markeloff's team tied the map in the 46th round, reached their first ever lead in the 47th and won the series outright on the 48th. They had outlasted SK in the marathon train war, surely one of the very greatest of all time, and markeloff had put another classic into his vault of great train performances. His statistics for the series were a staggering 71-37 for a +34 impact. All of which against the ESWC champions and likely the world's best team at that moment. It wasn't 2010, so the tournament hadn't ended with a trophy, but markeloff remained the world's most effective player when he was on top of his game.

24) Forced to sit and watch SK and ESC.pl battle for the last significant title of the year, WCG, markeloff and Na`Vi initially didn't even qualify for IEM VI Kiev, and so would have been faced with being unable to attend the IEM in their home country. Not only had they lost in the Ukrainian qualifier, to DTS, but the online qualifier had seen them upset short of the five open spots. As it happened teams from America and Asia were unable to attend and Na`Vi got in. The same event, albeit it renamed and restructured, had been a nightmare for them 12 months before and they came in with question marks over their heads.

It had been around 10 or so months since Na`Vi'd last won an international tournament and with ESC sat at home, also having failed to qualify, SK looked to be favourites for the title. When Na`Vi lost their group stage game against those Swedes it looked as though the new Na`Vi experiment had hit a speedbump. Due to Zeus' time being taken up by being a father he had stepped aside as the tactician of the team, leaving that role to veteran player starix. The team had switched some positions and now one could reasonably wonder if some of the Na`Vi magic had gone, being as they relied heavily on Zeus' tactical genius.

The semi-finals had a date set with fnatic, the same side which had beaten Na`Vi at BEAT IT Russia in the semi-finals, winning on train like a different lineup had done in Kiev at the European Championship of IEM that year. This time around Zeus' freed up hands were shooting heads instead of moulding incredible strategies and Na`Vi moved to the final after two maps played. There they met the inevitable SK showdown. SK had looked the strongest of all the teams in the tournament to that point. The Swedes would leave looking sheepish and having been soundly embarrassed. markeloff did his thing and more importantly Zeus continued to rampage in his new-found individual role.

An inferno which began with a monster 12:3 T half ended quickly enough 16:3, with a shutout second half. The second map was train and Na`Vi laid a 14 round beating on the Swedish elite team, all but closing out the map right then and there. SK stayed alive for six rounds but then it was over and the title went over to Na`Vi.

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markeloff has accomplished so much in such a short space of time at the top. After 24 years on this Earth, almost $350,000 in prize winnings and four World Championship titles it seems unlikely the Ukrainian sniper's time has come to an end yet.

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(Photographs courtesy of fragbite, gameinside, proplay and others)


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