CS:GO analyst Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez dives into why Gambit still have something to prove if they are to be regarded among the world’s best.

Less than a month ago, Gambit put a brand new trophy on the shelf. It was one of the most impressive and meaningful this roster has ever claimed. The IEM Katowice championship trophy. 

The community consensus was simple: This was confirmation of what we all saw was coming since the end of 2020. Winners of the Dreamhack Open in November and semi-finalists in December, Gambit entered the new year with momentum.

Their mission in 2021? To take a leap of faith and enter the halls of Counter-Strike’s elite, according to Gambit's CEO.  "As for this year, the team has set the goal of establishing itself in the top five in the world," said Konstantin "groove" Pikiner to HLTV.org.

Needless to say, winning IEM Katowice was the best possible way to make a statement of that intent. Yet, such Cinderella stories usually come at a price. The next few events are when Gambit’s will be truly tested, and realistically things might get tough for the CIS squad.

A fresh target on their back

As much as I refuse to downplay Gambit’s championship run during IEM Katowice, I believe it would be disingenuous to pretend that all participants considered them the biggest threat of the competition. We could even take another perspective and think whether Gambit was even a reference for teams to study or talk about at the very high level community. 

Either way you look at it, the general knowledge about Gambit, their general mindset and approach of Counter-Strike, their preferred strategies and game styles, their individuals’ patterns etc., was nowhere near what you’d expect for top teams like Astralis or Natus Vincere. 

Although Gambit had raised eyebrows left and right before Katowice, the amount of time and effort teams generally dedicated to studying their stratbook was probably limited. This is about to change drastically. Winning a title like this automatically puts a team under the microscope to be analyzed and picked apart by the community, the experts and their future opponents.

Gambit were IEM Katowice champions in February 2021
Gambit were IEM Katowice champions in February 2021

Gambit must adapt yet keep their identity

Becoming harder to read without losing their identity, that will be one of the hardest tasks Gambit have had to deal with up until this moment. This goes way deeper than simply having a variation of pistol rounds and order of executes. I am talking about being able to modify flexibly some of the plans a team likes to go through.

There are two main routes top teams take to mask their intentions. The first is to alter the timings of their execution, by taking map control in a slower or faster way. Alternatively, they use the same set of utilities with different endings, thus making their final plan harder to read. 

 It isn’t humanly possible to recreate and entirely renew a stratbook from one event to the other. On top of that, the rhythm with which teams play official games right now adds another layer of difficulty.  There is limited time for theorycrafting and pure practices. Yet, the very best teams have the ability to trick their opponents with minute details changed without descending into “chaotic” Counter-Strike. If Gambit can do it, they’ll remain one step ahead of their opponent. If not, they’ll get caught up by the pack. 

New expectations, new pressure

Certainly any team pulling off an upset of the magnitude of IEM Katowice will see the expectations about its future performances change. Gambit will have to deal with it and the pressure that comes attached.

 It is also worth mentioning that pressure will be intrinsic and extrinsic. It is a battle on multiple fronts. First of all, the community will expect them to perform at a high level every single game from this point onwards. This is a cruel reality. 

The champions we crown, we will very quickly put down if they fail to maintain their level.  Any unwarranted loss will result in displays of disappointment from the community and it can be tough to shield oneself from these reactions. Yet, this isn’t even the worst kind of pressure. After an amazing result like snatching the Katowice trophy, the enemy might come from within.

 If not properly mentored by the experienced members of the squad or the staff, Gambit could set themselves up for failure by expecting, in theory, to win every single series. 

Losses, disappointments and tough times will still happen. This is the case for any other relatively young squad that is rising through the ranks and establishing itself as a top team. The question that matters is how Gambit will handle the obstacles on their way to a stable seat at the big boys’ table. 

It is of the utmost importance that this team sees their Katowice championship title not as a final accomplishment, per se, but as a step in the right direction. A direction they will have to keep following with endless efforts, forcing themselves to feel like they have to prove everything every time. 

The future of Gambit

The voyage towards greatness is paved with different challenges. The tasks, efforts and risks pertaining to the different phases a team goes through can differ greatly depending on the types of tournaments and opponents they play. 

By winning IEM Katowice, Gambit positioned themselves in the purgatory between the dark horses and the favorites. They’ll have to jump through multiple rings of fire to establish themselves as a top team beyond reasonable doubt. 

It is a leap of faith that can take time and even multiples attempts to accomplish. Granted the discipline and the work ethics are present in the Gambit camp. However, I would propose that the real challenge will be mental from now on. 

This young squad will have to let their championship title fuel them with motivation without letting it cloud their judgment. Underestimating their future opponents or burdening themselves with unreasonable expectations could be disastrous.

That face of the coin can hurt if not handled properly. Part of becoming one of the very best teams in the world is successfully overcoming the different types of pressure and expectations on the way. Therefore, the next few months will be a true test for this Gambit line-up and I wish them the best. Their Counter-Strike is exciting to watch and I selfishly want more of it at the top level.