It may not be the ELEAGUE Atlanta Major, but the UK has some of it’s own domestic LAN events to look forward to. The first UK LAN is always a highly competitive affair, mixed with a lot of intriguing results, new lineups, and incredible drama to boot. With epic.TWENTY around the corner in the next couple of weeks, I have started sitting down with various team representatives and their thoughts on a wide ranging array of subjects going over previous LAN results, their thoughts on the UK Scene, epic.LAN in general, and their own team and what they are hoping to achieve with the current roster. This is the third of six interviews with various team captains and team players. This time we speak to Nika “NK” Khaburzania, who is team captain of SKUM Gaming.
Nika isn’t really known in this neck of the woods. His history actually begins in Georgia, and when he was a younger person at 10 – 11 years old, he would be travelling around the country for various LAN events in Counter-Strike 1.6. He went on to play for the national team of Georgia in the Clanbase Nations Cup (one of the biggest online websites at the time for leagues, events and competitions) and also featured in the European Nations Championship which was also hosted by Clanbase at the time.
After the CS 1.6 era came to a close, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive rolled in, Nika decided it was time to take a competitive break, and focus on his studies. In 2014, things changed, and he ended up playing in Georgia’s World Championship’s side in CS:GO for the next two years. Unfortunately the team didn’t quite qualify for the playoffs.
After moving to the UK for the purposes around studies, Nika managed to team up with Hawkins, and actively played in Gfinity’s weekly cups. He also competed in theNUEL’s University League, and attended the LAN Finals for that too. Whilst he had been playing during this time, Nika refused an offer from a Russian organisation called ELTZ, which is a team that has developed some of the CS:GO scene’s finest talents such as Mou & s1mple. However, just after insomnia59, and the former SKUM Gaming breaking up after a fairly successful LAN event (making it to R1 of the reformed Elimination bracket), Nika & Hawkins managed to form a new team with DUKK, Mmuffin & FiLLeR which is now on a path to epic.TWENTY and future LAN events this year.
Talk me around your team, and the roles within your team, and how all of you came to be?
Hawkins & I have been playing together for more than 2 years. I always believed one day we could make UK team that could succeed, and I still believe in this. Hawkins introduced me to DUKK, we started playing together and we actually enjoyed it. The idea to create a team together was born at that point. Muffin and Filler used to play together in a team and they were great pair, we knew they were looking for a new team and we asked them to join us.
About the roles, DUKK is main awper for our team, muffin is the best support player I have ever played with, hawkins is cold blooded entry fragger which hates playing slow because can’t wait to kill people, filler has lurking role in the team. I am in-game leader and secondary awper. We’ve been a team for just over a month now, after both Muffin & Filler were part of the former SKUM Gaming who headed to insomnia59 in December.
What are the particular hopes and aims of this current lineup, and how well do you get on with each other outside of the game?
We want a seat at the table in this scene and we are working hard for it. We hope to do well on epic20, get in top4 in UK Gaming Tours, and win ESEA open. This team is very ambitious and we are never happy with our results, we try to improve after each game, I think without ambition there will be no success in any sport, and ambition is something that keeps players work really hard. Our main hope and goal is to prove ourselves on LAN. We are all good friends outside of the game, there is great chemistry between us which helps us a lot.
Last week, there was a particularly controversial sentiment put out about you as a player, talk me through the match against exceL eSports and how well you all seemed to play in that match?
I think exceL players played better then us individually, and the reason was my teammate’s gave them a lot of respect. It was our first match against a team of that calibre from UK and when you are playing your countrymen you want to prove yourself even more, its not only about qualifying. All of this led to my players being a little bit nervous and could not show full potential, I could see that as their IGL. On the other side, I did not know their history so I did not give them the comfort of playing as favourites.
In overtime, I started to get nervous as we were on edge of winning/losing and we gave them a 1v4 situation, which means a lot in the grand scheme of things. I also started making stupid mistakes and not thinking a lot, but I guess the other team were in the same situation too. In the end, we won and I think reason was that they gave us too much space.
I could just go underpass to connector every round from T side in overtime and lurk until I could kill them all from behind, without them punishing me. Same happened from CT, I went to palace about 6-7 times without getting punished. Now, after reviewing POV of the match with the team, I can say that they would win if they did not give me that much space.
Was there a particular turning point in that match that you feel was the reason for you winning and ultimately progressing?
I don’t think there was a particular turning point. The turning point would be if we lost the game because of the 1v4 in the last round, but after that it was always back and forth, until one team came out as a winner. I think there were many mistakes from both teams and that led to many overtimes.
How do you feel the cheating allegations will specifically help or hinder you at next week’s epic.TWENTY?
Well, that’s a hard question. I guess only time will tell. I don’t think it matters a lot for me, generally its always hard to play under pressure, does not matter what is the reason of being under pressure, but I am confident that I will help my team to take top place in the tournament, I know what I am capable of and I won’t be expecting anything less than that from myself.
Turning to epic.TWENTY in a week, what are your thoughts on epic.LAN as an event, what attracted you and your team to the event, and how do you see the event in terms of success?
We’re attracted due to the fact that it is the first UK LAN of the year and we’re excited to see how we compete against the other UK teams as we’re still relatively inexperienced in that respect.
How confident are you about your team’s chances at epic.TWENTY? Where are you realistically looking to finish?
It’s our first LAN together, of course we want to win it, but we won’t be disappointed with a fourth place finish for example. So realistically we are aiming for top 4 finish.
Is there any team you are potentially looking at, like a dark horse to be worried about?
There is no-one we are specifically looking at, we just want to go there and play our game without thinking about our opponents. I think everyone will be looking at us to see how we perform offline, around the accusations against me. From talent going, it should be a close LAN, where anything can happen and anyone can take it.
In your honest opinion, who is the star player on your team, and outside of just the game, what do they bring to the table?
Honestly, if you go through our past games, we have no specific star player. Every player carries the team at some point and does tend to show up their star potential when it matters. We’ve only recently started playing together so I guess time will show who will take the star role. I’m being very diplomatic at this point.
What are your thoughts on the UK Scene currently, do you feel it is a much tougher scene now or do you feel there is still much to do within the scene?
From what I can see, there are some great players individually, but teams are not playing strategically. Also, many talented players are playing with different mixes in every tournament. I think this is the main problem of UK scene at the moment, teams should stick together for longer period, as success does not come within days. Also, players should give more respect to newcomers and help support them. If everyone is toxic to each other, they will never want to play together in future, which is a big problem.
How have you found your online games in the various leagues and events you participate in and how much do you read into any surprising results you may suffer?
We haven’t had any upsets we’ve either won or drawn our league games and with regards to losing a couple maps it tends to be due to miscommunication or the fact we’re still learning each others play-styles.
Any final shoutouts?
I want to thank SKUM Gaming for all their support, especially Sinatra and HB. I also want to thank my team for being with me when I needed the most.
SKUM Gaming are heading to epic.TWENTY with the following roster:
Nika “NK” Khaburzania
Christopher “MMuffin” Williams
Jack “DUKK” Mason
Rhys “Hawkins” Hawkins
Daniel “FiLLeR” Gunko
We will be having three more interviews over the coming week with a variety of teams, so make sure you keep in touch with UKCSGO in the run up and during epic.TWENTY through our Facebook & Twitter pages.