Few teams have had as tumultuous a string of international events in 2023 as BetBoom Team. Despite not finishing below third in the Eastern Europe Dota Pro Circuit for all three tours of the year, BetBoom has had to absorb various challenges in different ways and forms for nearly all the major events they participated in.
Illness plagued the team's performance which led to their 15-16th placement at the Lima Major. Over at the Berlin Major, the absence of Ivan "Pure" Moskalenko forced the team to field a stand-in, leading to a disappointing 13-14th place finish. Finally, at the Bali Major, a disqualification for Pure due to him violating tournament rules by watching a stream during a pause and the subsequent overturning of BetBoom's upper bracket win over Tundra doomed their run to finishing 9-12th.
Nevertheless, for all of BetBoom's misgivings, the team stayed afloat both in and out of the game. In recent months, they went 5-6th at the Riyadh Masters, placed second in DreamLeague Season 20 and are expected to achieve at least top three in DL Season 21. Lest it be said, BetBoom shouldn't be a team looked down upon.
With an eye towards TI 12, BLIX caught up with BetBoom's Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO" Khertek for an interview about the progression of his team throughout the 2023 DPC, how they overcame all the struggles they experienced within that same time frame, how he has moved on from his stint with Team Spirit and more.
Adjusting to a new team
Pedro Romero, BLIX: You're just coming off of competing in the BetBoom Dacha tournament and Riyadh Masters. How are you seeing the state of the team right now from your perspective with DreamLeague coming up?
Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO" Khertek: I think our team is fine now. We didn't succeed on the BetBoom Dacha but it was more just about the format because we went to 3-3 and we played to a tie with the other teams in our group. Even so, I felt we are getting better by every game because we had spent weeks where we didn't play Dota at all and we only just started playing at that Dacha. So yeah, we are getting better and we are going to play more scrims before DreamLeague so I think we will be ready and prepared enough to win games and the tournament.
BLIX: You mentioned the team's return to competition with their appearance in the BetBoom Dacha. What did you do specifically during the break in terms of preparation? Did you play the game at all? Did you just focus on relaxing or anything like that?
TORONTOTOKYO: It depends. I went to Tokyo with my girlfriend just for chilling, going to restaurants and et cetera, but when I was home, I had nothing to do and I love Dota, so when I have nothing to do, I am usually playing. But when I'm trying to prepare for a tournament, of course I'm playing that more.
BLIX: Covering your contribution to the team, everybody knows about you joining BetBoom after being with Team Spirit for a few years beforehand and in doing so, you had to switch your roles from Position 2 to being hard support. In switching roles, what has been the biggest adjustment you had to make in trying to work with your new team
TORONTOTOKYO: I don't know. It's a hard question— not really hard, but also simple because I needed to change to the new role so all we needed to do was learn more about Dota and about my new position. Of course, with a new team, I was talking with them and trying to be better.
BLIX: Which aspect was most difficult for you when it comes to learning your new role? Was it just communication or was it actually learning how to play it?
TORONTOTOKYO: I wouldn't say it was something really hard or difficult. Of course, there are some aspects like I was not laning on the side. I was leaning on the mid-lane alone and that's new stuff. And I wouldn't say something is harder than the other. They're all important in addition to communicating with your mid player because, for instance, we would have two supports and a mid player that are playing early-game and they need to communicate really good. But the issue I will choose as the most difficult is maybe communicating with your mid player from the support perspective.
BLIX: That said, the team went through an up and down season such as finishing at the top of the DPC in Eastern Europe and not doing as well in the Lima, Berlin and Bali Majors. How have you been supporting your BetBoom teammates throughout the season given that you're the oldest member of the team and have the most experience in relation to them?
TORONTOTOKYO: It depends, you know? It depends on how we lose or was the tournament and I wouldn't say it was a really bad tournament for us. There were some situations, like in Lima, we all got sick and we couldn't play normally, and in Berlin, we had a stand-in. We performed well at Bali and we were already top six before we got kicked and I think we would even have gotten bigger when everything was in really good shape.
Now in Dacha, with the format, we just started to play better and better but we didn't know that a win got you three points, not two so we didn't really prepare very hard for the games because we knew we would make it from the groups to the upper bracket. And we didn't play at our best. We were just practicing heroes and tactics because it's a new patch, so if you just watch the team from a critical standpoint, you just see that all is good and everyone understands. Everyone accepts all the orders in an easy way because we understand the reasons why we lost.
Moving on from Team Spirit
BLIX: In Team Spirit, you were surrounded by well-known individuals and established veterans such as Miposhka [Yaroslav Naidenov], Collapse [Magomed Khalilov], Yatoro [Illya Mulyarchuk] and Mira [Myroslav Kolpakov]. To go from that to here, in which, although there's not much as collective experience in terms of competition, there are nonetheless a group of talented individuals, how has that changed your perspective as a leader and player?
TORONTOTOKYO: I think BetBoom and Spirit are pretty much similar teams in playing style from my perspective. Both teams are really talented and most teams have said that also and the players have good individual skills. I would say that's the same, but in BetBoom, we're trying to have good early-game and mid-game strategies.
We're just trying to play in one prepared way for every game, but I think Spirit is playing more freely. Like I said, BetBoom are trying to play one prepared way, but Spirit are playing as if every game is new for them. And sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work, but if I have to choose, I like BetBoom's style more.
BLIX: Touching upon Spirit's TI10 victory, you were described as a level-headed player that supported the rest of your teammates and helped them refocus on the task at hand. That said, do you still see yourself as a level-headed player from those TI10 days at this moment in time?
TORONTOTOKYO: You always need to understand that Dota is a team game. It's not always about one player or two players. Everyone should feel really good and you should make sure that everyone is in a good mood and etc. If someone is playing bad because of something, you have to try to fix it. It's all about winning and you have to do everything.
TORONTOTOKYO….finally in Tokyo
BLIX: Rewinding to an earlier part of the competition, you were finally able to reach Tokyo so what was your favorite place that you visited during that vacation?
TORONTOTOKYO: It was always a dream for me to go to Tokyo. I didn't have enough time for the past few years maybe and now I have visited Tokyo and I'm pretty happy. My favorite places, I would say, were all about the food. When I travel, I'm trying to visit all the best restaurants as I can. It was really nice, the restaurants in Tokyo. I really enjoyed the sushi and ramen. They’re like my favorite dishes.
BLIX: I know that you're a big fan of anime so which anime character best resembles yourself as a pro player?
TORONTOTOKYO: I don't know. Maybe Naruto.
BLIX: Why select that character?
TORONTOTOKYO: Because he has a goal and he's trying to reach it no matter what with the people around him and it's the same for me. I'm trying to reach my goal and I have people behind me and we are all working hard to succeed.
BLIX: That said, when is the trip to Toronto coming? When is that going to happen?
TORONTOTOKYO: I don't know. I heard Toronto is a really nice city as well and it's Canada which is a really good country. When I have time, we will see. Maybe after TI but it also depends on visa. I'm not sure if it's hard for me to get a visa for Canada or not. It all depends, but yeah, I'm planning in the future for sure. I will visit.
BLIX: With everything that we discussed about yourself and your contribution to BetBoom, what are your expectations for this team not just in DreamLeague but also in TI12?
TORONTOTOKYO: I really believe that we are a really strong team. I would say that BetBoom is gonna be the best team. Maybe we'll need some time and it will be a really big time for this team to be at the top once we do. I think we have a really good chance for TI and all the other big tournaments next year. I would not say we will win 100% because it's TI. You need some luck, of course, to win but I think we will be top three at least.