One of the brightest young talents in the game, Daniil "headtr1ck" Valitov has been a key figure for NIP for a while now. The team faced disappointment at the BLAST.tv Paris Major, but since the return of Hampus "hampus" Poser, the team has so far defeated Vitality to qualify for BLAST Premier Fall Final and now qualified for the IEM Cologne Group Stage.
After their qualification and the nailbiter of a third map versus Imperial, we spoke to headtr1ck about the game, the difference between hampus and Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen, and the potential this new NIP team has to succeed.
Sam “AN1MO” McKenzie, BLIX: A close game there with Imperial almost making the comeback but you got the win in the end, how are you feeling?
headtr1ck: I'm very happy about our game management today, I think we had really good game management and we fired up each other. It was a really intense game, in some small details we were better, but to balance it, Imperial played really good, I like how they play. They're still a new team so they have a bright future.
BLIX: You had a huge round winning that 1v1 versus HEN1, can you take us through the 1v1?
headtr1ck: Oh it was insane. I killed the guy on hut and it was a 1v1, I thought I needed to jump down vents but when I went down I saw his legs and I thought 'I'm fucked'. So I instantly tried to get back up and then I faked once, he smoked off, then I was holding Hut, holding door, and I didn't know where he was so I just decided to go. And then when I was door I saw he was coming so I just decided to hide. It was a crazy round. It was good.
BLIX: You've been playing really well recently, is that just the continued development in tier one or is it something you've worked on with hampus since he came back?
headtr1ck: It's everything together. Our coach [djL] helps me the most, and overall I feel more comfortable now. It's not only about the IGL, it's about my own experience as well. I feel like I can have a lot of impact already so I just need to fix my mental stuff sometimes, I can get sad, but I think it will come in time and I'm really happy that I'm progressing.
BLIX: How's it been with hampus as IGL? How does it differ to Aleksib?
headtr1ck: It's good. I liked to play with Aleksib, but there were some bad results for us and NIP decided to do the move. I feel that it's harder to predict us now because we can do a lot of moments on the fly now. hampus, REZ, Brollan, k0nfig, they all have so much experience so I can trust in them and we still need more time, we're doing a lot of mistakes, but in the beginning we've shown a lot of great results.
BLIX: How has the playstyle of the team changed?
headtr1ck: I feel that each player is starting to get activated more. It's not enough sometimes still, but I feel like on our T sides it's hard to predict us, we do some crazy moves and it's unpredictable so sometimes it works. I feel like the players are getting a lot of freedom, but we have structure so it's down to finding balance.
BLIX: Would you say that's freedom you weren't getting before hampus came back?
headtr1ck: In the beginning [with Aleksib], I wasn't as confident as I am now, and in the end of the time with Aleksib at the Major, I felt confident and I felt freedom. I do think now I have a bit more freedom, but still, if I have more freedom then I need to have more responsibility to do stuff and to speak more. So it's still hard for me to get in this shape right now.
BLIX: With holding the composure to win this game and with the win against Vitality at Fall Groups, do you think you're showing the real potential of this core now?
headtr1ck: For sure, I think the team has really great potential because we have such good individual players who are capable of changing the whole game. We've had some great results recently, at BLAST we beat Vitality, and it feels really good that we've qualified to the main events at both BLAST and now here in Cologne. We'll see how it goes, we'll now play better opponents so we'll enjoy it.
BLIX: As a team, have you laid out any expectations for if you maybe even want to go on to win a tournament between now and the end of the year?
headtr1ck: It's hard to say, we don't know when CS2 is coming and when that comes, everything will change. We're not thinking about winning tournaments, we're just playing match by match. Obviously, we want to win things, but we understand we need to put maximum effort and work in to get that and a lot of other teams want to win as well, so we surely have the potential to do it, and I think we can beat every opponent, but we can also lose to them at the moment too. We have great potential though.
BLIX: NIP were the best team in the world at the start of CS:GO, will you guys do it again at the start of CS2?
headtr1ck: Yeah, for sure [laughs].
BLIX: What about Cologne then, what are the hopes now you've made it to the Group Stage?
headtr1ck: I would be so happy with play in the LANXESS, I haven't played in a big arena yet and it will be a really great experience at a young age to feel the passion of the viewers. I would be happy to get to the playoffs but for now we need to think about how to win our next match. I think we play FaZe on Sunday, so it won't be easy, but if we play how we can do, anything can happen.