At the BLAST Europe RMR, we had the chance to talk to Jakub "kuben" Gurczynski, the head coach of Apeks, about his journey from coaching Virtus.pro to qualifying for the Major with Apeks. He also discusses his time with MAD Lions, his thoughts on the Polish CS:GO scene and his views on the upcoming transition to CS2.
Hugo "TheSwedishJoker" Nilsson Meier, BLIX.GG: Apeks has just qualified for the Major. What’s going through your mind right now?
Jakub “kuben” Gurczysnki: First of all, I would like to say that I have proven through my team and my organization that short-term results and performance have nothing to do with long-term persistence and the work we have put in. I earned the trust of the organization to bring our team to the Major, but we failed at our first attempt due as we didn’t have much time in September last year.
Now, after spending a couple of months preparing and getting to know my players, we brought in a leader [Damjan “kyxsan” Stoilkovski] which completely suits in the way I want to play the game and it fuc**** worked, finally!!
BLIX: You were coaching MAD Lions before, a pretty interesting project, what do you think went wrong back then? Do you think there was something you could have done to succeed with the team and the project you had going on?
kuben: I can’t mention many details but I really loved the project with MAD Lions. I would recommend organizations do the same thing: have a really good coaching staff, including a performance team, a physiotherapist, to focus on meditation, relaxation, eating well and having a proper sleep schedule. It was a very good experience for up-and-coming talents, and the fruit of it is jL [Justinas "jL" Lekavicius], who I'm super proud of. I call him my stepson!
I brought him to this team, so I'm not looking at the negatives in my life; I'm only looking for the positives. He's the fruit of the success in MAD Lions; bringing him here and succeeding together makes me even happier.
BLIX: You used to be the coach of Virtus.pro, who were very successful, and then you went international after many years in the Polish scene. What was it that made you go international and not stay in the Polish scene?
kuben: Not going to lie, the community was kind of burying me after all the fails [during] the last year in VP. The team wasn’t led how I wanted [it] to be and the changes we made too late. But why should we talk about VP right now when we have so [many] good things to be happy about?
This is the past; I’m looking to the future. I always wanted to challenge myself in an international lineup and finally, I have succeeded by qualifying for the Major. It was always my dream to do this, and here I am!
BLIX: We have seen individual players qualify, like Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek and Karol “rallen” Rodowicz, now you, and then we have 9INE next week. What do you think is needed to bring more Polish lineups into the top tier scene?
kuben: I don’t actually know exactly, because this is a different generation of players as well and I don’t know how… in which way Polish youngsters are growing and how are they thinking about CS. I’m not following that much 9INE; I was watching a couple of demos and they look really strong, but I don’t know what is in their heads or what is the background behind their org, what resources they have to improve mentally, mechanically in-game, and everything around their individual performance so I can’t say much.
But I hope they qualify for the Major. I want to have a Polish team at the Major; I want to have them in playoffs, or maybe even Legends. Because that will help our community grow in Poland, as more sponsors will come; it’s been always a problem in all countries where there’s no single national team playing top events. I think we are missing one so I wish them all the best if they have the chance to qualify.
BLIX: You’re a legend of the game, and when people think of the Polish scene, they think of you and the old VP squad. But you’re still here, how do you think you’ve changed as a coach throughout all these years, going from the Polish scene to Apeks?
kuben: In VP, at the beginning, I was partially a manager, and a coach as well, but I was primarily focused on [the] tactical aspect of the game, keeping the good atmosphere which is just my natural feeling of life. The people I’m bonding with usually have a fun time! Later, in the times when some struggles came to the team, I had to learn more about psychology, and 2019 was like a breaking point which is when we had a performance coach in the team.
I’ve learned a lot. I started to read books about it, and it was the moment when I knew that at some point, I reached my ceiling in terms of tactical understanding of the game, which has to always be up to date, and I started to understand way more outside things of the game.
Aspects about how important spending time together is, talking to players individually, especially in this MAD Lions project, where much importance was given to even breathing, positive and negative visualizations. I could probably mention twenty different aspects. This was the moment I think I grew as a coach, and coming here, even though there were three players who are over 25 right now, which is close to the end of their career, I think I still taught them.
I learned the basics of this outside of the game aspect; how important the team environment is to create this positive energy around the team as well. When you have people of different citizenship in the team, it’s way different than when you have [people] from one country which [makes] it easier for me to understand... Now we have everyone from different countries and I need to have an individual approach to each of the players as well.
BLIX: I talked to STYKO, who said that the main goal the organization had was to get to the Major. Now that you guys have qualified, what do you think is the next step? And what objectives do you guys have as a team?
kuben: For us as a CS team, it’s definitely performing at the Major as best as we can, and now taking a couple of days off and preparing for the Major. Definitely, we’ll have a boot camp at our headquarters here in Oslo. I’m not thinking about CS2 yet, because I was not given the game. But, probably after the Major, the next step is making a meeting and asking the players if they want to still compete.
I think now, their appetite [has] grown, and everyone will be open for grinding the game. We’ll see; we don’t know how the spots from the Major will be working for CS2. I think the system should be reset completely. There shouldn’t be any invitations and everyone should go in as equals, as it is a new game.
BLIX: Your results before the Major were a little bit mixed. What do you think went wrong there, and what will you guys do moving forward after this event?
kuben: Playing online is [a] completely different thing. I would say we have three players who already played Majors, Tim (Tim “nawwk” Jonasson, ed.) didn’t participate, but he was in the RMR team, and their expectations are a little bit higher than playing online tournaments. Unfortunately, we had to grind as much as possible in order to break into the top 20 and be invited to the closed qualifiers.
Now, because of getting into the Major, we’ll probably get a lot of points, be higher in the rankings and have fewer online games -- at least for these first stages of open qualifiers. What we will do? As I said in the beginning, I came here to build a structure and build a team identity that will be long-term, and persistent, and we’ll just continue doing what we’re strong at. Adjust a little bit in-game things, maybe be more strict into some habits outside of the game as well, but it’s just proving we’re going in the right direction, so why would we change?
BLIX: Many people have complained about the tiebreakers going on right now. How would you like to see this system in CS2, for the upcoming Major?
kuben: I’m not the one who complains a lot. I accept all the rulebooks which are announced before the tournament happens to the teams. I started playing twenty years ago, and the number one rule was “admin always has the last decision”. So if the tournament organizer, with the approval of Valve, is deciding that this team is going to Legends, and the other has to play the game, this is how it is.
We, players, are not running the game, this is who makes decisions, so they play the game. If they deserve legends, they will perform in Challengers and they will be there!
BLIX: You were in the scene when we made the transition from 1.6 over to CS:GO, now it’s another switch and you will be part of it again. Do you think it will be different than back in the day, and in what ways?
kuben: It depends on what you’re asking specifically, but in my opinion the switch… definitely more up-and-coming talents will come; new players will understand the game in different ways. I don’t like these graphics of Valorant and too many things; I want CS to remain CS. I don’t like the smokes a bit. It reminds me of 1.3 smokes on 16-bit. I was actually having this discussion with my players already.
Whether it’s beta, 1.0, 1.3, 1.5, 1.6 or CS:GO, Dust 2 will always be 3-2 splits and it’s always the same thing! The meta has changed of course, and we’re playing a bit different CS. But I just want CS to remain the same game. I don’t care who will play, I’m always 100% focused on our team, our development and enjoying the time spent together with my teammates.