kennyS: "I have achieved a lot of things I did not expect to be able to do".
Playing at pro level since the game was in beta version, Kenny "kennyS" Schrub is an veteran CS:GO player despite his young age. If some people see him as one of the best players or awpers of the world, others reproach him a lack of consistency in his performances. What's certain is that Kenny leaves no one indifferent.
Being one of the figures of CS:GO, Kenny granted us with an interview where he comes back on his early career and his fast accession to the top level in only a few months, bringing him on the big stage at only 17 years old. He also talks about the early CS:GO days, the NiP domination, his status of eSport star and the failures and difficulties he encountered during his adventure. Here is the first part of our interview with kennyS. Have a good read!
A meteoric rise
Hello Kenny, thank you for accepting this interview for opening of our website. You are now well known and recognized in the CS world and in eSports in general, some even consider you as one of the main figures of the game. But first, let’s go back to the roots, precisely to the CS:Source. In what year did you start playing? When did you get interested in the game? How did you discover the competitive scene?
Hey, it’s very simple, I think 95% of people started just like me. I have 11 years older brother, so when I was little (at the age of 6 years to be completely correct) I used to “steal” his PC when he was away, I played a lot to Warcraft III and CS (1.5 and 1.6 at the time).
But it was not until 2010 that I began to be seriously involved and I wouldn’t leave the PC, which coincides with my debut on CS:S and it was once again using my brother’s pc. I was ready to play CS 1.6, except that in my brother's steam library, only CS:Source was installed... so I launched Source, it happened just by pure chance. I played without really knowing the scene or anything, I was just kind of “hot”. Slowly, I started to discover community sites such as VaKarM, roughly that's how I started, between FFA and ESL Gathers.
One of the very first key moments of your career is definitely your arrival on the THEWALL mumble on which players like AsP, EMSTQD (note: Happy), Sf, apEX or NiaK hung out and quickly noticed you. How did you get here? How did you experience this period despite your young age? Did you feel you could get into the pro scene at the time?
I was about 15, 16. I was hanging around with a player called m4xie, with whom I spent a lot of time. He taught me a lot about the game actually, he was the first "pro" player I knew at the time, so I was relatively impressed. So we were grinding the game, playing a lot of 2v2 ESL ladders, etc. Following this, I got my ESL ban on a 2v2 FR ladder match where I was relatively bad but apparently my reputation as a cheater at the time probably influenced the ESL Anti cheat staff.
m4xie also regularly hung out with other player called BLESS, who spent all his time playing pickups at the THEWALL mumble. One day, BLESS invited m4xie and me to come and play pickups with them. When I arrived at the mumble, I saw some of the big players from the french scene of the time, so my first reflex was to say “Hello” and I took a screenshot of the mumble with all the names. Like a respectful fanboy, I was just simply amazed.
So obviously,things did not go perfectly, three quarters of the mumble wanted to see me banned and they called me a cheater (even BLES, the one that invited me). Fortunately for me, some strong personalities of the mumble like EMSTQD (note: Happy), apEX and NiaK in particular had my back and always talked in my favor. Feeling I won their trust, I knew that this time I really have to take the chance, because it is really rare this would happen more than once. When I felt I had to give everything, I did, and also with a bit of good luck.
First lan with Sf, AsP, Happy, apEX, kennyS & NiaK during a micro nap (Sorry Jérôme<3).
Then comes your first offline event at PxL 32 in December 2011. At this event you played with a quality mix (Happy, apEX, AsP, Sf and you). What did you think of the event itself and your performance? How did it feel playing offline, what are the first differences that have marked you? If I remember correctly, NiaK (VeryGames manager at the time) was also present there to watch you in light of a possible recruitment to VeryGames (who have just lost shox and SmithZz), did you feel any extra pressure?
So first I'm going to take the positive lessons of this event. I won my first offline event, it’s doesn’t happen to everyone, although I was a bit lucky to make a mix with this kind of players. I have shown that despite the fact that I was called “onliner kennyS”, that I wasn’t a cheater, and I showed some interesting moves and plays in offline.
Let's not fool ourselves, playing at my first lan with such big players and the manager of the best team in the world, who is watching over everything you do, was demanding and highly stressful. So yes, I did a good lan except the for the final where I failed handling this disproportionate pressure I have placed on my shoulders, and as result, I let SmithZz walk over me (as an enemy he killed me 10 times in one half). (note: shox and SmithZz were also playing on mix with friends at that lan)
Quickly, you found your first real team with team eXtensive (fRoyGe, m4xie, liptoNNN, tonuz), how did you end up in this team? How did you adapt to the team game and all the resulting constraints?
Being close to m4xie at the time, it was done relatively quickly after PxL32, I was just denied a spot in team VeryGames (it’s logical, I was probably too premature). fRoyGe asked me to join his team, but I have forgotten the exact circumstances. It was my first real team, it was quite different from the “B Rush” or pickups, but with help of experienced players like Tonuz or fRoyGe, I quickly adapted. I was not afraid of the constraints at that time, I had only one idea in mind : to join the professional scene.
Quickly after joining the team, you played the Spirit-lan, your first event as a team. You were expected to reach top 3, behind favorites like VeryGames (Ex6TenZ, RpK, NBK, apEX, mK) and Tt.dragons (shox, SmithZz, ScreaM, Uzzziii, maLeK). In the end you finished as predicted (placing 3rd), but you just narrowly missed 2nd place, facing Tt.dragons in very close games (04-16, 13-16 in winner bracket and 14-16 in lower bracket). This was your first competitive event as a challenger, how did you experience the event? Have you felt an evolution in your level in those few weeks?
Coming out of this event, the objective was fulfilled, although I was frustrated because I felt that after the lower bracket match, that there was room to reach top 2, but our ambition was to be french top 3 and it seemed more than ever doable. As for my level, I immediately felt that despite my youth and my poor experience, no matter the opponent, I could make a difference with my individual level, so I was relatively happy with the team outcome and my own progress.
I was also proud to show this level of the game after only my second offline event, I managed to channel the pressure of a lan and take into account the mistakes made during the PxL32 to not do the same in future events.
CS: GO, the beginning of the glory
Fast forward a bit and a few months later we arrive in team VeryGames and the start of CS:GO. Your CS career was very short at this point, with you playing just just 8 months. Despite that, you had to face players like f0rest and GeT_RiGhT at the first notable event of CS: GO, the DH Valencia. Do you remember these beginnings of CS: GO and the first events? You've quickly adapted to the game, why?
I remember very well, I loved CS:Source and I was frustrated to have made a career so short, so my adaptation of CS:GO hadn’t been done so easily than what it seems, actually. For the record, my dear manager NiaK was actually better than me on the Beta of the game... My level a day before the DH Valencia was mediocre, but when I arrived at the event, it proved that I was not that bad after all. There was a huge contrast between the Kenny before DH Valencia and during DH Valencia. I do not know how to explain this but I understood the game in one lan when I couldn’t hit anyone before.
But looking back now, I was so well suited to the game. The possibility of “fast scope” with AWP for example, made my life much easier. It is an invaluable string to my bow for my very aggressive playstyle.
So yes, without lying, the first time we played NiP and their legends, we were fascinated but we ignored it and we gave it everything, because the first event of CS:GO sets the pace for the future of the game and already affects the ranking. We wanted to win and be top 1, but as we already all know, NiP was untouchable and very hard to beat, their gaming principles were difficult to counter and way ahead of that time.
The image of the beginning of CS: GO, NiP on the highest step and kennyS/VeryGames behind.
At the time, a strong trend emerged after each event of the beginning of CS:GO, NiP dominated the scene and also dominated you in particular. This long period of invincibility was quite complicated to live through for you and VeryGames. Can you tell us about it? What do you think of this period of domination today in hindsight? What is the value of this period in the history of CS: GO, where today we have seen 6 different teams win a major competition in a row?
Initially it was quite frustrating and depressing, then we somehow managed to be satisfied with top 2 (until the day of my kick, which was far from being an injustice, I was a very young player). Till this day their domination remains impressive, but it has much less impact now than Fnatic in 2015 or 2016. It was not the same time, and in 2012/2013, the level of competition was not as narrow. Therefore, it doesn’t carry the same weight, at least not to the same extent. I don’t want to say anything that will denigrate what NiP did, because no matter the time, to successfully stay on the top, and for as long as they did is not something negligible.
Playing CS:S or even 1.6, young players like you coming to the game always had mentors and role models, shoulders to lean on. First, what players have inspired you when you started? And upon the arrival of CS:GO, how did fit in the position of the pioneer and having no one to "copy" or to learn from? This must be quite a unique experience?
I don’t think I had any real models, honestly, I don’t remember having a player that I idolized for example (except for the Markeloff, who made me tremble during the Mad Catz Vienna). Playing CS:S, I have always been with people I could learn from, like apEX, he taught me a lot at first. And once I started playing CS:GO, it was with 4 big players (note: Ex6TenZ, SmithZz , RpK, NBK), I learned from them and it has served me well in the long term. I wasn’t assisted 24/7 but I had a lot of things to learn and become an established player.
At the time, I remember you had already told me, that CS:GO was the future and the future would be great, even if it was quite small at start. Honestly, did you expect this and such an explosion in it’s growth?
I do not remember what I was thinking at the time, but today it has achieved something that I think is difficult to comprehend for many people. Who would have predicted that?
kennyS, the star
From the first event on CS: GO, you distinguished yourself from other players thanks to your explosive playstyle and your use of the AWP. Quickly, your status changed and you became a face of the game. Did you expect such recognition and to ever be compared to legends like f0rest and GeT_RiGhT?
No of course not, I was very young, obviously ambitious, but I don’t remember thinking that I would ever do it. Actually, this reflects my career pretty well, I have achieved a lot of things I did not expect to be able to do, I've always tended to underestimate myself.
kennyS with fans
Over the years, your status has been asserted, you are unquestionably one of the "stars" of CS:GO. How did you experience this evolution of your status? How did you manage being a role model for young players? Is this forcing you to pay attention to every move, every statement, etc?
As I said a little earlier, I reached a level that I never thought I was capable of achieving. I was a young player, it was hard for me not to become “bigheaded” or feeling above the others. Now, I have gained much more experience and professionalism, so obviously I am much more levelheaded person than before. Today I’m doing my best to stay as authentic as possible with my fans and using social networks, but yes indeed, I have to pay attention to many things, especially my communication and my behavior at the events and around people. I'm always careful not to show a cigarette on a photo or anything. I love being an example to people that's why I care so much for what I do under all this attention.
Regarding the "real" life part, how's your life on a day-to-day basis? How did it evolve in your personal and family life in this context of “eSports star”? What has changed for you over the years? Are you being recognized in the streets apart during events you attend?
Obviously the view of people around me (family, friends ...) has changed and they are all very proud of me; for example the VALVe video was not easy, especially for my girlfriend and my mother, the video has been seen more 2 million times and it's hard for them to be in the spotlight.
I always tried to keep for myself and speak the least possible of my work, initially to avoid clichés, but nowdays it’s more to protect myself and my family. I live in a city where I know everyone and everything is known. Despite my efforts to keep things private, probably 60% of people I know, now know what I'm doing, even though I want to remain as discreet as possible about it. And yes, indeed, I get recognized quite often and increasingly so in my little town.
Valve came at your place to meet your family and your friends, to make your portrait, it's a nice act of recognition. How did things happen, how did you get approached? How was the recording and what did you think of the result?
Valve just contacted me by email to give the idea, of course I accepted. We were relatively happy and willing to do participate (with friends and family). They came to our home, there were 3 people. They asked me to share what things I do with people around me, things I do regularly with them. Then they asked me the about the cool places around, so that we could record there.
Then I also had an interview and that was it. A few minutes video, but it was 2 intensive days! I really liked the end result, but as I said previously, it was difficult for my mother and my girlfriend because of insults that came after the release of the video. It was especially difficult to see their reactions, because I expected that and I'm used to it on my side, but they didn’t really expect to be in the spotlight so much.
The fall and failures
Your career was not as simple as it seems today. During the period when NiP dominated you and titles were scarce because of that, but overall you always were pretty good individually. Despite that, in May of 2013, you were kicked from VeryGames and shox took your spot. Can you now think back on this, what was it’s meaning for you at the time and what does it mean today? Did you understand it then and do you understand this choice in hindsight?
Yes indeed, I always was relatively good individually, but as I said previously I was a young and inexperienced player, I was also very flattered to play in the Team VeryGames, I never had to move out of my limits, and I slowed my progression due to this. The team stagnated and I was "the weak part of the team" because I did not have all the cards in hand to become a key and important player in the team at this moment.
So the choice of replacing me by shox, a much more experienced player than me at the time, was both logical and a wise decision. Although a kick wasn’t pleasing, I quickly understood why and how they did it. Basically everything I learned at Team VG, I applied it later when I joined Team-LDLC.
For over a year, from May 2013 to April 2014, you played for Team-LDLC, WeGotGame, Warmaker, Recursive and Clan-Mystik with mixed results. How did you experience this period of "downgrading" from the world top? Especially during a period when the majors came and VeryGames finally managed to beat NiP without you…
In the short/medium term it was ok, I spent a lot of good moments with these teams and I could improve myself as a player and also be important to them. Especially since the DH Winter 2013, which was the first major, went relatively well for me with Recursive, and we lost against the winning team (note: fnatic) in a match that we could have won, so it remains a good memory for me.
After though, on a long term basis, it became a little hard not to win and to miss a lot of big tournaments, but it was like that. I regret nothing of this period and it finally paid in the end.
In the end, you went back to Titan, to replace shox and he left the team. What has changed in the team then? How have you experienced this comeback and some other various complicated times, like the KQLY VACban? Well and let's talk about it... these repetitive failures at majors with Titan, how do you explain them?
In the team, not much changed in the end, the mentality and our goal were always the same, winning. This was pushed to the extreme with introduction of the gaming house, staying there three weeks and one week at home, obviously this proved too much and it was counterproductive.
As for myself, I earned a lot of experience from my VG kick back in 2013, I had my heart set on proving that Titan didn’t made a mistake by taking me in. Understandably I wasn’t the first choice for everybody, since I had stayed in the European underbelly for a long time.
Sure, it was not always happy feelings, especially at the time of the DreamHack Winter 2014 Major, we were actually very well prepared as a team and we were highly confident for this tournament, I had my best individual level. But there's always a catch, KQLY arrives at bootcamp pre-major and is instantly VACBan upon launching his game. At start, we found it hard to believe, to the extent it seemed impossible to cheat at the professional level, and especially because he was our teammate so we trusted him 100%. It was a very big blow...
Regarding our repeated failures at majors, I have no real answer, I think some players wanted to get a result so much, that they didn’t address the tournament in the right way. Our training system could also be questioned, since with Titan it proved hard to have a really solid 5-6 map pool maps compared to the other teams. But I can say with great confidence that the DH Winter 2014 was a tournament we could have gone very far.
Despite your status of star player, you and Dan (apEX) appear to be subject of regular criticism due to: inconsistency. In the long term, your level is good but there are periods where you will experience a sudden drop of level for a few weeks then suddenly you go in “god mode” where you snatch heads, and it directly affects the team results. Do you feel this? If so, how do you explain it and what do you do, to avoid this?
I think that for Dan, it’s mainly linked to his role as entry which is not easy and revolves around a lot of factors, such as confidence, luck, teammates support. I do not seek to find excuses for him because, it is true, that sometimes he can be an incredible noob (Ok maybe it’s too far :D), but we just have to admit that to fulfill his role there are many factors that come into account, and on a good day, he is undoubtedly the best out there.
As for myself, I also have an important role, being a sniper and for sure on good day, I can probably increase the chances of my team winning. I never thought that the inconstancy is my biggest problem, in the sense that I have not always been "Godmode" as you say but I've never been very bad overall.
I think inconsistency as you see it, is mostly related to my training pace, and that’s is linked to my motivation which is with it’s ups and downs. If you see me training a lot, I can assure you I will be very strong and when I keep the good performances I will have a disproportionate confidence. The other problem (that maybe isn’t actually a problem, I don’t know) is, that I am never satisfied with myself and I always want to do more, especially when I have to compensate for my flaws. I'm happy when I realize a complete game where I don’t have to blame myself for something (This is rare: D).
To be continued...
Pictures by HLTV.org, PxL, ESWC. Thanks to Urskiz and Sickness.
Next Monday, we will offer the second part of this interview with kennyS, we will talk about his time in EnVyUs, his defeat in major final and his victory at the major after, his future in eSports and in his life and finally some "random" questions, the game, the maps, PSG eSports, etc. But before we let you go, here's a little teaser for next week: