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Photos of Team Liquid as they compete in the FACEIT CSGO Major in London, UK

Twistzz: "Everything is winnable."

Sep 052019

Envision this -- It’s your 2017 self sitting quietly at your bedroom battlestation, hours into a Major broadcast, and suddenly a faint voice beckons you right outside of your headset.

“Hello?” you ask, “Who’s there…”

“Remember this day. In two years to the exact minute, a North American roster will be the best team in the world, taking the number one global ranking from an EU Power-house, and maintain an unimaginable streak of premier tournament victories…”

Before the ghost-like voice could finish it’s statement, you'd quickly slap your headset back over your ears, as if you weren’t foolish enough to believe such a silly and unrealistic statement. You quickly shake off the paranormal occurrence and return to your Counter-Strike stream where a group of North American and European viewers argue and troll each other back and forth regarding the current nature of NA CS.

But, what if we could explain to you that a silly prophecy came to fruition partially because of one professional fragger’s decision to... hit the gym? And re-evaluate his everyday confidence?

This is the story of Team Liquid’s very own, Russel Van Dulken, otherwise known as: Twistzz

Prior to Russel’s arrival, Liquid’s Counter-Strike roster was a tad confusing. Other than the consistent power of the OG’s, Elige and Nitr0, their star-power rotated in and out of several big names. S1mple and Hiko are just two players that fans hoped would lead Liquid to a Major title, but with superpower rosters such as Fnatic, Luminosity/SK, nV, and Astralis in their way, the dream of NA CS winning a major seemed impossible.


All of North America’s Counter-Strike existential angst seemingly faded once Liquid found their version of a perfectly balanced roster. Through the foundation of Elige and Nitr0, the return of NAF and adreN (as their coach), and the addition of Stewie2K and twistzz, the rest of the world remained unready for the potential that Liquid pertained. For the first time in forever, a roster presented a real challenge to the all-powerful Danes of Astralis. In fact, we can rewind to the exact moment when Liquid’s strength seemed... “untouchable”. Run it back to the 2018 FaceIt Major, more specifically, the best of one match during the swiss stage on Inferno. Twistzz claims the “superb” calling from Nitr0 allowed him to be “3 steps ahead of everything they [Astralis] were thinking. It was crazy, his mind was running at like 300% I swear to God.” Fans and pundits quickly noticed the change of confidence from Liquid. Their dynamic strat-calling, and near perfect reads on their opposition COMPLETELY altered their game for the better. Though we may not have an exact answer for where this change in their playstyle came from, shortly after the event, we saw the reintroduction of adreN as a coach and the addition of Stewie2K, which allowed them to have a central core of “3 big-brained people putting ideas and stuff together”, while the others could focus on strictly fragging.

And with the chemistry finally forming for Liquid to begin achieving their peak performance, there were only a few minor, yet crucial, changes that Twistzz deemed to be important to his game — specifically, his physical health. It certainly wasn’t difficult for most to notice from streams, stage cameras, or social media that Twistzz looked much leaner (and to be honest, extremely toned), but where most of us would view this as a pure aesthetic advantage, Twistzz claims this upped his game radically:

“For me personally I think it’s completely changed the way I look at life and how I approach certain things. It’s changed my mentality for the better, so yeah I would say I wouldn’t be the player I am today if I didn’t start exercising.”


Though science doesn’t necessarily state that working out will help your fragging potential in the wonderful world of CS:GO, there are an abundance of findings that prove consistent exercise will in fact boost your confidence by a longshot. The American Psychological Association (APA) found that your mood and confidence skyrockets within five minutes of finishing a moderate exercise. And when you compile these workout routines into a consistent regiment, your day-to-day confidence is heightened. In addition to this, consistent exercise may also improve reactions to “fight-or-flight sensations”. And though a 1v4 site retake clutch may not necessarily be a “fight-or-flight” moment that a scientist would typically refer to, any open-minded person should be able to connect the dots to the experiences a season CS:GO player would have.

Even the smallest changes to his gameplay, such as chewing gum to reduce his verbal activity,  have made the biggest differences when it counts according to Twistzz:


“Obviously a lot of players do this, when they die they have something negative to say or a comment on why or how they died. I feel like if you’re chewing gum or doing something, it distracts you from talking and you just don’t make that negative comment that your team doesn’t want to hear anyway.”


The addition of gum chewing, and overall just focusing on the things that may bother or affect his teammates negatively was crucial for Twistzz to overcome. In all types of sports, no matter the objective, it's imperative that teammates never interfere with each others gameplay unless it's absolutely necessary. In Counter-Strike, once one person goes down, it’s up to the remaining to win the round with less firepower, and with dead members distracting them from achieving a goal, winning a series will be challenging.


Ultimately, one of the final things that Liquid needed to overcome, was a teamwide mentality that became established after multiple second place and high tiered finishes. A quick glance on social media after one of these matches would point to the team “choking” during big moments. Twistzz thinks the roster blamed Astralis for their troubles, and until their victorious campaign began, no one had taken ownership for the troubles that actually haunted the team — they thought that Astralis was just that good. Their inability to finish and perform under pressure led to their demise. It wasn’t until the roster as a whole realized their grave mistake, that a change in results began to occur. Taking ownership of personal faults is crucial for leaders in every walk of life, and once you’re on the path to success, it’s only a matter of keeping yourself on track. This is again where Twistzz experience with working out comes into play. When asked about quitting and motivation, Twistzz gave us an answer that everyone should hear and completely absorb:


“When you go into fitness, for me it’s kind of either you go all in or… you can’t really half ass it, you have to commit to it. For fitness, for nutrition, and stuff, it’s not really a hobby, it’s more of a lifestyle. It’s a constant chain of self improvement. I’m never going to be like ‘ok I’ve hit my peak,’ you can always be better. And for fitness you can always push yourself to be better and you will never reach perfection. It’s a lot like CS in that regard.”


Mindsets like this are extremely common to the most elite performers all over the world. Whether you’re a special forces operator training to be deployed to a combat zone, or a world-class heavyweight boxer, the ability to keep yourself on track, and always striving to push past your imaginary ceiling is priceless.


All of these small additions and tweaks to both Twistzz everyday life, and Liquid’s gameplay, has allowed them to thrive among the competition. Liquid has DOMINATED 2019, punishing any opposition that feels the need to stand in their way, and for the first time in history, became the first NA team to be ranked number one globally — an incredible feat considering the other challengers. Their achievements can be thanked to the smallest of reasons, such as taking ownership of their losses, gaining confidence through exercise and fitness, and minimizing the amount of interference between each other during sense-heightened moments.


But at the end of the day, it’s the players’ competitive nature and drive for victory that wins games, and Twistzz is the ideal model for these traits:


“Everything is winnable. I never feel a sense of losing, I always feel like we're going to win.”