The importance of having SmithZz
From the greatest French AWPer in Source to personal struggles for consistency in Global Offensive, the return of SmithZz comes at a crucial time for the French scene.
Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux is one of the most iconic French players in Counter Strike across Source and Global Offensive. Spoken highly of personally by former teammates, the accomplished Frenchman has represented his nation multiple times at the European Nations Championship Finals on Source between 2008 and 2010 and The World CS:GO Championships 2015. Having also donned the jerseys of VeryGames, Titan, Team LDLC, EnVyUs and now G2 Esports for the second time, SmithZz has had an extensive career, with over 1000 maps played on GO alone, placing him within the top ten of France’s esports scene in terms of prize money earnings.
Friendship is magic
His friendship with Richard “shox” Papillon is undeniably strong and has been a core factor in his career multiple times. The pair first met and played together in 2008, playing for emuLate! at PxL LAN #17, ESL Major Series Season II and Multiplay i-Series 34, before representing France together at the European Nations Champions Finals in Leipzig. SmithZz joined Team VeryGames in October 2008, along with two other former emulate! players—Mathieu “mateOo” Dal Maso and Loic “RegnaM” Peron, as the first French professional CS:S players and the best team in France. shox joined VeryGames six months after SmithZz and that started a long journey for the pair who rarely spent too much time in separate rosters. SmithZz was named ‘Sniper de l’annee’ in 2008 and 2009, as shox took the honour of ‘Player of the Year’ in the latter awards on VaKarM.net.
Following many years in the Source scene, including controversy, contract locks and a brief stint for shox playing 1.6 competitively, SmithZz and shox entered the world of Global Offensive separately, but eventually reunited under the VeryGames banner in 2013, despite resistance from the VeryGames president Johann Thiesson who said on team-verygames.net at the time:
“It’s a risky move: Richard always lacked of professionalism and team spirit to be a part of the high level competition. It has always blocked him in his career even with his outstanding qualities in the game. … I personally wouldn’t have made that choice, but I hope that Richard and the rest of the team are going to prove me wrong.”
In bringing shox into the team, the primary AWPer role was bestowed upon SmithZz for the first time since his Source days. SLTV StarSeries VII Finals was the first time SmithZz had managed a victory over his greatest rival Ninjas in Pyjamas at a LAN event, having only beaten them at the MSI Beat It European Finals earlier in the year, and SmithZz put up an incredible performance against Astana Dragons to give VeryGames the trophy. By the end of the year, shox was ranked third and SmithZz at 17th in the HLTV Top 20 Players of 2013, with former VeryGames AWPer and their future teammate Kenny “kennyS” Schrub at 12th.
When shox didn’t want to stay in the gaming house provided by Titan due to ‘a lot of obligations affecting [his] private life’, SmithZz remained part of the organisation before joining shox again in the aftermath of the first French shuffle on LDLC. SmithZz and shox won the DreamHack Winter 2014 major as part of this roster after the French scene had been rocked by the cheating scandal which saw Titan and Epsilon disqualified from the event.
Not everyone has found their friendship so endearing through the years. When shox was removed from Team EnVyUs, they had been putting ‘SS’ in their names to denote their friendship, leaving the other members of the team feeling distant amidst growing tensions. The team didn’t want to remove SmithZz but they knew he would leave if shox was kicked. This marked the second French shuffle with the duo getting swapped with Titan’s Dan “apEX” Madesclaire and kennyS, as well as the second time SmithZz has followed shox, having also done so back in 2011 when shox left VeryGames due to him ‘not fitting in well’ with the other talent.
In the same year, the AWP nerf of 2015 arrived, having a huge impact on the dominant aggressive snipers like kennyS and the Swede Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell, SmithZz more passive style of AWPing should have flourished. After nV’s victories over NiP at Gfinity Spring Masters 1 and StarLadder Series XII in the week before the update, nV managed to take Gfinity Masters Summer 1, once again beating NiP in June, but failed to find consistent results. SmithZz was playing his role and getting frags, but was not having the impact needed when the likes of Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs were reaching their peak with consistent performances across the board.
G2 Esports picked up ex-Titan after selling their previous lineup to FaZe Clan in 2016, which came to be seen as the darkest time of SmithZz’s career. While the team initially removed Ex6TenZ and brought in young talent Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro, SmithZz individual performances were lacking. In September, SmithZz released his now-infamous ‘Yo Les Noobs’ statement in which he tried to explain he did a lot more for the team even if he was not ‘having 30 frags’ or a ‘1.50 rating’ in games. The community latched onto this, instead making it a meme. Realistically, at this point in time, SmithZz had fallen below the standard needed for a top tier primary AWPer at the time, with the harsh criticism from the community making things seem even worse for G2.
When SmithZz’s confidence was at its lowest, shox as the captain had to make a difficult decision. With kennyS, France’s best, and one of the world’s greatest, AWP players, finally in a position to play with France’s most seasoned rifler, there was no room for SmithZz on the roster. To remain with his best friend, SmithZz took on the coaching role for the team, working alongside former EnVyUs analyst Niclas “enkay J” Krumhorn and long-term manager Jerome “NiaK” Sudries.
Landing on his feet
G2’s superteam lineup won DreamHack Tours 2017, ESL Pro League Finals Season 5 and DreamHack Masters Malmo, but by the time G2 conquered Sweden, the team was falling apart. As apEX explained in neL’s podcast ‘Flickshow’ recently, kennyS was almost removed from the team despite being the strongest player due to losing his passion to win, under shox’s leadership the team was making constant playstyle changes and SmithZz, despite getting on well with the team, lacked the harshness required to push and guide the team effectively as a coach.
When the French ‘superteam’ project finally failed and shox’s suggested changes, wishing to remove Nathan “NBK” Schmitt and apEX in favour of bringing in SmithZz and Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans, were put to the side as a Plan B for the roster, SmithZz chose to go onto the bench with shox. The 26 year old underwent and recovered from wrist surgery while the team trialled Oscar “mixwell” Canellas on the roster with NBK as leader.
Only three months after bringing in mixwell, G2 allowed shox to bring in his desired changes and reunite with SmithZz on an active roster. With their first event being the ECS Season 5 Finals with less than a week of practice, the team had an unremarkable run, but with plenty of promise as kennyS had impressive games and Ex6TenZ exceeded expectation.
Despite the vitriolic commentary about the last year of his career, the call of the mouse and keyboard beckoned to SmithZz once again. While he could have simply retired, with a highly respectable career behind him spanning two games, his desire to return to the server signifies a level of personal belief that he still has something to offer a team as a player after some time away from the game.
Compared to regions like Denmark, willing and able IGLs are few and far between in the French scene and shox and NBK tried leading rosters, but it was clear that their strengths were not as leaders and an accomplished IGL would be required for the best French team to reach their peak. The return of Ex6Tenz, after shox removed the leader in favour of bodyy back in 2016, sees G2 regain a true IGL and reunites the core of the legendary VeryGames roster that dominated at ESWC 2011 and did not lose a map and the first starting lineup of Titan. The SmithZz-shox-Ex6 trio were also sharing the leading responsibilities back on VeryGames in 2013.
Speaking at ESL One Cologne, bodyy spoke about playing under the iconic Belgian that shox believed would work well with himself and SmithZz at the core of a new-but-familiar G2:
“I’ve never played with such a team leader because all my captains were not leaders in themselves, they were forced to do that, so I’ve never been with someone who was made for that. It was great for confidence, for team spirit, and synergy and stuff. Inside the game everything is going well so far. We are all on the same page and everything is great with everyone giving confidence to one another. We all trust each other so it’s great.”
G2’s first showing at the ECS Season 5 Finals, after only a few days practice, went as expected, with losses but the potential and promise of the roster was clear. Ex6Tenz was in strong form, shocking most with his fragging capabilities many suspected would be gone after two years absent from top tier LANs. At ESL One Cologne, their opening game against Natus Vincere on Inferno, the eventual champions of the event, saw SmithZz open up the game with a USP headshot onto s1mple in the pistol round and from there, he racked up 24 frags, being an instrumental part in G2’s 16-14 comeback from 0-9 down.
The pressure of a hometown crowd cheering for BIG seemed to get the better of all of G2 when they were knocked out in their quarterfinal game, following a back and forth OT brawl on Cache and a devastating 1-16 on Dust2, a map the French have often had as their stomping ground. DreamHack Valencia saw a G2 without the same fire they had in Cologne. It is likely that after the player break, the London Major will be G2’s first true moment to show if the changes and work have paid off.
With two of France’s best players on the roster, SmithZz will not have the pressure of having to handle the primary AWP, instead playing a role that helps to enable the scary duo of kennyS and shox to do the work needed, while being entirely capable of showing his own experience and abilities. It is unlikely to be a smooth ride if their initial showings are anything to go by, but G2 are certainly full of potential and will be a team to watch for the rest of 2018 and going into 2019.
Following the departure of TACO and rumoured internal implosion of the MiBR roster, amidst other top tier teams shuffled and searching for fifths, team chemistry and an ability to work and stick together (for potentially a year or more, in Ex6TenZ’s own words to HLTV) is more important than ever and so this new G2 with shox’s desired core of players has undoubtable potential. The lineup on paper looks less powerful and less flashy than 2017 G2, but the experience and camaraderie among the players will be central in keeping this team on the right path. With SmithZz at his side, it will be interesting to see if shox’s motivation, a frequent issue often brought up by former teammates, increases now he has the team he wanted.
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