Florence: "I don't try to sugar-coat things and some people dislike me for that, but a lot of people value that"
Continuing our series of Fragadelphia 16 interviews, Dust2.us' Jeffrey "Mnmzzz" Moore had a chance to chat with Russian player Sebastian "Florence" O. regarding a variety of topics. Among the wide range of things covered, the two discuss Florence's experiences competing in both CIS and in NA, his thoughts on veteran coach David" Dave" Tereshin's value, and his hopes for Kinship making it out of Advanced.
This interview came right after Kinship won the Fragadelphia 16 secondary tournament, The Big L, with a 2-0 victory over InControl to secure a $1,000 consolation prize.
To start, did it feel good to get revenge against InControl after losing to them at Fragadelphia 16: Chicago?
Yeah, especially because we prepared way more for this Frag event with Subarashii. Unfortunate that we went out in the main stage, but it's extra nice to win something.
And is it good value for your money to play a whole secondary tournament at Frag?
Yeah, for sure.
At that Chicago event, you had a slightly different lineup with CLASIA instead of Subarashii. are there some differences between how you ran the team with the two different players?
Well, CLASIA plays with his other team, ChocoCheck who are now Gaimin Gladiators, and he practices full-time with them, so he didn't have time to run scrims beforehand so we kind of just came with our stratbook and went into it. We mainly had to pug out the last event, while this event felt more fluid. We still aren't playing with our five, as Subarashii is standing in for Jaro. She couldn't attend the past two LANs so we've had to get stand-ins, but we had about four days to prepare for this LAN with Subarashii. I think that's also the cause for why we couldn't perform well at the main event, because there was just too much information to go through, but I'm still happy with the results we got.
You've been in the scene for a long time at the Advanced level, but I feel like most people aren't aware of your origins as a player. I know you have played a couple seasons of Russian Open and are a Russian player by birth and origin. Can you discuss your early years in CS:GO and why you came to America?
Well, our current coach Dave used to coach a prodigy team of a bunch of players in Russia, which is when I played Russian Open. One of them was fANDER, and he's currently a very big streamer and we're still friends to this day. I was the youngest on that team, and I was just the worst player, but our coach made me who I am today and I'm very grateful for that. I was playing hella LANs with that team, we would go to almost every event in Moscow. We did quite good and we won quite a bit of prize money. There were no HLTV tournaments because there was only like $1,500 for first-place, so it was minor LANs, not as big as Fragadelphia, but there were a lot of really good teams. There were mix teams with like hooch, the Entropiq people, and other players. A lot of the pros in CIS now did go to those LANs back in the day, so it was quite an experience.
And so, what are you in America for? Is it sort of the situation that wippie had where he was here for school? Do you live here full-time? What's your current situation with that?
So, I studied in the UK before I had to move back to Russia because of the political situation back in 2015. I was applying to colleges and my mother didn't really want me to apply back to the UK so I applied to the US and I got accepted so I'm here for college. I'm doing college full-time but I'm also doing my team full-time and I'm able to time manage it very well.
I remember at Fragadelphia 15 one thing I talked to CoJoMo about is players who are actively involved in building their brand. I feel like you're one of those players, especially at the Advanced level, who exemplifies having an individual brand as a more eccentric player that stands out amongst other players. How would you define the Florence brand?
Well I mean, it's who I am. I'm very open about my opinions and I don't really try to say anything behind anyone's back, so anything that I say on stream or on Twitter is myself. I don't try to sugar-coat things and some people dislike me for that, but a lot of people value that, especially CLASIA. I think we get along really well because we're able to tell everything about in-game and out-of-game stuff completely honestly, and it helps me improve actually. I can talk about myself without sugar-coating anything.
I know you mentioned this earlier, that you are now currently being coached by Dave. You discussed how you met and how you developed a working relationship. We see now that a lot of NA teams are bringing in these foreign coaches to help bolster their thinking towards the game and bring some structure to their practices. Can you talk about what Dave brings to the lineup?
Well, the thing about coaches in North America frankly is I don't think they can give Cryptic, for example, a lot of the insights on what makes a tier one pro different from a normal Advanced player. Our old coach slug, was quite useful, but he didn't have a lot of experience in the tier one level.
Our current coach pretty much does everything; he watches all the demos of pro teams to help us structure our team, and he comes to all our practices even though the time zone difference is 9 hours ahead for him. He teaches us theory about CS, keeps us sane in matches, fixes our comms, and overall, he is pretty much the heart of the team. Funny thing you said about NA teams bringing EU coaches, I didn't do it because I saw the likes of Strife do it, I just did it at the same time I guess because I was talking to him and his offer in CIS fell through, and he wanted to have five players that wanted to win. It's easy to coach washed-up tier one players, but they'll never be at their peak if they're not trying as hard. I think my team, they all want to learn, and they respect Dave a lot, and that's what makes him so valuable.
What's his background as a coach and as a player? I know we have talked about previously working with him, but what would you say his competitive background is as an individual?
So, he made the first-ever CIS Minor, and you can find it on HLTV, it says like "Dave, TEAMSWAGYOLO banned". He got VAC banned on an alt-account, similar to the Jamppi situation. His team was supposed to get signed by HellRaisers when they made the Minor, but since he got banned, he couldn't play competitive anymore, so he started coaching. The teams that he coached included Empire, a really old CIS team. He also coached Spirit when they went to the London Major and when they went to the MDL Global Challenge. I'm not sure about NAVI, but I'm pretty sure he did a bit of analyst work for them. Another team that's highlightable is YEKINDAR's pro100, which peaked at top 25 in the world before Zeus cut the cord. Our coach worked very closely with YEKINDAR to make him the beast he is right now.
So, Kinship also have another Russian player in the form of clipsanity. One thing I always find intriguing in these hybrid-nationality teams is the communication aspect of the team. For example, with ATK, if you have a situation where Fadey and MisteM are alive I assume they'd talk to each other in Afrikaans or in a situation with a team with two Brazilian players, they'll naturally switch to Portuguese when they're the last ones alive. Is there anything like that on your team, where if you two are together in the clutch is it more natural to communicate in Russian or do you keep the comms in English?
Well we're fluent in both, but clipsanity prefers to speak in English but sometimes I'll speak in Russian to him because it's just a habit. We spoke Russian when we played on that full CIS roster with bilenko, sodreamX, and insomniac on Brigada last season. But now, it's kind of a bit rude to our teammates when we start speaking in Russian so I only do it sometimes as a habit.
Looking towards the future for this team, Kinship have a 6-2 record in Advanced, so that sets you guys up pretty comfortably for a playoffs spot. Do you feel like your roster has the potential to make it out of Advanced as it stands right now?
Yes, it's our main goal actually. Cryptic is very determined to make it back to Premier and prove a lot of people wrong because I think a lot of people actually don't realize how much of a great player he is since he can turn games around by himself. Really, he's a beast.
And then one last question, is there anyone from the CIS émigré community who lives in North America you'd want to highlight as maybe being a potential breakout star, whether that's a Russian player, a Ukrainian player, or a Kazakh player who lives in North America who is maybe overlooked right now?
All my teammates from our old team are very good. sodreamX is very young, and he's already been in FPL-C, but he doesn't take the game very seriously, but I think if he took it completely seriously, he'd be on a top Advanced team at least. There's very few of us in NA, so I can't say much, but all of my old teammates are great and wonderful.
Since the time this interview was recorded, Florence and co. have lost two more Advanced matches, seeing the Kinship squad sink to a middling 6-4 regular-season record. The team will need to regain their stride soon if they want to secure a playoffs spot, as they're slated to play their next match today at 09:00PM against Unjustified.