As Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski decided to end his eight year journey with Team Liquid, we took a trip down memory lane and revisited his time at the organization
In March of this year, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski marked his eighth anniversary with Team Liquid. Just a few months later, however, he left the organization and embarked on a new chapter of his career with Complexity. Despite his departure, EliGE will always hold a special place in Team Liquid's history. His remarkable eight-year tenure is unmatched, not only for being the longest in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) history but also for his unwavering determination that transformed him into one of the game's top riflers at the age of 25.
After 8 years, we are parting ways with @EliGE.
We feel deep gratitude to Jon and time on TL, from a young talent to mature adult who has helped us achieve our biggest moments: winning the Grand Slam, reaching many playoff stages, even creating one of the greatest CS memes. pic.twitter.com/082qn3tWll
— Team Liquid CSGO (@TeamLiquidCS) June 22, 2023
From Starcraft To Counter-Strike
When he was only eight years old, Jonathan Jablonowski often had to fight his brother over game time on the computer. Thankfully, his amazing parents came to the rescue and gifted him his very own gaming setup! Jonathan knew deep down that he was destined to be a gamer, and he proved it by sticking to his word after stumbling upon the epic quote “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.” during his taekwondo class.
EliGE approached CS 1.6 as a casual pastime, with his competitive focus on Starcraft. He took part in many Starcraft tournaments and wanted to become a top pro in the game. The game-changer, however, arrived with the release of CS:GO, sparking a newfound passion within EliGE. It was in 2014 that he fully embraced the illustrious first-person shooter, transforming his perspective and taking his commitment to the game to unprecedented levels.
In 2014, EliGE caught the attention of Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella when they were both part of Elevate. EliGE's outstanding displays in the CEVO Professional League piqued Cannella's curiosity, prompting him to start probing with questions that made EliGE feel like he was under the watchful eye of a scout.
Shortly thereafter, a phone call came in, presenting an official offer that marked the beginning of an extraordinary journey. Yes, you guessed it right, the call came from the Team Liquid headquarters in Santa Monica, California.
The initial seasons with Team Liquid proved to be a challenging period for EliGE, as the team failed to secure any championship titles. They showcased their prowess with respectable 3rd-4th place finishes in tournaments like IEM San Jose 2015, MLG Columbus 2016, Dreamhack Austin 2016, ESL One New York 2016, and ESL Pro League Season 5. A defining moment arrived when they secured a spot on the grand stage of ESL One: Cologne 2016. Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo's SK Gaming, however, emerged victorious, leaving Liquid and EliGE to settle for a second-place finish.
The Not So “S1mple” Dilemma
With the arrival of Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyljev in 2016, courtesy of Spencer “Hiko” Martin, Team Liquid transformed into an unstable yet formidable powerhouse, resembling a ticking bomb poised to annihilate its rivals while risking its own demise. During s1mple's tenure, Team Liquid delivered exceptional performances in the two Majors they contested.
Yet, their journey was marred by a heartbreaking semifinal exit against Marcelo “coldzera” David’s SK Gaming, followed by a Grand Final defeat to the very same opponents. It was a moment of intense disappointment for EliGE and Team Liquid, as they came closer than ever to claiming a Major trophy.
The North American CS scene had never witnessed such brilliance before, with the hopes of an entire continent resting on the shoulders of two stars who couldn't find common ground: EliGE and s1mple. Eventually, it was the emotionally charged Ukrainian who decided to leave Team Liquid and return home in July, leaving behind a shattered team. Even without s1mple, the cloud of uncertainty around Team Liquid refused to dissipate. EliGE's teamwork and attitude faced scrutiny, and after months of unjust blame, he reached a breaking point.
Mental Health Battles
Throughout 2017, EliGE experienced one of the most trying periods of his career as a professional player, even though he held the 12th spot among the world's best players. Mentally, he faced considerable challenges. According to Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, who discussed his former teammate in an interview with Dexerto, EliGE exhibited a unique form of toxicity. Rather than openly expressing hurtful comments, he would withdraw and remain silent during matches, only to unleash a barrage of negativity and feedback afterward, often in a less than friendly manner.
The constant repetition of this behavior created a sense of discomfort and exhaustion among his teammates, with no apparent solutions to be found. As a result, discussions arose about the possibility of removing him from the lineup.
Taking a proactive step, EliGE proactively worked alongside a sports psychologist to rectify his mindset. Remaining committed to Team Liquid, he ultimately achieved something that seemed destined to happen.
Rising Above The Chaos
The Team Liquid roster went through several changes in subsequent years, but EliGE kept his place because of consistency. The rifler was at the peak of his game in 2019, which helped Liquid reach astonishing heights.
In May, Team Liquid celebrated a sensational victory over Fnatic in the IEM Sydney Grand Final, propelling them to subsequent Grand Final triumphs at DreamHack Masters Dallas 2019 against ENCE, ESL Pro League Season 9 against G2, and ESL One Cologne 2019 against zywOo's Vitality.
The glory days of NA CS:GO 🇺🇸 🇨🇦#OnThisDay in 2019, Liquid completed Intel Grand Slam in a record-setting 63 days as they won four consecutive events of the circuit.
During the team's run, they dropped only one match – Bo1 vs. North at EPL S9 Finals. pic.twitter.com/ty8Lslv0KD
— HLTV.org (@HLTVorg) July 7, 2021
This outstanding series of wins not only secured them the fastest Intel Grand Slam in history but also established them as the second team ever to accomplish this feat, following in the footsteps of the legendary Astralis.
Ahead of the second 2019 Major, Team Liquid had a flawless record, emerging victorious in all four S-Tier tournaments. Their performance surpassed even the glory days of s1mple. Unfortunately, their championship hopes were crushed by Astralis, as the Danes employed a masterful anti-strategy on Liquid's favored map, Vertigo. Liquid could only watch in disbelief as Astralis unleashed their might on the CT side of Vertigo, ultimately securing the Major title with resounding force.
Team Liquid's journey came to an end with another 5th-8th place finish, just like in the first Major of 2019, despite their dominant run leading up to the Major. Unfortunately, this marked a turning point for the team, as they were unable to replicate their earlier success for the remainder of the year. The Berlin Major tragedy left Team Liquid without a single tournament victory in 2019. EliGE's exceptional contributions did not go unnoticed, nonetheless, earning him the title of the HLTV 4th Best Player of the Year.
The End Of An Era
Although EliGE is yet to win a Major title, he belongs to an elite group of players who had the opportunity to lift an Intel Grand Slam trophy. Overcoming personal obstacles and challenges within the team, he spearheaded the journey from Ground Zero, elevating his teammates to unprecedented heights that were once deemed unimaginable. EliGE’s time at Team Liquid has finally come to an end, but he will leave an indelible mark on the annals of the club’s history. Regardless of his future career achievements, EliGE will always be remembered as a Team Liquid legend.