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NiP: The squad that set the tone

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Four years ago, NiP Gaming was revived just before the release of Global Offensive. This is the story of how the original CS:GO lineup became historic through dominance, setbacks and comebacks.
The current edition of the NiP Gaming organization has celebrated their fourth birthday. As today is Thursday (#TBT day!), we thought it was a great opportunity to tell you the tale of how five individuals experienced a two year rollercoaster which saw them conquer the world, but there were a lot of side tracks.

1. The new beginning

In the first half of 2012, the name "Ninjas In Pyjamas" was merely a strong name in esports history, linked to some of the biggest tournament wins in Counter-Strike with legends like Emil "HeatoN" Christensen and Tommy "Potti" Ingermasson behind the wheel. Despite its rich background, other organizations had taken the Counter-Strike throne in the years that NiP Gaming was inactive and presumed dead. This would change shortly after the esports fanatics had come back from their lunch breaks on the 10th of August, 2012.

At 1:20 pm CEST, the headline NiP is back with a star-studded CS:GO team reached the front page of Fragbite, who were given the honor of being first to present the team in a collaboration with the revived organization. The announcement caught a lot of attention, because not only was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive still in beta, but very criticized as well. On top of that, the team had some of the best players in the world, which was bound to stir up controversy.

GeT_RiGhT and f0rest were brothers in arms.


The superstar duo Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund and Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg were seen as two of the greatest players to ever have touched Counter-Strike, the latter having played the original Half-Life based version of the game professionally for more than eight years at the time. In regards to criticism, these two players were given most of the flak as they were named "traitors" by many Swedish CS 1.6 enthusiasts.

Another player catching the readers' attention was Richard "Xizt" Landström. The (then) 21-year-old was not only regarded as a top tier player, but acted as in the game leader for the best CS 1.6 team in the world at the time; Fnatic. He had led Fnatic to four straight tournament wins, including DreamHack Summer and GameGune, leading up to the moment where Landström took the leap to Global Offensive.

The two players finalizing the lineup were Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson, a veteran from Counter-Strike: Source, and his young apprentice Adam "friberg" Friberg. People questioned the mixture of superstars from CS 1.6 and these two Source players, especially since friberg had just barely established himself in the Source scene, but soon enough the world would understand that the combination was brilliant.

2. 87-0

NiP's first test came later in August, only days after CS:GO had been officially released. It was a soft start, as the Swedish event SteelSeries GO was held at Inferno Online's Stockholm Esport Arena with a $3,500 prize purse. As expected, NiP crushed their way to the grand final, where they beat Simon "twist" Eliasson's and Isak "cype" Rydman's BuggIT. The maiden voyage was a success, but the real test was yet to come.

In sunny Valencia, DreamHack held the first international CS:GO tournament where NiP would finally be matched with a French team called VeryGames. Yes, you know of them. Nathan "NBK" Schmitt, Edouard "SmithZz" Dubordeaux, Kenny "kennyS" Schrub, Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans and Cédric "RpK" Guipouy. VeryGames had been seen as the team to possibly beat NiP right from the start, as they were at the top of Counter-Strike: Source when they moved over to CS:GO.

Just like in the previous tournament, NiP Gaming bulldozed their way to the grand final, beating Ricardo "fox" Pacheco's k1ck eSports in the semi final. VeryGames struggled a bit more, but still won their group and semi final. Once the expected grand final came into play, there was no question who came out on top in the new "NiP-vs-VeryGames" rivalry. The Swedes won the match in two straight maps.

At this point, people started to accept NiP as Europe's number one team, but Europe was not big enough for the ninjas. The Paris event ESWC had moved over to CS:GO, and that was where NiP would really establish themselves as the best team in the world. Once again they won their five-team group stage without dropping a map, and later on won the tournament over VeryGames in the grand final, once again.

By winning ESWC, NiP secured the spot as the best team in the world.


People started realizing that NiP seemed unbeatable. So far the squad hadn't lost a single map, and they were not going to for a while. Months went by, and NiP kept going undefeated through tournaments. The titles DreamHack Winter, AMD Sapphire Invitational, THOR Open and NorthCon were claimed before New Year's Eve, and they even started off the next year with going undefeated through Mad Catz Invitational, TECHLABS Cup and Copenhagen Games.

At this point, NiP Gaming had won 85 straight LAN maps since the team was created. They had never experienced a single loss in an offline tournament during their nine months of existence — but then they went to Kiev for the fifth edition of SLTV StarSeries.

3. The dominance ends

In this Ukrainian tournament, NiP unsurprisingly started off by winning. They defeated ESC Gaming, with Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas, Filip "Neo" Kubski and Jaroslaw "pasha" Jarzabkowski in their roster, in two straight maps, expanding their map streak to 87-0. Then, like lightning from clear skies, the then CIS based Virtus.pro struck.

On the 5th of April, 2013, Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov, Sergei "Fox" Stolyarov, Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev, Kiril "ANGE1" Karasiow and Emil "kUcheR" Akhundov became the first players to ever defeat NiP Gaming in a LAN tournament. The map was Mirage, and Virtus.pro snugged a 16-14 victory over the Swedes. As if that wasn't enough, Virtus.pro won the second map, Nuke, with 16-10 to secure the match 2-0. NiP Gaming actually got a chance for revenge after beating Natus Vincere in the tournament's consolidation final, but fell once again in a 0-2 fashion to Virtus.pro, who ended up winning SLTV StarSeries V.

These guys popped NiP Gaming's cherry, if you will.
These guys popped NiP Gaming's cherry, if you will.


The era of the biggest winning streak in esports history was over. The result was 87-0 in maps and 60-0 in matches in offline tournaments. During this domination, NiP had an average map result of 16-7(.19), and when it comes to prize money, they earned approximately $84,700 in offline prize winnings. It might not sound like much, but it was definitely a large sum considering this was before majors were introduced to CS:GO. A fun thought is that NiP Gaming earned about $62 for every round they won during this period.

The end of the streak didn't mean NiP Gaming lost the title as the greatest team in the world. Following the fall in Kiev, the Swedish team bounced back by winning both the EMS One Spring Season and the ESEA Global Finals, as well as a dozen other tournaments or so surrounding a disappointing 3-4th place at ESL EMS One Summer. The real struggle didn't come until the last quarter of the year.

4. Losing their grip

After winning DreamHack Bucharest 2013, NiP started to struggle more. Losses became regular and tournament wins became more rare. As if that wasn't bad enough, Valve announced that there would be a $250,000 major tournament at DreamHack Winter. CS:GO had never seen anything close to that kind of prize purse before, and therefore the Swedish media network Modern Times Group decided to make a documentary TV show about NiP's journey to the biggest CS:GO tournament ever held.

In this documentary we followed a struggling Ninjas In Pyjamas, who had lost their number-one-spot to their arch rivals in VeryGames. Not only did they lose the fall season of EMS One to the French team, but they were also eliminated by them in the semi finals at ESWC soon thereafter. Something had to be done for the major, and they had 27 days to fix whatever was broken within the team.

VeryGames (left) were finally ahead NiP (right) in the rivalry.
VeryGames (left) were finally ahead of NiP (right) in the rivalry.


During this period, NiP Gaming had gotten themselves a gaming house in Stockholm, meant for bootcamps and other activities for the CS:GO team as well as the newly recruited League of Legends squad. Although the CS:GO team's preparations for the major weren't spoiled in the documentary, it was clear that the weight on their shoulders became heavier knowing that their journey was documented by one of Sweden's biggest networks.

5. A major anti-climax

Once the doors for DreamHack opened, NiP seemed to enter with confidence. They won their group over kennyS' Recursive eSports as well as the Polish team Universal Soldiers, who are now known as Virtus.pro. In the meantime, Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves and North American compLexity won their respective groups. The tournament favorites in VeryGames shockingly lost to the latter, leaving them in second place of their group.

After defeating the up-and-coming team LGB eSports, with Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, Freddy "krimz" Johansson, Dennis "dennis" Edman, Mikail "Maikelele" Bill and Alexander "SKYTTEN" Carlsson in their lineup, NiP were unlucky enough to be matched with their French rivals in the semi finals. What was supposed to be the grand final now had to be played in the off-stage area, which meant NiP could lose out on playing in front of their oh-so-loud home crowd. However, as if scripted in a Hollywood movie, NiP Gaming finally broke their cold streak against the French side, winning 2-1 in maps and securing a spot in the grand final.


On the other side of the bracket, Fnatic had defeated Recursive as well as compLexity, and an all-Swedish grand final was set in the DreamArena. Fnatic were far from favorites to reach this grand final, since their in game leader Markus "pronax" Wallsten was recruited a mere two weeks prior to the major. With this in mind, almost everyone thought that the tournament was practically over; Ninjas In Pyjamas would win DreamHack Winter 2013. All of their hard work after losing the number-one spot would pay off, and "of course" the first giant tournament would go to the greatest team in the game's history. But it all took a giant turn.

The grand final's opening map, Dust2, went Fnatic's way even though NiP Gaming started off with a fantastic 12-3 lead after playing the terrorist side. Though NiP clenched their fists and fought their way back, winning Inferno with comfortable 16-6. But that wasn't enough. The main character in this story ran into a wall of defense on Train, as Fnatic went up 13-2 in half time. NiP couldn't do anything to give the story a happy ending, and saw themselves lose the grand final to their Swedish rivals.

Four months went by where NiP Gaming didn't win anything other than online and domestic tournaments. The biggest loss of them all came in Poland's Katowice, where the second major tournament was held. In Poland, NiP had a great run that let them reach the grand final with only one map loss, but the home crowd favorites Virtus.pro were just too strong for the Swedes to handle at that point, and once again they just barely lost the opportunity to win a major title.

6. Third time's the charm

There's an old saying that goes "after rain comes sunshine", and in the three months following the devastating blow in Katowice, NiP Gaming got to taste gold twice as they placed on top at both Copenhagen Games and DreamHack Summer. Definitely good news considering the summer major was just weeks away. Two wins in three months was no where near enough to make them favorites for the tournament though, but luckily, a little map called Cobblestone was introduced.

Tears would fall by the end of the tournament.


The third major in CS:GO history was named ESL One Cologne, and was held at Gamescom 2014. Some of the most highlighted teams on site were the reigning major champions in Virtus.pro as well as Fnatic, who had recruited olofmeister and krimz from LGB eSports to replace Jonatan "Devilwalk" Lundberg and Andreas "znajder" Lindberg. Experts didn't even bother naming NiP Gaming as potential champions, other than with phrases like "You never know with NiP", even though they recently recruited Faruk "pita" Pita as coach. And the group stage didn't help the ninjas at all.

Even though the Swedes had the easiest group on paper, they faced a real struggle. After dancing through the Indian mega-underdog Wolf, NiP were in for a big surprise called Epsilon, starring Richard "shox" Papillon and Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey. On Cobblestone, one of the two new and relatively untested maps in the pool, the French side crushed the ninjas with 16-6, forcing the Swedes to place second in the group after beating HellRaisers in the consolidation match.

We've all heard of the expression "NiP magic", meaning NiP Gaming is a team that can — and has — come out on top in some of the most struggling scenarios. Now, ESL One Cologne doesn't necessarily qualify to be a typical NiP magic moment, but it's sure close to it.

In the opening match of the playoffs, the Swedes were faced against the former compLexity team in Cloud9. Things started off shaky, as C9 won the opening Nuke with comfortable numbers. However, NiP came back with a 16-14 win on Dust2, and the series' third and final map, which was randomized, was Cobblestone. Even though NiP lost to Epsilon on said map in the group stage, Cloud9 had never really played it, which was (obviously) good for the Swedish team. You could say that NiP dodged a bullet, but the map was still extremely even. In the end, massive efforts from friberg gave the Swedes a 16-14 win and a spot in the semis.

Waiting for them in the semi final were LDLC, with Vincent "Happy" Cervoni and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire in their lineup, who had surprised Virtus.pro in the previous round. Once again, NiP started off by losing the first map, but evened it out by winning the second one. Now, could you guess what map the randomizer picked for the final game? That's right; Cobblestone. Once again the Swedes won with a narrow 16-14 result, and the team's third straight major grand final was waiting.

friberg was a great reason behind NiP's success in Cologne.


The opponents would be Fnatic, who had defeated Na`Vi and Team Dignitas in the playoffs, as well as Virtus.pro and iBUYPOWER in the group stage. This time, the randomizer didn't pick Cobblestone, because Fnatic did. Markus "pronax" Wallsten & Co were confident on the map, and were rumored to be the best team in the world on the "new" maps, and you could see why.

The first map of the grand final saw Fnatic in an 11-4 lead in half time, with a solid defense on Cobblestone they looked to grab the 1-0 lead in no time. However, a dose of NiP magic flew in, and the ninjas turned the map around to win with yet another 16-14 result. As they just won Fnatic's pick, were NiP Gaming finally going to win a major, and in a 2-0 fashion at that?

NiP's Cache pick followed, but things didn't seem right. NiP Gaming had a hard time penetrating Fnatic's defense, and once again, they trailed 4-11 in half time. This time Fnatic wouldn't mess up, as they won the map with comfortable numbers, dragging the grand final to a third and final map — Inferno.

In the present year, 2016 for those wondering, Inferno goes hand in hand with the NiP-Fnatic rivalry. There have been some great matches between the two on this map throughout history, and this one was no exception. Fnatic started off as the defending team, barely winning the half with 9-6 after a lot of close calls. Trailing by three rounds in half time is rarely something teams worry about, but when Fnatic won the pistol round as well as the following anti-eco rounds, things looked bleak.

The nervousness of the audience member Emil "HeatoN" Christensen, who seemed to be on the verge of having a heart attack, was contagious. However, a lot of individual performances scattered across the NiP Gaming lineup let them turn yet another deficit around, and in the end — and to Christensens great relief and insane jubilation — NiP Gaming won the grand final.


They say that third time's the charm, and that was really the case for this legendary lineup. They went from having a legendary streak to the low-point of barely reaching playoffs. Once they actually picked themselves up, it was only to lose two major grand finals in a row. Then, against the odds and mentally beaten to bits, they finally go and win their hard earned major title. This story is what makes Ninjas In Pyjamas' victory at ESL One Cologne one of the most memorable in CS:GO.

7. As if Cologne was their final breath

If this was a movie, this is where the end credits would roll. Happily ever after, etcetera. Unfortunately, this article is about the period where NiP Gaming still had their core squad, and it didn't end as pretty as one would have hoped. After the euphoria in Cologne, another period of lackluster performances came into play. After more than a month's break from offline tournaments, NiP failed to reach the Ericsson Globe Arena on home soil as they were eliminated in the group stage of DreamHack Invitational II. That gut-punch was accompanied by the Swedes missing out on the ESEA Global Finals as well as the Fragbite Masters finals due to underperforming in the online stages. The last straw came at ESWC.

The Swedes started off great in the round-robin group stage, which held six teams per group, by defeating both Copenhagen Wolves and Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's KaBuM, but an unforeseen elbow to the temple came as the French underdog Platinium managed to upset the Swedes on Cobblestone (ironic, isn't it?). The team, who had Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro in their roster, were completely unknown internationally, and only got their spot in the tournament due to the Algerian team E4US dropping out last minute.

The defeat was followed by losses against Titan and HellRaisers, who eventually ended up grabbing the group's two playoff spots. This was by far the biggest collapse in the revived NiP Gaming franchise's history, which understandably lead to changes.

Fifflaren decided to leave

In the beginning of this article, I mentioned that frustration was aimed towards the CS 1.6 legends f0rest and GeT_RiGhT due to them "betraying" the former version of Counter-Strike for the new. But as soon as Global Offensive became a thing of popularity, the frustration of angry fans was aimed elsewhere; Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson. The Source veteran was seen as an anchor in two ways. The team saw him as a a stable fixture of the team, the very core of the group, while the fans thought he was dragging the others down.



Statistically, Johansson was far from the best player in NiP, but when talking to his team mates, no one was even slightly unhappy with the veteran's performance. His role was unappreciated from the outside, but important on the inside, and on top of that he was seen as the glue that held the squad together in better and in worse. The crashes following ESL One Cologne were too much, though, and Johansson left the team on the 3rd of November 2014.

"The last thing I wanted was for us to stop being friends and that someone therefore was forced to leave. I really didn't want that to happen, and if it did come to that, it was obvious that I'd be the one to leave", Fifflaren told Fragbite. "So it was better to take the decision to step down."

8. Four years and running

The story of NiP Gaming didn't end with Fifflaren leaving the team, as the core four is still in action. Since the 3rd of November 2014, NiP have played with Mikail "Maikelele" Bill, who helped the team reach their fourth consecutive major grand final, and Aleksi "allu" Jalli, who was in the team for the fifth straight major final. Nowadays Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi is the team's fifth player, with whom they managed to win DreamHack Masters Malmö, a moment which NiP founder and co-owner Emil "HeatoN" Christensen calls "the greatest day of his life".

So no, the story of NiP Gaming certainly didn't end with the original five becoming four. However, that's where this article ends. We'll save the post-Fifflaren stories for another day.

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