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NAVI made history in Copenhagen by winning the first Counter-Strike 2 Major with an impressive underdog run, and their newly-minted in-game leader, Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, was instrumental in their incredible success.

From ENCE to NAVI, Aleksib’s been involved with many highs and lows, finally reaching the ultimate career peak at the Major, settling many questions about his skills and opening up many new ones about his future in Counter-Strike.

Here is everything you need to know about Aleksib, the big winner of the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024.

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Who is Aleksib?

Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen is a 27-year-old in-game leader from Finland with a storied yet topsy-turvy Counter-Strike career. Having started out his professional tenure in 2015 domestically at Recursive Esports, he then had short stints at teams like No.Identity and Findictus. He was picked up by ENCE, who were still far from a known quantity at the time and aimed to compete with an all-Finnish lineup in August 2016. However, that would be just a four-month stint as he would then go on to play for ENCORE and HAVU, returning to ENCE in April 2018 in the move that would truly kickstart his professional Counter-Strike career.

A lot has happened since then, with stints on OG, G2, and now NAVI drawing an interesting career arc for Aleksib, who continues to divide opinion among the dedicated Counter-Strike fanbase, a man who just won a Counter-Strike Major but hasn’t won a notable tournament in the previous five years. Here’s how his story played out.

A meteoric rise with ENCE

Early days, good signs

Just three months after returning to ENCE, Aleksib and his team put themselves on the map with an impressive run at ESL One Cologne, almost making it to the playoffs before succumbing to the eventual winners, s1mple’s Natus Vincere squad.

ENCE would go on to establish themselves as a notable underdog contender going forward and even notched a notable tournament win at the StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 6 event in October, which, though lacking some of the star-studded lineups of other iterations of the competition, still netted the team $125,000 in winnings and some additional accolades.

We could go on to point out some other interesting results from various DreamHack Opens and some other smaller competitions, but really, the event that truly catapulted ENCE into the elite was the 2019 Katowice Major where they almost pulled off the single most-impressive underdog run in competitive Counter-Strike history.

ENCE’s Katowice Major run: an upset for the ages

ENCE qualified for the 2019 Katowice Major with a flawless display in the Europe Minor and qualified with a 3-1 record from the New Challengers Stage with impressive wins over Team Spirit, G2 and Winstrike Team. In the New Legends Stage, they had to fight back from the 0-2 bracket after losses to Renegades and HellRaisers, winning three best-of-three series in a row against BIG, G2 again, and AVANGAR, respectively, to earn themselves a shock spot in the Spodek.

It was already an incredible run from the Finnish underdogs, and no one expected them to go any further against the big guns. However, they kept going from strength to strength, tilting Team Liquid off the face of the earth in a landslide 2-0 victory in the quarterfinals, then, roared on by the crowd, squeaked past NAVI in a nail-biting three-mapper to earn themselves a date with destiny and Astralis in the grand final.

That would be as far as the team would get, as the unstoppable Danes earned what would be their third of four Major titles in a straightforward 2-0 victory. Still, this showing permanently put ENCE on the map, and the five plucky Finns would continue to make waves on the tournament circuit, culminating in the win of BLAST Pro Series: Madrid 2019 in May, which would remain Aleksib’s only top-tier tournament victory up until the inaugural PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024 event.

It would all end in tears, though: many strong showings and playoff runs followed, with the exception of a joint-last finish in Cologne, but as the next Major in Berlin would “only” see the team reach the quarterfinals, where they would lose to a rampant Renegades, an internal coup led by allu followed, and Aleksib was swiftly removed from the roster.

It was a disastrous decision that led to the complete disintegration and flameout of that particular Finnish core (allu, xseveN, sergej, and Aerial), and Aleksi would find himself on OG three months later with yet another fixer-upper project as part of a mid-tier org.

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The wilderness years in OG

While OG may be Dota 2 royalty, their tenure in Counter-Strike, much like Team Secret’s, is all about feeble attempts at Moneyball. So, who would be better to lead such a project than Aleksib if you’re looking to construct a team that aims to be more than the sum of its parts?

To keep a long and pandemic-stretched story short, OG never quite reached the competitive heights one would have expected based on Aleksib’s ENCE stint. The team had many close calls across various competitions, often struggling to close off important series from 14-14 scorelines, but showings like the runner-up finishes at Flashpoint Season 2 or IEM XVI Summer continued showing glimpses of potential to those involved. Combine this with the massive general upheaval caused by COVID-19 and the way the “online era” of competitive play of the period made things murky and messy, and you can see how these results were still seen as Aleksib punching above their weight, and he got the opportunity to lead a bona fide superteam in the form of G2.

It would turn out to be his greatest failure to date.

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A spectacular flameout in G2

It seemed like a slam dunk for everyone involved. G2 already picked up the Kovac brothers (NiKo and huNter-) alongside m0NESY: incredible firepower, only in need of a talented leader to propel them to greatness. For the first time in Aleksib’s career, he wouldn’t have to micromanage mediocre players to squeeze every ounce of talent out of them: he could focus on the big picture and his own fragging output, aided by the abilities of some of the best riflers in the game alongside one of the greatest AWPing prodigies around.

Aleksib lasted less than half a year on G2.

It’s still difficult to explain quite how it all went so wrong, even with years of hindsight available in retrospect. Though the team had a strong early showing at IEM Katowice, with Aleksib finishing second again at the prestigious event, they immediately followed this up with a joint-last finish at the ESL Pro League, which was a shocking and spectacular failure by all metrics.

Tensions were running high on the team and reports of personality clashes continued to trickle out, and the team never got back anywhere near to that initial high. In July 2022, the team failed to make it to the playoffs of ESL One Cologne, and it marked the last time Aleksib donned the G2 jersey.

Later interviews and reports revealed a massive conceptual clash between Aleksi and Rémy "XTQZZZ" Quoniam, the coach of G2 at the time, and astonishingly, the org decided to stick with the coach rather than the in-game leader when it turned out they couldn’t create a cohesive strategy together.

A few months later, G2 would fail to qualify for the Rio Major and G2 would part ways with XQTZZZ. By that time, Aleksib was on to his next adventure: joining forces with the Ninjas in Pyjamas.

Aleksib becomes a Ninja and wastes even more of his precious time on Earth

Though Ninjas in Pyjamas was Counter-Strike royalty in the early Global Offensive era, the organization has never been able to replicate the successes of its original all-conquering, all-Swedish lineup. Their latest attempt at the time featured REZ, hampus, es3tag, and Brollan.

Aleksib would manage to take the team to Rio and finish in the top sixteen – something he has achieved with every single lineup of his – but neither the personnel nor the organizational background was there for anything notable, and the team never even made the finals of a notable tournament throughout his tenure otherwise, by the end of which hampus and es3tag were long gone, and he was tasked with integrating a young Ukrainian AWPer, headtr1ck, into a Scandinavian mix lineup, with exactly the sort of results you would expect. It wasn’t the sort of team that would win the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024.

Once again, he would pay the price for the team’s deficiencies: as is common among Counter-Strike org, they kept the core rather than the leader. Aleksib bowed out with an early elimination at the hands of 9INE at the CCT Online Finals, and while NiP continued to field successive iterations of underperforming teams, the Finnish in-game leader was far from finished, getting a huge opportunity on NAVI to rehabilitate his reputation.

At this point, it was over four years since his last tournament win, but there were always glimpses and added factors that made fans and managers keep faith in him. And so, once again, he would get the chance to work with one of the best players in the world – and so, once again, the team’s structure would get messed up instantly.

A stellar comeback with NAVI

NAVI have conquered the Counter-Strike world in 2021, but the geopolitical realities turned the team into a shadow of its former self. First, Boombl4’s ill-fated marriage to a Russian cam girl caused friction in the team, and after his eventual departure, the Ukrainian org eventually jettisoned the rest of the Russian contingent from the team. They opted to go international for their rebuild, bringing in Aleksib in the summer of 2023, by which time the Global Offensive era was rapidly coming to a close.

Aleksib debuted on NAVI at the BLAST Premier Fall Groups’ 2023 edition in a serious competitive setting, and the team successfully qualified for the seasonal finals despite losing to Heroic in the final match. Next, an acceptable but unspectacular performance in Cologne, finishing 7-8th and barely missing out on a playoff after a close-fought series against Astralis.

After another mediocre finish at the Gamers8 tournament and a runner-up finish in the final season of the ESL Pro League in the Global Offensive era, where the team posted impressive performances but nevertheless got obliterated by MOUZ in the grand final, a seismic shift occurred in the black-and-yellow community: s1mple, the GOAT of CS:GO, decided it’s finally time to go on a sabbatical.

So, once again, Aleksib was left without what was promised to him and had to rapidly pick up the pieces. NAVI brought in w0nderful to replace s1mple on the AWP, and the team posted two more decent but unspectacular results to close off 2023, finishing 5-6th at the BLAST Premier Fall Finals and making it to the semis in the World Finals, where they lost to Team Vitality 2-0.

With a first-place finish at the BLAST Premier Spring Groups, then a somewhat disappointing group stage exit in the playoff decider match at Katowice at the hands of Team Falcons, 2024 started with what was a shaky prelude to NAVI’s Major campaign. Still, the team navigated a tricky challenge by qualifying for the competition in a 3-1 fashion – a notable feat by itself considering how many storied orgs missed out on the showpiece event entirely, including Aleksib’s previous employers, NiP.

Then, another legendary run by the Finnish phenom.

NAVI’s second Major win: a shock triumph in the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024

Pundits and bookmakers had NAVI somewhere around the fifth or sixth place in the pecking order heading into the Major, with Team Spirit the red-hot favorites on form and Team Vitality and Faze Clan as the other experienced contenders. Starting out in the Elimination Stage (the second Swiss bracket of the tournament), Aleksib and co. struggled to convert their two early wins into a playoff qualification as losses to Spirit and Cloud9 putting their run in jeopardy. Still, a comfortable win over Brazilian side paiN Gaming earned them a spot in the arena in a stacked playoff bracket, despite the massive struggles of Romanian rifler iM.

PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024 playoffs bracket.
Image via Liquipedia.

Eternal Fire overperformed at the event to make it this far, but they were no match to a NAVI side that was slowly finding form. In the semifinals, they met up with a former Aleksib employer in the form of G2, a team NAVI have historically had great results against. Once more, they triumphed in a close-fought series, with iM finally coming online.

Then, a grand final, against the final boss of CS2, no less, facing FaZe Clan, a team that made every single final in the Counter-Strike 2 era to date and who have scored mighty impressive wins over Team Spirit and Team Vitality on the way here. Facing legendary in-game leader karrigan and his experienced squad, NAVI were the clear underdogs heading into the ultimate matchup.

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And yet, Aleksib and his men rose to the occasion. After converting FaZe’s unexpected map pick in the form of Ancient, they survived a steamroll on their own map, cleanly recovering mentally from a 13-2 loss on Mirage to score a similarly dominant win on Inferno, 13-3, to lift the Major trophy and etch their names into Counter-Strike history.

Suddenly, with his win of PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024, those who kept faith with Aleksib all along had all the ammunition they needed to carry the argument.

Is Aleksib a good in-game leader?

To this day, the discussion continues. ENCE definitely benefited from the short-lived buff to the game’s scoped rifles – the AUG and the SG, sometimes also referred to as the Krieg –, which compensated for some of the squad’s aiming deficiencies, especially on the CT side. It’s also true that Aleksib almost never saw through an underdog run, winning the solitary BLAST Pro Series title with ENCE and staying trophyless for four and a half years with a variety of promising teams.

Then again, astonishingly, Aleksib maintains a 100% win rate against his former teams in all competitions at the time of writing, which is another pretty tangible metric of his efficacy as a leader. It’s also worth noting that the players on his “lesser” squads, like ENCE and OG, didn’t go on to great things, rather collapsed in his absence after his departure, and none of these teams have gone on a dominant run after his departure, further suggesting that he added, rather than subtracted, from their potential.

And of course, there’s the fact that he made this NAVI side all the way just a few months after losing s1mple, the greatest AWPer of the Global Offensive era, showing incredible flexibility and adaptability in an organizational structure that finally seems to trust him.

Also, there are the memes. Oh boy, there are many Aleksib memes.

What are the best Aleksib memes in Counter-Strike?

I mean, you know the classic. It’s used for many in-game leaders, but it has taken on a life of its own the Finn: “Aleksib is a tactical genius. He is best known for his signature tactic ‘going B, but then going A’. He also has a second little known tactic of ‘going A, but going A’. What an absolute legend. Top 3 IGL for sure.” There is also the whole “sleeping Aleksib” or “Aleksisleep” thing.

The man is clearly taking it all in stride. He even appeared in a recent music video for The Verkkars, a Finnish band that has previously created many Counter-Strike-related meme songs (the best-known of which is EZ 4 ENCE).

There’s also no denying that Aleksib is quite a looker and was especially so during his breakout tenure in ENCE, so you can also find many of the cringey-creepy copypastas with his name that always seem to come around in the case of attractive competitors in the gaming space. We will leave it to you to discover those at your own leisure.

What’s next for Aleksib after winning the PGL CS2 Major Copenhagen 2024?

Clearly, Aleksib and NAVI are on top of the world, and any questions about the current roster configuration are out the window for a very long time. Their next scheduled challenge after the Major win is the ESL Pro League and, soon thereafter, IEM Dallas. Later, the BLAST Premier Spring Final, the Esports World Cup, and IEM Cologne.

It’s a stacked calendar, but we’ve got a feeling Aleksib is ready for it.

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