From pubers to world champions: The Story of Team Spirit

Alisa Barladyan
20 Oct 2021
1 comment
From pubers to world champions: The Story of Team Spirit

The International 10 has come to an end. 17 out of the 18 teams that came to Bucharest were defeated, and the Russian players from Team Spirit became the champions of the tournament. Initially, the guys were not even close to being the favorites of TI and came to the tournament as an "underdog". After a bad start in the group, the Dragons managed to pull themselves together, catch their courage, and walk through the losers all the way to the grand final. There, Team Spirit beat the masters of the Chinese Dota from PSG.LGD with a score of 3-2, giving us one of the most memorable grand finals. In 10 days. The Dragons won $18.2 million and raised the coveted aegis over their heads.

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History of Team Spirit

Team Spirit is an esports organization from the CIS, founded in 2015. In six years, the club has become a leader in the region and is currently one of the most popular. At the same time, of course, the Dragons are still far from the fame of Natus Vincere and Team Spirit also cannot boast of achievements. For all the time of their existence, the team has never become a champion of major international tournaments and has not even taken high places. Throughout the club's history, The International has been Team Spirit's main goal and cherished dream, but the organization has never been able to get there. Only in 2021, the team managed to qualify for the TI tournament.

Team Spirit Lineup

Team Spirit Lineup
Team Spirit Lineup

The history of the current Team Spirit began on August 1, 2020. It was then that five players gathered under the tag Yellow Submarine. The team performed well during the online era and even reached the top positions in the CIS. On December 18, 2020, the Russian esports organization Team Spirit announced that it was taking Yellow Submarine under its wing and signing all the players of the team. Before that, the Dragons had not had a Dota 2 roster for quite a long time. Yellow Submarine turned out to be a Team Spirit project.

In the summer, it became clear that the announced DPC season would not begin until the end of the year. This time slot allowed us to apply new techniques in the lineup formation. We aimed to discover new names and try to attract the maximum number of newcomers. We looked through more than 80 players for all positions, of which only 12 were shortlisted. The result was the Yellow Submarine lineup, whose performances you could watch throughout the fall.

Nikita Chukalin, CEO of Team Spirit

The guys have only made one substitution in the entire existence of this lineup. They kicked out so bad, and Mira took his place. There were no other changes. Now the Team Spirit lineup looks like this.

  • Illya "Yatoro" Mulyarchuk;
  • Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO" Khertek;
  • Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov;
  • Miroslaw "Miroslaw" Kolpakov;
  • Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov.

Team Spirit during the first season of DPC

Team Spirit during the first season of DPC
Team Spirit during the first season of DPC

During the first DPC season, Team Spirit was considered one of the main contenders for third place. It was clear that Natus Vincere and would take first and second place. And Team Spirit and AS Monaco Gambit were supposed to fight for the third slot. Unfortunately, the Dragons started the season awfully. The team won only one of the three matches, losing to the outsiders of the tournament — Team Empire and NoTechies. As a result, both teams left the first division and fell into the second one.

As it turned out, the problem was in the conflict between the players, namely between the offliner Magomed "Collapse" Khalilov and number 4, Vitaly "so bad" Oshmankevich, who plays on the same line. In addition, so bad had a conflict with the coach. Because of this, Silent did not participate in the draft construction in the first three league matches. The result was unsatisfactory, so the organization transferred so bad to the reserve and returned Silent to full-fledged work.

The place of so bad was taken by Miroslav "Miroslaw" Kolpakov. Later, the players said that this is their close friend, with whom they are very comfortable playing. The results also confirmed it. After the substitution, Team Spirit did not lose a single match and had a final score of 4-3. At the same time, Silent again took over the coaching duties, including picks.

Thanks to this, the Dragons went to the replay for the slot at the Major. The guys had to play against AS Monaco Gambit. However, there was another very unpleasant situation. Before the start of the season, VALVE introduced rules according to which substitutions during the league can only be made for four matches. Because of this, Team Spirit had to play with so bad instead of Miroslaw. The result was logical and unpleasant: Team Spirit lost and missed the Major in Singapore.

Team Spirit during the second DPC season

Team Spirit during the second DPC season
Team Spirit during the second DPC season

Team Spirit started the second season very cheerfully and in the first games beat the main competitors Natus Vincere (2-0) and AS Monaco Gambit (2-0). The Dragons played very confidently and looked a cut above the strongest opponents. As a result, on the last day of the league, Team Spirit had to play with Both teams had a score of 6-0, so the fight was for first place in the group and a direct invite to the Kiev Major playoffs.

All three maps were very tense. The first one was won by Team Spirit, after which immediately took revenge. On the third map, the Dragons had a huge advantage and completely controlled the game. The series would have ended 100% in their favor if they had methodically finished the game. But Team Spirit lost their nerve, and the guys flew under the enemy T4, where they all died. It was a chance for which took it, played to its advantage, and came out the winner of the duel.

Team Spirit is a strong team, even though it is really young and relatively new to the professional scene. In its post-match interviews, it won the hearts of many fans. These players have huge potential, and their only drawback is their lack of experience in LAN tournaments,"

Austin "Capitalist" Walsh

Because of this, Team Spirit was able to take only second place, get 300 DPC points, and get an invite to the Kiev Major group stage. At the event, the team proved itself more than worthy. The guys were considered verdant beginners, but they were still able to demonstrate a decent game. In the group stage, Team Spirit earned 5 points and entered the replay against Team Liquid for the last place in the bottom bracket of the playoffs. The Dragons were losing the whole game, but due to a good draft and a competent exit, they were able to come back, winning back all the advantage and gaining dominance. The victory in this game allowed Team Spirit to advance to the playoffs.

In the first round of losers, Team Spirit was very lucky with the opponent, the team fought Alliance, which was far from the best shape. Although not without problems, the Dragons still managed to win with a score of 2-1. Thanks to this victory, the CIS representatives entered the top 8 of the Kiev Major, which can already be called a serious achievement for the newcomers. In the next series, Team Spirit played against Vici Gaming. Here the game was no longer equal, the Dragons could not resist the Chinese masters and lost with a score of 0-2.

Of course, we have become stronger during the tournament. When we first arrived at the Major, during the clan war and official matches at the Pinnacle Cup, the team played much worse. Everyone understood that they were performing below their average level. That's why we tried to improve our game. We won the first map in the tournament against EG — that game seemed very easy to us. Probably, from that moment we started playing much better.

Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov

Team Spirit at the qualifiers for The International 10

Team Spirit at the qualifiers for The International 10
Team Spirit at the qualifiers for The International 10

As the team did not shine during the DPC seasons, and also could not get far at the Major, it had to play qualifiers to get to The International 10. Team Spirit was the main favorite at TI10 qualifiers. On the outside, it seemed that only Natus Vincere could compete with them. But the teams never met, as one went to the winners, and the second lost almost immediately.

Actually, that's what happened. Team Spirit swept the other teams The only difficult game was against HellRaisers, but they also managed to come back. As a result, the Dragons fought Team Empire in the grand final and were even close to losing. After the first three maps, the latter led 2-1, so only one map separated Team Spirit from relegation. The nerves were terrible. The picks also let them down. However, the Dragons were able to win two cards in a row and win the grand final. Team Spirit still passed to The International 10 for the first time in the history of the organization.

We didn't play in the qualifiers in our best form right now. I think we played a lot: the DPC season, then the Major, we rested for a couple of days, then we played Dota again, prepared for TI. I think it's all affected. But I didn't feel super pressure. We were just playing Dota," Alexander "TORONTOTOKYO"

Hertek said after the victory

Team Spirit at commercial tournaments

Team Spirit at commercial tournaments
Team Spirit at commercial tournaments

Since the beginning of 2021, Team Spirit has participated in six commercial tournaments, which is considered quite a large number compared to other TI10 participants. Most of them were of average level (Tier-2), but the Dragons regularly showed a cool game. Almost everywhere they were able to get into the top three, and also got several significant victories that definitely gave the team confidence. Here is the entire list of Team Spirit's achievements from 2021, excluding the DPC cycle.

  • EPIC League Season 3 Division 1 — 2nd place;
  • Dota 2 Champions League 2021 Season 1 — 1st place;
  • Pinnacle Cup — 1st place;
  • Dota 2 Champions League 2021 Season 2 — 1st place;
  • ESL One Fall — 5th place;
  • OGA Dota PIT Invitational — 2nd place.

Expectations from Team Spirit at The International 10

Before the start of The International 10, Team Spirit could not be called the favorite of the tournament. However, no one labeled this team as outsiders either. Basically, everyone highlighted the following strengths of the Dragons. 

  • A close-knit team in which friends play;
  • Excellent performance from each player;
  • Simple and productive strategies that work even against the top teams;
  • A cool coach with a lot of experience;
  • Good management and trust of the organization.

At the same time, many believed in a good performance of Team Spirit at TI10, at least in the CIS. Everyone was inspired by their game at the Major, where the guys showed their character and a grin. The odds of the Dragons' victory on The International were 26.00. This is two and a half times higher than that of By the way, bookmakers gave the same odds to win Quincy Crew, T1, and Alliance. It was believed that the Dragons would be able to go much further than these teams. Team Spirit was a top-12 contender, if things went well, they could have made it to the top-8. No one expected more from the CIS.

Expectations from Team Spirit at The International 10

Expectations from Team Spirit at The International 10
Expectations from Team Spirit at The International 10

The International 10 did not start in the best way for Team Spirit. The guys got into a more difficult group and on the first game day, they fought against PSG.LGD and Team Secret, who were considered the favorites of The International. Unfortunately, the Dragons lost both games, and without a chance, which, of course, hit morale a little. However, the Dragons have always been known for their friendship and mental health, so they recovered quickly after this blow.

It was a difficult day for us — we lost today to Team Secret with a score of 0-2 and to PSG.LGD with a score of 0-2. In fact, we showed far from our best game. It's not yet clear exactly what it has to do with — perhaps it's some kind of excitement, maybe it's just thinking about the wrong thing. I am sure we can show ourselves from the other side. In short, it was a bad day, but nothing critical has happened yet. We still have a lot of games ahead of us. Of course, we already discussed some reasons for defeats, conducted motivational speeches. So, keep believing in us, our beloved fans, we will still show what we are capable of.

Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov

On the second day of the group stage, everything changed, but not immediately. In the first match, Team Spirit lost to Vici Gaming. And at this game, the opponent looked a cut above and did not let our guys prove themselves at all. In the second match of the day, Team Spirit was able to beat Elephant with a score of 2-0. This result seemed incredibly cool and marked the beginning of the Dragons' comeback.

After that, Team Spirit did not lose a single map and was able to earn 8 points against Quincy Crew, Fnatic, beastcoast, SG e-sports. Thanks to this, the Dragons had enough points to get into the top bracket. This has already provided our team with a minimum of the top 12.

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Team Spirit's path through The International 10 Playoffs

Team Spirit's path through The International 10 Playoffs
Team Spirit's path through The International 10 Playoffs

In the first round of winners, Team Spirit played against Invictus Gaming. On the first map, the advantage was in the hands of the Chinese, but after a couple of mistakes, the Dragons could turn the game around. The Spiritists won literally one dragon, after which they demolished their opponents' throne. On the second map, Team Spirit had the advantage, but could not finish and lost. The third map was all under the control of Invictus Gaming. As a result, the Chinese team was able to win with a score of 2-1, and the Dragons fell into the bottom bracket.

In the losers, Team Spirit met Fnatic again, which the Dragons had already beaten during the group stage. The second meeting of the team at TI10 turned out to be even more boring than the first. Team Spirit simply defeated their opponent and ended the match with a score of 2-0.

I think Fnatic didn't feel very comfortable. They played better even in the same group. And we trained a lot with them, they also, I think, played better. But here it was felt that they were experiencing some kind of discomfort. Maybe they were a little afraid of us. I won't say the numbers, but they have never won against us for quite a long time — neither the official nor in training. And let's just say, we played against them a lot. So I think they had some kind of fear, some kind of barrier that they couldn't beat us, like kryptonite. And our drafts were better. I believe we chose the heroes well relative to them and were able to implement our strategies. And they could not put pressure on us properly due to a lack of confidence. Whatever we came up with, we succeeded. That is, the enemy did not interfere with us in any way.

Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov said after the victory

Team Spirit's next opponent was the legendary team, two-time champions of The International 10 — OG. The game promised to be very hot. On the first map, the Dragons had a very strong pick, but during the game, they played the second number all the time, and the opponent had an advantage of about 8 thousand gold. Nevertheless, Team Spirit managed to come back and win. There were inexpressible emotions on this map. Collapse deserves a special mention, as he took opponents under the fountain on its Magnus.

On the second map, the game was played in a completely different way. Team Spirit seized the advantage in the first minutes and did not let it go until the very end. The guys acted cool on the map and found OG players all over the map. At one point after a successful fight, TORONTOTOKYO even wrote to the general chat "ez game." 10 minutes after that, the OG's throne fell, and the Dragons were at least in the top 6 of The International 10.

Oddly enough, the games turned out to be not that complicated. Everything worked out pretty well for us, so there are not particularly any harsh outbursts of emotions. Moreover, we still have to play today, so we somehow approached this responsibly. That is, we won, I looked at the guys — no one was particularly happy. We understand that we still have a game today, so it's too early to rejoice.

Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov

In the battle for the top 4, Team Spirit fought with another team from the CIS — We should note that the CIS teams have not gone so far on TI for a long time and, accordingly, have not played against each other at such a stage of the tournament. At the same time, Team Spirit as an organization has never won against, the new Dragons lineup also failed to beat the Bears during the season. So the meeting was as principled as possible.

We can say that the first map was easy for Team Spirit. On the second map, won an easy victory. Everything was decided on the third heart-stopping map. The advantage was constantly shifting from one team to another, and the game itself lasted more than 60 minutes. The tension was incredible, but the Dragons won, having made another sensation and passing into the top 4 of The International 10.

If we talk about the game in general, Team Spirit, of course, looks intimidating. I'm even a little shocked. They show by their example how much of a team game it is now, and that it is possible to play very cool as a team and win without having super brains in all positions. I would also like to praise the people who are involved in drafts because every draft is something in my view. Every time, it is much easier for Spirit players to win in Dota than for their opponents. It seems to me that this is a huge work.

Ilya "lil me alone" Ilyyuk

In the next match, Team Spirit took revenge on Invictus Gaming. Despite the apparent strength of the Chinese team, the games turned out to be not so difficult for the CIS representatives. The Dragons destroyed the enemy on the first map without a chance, and on the second one, they slowly and methodically seized the advantage, eventually securing victory. Thus, Team Spirit made it to the final day of The International 10 and secured at least third place in the tournament.

Guys, Spirit is doing something incredible. This is the situation — it seems they caught the momentum, incredible confidence in each other, in the team. They're very cool all the way around, they act as one, everyone works with everyone — they just outplay their opponent everywhere. Today [after the victory over IG - ed.] in general, it seemed to me that Spirit plays at the LGD level. If they can defeat Team Secret on the final day of the tournament and don't get physically tired — and it's very difficult to play bo3 and bo5 on the same day — Spirit may well win The International

Danil "Dendi" Ishutin

Team Spirit's game on The International 10 final day

Team Spirit's game on The International 10 final day
Team Spirit's game on The International 10 final day

By the final day, Team Spirit had already made a sensation, securing third place at TI10. Another team could be satisfied with such a result, but not the Dragons. The guys clearly wanted to reach the grand final, but there was a very strong wall in front of them — Team Secret. According to predictions of all betting companies, Clement et al. were the favorite, and with a solid margin, but there was no such belief in the CIS representatives.

On the first map, Team Secret met all expectations. The team seized the advantage and pressed until the victorious end. The Russian heroes fought back as best they could, but still could not turn the game around and were defeated. On the second map, it was the opposite. Now Team Spirit imposed their game and did not allow Team Secret to take a single step. As a result, the Dragons tied the score, transferring everything to the third map.

There, Team Secret took a very cool combination: Tiny and Lycan. Before such a strategy worked flawlessly, but in the final of the winners, it misfired. Team Spirit played cool with the second number, caught the enemy on mistakes when the enemies went too far and gained a key advantage. After that, the Dragons were unstoppable and they won, securing a ticket to the grand final.

To be honest, I don't think I understand what really happened yet. I try not to think about what place we have taken. Now I have such thoughts: 'Great, let's play against PSG.LGD again.' I'm just thinking about the next game. I do not know how we managed to change our game significantly after the first days of the group stage. The first days at TI10 were very difficult for us, but earlier we won a lot of clan wars against the teams playing here, so we already knew them a little. In addition, we had some ideas and potential — we knew that we could show how good we were.

Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov

In the grand final, Team Spirit was considered an even bigger outsider than in the match against Team Secret. This is not surprising, since PSG.LGD lost only two maps during the entire tournament before this series. The Chinese looked like absolute favorites, machines that do not know defeat. After all, before the start of The International 10, this team was considered the main favorite to win the tournament.

However, during the grand final, everything turned upside down. Team Spirit won on the first two maps and without any problems. The Dragons played their game, gradually pressed, looked for chances, and realized them. This is the main factor in the Team Spirit's victory. On the third map, PSG.LGD took Tinker as the last pick, which had nothing to close. Because of this, the Chinese team outplayed the Russian heroes without any problems at all. The fourth map was also completely dominated by the Chinese team and ended with their victory.

The battle for the championship moved to the fifth map (there were only three such grand finals during TI). Surprisingly, PSG.LGD, like Team Secret, decided to use a cool strategy through Tiny and Lycan. But the Dragons apparently knew what to do against this strategy. Conceding during the match, they managed to turn over and win. After that, Team Spirit became the champion. No one could believe it, but it happened. The Dragons have made the best gift to the fans of the CIS-Dota.

What is the strength of Team Spirit?

Team Spirit is a very cool team. They don't have some kind of cheesy strategy. The guys play the most ordinary Dota with stable lines, a good team fight, and a strong late game, but they do it extremely well. Thanks to this, the Dragons feel great at any stage of the game. At the same time, the guys do not think about the championship or the prize money won, they just enjoy the game, which is the main key to victory. It is also worth noting that all players have very good mental health, which allows them to remain calm in any, even the most difficult, situations.

The phrase 'people start playing at The International' can be reformulated as 'people start playing emotionally and don't really try to think something through.' They start playing emotionally more, automatically. Because there is always some kind of excitement and pressure. People who can't handle it well get very distracted by it, and it obscures part of their mind. They can't spend a lot of time playing, their thoughts don't add up. I believe that TI is the tournament where it becomes as difficult as possible to restrain your emotions. The better you are developed in terms of controlling feelings and emotions, the better you will play. If during the match you don't just shout emotionally: "Go, go, go, let's do this." And you can talk to yourself about who you need to kill and where to jump... If people can say such things, which is sometimes difficult at such tournaments, then they will achieve great results at such tournaments

Yaroslav "Miposhka" Naidenov shared the secret of success

It's hard to name the coolest player on this team. The supports Miroslaw and Miposhka play every moment to the best of their abilities, perfectly pressing buttons and holding position. And don't forget about Collapse, he won several games solo on his Magnus and Mars. TORONTOTOKYO was the worst of them at the beginning of the tournament, but by the end of TI he gained a very cool shape and began to make a huge impact. Yatoro set just a bunch of records during The International 10 and finished the tournament with just a crazy KDA. Here are the coolest Yatoro achievements at this tournament.

  • Yatoro is the youngest player of The International 10. He is only 18 years old;
  • During the playoffs, Yatoro picked 14 unique heroes;
  • Yatoro made three Rampage for the playoffs. In the playoffs of all the other The Internationals, only four Rampage were made.
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How much Team Spirit earned

During the DPC cycle, Team Spirit earned 54 thousand dollars (26 for the first season and 28 for the second season). The team received 12.5 thousand dollars for WePlay AniMajor. At commercial tournaments since the beginning of the year, the team has earned 169.5 thousand dollars. Thus, for the year, the income of Team Spirit amounted to 236 thousand dollars due to prize money. At TI10, the team earned a record $18.2 million in prize money.

Comments (1)
Sports Lover
Wow that is a vivid article and long piece. Well done! This is really a must-read for the lovers of the Team Spirit!