1:1 Interview With Navi CS:GO Pro - Boombl4!

Insights20 minutes read

Hailing from Russia, Kirill Mikhailov has been playing CS:GO professionally since 2017. Known by his gamer tag Boombl4, Kirill was previously part of teams such as Winstrike and Elements Pro Gaming before he joined NAVI in mid-2019. 

Watch the video, or keep scrolling for the entire interview transcript below!

Hello everyone! Today our special guest is BoombI4. We had a few questions for him, so we could get to know him a little better. Let's go!

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Boombl4! Fans often pronounce your nickname incorrectly, especially English-speaking ones. Tell us what your nickname means, both for you and in general.

Well, it's related to some moments of rage from League of Legends. I was talking about them and someone I knew at the time called me that. And I just liked it, so I took it as my nickname. Now it's become a kind of brand.

Lots of people can’t pronounce it, because the Russian letter 'ы' doesn't exist for them, they see a 'b' and an 'l' instead. I've heard many variations of my nickname, so far.

Can you name a couple of them?

Bumblebee, Bombich, and so on.

Well, they sound okay, too.  You can use them if you get bored of your current one.

You've been playing professionally now for nearly 5 years.  Tell us what you've been through over these 5 years.  How has your game changed?  Where are you with it now?  And where did you begin?

Well, it's hard to describe fully. To start with, I just spent a ton of time playing. Then I got into my first team. It's been a long road:

at first I was just a regular player, then I tried myself out as a captain. Then I came to my current team and became a captain here too. I had to get through a lot of things.

What are the main ups and downs that you can pick out?

Well, the ups: the first one was when my first team made it into the top 5 to 8 [ranked teams] at a Major. And then there were two big tournaments I won with the current team.

One of them was a LAN in Katowice. It was one of the coolest moments of my life because it was the first LAN tournament with big prizes where I won. We got a cup there too, although there weren’t any fans in the arena, unfortunately. But it was still great.

And then there was the BLAST tournament we won online. So, those are probably the coolest moments of my whole career.

As for the downs, well, they’ve always been there. It happens to all teams, we’re no exception. Sometimes our results haven’t been good. We just need to keep training and developing.

Did something change in you, in your style of play, or in your attitude toward the game over the last five years?

Sure. The more you play, the better you understand what actions to take. You learn from your mistakes. Each tournament day or training day is a new experience for you. You upgrade yourself each time.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice about how to play, how to behave with your teammates, or just about life in general, what would you say?

I would probably advise myself to analyze my games more at the beginning of my career, so that I could get good results more quickly. Back then, I never thought much about teamwork and that sort of stuff.

I understood that it's important, of course, but I'd still built my game around individual action. To reach a higher level, you need to analyze the game and understand macro gameplay.

Well, probably not all young players understand that, it's a part of their development.  So it's okay.  What’s it like to play at NAVI compared to playing with other teams?  You might not have too much experience of changing teams, but you still have some.

Well, I’ve been on three teams: EPG, QBF, and Winstrike, which I helped put together. But here at NAVI, it's really cool because the strongest players in the CIS are here. They’ve played in lots of tournaments, they’ve won some of them and lost in the finals of Majors too.

They have a huge amount of experience. So that’s why I was really happy when I came here. At first, Denis ["electronic" Sharipov] helped me a lot. When I first joined the team, I suggested a bunch of things and he told me why, at this level, they wouldn’t work.

He would make fun of me sometimes but it helped me improve and understand the game better. So yeah, basically, the best players are here who understand the game better than anyone. That’s why it’s cool to be here.

Tell us about your role as the in-game leader,  because it’s a position that carries a lot of responsibility. 

How did you come to it?  What is it about the role that speaks to you?

I wanted to become a captain after my second team (sic), Winstrike, lost at a Major 0-3. During our games there, I had the feeling that I knew what we should have done better. But at that time, I was just a player. After a bad defeat like that, I wanted to try out the role of captain.

I found it interesting and, I don't know, that's how it all started. And after that, I liked it.

In general, the responsibilities? Well, coordinating and directing the team. I have to take into account all the details, track the meta, prepare the team for competitions. Basically, I have a wide range of tasks.

What do you like most about the role? What are its pluses?

I would say that it’s a role that really helps you develop as a player, because you understand what’s happening on the map and so on. And that helps you individually.

And what do I like? I don’t know. Maybe that I lead the team. I know that I’ll never give up, and that means I can push the team to the end. I don't know, I just like it.

Can you name the most important qualities of a world-class in-game leader?  Maybe some of the gamers watching this might be wondering, “can I be an in-game leader?”  And you would say, “if you have such-and-such qualities, it’s possible”.

Well, you need to be very smart and have a strong character. So you can say something to the team at the right moment. You need leadership skills at a high level and analytical thinking skills too. And, well, just work hard.

Leadership skills and hard work—those are the two most important things.

What problems are you facing within your team at the moment, and how are you planning to work on them?

I wouldn't say that it's a problem, but our roster has been refreshed a bit for the next two tournaments. We need to work on the map pool, play maps [new team member] Valera [Valeriy "B1T" Vakhovskyi] hasn't played. It's hard to stay at a high level across, say, six maps.

So, the problem is really a lack of time, and a map pool which isn’t the best. But we’ll try to prepare for our next tournaments—DreamHack and RMR. And memorize some maps, work on mind-gaming them, and play maps we’ve trained on the most.

It sounds complicated, but I wish you luck in that tough process, and thank you for your candid answers!

You’re very welcome.

Let's start over and get acquainted again.

Tell us, how did your passion for video games begin?

Yeah, I don't know. Since I was a kid I’ve loved playing PlayStation. Then my uncle got a computer, and I always loved playing CS 1.6. That’s where it all started. And then it’s been a lifelong thing, even while I was studying.

When I was a kid, I used to love playing outdoors but then they tore down my favorite playground where I played football. So after that, I started playing video games a lot.

You see, those people played an important role in your eSports career!

And that's exactly what my next question is about: when was the moment that you decided to become a pro gamer?

When I downloaded CS:GO, I don't know, I just played it for about a year, maybe 2000 or 3000 hours. Then I found out about professional teams, tournaments, and the travel, and I was like, "wow, that's interesting". I wanted to give it a try, see if I could reach that level.

And that was it. I just started dedicating loads of time to the game and gave it my best shot.

And what was the most difficult thing about the transition from amateur to pro gaming?

Well, it was that you needed to find people who were willing to have you on their team when you were just starting out. I mean, you needed people who would help you develop and that sort of thing. Because at my level at that time, I didn't have any idea of what I should do or how I could improve.

I had been focused on my individual game, that's the thing. So I was always looking for people who could help me in terms of the team aspect of the game, and people who could just help me develop as a player in general.

Can you recall your most difficult match? Not necessarily as part of NAVI, just the most difficult match of your career, the hardest match of your life.

Well, I'd say the hardest match—I mean, the toughest for me, mentally—was when I got into the play-offs of a Major for the first time—

The quarter-finals after NAVI?

And we came up against NAVI, yes. And so, we played them in the quarter-finals, and we'd already played our first match in the tournament against them and lost. And we knew that they saw us as weak players. I mean, for obvious reasons, because we beat everyone in best-of-1 matches through sheer willpower.

And then, I don't know, we were just really in the mood to win but the match started and we realized that we were being ripped to shreds. That was hard to take.

As far as I remember, [NAVI CS:GO player] flamie [Egor "flamie" Vasilyev] set a new kill record.

Yeah, yeah, it was really hard. We just felt that no matter what we did, we were getting outshot.

Could you have imagined back then that you would join NAVI eventually? Did you think about that?

Back then, I dreamed of playing on the same team with Egor—flamie. In general, I was really drawn to NAVI because it was the best organization with the best players who played in all the tournaments. It was where I was aiming to be from the very beginning.

Could you name your best teammate, someone with whom you had the best synergy? And who was your, well, best opponent? The person who it was most difficult to play against, but who you respected.

My best teammate of all time... You know, there have been several, I really can’t choose just one. So, it's hard to say. 

At QBF, my best teammate was Kvik [Aurimas "Kvik" Kvakšys]. At NAVI I don't know, I like playing with all the guys.

Of course, I was always closest with Egor. So, probably... I think I even mentioned in an interview that flamie is one of my best friends. So, I guess it's him.If we're talking about the most difficult... what was it again?

Opponent. The best opponent you've played against. A specific player.

The best opponent... I guess that would be Astralis. When I joined NAVI, they were dominating everyone, they were winning all the tournaments.

What about a specific player of theirs?

I'd say I had quite a hard time playing against dupreeh [Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen], because, out of all of them, he's the most—

Reckless?

Yes, reckless. I mean, they have their systems and all that, but sometimes he would do something out of the blue, and it would annoy me.

Breaking the rules.

Yeah yeah yeah, he was like that. He could be off-target with grenades, he wasn't like the other four guys. So, he was the hardest to play against. He used to be one of my favorite players when I just started playing.

Makes sense. My next question was actually about the best team,  but you've already answered.  It's Astralis, right?

The hardest to play against, you mean?

Yes, the most difficult as an opponent.

Well, yes.I don't know, maybe I think that because I had huge motivation to beat everyone, and they were dominant for such a long time. I guess there were also difficult matches against other teams. Like, we always had a tough fight against Vitality.

There were matches against them—like the one at EPICENTER—where we won the first map 16:3 but then lost the next two 16:4, 16:5. Matches against them were always really interesting, so I'd say Vitality were the hardest to play against, at that time.

Can you tell us about the funniest or strangest incident you remember from your eSports career? Maybe some story from a LAN [tournament] or a bootcamp? What comes to mind?

Okay, I’ve already told this story, but for me, it was just such a clever move from our coach. It was at a Minor in Romania, it was my first tournament. And we were playing for 2nd place, which would also have put us through to the Major, while the 3rd place team would be out of the tournament.

So, we lost the first map, which had been our pick. Then our coach came out and said, "okay guys, we’re going to lose, fine, I get it. But the fact that they’re insulting us, and our friends and relatives...”

And we were like, "what? Is that what they’re shouting at us?"

So we started—

Who were you playing against?

Team Spirit. And so, basically, we started shouting insults back at them during the second map. The tournament admins even came up to us and said they would disqualify us. And the guys from Team Spirit started shouting back at us. 

So were they actually shouting at you from the beginning, or was it just something your coach told you?

That’s what the coach said, but we didn't know if they really were or not. But we thought they were, so we were shouting back. In the end, we beat them, and then our coach came up to us and said they weren't shouting anything, and he’d only said that to make us angry.

That’s genius.  Who was your coach?

It was iksou [Dmitriy "iksou" Mikhailichenko].

A genius move. Did you have any conflicts with Team Spirit after that?

It almost came to an actual fight after that. We took a break before the third map, and there was some exchange of words with Nikita ["waterfaLLZ" Matveyev]. And then at the hotel—I had no idea, honestly, probably just like everyone else, and I remember I apologized to them.

I don't know whether they understood or not. But I don’t think anyone is still holding a grudge over it.

I doubt they accepted your apology because they didn’t go through to the Major, whereas you guys did and even got to the playoffs. So, it worked. That counts.

So, as we know, traditional athletes are very fond of various rituals and they tend to be very superstitious people, in general.  What about you, and what about eSports in general? Do you have anything—any kind of rituals?

I wouldn't call it a ritual, but I try not to eat before official matches. I don't know, it helps. It's hardly a ritual but somehow it's easier for me that way. I think it helps you to think more clearly, make better decisions,be sharper, like, not be slow.

But you're not a superstitious person?

Well, I'd say I am, but I can't say I have any special rituals.

Okay, good. How much time do you spend preparing mentally for competitive matches?

I can't say I take time to sit and mentally prepare before each official match. I mean, we have a psychologist—Gleb—who works with us and sometimes helps us before games.

We always take time to get in the right frame of mind before a game, or we might have some individual sessions with Gleb in the days leading up to a game. We have a second psychologist now. Basically, we just work on it gradually.

But if we're talking about some kind of specific preparation before each individual match, we don't have anything like that. Because, I think, if you give too much significance to each and every match, you just get more nervous.

I remember that at the last bootcamp—or the one before that—you played sports, you had mats and things like that. Basically, physical activity was part of your training process. What about now? Do you follow any, let's say, rituals like that?

Well, at this year's bootcamp I don't remember anyone doing exercise or anything. I think the main goal was more to get into good shape in terms of our team play before the tournament.

The focus was less on things like physical health and more on training, spending quality time together, and working on things that needed to be worked on.

Carrying on this theme of game preparation—do you spend a lot of time on analysis and game tactics?  Do you watch demos, for example?

Before every official game, we get together with [NAVI CS:GO team coach] Andrey ["B1ad3" Gorodenskiy] and study our opponent for anywhere from two to five or six hours.

It depends on what time a match starts or how much time we have after training matches.

We do that every time.

What would you change about eSports today, if you had the chance to change something? Within CS:GO.

I really wouldn’t like to think about it. I'm a player, so let someone else change something and bring us joy.

For example, you could make it so that Valve doesn't penalize teams for substitutions at RMR tournaments.

Or so that LANs appear at last.

Well, that doesn't depend on eSports. That’s about global government.

Yeah.

What are your plans for this year? Or maybe you have some more long-term plans? What comes to mind?

Game-related plans or in general?

Related to your career, yes.

Well, basically, I want us to become the number one team and hold that position for a long time, gain some stability.

Speaking of something not game-related, I’d like to go away on vacation this year for the first time in my life. Somewhere by the sea or the ocean, an island, maybe, is my plan. And I’d like to buy an apartment too.

But all of that is, of course, impossible without the things I mentioned first: the tournaments, the wins, the good results.

Which aspects of your individual playing style would you like to change or improve?

I’d like to have more self-control because sometimes I have problems with aggression. I make impulsive decisions, and that can hurt the team.

How important is team chemistry for winning? Do all the links of the chain need to get on well together, so to speak?

Of course they do, yeah. Working together and having maximum synergy is what gives you the edge at those crucial moments in a game. Teamwork is more important than anything.

How is that chemistry formed? For example, a new person joins the team—what do you do?

The team just needs to play together as much as possible. Play training matches, spend as much time playing as possible so that when you’re in a particular situation on the map, everyone’s thinking the same way.

And that’s when you get real teamplay, because everyone understands what's going on and why, and what they need to do. Getting to that state, when everyone is on the same wavelength, is the most difficult thing to achieve.

But if a team manages to do it, if everyone is of one mind, then that would just be the best teamplay that could ever exist.

Tell us an unexpected fact about yourself that no one knows.

I don't know. I tell everyone about everything, so there aren’t any.

You don't have any secrets?

I don't.

What gaming experience influenced you the most?

Gaming experience? That influenced me the most?

Well, it's hard to choose just one, to be honest. I think it’s the tough losses that have the most influence. I would say for us, it would be the finals where we lost to Vitality and Astralis. Those were tough losses to take.

But losses like that also energize you and give you food for thought.

And what’s the biggest difficulty you face now, in your career or maybe just in life, in general?  Is there anything holding you back?

Yeah, difficulties... Everyone faces difficulties. But there aren’t things that are holding me back. I don’t know, I think you just need to keep putting in the work.

Time goes by and you need to get better, you need to get into those top rankings.

What would you be doing if you hadn’t become a professional gamer?

I was thinking about becoming a dentist, or a massage therapist, or a lawyer. Or maybe a musician. But that I started thinking about only after I’d already become a gamer.

The other professions were part of my thinking when I was finishing school and hadn’t started gaming professionally yet.

But dentists cause people pain.

Yeah, but that’s no big deal. People would thank me afterwards.

And pay you $40 000 for veneers!

Yeah, and then I would definitely be on vacation now!

All right.  In your opinion, which game released in the last 20 years is the most underrated? And why? And in general—

The most underrated game of the last 20 years?

Yes.

I don’t know. It's hard to say. Every game has something special that people like. It's difficult to choose one.

Alright.  Well, thank you so much for this interview and for your time.

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