On Sunday, a meme was put to bed. Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev was the best player in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that hadn’t won a Valve-sponsored major; the pinnacle of the esport. After years of trying, that finally changed in the grand final of the PGL Major Stockholm 2021, when Natus Vincere took down G2 Esports 2-0, completing a flawless run through the tournament.
S1mple hoisted his trophy in front of thousands of CS:GO fans in the Avicii Arena, in Stockholm, Sweden. The ramifications of his first major win are numerous. The king of CS:GO has his crown, the era of Na’Vi has begun in earnest, Commonwealth of Independent States dominance, et cetera, et cetera. But somewhere down the list — admittedly quite far in the grand scheme of things — is the fact that a meme pertaining to s1mple has died. It was killed, in fact, by the man himself.
What’s in a meme
Chances are that if you’re a fan of competitive CS:GO, you’ve heard the line “Devilwalk 1 major s1mple 0” before. The origin of this well-trod meme rests with Jonatan “Devilwalk” Lundberg, a former CS pro turned coach. If s1mple is the greatest player to have ever won a major, then Devilwalk is … well, it’s unfair and probably inaccurate to say the worst, so let’s settle for “a player whose statistics during his playing career were a bit more modest.” For reference, Devilwalk’s career average rating is a 0.86 on the HLTV 2.0 scale, whereas s1mple sits at a 1.25.
Even still, Devilwalk carved out his place in CS history through his affiliation with one of the game’s most dominant organizations, Fnatic. They won CS:GO’s first major, Dreamhack Winter 2013. This was also the first major to be sponsored by Valve. The win was a moment of triumph for Devilwalk; the pinnacle of his playing career.
In 2014, Devilwalk swapped from playing to coaching. Fnatic won their second major at ESL One: Katowice 2015 with Devilwalk at the helm. That made him the only person to ever win a CS:GO major as both a player and a coach, and this feat has yet to be usurped.
Not long after the win at Katowice, Devilwalk parted ways with Fnatic. Since then, he’s been a perennial figure in Tier 1/Tier 2 CS, both playing and coaching. He’s currently a free agent, exploring coaching opportunities in CS:GO and VALORANT.
The meme about s1mple began in 2018 when Devilwalk was a coach for Chaos. By that time, the Ukrainian-born s1mple had already established himself as one of the best players from the CIS region and in the game as a whole. But he still hadn’t snagged himself a major, falling just short at ESL One: Cologne 2016 and again at the FACEIT Major: London 2018.
It was a sort of deliciously cruel twist of fate that s1mple kept getting so close but could never lift the trophy himself. And Devilwalk, being the person that he is, liked to take the piss out of the CIS teams that they played by boasting he’d done the deed that the mighty s1mple could not.
“Before every match against a CIS team, I joined coach slot as ‘Devilwalk 1 major s1mple 0’, just to scare them off a little bit or troll,” Devilwalk said. “That’s kind of just how it started, and people took a screenshot of that and posted it on Reddit or HLTV forums.”
For Devilwalk, it was a bit of fun. He was simultaneously taking a jab at s1mple, himself and the CIS teams that Chaos were playing, all in one swing. It was never even meant to reach s1mple.
“I like to troll,” Devilwalk said. “Even if it’s an admin before veto or whatever. It makes me smile and I feel happy. I troll a little bit and maybe they’ll have a laugh too.”
The meme quickly snowballed until it had taken on a life of its own. It had grown so big that s1mple, in the closing moments of his first interview with HLTV after winning the whole damned PGL Major Stockholm 2021, said, “Thank you everyone for the support and now s1mple one major, Devilwalk one major.”
Out for a smoke
Something important to note about Devilwalk’s meme is that there has never been any animosity between himself and s1mple.
“I’ve been to many LANs and met s1mple,” Devilwalk said. “We’re both smokers, so we go out and take a cigarette together and just chat. I always enjoyed his company.”
Devilwalk knows s1mple better than most. He bore witness to his rise through the ranks of the best CS:GO players, from his early years when he was slapped with that all-encompassing TOXIC label, to now. With his win at the PGL Major, s1mple has become the face of CS:GO. It was a meteoric rise from his reputation as an egotistical jerk to being the posterboy for a game that draws millions of viewers.
“Back then, he was very misunderstood, I think,” Devilwalk said. “He didn’t have any ill intentions.”
s1mple at the PGL Major
A Swede himself, Devilwalk made the trip to Stockholm to watch the major finals and see s1mple win his first major in person. He described s1mple’s win as a just recompense for the hard work that s1mple put into the game. After the grand finals, he spoke to his friend to congratulate him.
“I told him at the afterparty that nobody else deserves it more and that I’m more than certain he will break the amount of majors I have in a short time,” Devilwalk said. “He is the GOAT, after all.”
Devilwalk said he thinks winning a major won’t quench s1mple’s thirst for glory. He spoke about s1mple’s hunger to compete. It’s something that everyone who knows the Ukrainian star can attest to: his unparalleled drive. Devilwalk compared s1mple to Zlatan Ibrahimović, the Swedish footballer. He said they both feel the need to push themselves and everyone else around them to be the best versions of themselves.
“[S1mple] just has a serial winner mentality,” Devilwalk said. “They can seem egotistical, but it’s what you need to win. You need to buff yourself up. You need to understand how hard you need to work and you need to demand it of your teammates as well. And, I think he’s a little bit like that because, when we go out to smoke and chill with each other, he’s a normal guy. Jokes around, has fun.”
In interviews with Swedish fans leading up to the PGL Major Stockholm, there was almost unanimous consent that this was s1mple’s year. Finally, after all these years, his hard work would be rewarded. And, of course, everyone would get to witness his unreal starpower on the server.
“He’s so consistently good and impactful,” Devilwalk said. “You set him at a standard. If I was playing and had one of his games, it would be almost a career best. He brings that value to not only the spectators but everyone, to raise their level.”
When asked about the meme’s lifespan, now that s1mple has his first major, Devilwalk joked that it would still continue. Even though he doesn’t value the major he won with Fnatic as a coach as much as the one he won as a player, Devilwalk will still count it, if only to perpetuate the meme.
So, maybe in the end, it’s not the death of a meme, but a rebirth.
Devilwalk 2 majors s1mple 1.
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.