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Four months ago, Nigma Galaxy Female were on the verge of abandoning Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in favor of VALORANT. That was the path many of their competitors in the women’s CS:GO space were taking due to a dearth of professional opportunities in Valve’s first-person shooter.

That changed when ESL announced their women’s circuit at the end of 2021.

Since then, Nigma Galaxy, led by veteran player Ksenia “vilga” Klyuenkova, have doubled down on their commitment to CS:GO. Recently they became one of the first female teams to advance through ESEA to reach the Main division.

“All of us just started screaming,” vilga said. “When we won, we were like, ‘Did we do it? Did we make it?'”

Vilga Nigma
Vilga at DreamHack Valencia 2019. | Photo by Fredrik Nilsson. Provided by DreamHack

ESEA’s mixed-gender format gives Nigma the opportunity to test their mettle against top male teams in Europe. The Main division is where — at least in Europe — you begin to see known orgs with salaried teams like AVANGAR and eSuba. It’s one step beneath Advanced, where top teams fight to qualify for international tournaments.

For Nigma Galaxy, qualifying for ESEA Main has been a longtime goal. It also means they’re going to have to level up their gameplay.

“The first season is going to be really hard for us because we have never played on that level before,” vilga said. “But hopefully in the next seasons we will be able to play better and better.”

“If you play against stronger opponents, you need to have stronger defaults, better strats,” vilga’s teammate, Alexandra “twenty3″ Timonina, added.”You need to improve basically everything.”

ESL Impact League

Beyond ESEA, vilga and twenty3 have been occupied with ESL’s new women’s circuit: the ESL Impact League. They’ve been impressed with the league and with ESL, who has supported the league by broadcasting matches on the front page of their website. ESL also ensured that all players have webcams.

“It’s just so professional,” twenty3 said.

ESL Impact League
Nigma Galaxy compete in the ESL Impact League. | Provided by ESL via Twitch.

So far Nigma Galaxy have won a handful of Cash Cups through the new circuit, but it’s the Impact League and the LAN finals where the real money will be made, with $150,000 on the line.

Nigma are currently undefeated in the European division of the Impact League and heavy favorites to secure one of two tickets to the LAN finals at DreamHack Dallas in June. Of course, there’s the looming difficulty of securing American visas, which is difficult at the best of times saying nothing of COVID-19 or the Russian citizenship of half Nigma Galaxy’s roster.

LANs have been in short supply during COVID-19, and there’s nothing  Nigma Galaxy want more than to attend Dallas and prove themselves. While the team wants to be able to compete with the best male teams in the world, their more immediate focus is becoming the world’s best women’s team.

“We are really looking forward to the LAN so we can prove we are the best,” vilga said. “This is our No. 1 goal right now.”

To stake that claim, they’ll have to beat their international competition in teams like Counter Logic Gaming Red and FURIA Esports Female.

Nigma Galaxy

Outside of this new wave of support from ESL, vilga and her squad said they’ve received significant support from their organization, Nigma Galaxy. They gave specific praise to Paul Roy, the founder of Galaxy Racer (an organization that later merged with Team Nigma to become Nigma Galaxy.)

“He was watching every game we play,” vilga said. “It’s like my mom. It felt like he really cares. Some organizations would just sign a team and then support financially, but there’s no spiritual support.”

“When we won in playoffs to get into Main, [Paul] was one of the first people to write congrats,” twenty3 said.

On a gameplay level, the team is also clicking like never before.

“We have had the core of the team for such a long team that we are like a family now,” twenty3 said.

Soon, the team will head to their first ever bootcamp in the United Arab Emirates. There, they will work on honing their gameplay so that they can continue to dominate the ESL Impact League and maybe even begin to challenge some of the best teams Europe has to offer in ESEA Main.

“We all have the same mind and the same goal,” vilga said. “We motivate each other to be better. This is the most important thing to have on a team.”