Going pro - Interview with TeSeS

Interview By Elisabeth Foged

It’s been a few months now since René “TeSeS” Madsen joined our CS:GO line-up. The team has already been competing at two international LAN events, and they will now spent some time off from their competitive journey. Much has happened for TeSeS and co., but before we sent him back home to Skjern on a well-deserved Christmas vacation, we had a chat with him. In this exclusive interview, he tells how he got introduced to CS, and how he’s handled the transformation from a part time CS player to going ‘pro’ as an esport athlete.

Did You Know?

TeSeS played with OpTic Gaming before joining us in Copenhagen Flames as stand-in back in October.

He won DreamHack Open Summer 2019 with OpTic Gaming. The tournament had a total prizepool of $100,000. OpTic Gaming won $50.000 as 1st place.

TeSeS has signed with us untill 2021.

Optic at DHS19 TeSeS

TeSeS lifting the DreamHack Open Summer 2019 trophy

Introduction to Gaming

How did you get introduced to gaming?
It started back when I was 8 years old. My family and I lived on a farm in a small town nearby Skjern in Jutland. My big brother played a lot on our family’s computer. Someday, I thought I’d better try it out as well. Since then, we have always argued about who should have access to the computer. We only had one computer available at home. Our parents started making a time schedule to make sure we both had an equal chance to play. Furthermore, my brother and I always fought about being the best and who got to play the most. We continued this competition for many years.

When did you start playing Counter-Strike?
I started playing [Counter-Strike, red.] Condition Zero, and I’ve played a wide variety of games. I’ve got maybe 60 different titles on my Steam, where I have 10 played hours or so. But I always return to CS. No matter what other game I try out, I always end up returning to CS.

I’ve always had a desire to become better. I have that competitive gene that always pushes me to keep going. I never quit or give up. It’s such a typical cliche, I know, but I definitely view it as a great strength in my mentality which is very resilient. I never settle or stop.

Well, that’s how I got introduced to CS. 

Have you always felt that you had a certain talent when it comes to CS? That it was something you could master and perhaps achieve something with?
I guess so. When you approach a new title, there’s so much you have to learn from scratch. Eventually, I just chose to go all-in on CS. There’s so much more to CS than what I first imagined. I just think it’s awesome. You can always think of new tactics or elements in CS. I find it very compelling because I can always learn something new and get better.

Choosing Between Football and Counter-Strike

Have you ever competed in any traditional sports where you also found yourself using your ability to compete and your mental strenght?
Definitely, yes. I played football for 8 years. We were competing on a high level, but then I began to feel my knees hurt and such. Then I had to choose another option which was to play CS. I thought it would be awesome to go all-in and it was also what I wanted to do.

So what you’re telling to anyone, myself included, who’s in their teenage years or mid twenties and who suffers from injuries from all the time spent on sports; we should just pursue a career in esport instead?
Haha, yeah. Well I did both once. And it was really hard to fit both football and CS into my schedule. My CS practice was usually at afternoon which was at the same time as my football practice. Back then, I was playing CS part time.

In the end you chose to put football behind and let everything evolve around CS?
Yes. But that was after I finished boarding school.

TeSeS front WePlay!

Content day at WePlay! Forge of Masters

The Potential of Becoming a Professional Esport Athlete

When did you discover that you had the potential to become a professional CS player?
After I finished boarding school, I was picked up by Thomas “haste” Dyrensborg whom I played with for 2 years. During that long period, we have won tournaments, but we have also done mediocre or even badly. Well it was a rollercoaster ride and we lost many matches. Besides that, we were always scouting for new players.

At a certain point, I was discovered by OpTic Gaming who took me in and that was when I truly discovered my own potential. But I have somehow always felt a certain self-confidence in CS. I have always felt at home in the game. In CS, I could isolate myself. I believe it has helped me a great deal through my life. I’ve always had one certain thing I was good at. 

You have already been to big tournaments and competed against great teams. AcilioN has done the same throughout his somewhat longer career. What has it meant for you that you already have this experience with you from a young age when you joined Copenhagen Flames?
I played with Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen in OpTic Gaming and he brought me up to a certain level. Here, I really got hit by the epiphanies of how clever you become with the experiences you gain over time. I did feel that I learned a lot in OpTic Gaming, but I never really realized how much until I joined Copenhagen Flames. Now I know exactly what strengths and knowledge I bring to a team.

Full focus at tournaments

I’m very much surprised with how much I’ve learned the last couple of years without really realizing it until now. When I go to bed at night, I can’t stop thinking about CS and of what I have learned. So my time in OpTic Gaming has been very rewarding on a personal level.

Also in terms of participating in big tournaments and experience how everything works and how players behave towards each other. Especially the professional framework you go under when you play for a team like OpTic Gaming, has given me a certain understanding of professional esport. 

The Reason TeSeS Joined Copenhagen Flames ?

Why did you choose to join Copenhagen Flames?
Right after OpTic Gaming broke up, I had to look for a new team. By then I got to talk with Daniel Vorborg for a chance to be stand-in for Flames for a short period. That was a great opportunity to keep myself running and to see what kind of players I could play with. I also wanted to find out if the things I’d heard about Flames were true or false.

I quickly found out that I really liked everyone. They had the right work ethics and a strong desire to improve. They didn’t hesitate to give or receive constructive critique and that is what I appreciate most fondly about a team. You have to be able to receive critique in order to fix the problems you face on a team.

Copenhagen Flames on stage at Qi banja Luka 2019

The team on stage at Qi Banja Luka 2019

I also quickly realized when I joined Flames as stand-in that we had problems with keeping our agreements. We were good at talking about our mistakes, but we clearly had problems with solving them. I felt that I could contribute with a new perspective. 

Every player on the Flames line-up has the right work ethic and they’re all great players – especially farlig, he has done extremely well. I actually thought he never really put much thought into his game-play and just acted accordingly to the situation he found himself in. But I quickly realized he is really smart inside the game. All in all, there were a lot of advantages for me to join Flames. I learn a lot by teaching others what I know about the game. And at the same time I discover what I’ve learned through my time as a CS player. 

Personal Strengths and Clutch Highlights

What are your personal strengths?
My strengths are definitely that I reflect a lot about everything and that I always find a solution to my problems. If I struggle with finding a solution, I always ask for help.

My mentality is to always keep fighting even when you’re in the middle of a setback or adversity. And if you hit a wall, you just keep fighting through this wall. When I first joined Flames, everything went very well. Everybody said we were going through our honeymoon phase. But things did go south for a while, but I never stopped pushing through the wall that we hit. Many players fear they have to look for a new team when they hit a wall, but I just don’t want to give up on my team or team mates. We have to go through the struggles together instead of giving up. That as well is one of my assets.

I’m known a bit as a “fragger”. I just feel that I’ve learned a lot from different players especially haste and MSL. And I use this knowledge alot. My lacking experience beforehand was definitely my weakness, but now I feel it has become one of my strengths. 

I’m sure many want to know your secret of how you handle clutches so well. What is your secret when you are in a 1v4 clutch against a team with a full buy and you only have a Deagle in your possession and you still manage to win the round? What happens when you find yourself in such a situation and have to keep your composure and stay calm? 
I can imagine that many players would feel they have their backs against the wall and can’t see any way out. But I always see the options I have in store. You just have to choose the right option.

What matters in clutches is that you have to isolate as many duels as possible. I’ve learned this from my time in OpTic Gaming and with haste. If you’re up against 4, you shouldn’t move away from your hiding spot or just start shooting against 4. You must always isolate your targets and your duels. It all comes down to timings on what your opponents do. You have to play a lot in order to gain enough experience and learn how to handle these situations.

Highlight: 1v4 Deagle clutch against Yalla.
In that specific situation, you just mentioned where I clutched with my Deagle versus 4; we were first of all not against the best team. And they didn’t interpret the situation very well. They just handed me 1 on 1 duels.

They had the upper hand and they just gave me the best possibility to secure that round. I just had to hit my shots. And that was it.

Highlight: 1v4 spray against Nordavind.
When it comes to the spray against Nordavind on Vertigo, I was all alone because all my team mates were dead. I had told them to hide so that we together could try to go for the retake. But they died and I thought: “now I enter the smoke and wait until it fades”. 

I was lucky that they were all low on health and then I just held down my mouse button and yeah it just happened by itself, haha.

Strategic Minds Think Alike

Back when I interviewed AcilioN, you had just begun as stand-in. I asked AcilioN about what you could contribute with to the team. He told your are very strategic. He also mentioned he viewed you as his strategic assistant. He was very surprised and pleased with your way of approaching CS and the set of skills you brought to the team from day 1.
Yes, as I earlier mentioned about my experiences which was once my weakness but now my strength: I am very structured in CS. I want mutual agreements and know that we agree on the defaults we should go by, when we take map control. It is also very important for me to know exactly which grenades we still have available when we for instance push A. If we know which grenades we have left, we can build our tactics. 

Another example is: farlig and I are holding A together on Overpass, and if we keep dying every time our opponents go Long A. It is very important for me to have an agreement with my partner of how to defense ourselves against their tactics of attacking the bomb sites. I think many of the lower ranked top tier teams in Denmark are well aware of their problems. They simply can’t find the right solution to fix them. They don’t make mutual agreements. I believe CS is about structure and that is what I try to master. 

We have several tactics on every map and we discuss a lot about which specific tactics we could use against every single opponent. We might also watch a demo, and figure out that our opponent has an awesome tactic but it doesn’t fit into our playbook.

The Importance of Maintaining Several Arenas

Let’s return to you. How supportive has your family been when you stated that you wanted to be a professional esport athlete? Some parents are conscious about esport as a possible way of career and accept if their child of trying to pursue it. How was it in your case? 
When OpTic Gaming told me about their interest in me, I told my parents straight away. I discussed the options with my parents about whether it was best for me to continue school or not if I actually took the offer from Optic. We found out that I could take a gap year between my sophomore and senior year in high school. And that was what I chose to do.

 I know I can always go back to my studies next summer if I don’t succeed in esport this year. My parents couldn’t see any fatal consequences if i took this gap year and to joined OpTic Gaming.


TeSeS on stage at WePlay! Forge of Masters

One of the reasons why I chose to go ‘pro’ was that I could take a pause from my studies. I could also feel the transformation from being an esport athlete on part time to actually being a professional. You can’t stop thinking about CS and you start living in this environment where you always think about fights and solutions. It was a great revelation for me to stop high school and to go all-in on CS.

I’ve also got a sports psychologist who has told me about about being a professional esport athlete and how important it is to live your everyday life correctly. I’ve learned that you always have different arenas in your life. When someone chooses to go all-in on something such as esport, many players tend to only have this single arena in their life. When a player’s esport arena goes badly, then everything in that player’s life feels bad.

Then everything comes crumbling down?
Yes. It is very important that you maintain several arenas such as friends, family, fitness etc. And I have focused a lot on maintaining these different arenas outside of CS. By that, I have assured myself that something in my life is always going well for me. It has been a great revelation to me.

Do you have any routines you follow prior a game day?
No, I don’t really. I haven’t got any crazy rituals I perform before a big game day. I play against bots or play some deathmatches before we begin. It doesn’t take any longer than 20 minutes for me to feel ready. I’m very good at changing focus in order to perform well. So yeah, no crazy rituals or anything like that. I just have to feel that I know exactly what to do before the game starts. And I almost always feel that I am ready.

So it doesn’t take a lot to get into the right mindset to perform well?
I always prepare myself for a game day the day before the match. I always go through the maps we may end up playing and I resonate on what we do well on these maps. I also think much about our opponents and how to face them in the right manner. It’s all kinds of things I think about the day before we play. I set myself up for every single game. It’s also one of the reasons why I manage to adjust my mindset prior to a game and do well. I manage to focus extremely quickly on the task I’m about to face.

Personal goals: Don't Join Astralis, Beat Them!

TeSeS fist bump

Fist bumps after a won round

Have you got any personal goals you want to achieve before you someday retire from your professional CS career?
I imagine many players have dreamed of joining Astralis. And that might as well be one of the greatest achievement to accomplish. 

But in my case, I’d rather build my own super team from scratch and climb the HLTV ranking together. Then in the end, we’d  hopefully manage to beat Astralis rather than just joining the team.

So it also comes down to loyalty to you?
I find loyalty very crucial. You need to have each others’ back inside as well as outside of the game. You stick together in order to climb [the HLTV ranking, red.]. That’s exactly what Astralis have done. They have been a team for a couple of years now, and they have managed to hold the spot as #1 for 1,5 years? They did it because they stuck with each other. Let’s say they had split or kicked a player, when everything went wrong this year. That would have been completely crazy. But that’s what many of the lower top tier teams in Denmark do. When things go bad, you leave your team.

To a certain point, I understand such a decision, but my opinion and mentality is that it’s always better to stick together as a team. When you have played together over a certain amount of time, you just know your team mates and how each other react. I believe it’s a giant advantage on a long-term basis. That’s why I always prefer staying together as a team in order to fight for a top spot among the best teams in the world. And you can always develop a player with talent to become extraordinary. That is just my view on CS: Don’t join Astralis – create your own super team and beat them! 

When it comes to players being kicked or leaving a team, it’s quite emotional for fans of a player or a team to see them go separate ways which happens pretty often in esport.
Yeah, definitely! It does also happen in football. I think it’s just part of the world of sports – people go from one club or team to another.

But in football for instance, players contracts last for about 2-5 years whereas in esport it’s more normal to have a contract for maybe 6-12 months and that is if you’re even lucky enough. If you do well, you may extend your contract. Or if you become the front figure of a team, you may even continue for a longer period and then the changes happen on the rest of the line-up. You rebuild the roster over and over again and only keep a small core of one or two players. It might be emotionally tough for fans, but especially tough for you players?
Yes, it takes a toll on us. When I played with haste for two years, we had to go through many changes in our line-up because players left our team. For instance, sjuush, who’s now part of Tricked Esport, left and Nodios left for Fragsters. We’ve been through a lot and fought through very hard times, where we always had to find a new addition to our team and rebuild from scratch. It takes a toll on us players, and that is where my mentality kicks in: don’t give up. You always have something to work on.

I also admire that haste, who is in his late twenties or so, has done this for so many years now. He just keeps carrying on. I respect him a lot for that. 

You must all be very mentally strong. You’re all so vulnerable. AcilioN has been kicked several times and he had to pick himself up over and over in order to reignite the flame within again. I truly respect you all for handling these issues in your lives. How you manage to hold yourselves together is admiring because some other people would perhaps have been broken by experiencing these repeating failures.
Yeah, true.

This or That?

Now to something completely different: What’s your favourite weapon and map?
AK47 or M4 Silencer. But the M4 Silencer is just so bad at the moment. 

My favourite map is Overpass, I found out during my time on OpTic Gaming. I had all the awesome roles on Overpass – and I always did well. I really feel I’ve had my best performances on this map.

Do you prefer T or CT?
It’s CT with Flames. It’s all about communication and great setups. I always have a partner I play with on CT. I like to play with a partner on the different sites. You tend to develop a personal relationship with your partner and I love that.

TeSeS on stage at WePlay!

TeSeS and co. at WePlay! Forge of Masters

Do you have an esport idol you look up to?
No, not really. If anyone thinks like me about building a team from scratch and then reach the top together, I would look up to them. Well, the core of Astralis have done that and I’m a big fan of that. I admire them for doing that.

They also stuck together when Dev1ce was sick and they had Dennis as stand-in.

Do you have a favourite game you play besides CS. Maybe TFT which was AcilioN’s favourite game when I interviewed him?
Haha, no. No. I don’t believe I have any other game I really play or love. I don’t play anything but
CS at the moment. If I didn’t have CS, I wouldn’t know what to do. Either way it’s CS or back to high school.

And if you didn’t have the opportunity to go pro in CS, what would have happened in your life?
I would have been a salesman somewhere. I’m very lucky that I know how to play
CS, haha. 

TeSeS front in Flames shirt

Name: Rene Madsen
Age: 19
From: Skjern
Favourite maps: Overpass
Favourite weaponAK47 or M4 Silencer
Favourite game besides CS:GO: None

Go follow TeSeS on Twitter!