Fragster | 9. August 2022

Interview: Is Gambit leaving esports?

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the CIS esports scene has been facing something of an existential threat. Russian teams and players have been banned from tournaments or at least from representing Russia-based organizations, multiple CIS esports leagues were suspended or postponed, and some organizations stopped their operations completely. 

Now, having parted ways with all of its competitive rosters in recent months, one of the biggest Russian esports organizations — Gambit Esports — is seemingly the next to leave the scene.  

Gambit releases Valorant roster 

Two days ago, a former Valorant player for Gambit Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin confirmed the speculations that have been growing in the CIS esports community, announcing that he and his teammates have parted ways with the organization. According to his Twitter statement, the former Gambit Valorant line-up consisting of nAts, Igor “Redgar” Vlasov, Bogdan “Sheydos” Naumov, Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov, as well as Manager Vladimir “Kayos” Ivanov, Head Coach Andrey “Engh” Sholokhov and Coach Denis “Gray” Danilyuk, have become free agents. 

Considered one of the most successful rosters in the professional Valorant scene, the team will continue competing in the VCT EMEA Last Chance Qualifier under the M3 Champions tag — the same independent banner the team has been competing under since the restrictions on Russian teams were imposed.

While no official statement has been resealed by the organization, the fact that the Valorant line-up was its last active roster raises a question of whether this means the end for Gambit. 

End step by step 

Before the start of the war, Gambit Esports fielded an impressive list of teams not only in Valorant, but also in League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, and Apex Legends, as well as three Fortnite players. However, with the Russian troops crossing Ukrainian borders on February 24, a lot has changed for the organization. 

In an exclusive interview with Fragster, Kirill Vorobyev, the former Gambit social media person, detailed how the organization prospered prior to the war and how it all changed in a span of a few days: “The situation inside the organization didn’t predict any disaster. We were developing and growing at a crazy pace until February. We had grand plans for 2022, we had some of the best lineups in several disciplines, we signed agreements with top sponsors and nothing seemed to be going wrong. But at one moment, all that was gone.” 

First, Gambit was most likely impacted by the mass exodus of companies from the country and sponsors cutting ties with Russian organizations. While this hasn’t been officially confirmed, Kirill Vorobyev (High Sparrow) stated in his Telegram post from July 29 that the terminations of the organization’s rosters were preceded by the departure of its sponsors. 

The post read: “On February 24, something happened, the sponsors left, and the rosters left behind them: they could not play under the name Gambit in most tournaments due to the decision of tournament operators. Also, we couldn’t use the organization’s naming and sponsor mentions on our uniforms or on our social media resources.”

Kirill Vorobyev telegram post 1820

Then, the organization started disbanding its competitive rosters one by one, day by day. It started with the LoL squad on April 22 and continued with the CS:GO roster just two days after. On May 1, Gambit parted ways with its Fortnite players, while May 2nd saw the release of AS Monaco Gambit Dota 2 roster. A month later, on May 30, the announcement about Gambit releasing its second Dota 2 roster came out, followed by another one about farewell to the Gambit Apex team on June 1. At this point, many suspected that the Valorant roster is next. 

“With tournament operators not allowing squads to play under the Gambit tag and not allowing the organization to mention their tournaments, the situation with sponsors and some other factors most likely influenced what happened,” explained  Vorobyev during our talks. 

Gambit went silent 

In Vorobyev’s aforementioned Telegram post, he stated that the organization is currently also without a media team: “First, the sponsors left, then the teams, and on July 31, the organization that took the CS: GO Major, was the strongest in Valorant, performed brilliantly in the League of Legends, and made noise at the Dota Majors, will remain without a media team: there are no tournaments, no teams, nothing to make posts about.”

Indeed, Gambit’s social media channels have been silent for a while now, with the last Twitter posts being from mid-July. Moreover, these couple of last posts are somewhat unusual, mysteriously expressing positive as well as negative feelings, and according to the comment section, not making a lot of sense to the org’s fans. 

“There were not many people on the organization’s media team, and over time, we had to save somewhere and let go of some employees,” said Vorobyev to clarify what happened with Gambit’s social media team. 

“Nevertheless, Gambit has done everything to make all the employees who had to leave feeling as good and comfortable as possible, financially and morally. Believe me, all the actions of the organization were at the highest European level, where employees are valued and understand the importance of their work.”

Another thing that suggests the possibility of Gambit closing operations is the fact that the org’s website declares an “unexpected error”. However, this only goes for the front page, and the other sections of the website are at the time of writing still accessible. 

Is this the end for Gambit? 

Despite the indications being pretty clear, even Vorobyev is not sure whether this truly means the end for Gambit Esports. “It’s not clear to me yet,” he said. “I was one of the very last people to leave Gambit, and there are still a few employees there left to work in the structure. Consequently, I can’t say that the organization is leaving esports completely. Until an official announcement is made, this can only be anyone’s logical guess.” 

Although nothing has been officially confirmed yet, everything suggests that Gambit is not planning to continue its operations, at least not for the foreseeable future. With the release of its Valorant roster, the organization no longer has any active esports assets, and it doesn’t seem likely that it will sign any, since they wouldn’t be able to represent the Russian org in the majority of events. 

Should it come to pass, it would be undoubtedly a sad day not only for Gambit’s large fanbase but for the whole CIS esports scene.

Emphasizing how fragile the scene can be, Vorobyev concluded: “I can only speak for myself, but I’m sad that everything happened this way! Just imagine that such a large organization, which was known throughout the world, just faded away in such a short period of time. I dreamed of getting into esports, and the fact that in February I became a spectator of my efforts being crossed for reasons beyond my control — it’s very frustrating.”