Published on SK Gaming on the 26th of January 2010.
January 1st is the birthday of Michael “ahl” Korduner and since he turned 26 what better way to celebrate that event than to take a look at 26 moments from the career of the WCG gold medalist and seven time CPL champion? That humble and unassuming Swedish rifler who took five different teams to top four placings at major American CPL events a total of eight times in his first nine attempts.
Michael “ahl” Korduner 26 (born January 1st, 1984)
1. A 17 year old ahl reached the top of the Swedish Clanbase ladder with XiSM in 2001. Back at that time Clanbase was the premier online competitive battleground and the Swedish ladder was perhaps the toughest of them all. Outside of Sweden nobody knew of ahl but this marked the beginning of a career which would be filled with success and defined by excellence.
2. ahl and GameonLine (GoL) made names for themselves as they finished third at CPL London in August of 2001. Placing below the legendary Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) and surprise runnersup armaTeam (aT) the Swedes took home €2,000 and a share of the spotlight after finishing above much more well known teams such as SK.de, Clan Z and Nordic Division. This placing would also prove a crucial moment in ahl’s career as it put him in the position of being a top contender when NiP would change players in a couple of months.
3. At his first major event, CPL Winter in December of 2001, as a member of Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) ahl had big shoes to fill as he took up the place of XeqtR, who had proven himself to be one of the greatest LAN players in the world. NiP was not only the most high profile team in the world but had the most intimidating roster as they took a lineup of HeatoN, Potti, Hyb, MedioN, vesslan and ahl to the CPL event.
ahl did not disappoint as he and NiP went on to take first place and $50,000 in prize money, the most ever won to that point in time. The final proved to be one of the great matches of all time as runnersup Xtreme3 (X3) took the first nuke game in overtime but NiP ground out a victory in the second on the final round of the game to take the championship 13:11. ahl immediately acquired superstar status as that tournament and finals matchup was also the biggest in CS history at that point.
4. With NiP having dissolved due to lack of sponsorship ahl made the decision to join up with his friends in 2easy. With none of the players in the lineup of fisker, Filur, brunk and log1c well known outside of Sweden few would have expected much from them. With sponsorship from the ICE internet cafe they attended the Lan Arena 7 event in July of 2002. ahl took his third team to a top 3 placing at a big LAN as he placed 2nd behind mTw.de at the event, winning €3,500.
On their way to that runnersup spot the team had impressed the international community by beating out vesslan’s Nordic Division and SK.sca (HeatoN, Potti, XeqtR, DarK and xenon) by 13:11 scores on dust2 in the semi-final of the upper bracket and train in the quarter-final of the upper bracket respectively. ahl’s reputation as a lynchpin player in terms of teamwork and execution of tactics grew even further.
5. 2easy were unable to get the funding to attend CPL Summer 2002 and so ahl accepted an invitation from vesslan who had the funding but not enough elite level players to make a team. Thus what was essentially a mix team of six top Swedish players was assembled for the event: ahl, brunk, vesslan, ScreaM, notorious and Swift. The team made it to the winners bracket final after beating GoL but lost to eventual winners SK.sca. They then lost the consolation finals to GoL on train to finish in third and win $10,000. Since train had been one of the maps ahl was not in the rotation for he had not played in the two GoL games.
6. With new sponsorship and rebranded as mTw.se ahl’s 2easy boys took in ScreaM, having lost log1c to esu. They failed early on as they were upset by A-laget in the finals of the Swedish WCG qualifier but following that they reclaimed their position as one of Europe’s best teams with a second place worth €2,500 at CPL Oslo in October of 2002. The only team to beat them was elemeNt’s new eoLithic side, setting up what would become a fierce rivalry over the next few events as the Norwegians, now minus elemeNt, also beat them out for the MindTrekLAN CPL qualifier.
7. After changing sponsors again, and bringing in SpawN to replace the loss of brunk to SK.swe, ahl’s team attended CPL Winter of 2002 under the name team9, after winning the CPL qualifier held in the UK. At the event they finished a respectable 4th and won $7,500. They eliminated hot American team zEx as well as pre-event favourites eoLithic (eoL) to get some revenge and finally put a win up against their rivals.
8. ahl rejoined HeatoN and Potti in SK.swe as their new lineup melded SK and 2easy (fisker and brunk) with ahl being the key piece with the most in common between all of them. Upon announcing the two new players bds revealed that SK had wanted to take them in back in 2002 after the loss of XeqtR and DarK but had been unable to at that time. The new team began in top form as they won their first sizable event, CPL Cannes in March of 2003. The finals saw SK beating vesslan’s .esu on nuke, having also beaten them in the winners bracket on cbble. That victory pocketed ahl and the other SK players €5,000
9. In France again, this time for Clikarena in Toulouse in 2003, ahl and SK took part in a match which was billed as the next great match. Seeing SK face off against 3D, who had won CPL Winter 2002, fans were awaiting the next chapter in the X3/3D vs. NiP/SK heavyweight fight as both teams contained three player cores who shared that history. With the score at 12:9 to SK, game point, the Swedes were on the CT side with only USPs due to saving.
ahl killed Rambo at catwalk with a USP headshot and took his colt. Heading over to the top part of long A ahl killed steel and Ksharp who were coming up, while Potti killed moto to make it 2v1 for SK. When Bullseye killed Potti the round became a 1v1 and as Bullseye contemplated whether to push up long A or fall back ahl crept from catwalk along to behind him at long A and killed him to take the round and the match. SK would go on to finish 3rd at the event, which was infamous for how terribly run it was, losing to eoLithic but winning €5,000.
10. ahl helped SK win the third season, first they had entered, of the Swedish Esports League (SEL) in June of 2003. Beating their rivals .esu along the way they took down HLO (who featured Hyper and Goodfella) in the final to win 25,000 SEK, approximately €2,449.
11. At the very first Esports World Cup (ESWC) ahl and SK were heavy favourites in light of their addition of elemeNt from eoLithic, which both destroyed the only team who had beaten them in real compeitions during the ahl era and added the best tactical mind in the game to their side. With SK choosing to have elemeNt sit out their semi-final game on train against zEx, due to not having practiced the map with the team, the Swedes were shocked by a big time upset performance from the North Americans and in particular sunman. Despite this loss SK and ahl took 3rd place overall and $15,000 in prize money from the first of what would become one of the elite competitive events in gaming.
12. With elemeNt fully integrated SK and ahl took down CPL Summer 2003 for another record first prize of $60,000. Having beaten 3D and then team9 in the winners bracket and final SK began their now legendary streak. At this point SK had become the first team since NiP to establish themselves as the undisputed best team in the world, having beaten Clikarena and ESWC champions team9 in the final.
13. ahl and SK completed back-to-back SEL championships as they won season 4 of the league. In the finals they faced EYEballers (EYE) in an inferno game which finished 16:12 in SK’s favour. This won them 40,000 SEK, approximately €3,900. In the 11th round of the first half ahl got all three kills to take the round as he and elemeNt faced a 2v3 as terrorists at the B bombsite without the bomb planted. EYE, featuring Hyper and vilden, would become the newest rivals for SK over the next few months.
14. Due to CPL Winter 2001 being scheduled at the same time as WCG and then mTw.se losing the qualifier in 2002 to underdogs A-laget Sweden had never been represented by its best team at the finals. All eyes were on SK as they went into the 2003 qualifier. They emerged victorious beating GoL in the semi-finals and then Frontline[EYE] in the finals to take the Grand Finals spot in Korea. Finally ahl, HeatoN and Potti would compete for a WCG.
15. ahl added a WCG gold medal to his resume at the Grand Finals in October of 2003. Facing Team3D in the final SK defeated them in two maps, the first a reasonably comfortable dust2 victory but the second a 13:11 nail biter on train. 3D went up 10:2 on their CT side in the first half but SK came back to win the second 11:1 and take the gold. In that second half there were a number of situations where ahl was 1v1 or 2v2 and got the kills and defuses to win the rounds for his team. Along with the medals came $40,000.
16. At CPL Copenhagen in November of 2003 the SK train kept rolling as ahl and his team-mates stormed the event and took another first map. For the third time in the space of a few months they met Gamepoint.AMD (previously known as EYE) in a final. Having beaten them in the upper bracket final on nuke they repeated the feat to take down the Danish event and kept their Swedish rivals second best. For their victory they earned €5,000 in prize money and €5,000 in auto-berth expenses to CPL Winter.
17. In December of 2003 SK and ahl continued to add to their legacies as they won CPL Winter 2003 and $30,000. Facing NoA in the upper bracket and grand finals SK eliminated the upstart Norwegian-North American mix in a close game on inferno and then a less close game on dust2. Due to the way the rotation worked for SK ahl played in the inferno upper bracket final but not the dust2 final. This event was also another where SK did not drop a single game, highlighting their dominance over the scene. It’s also worth throwing in as a kicker that ahl and some of the other SK players had been ill during this event, hence why SpawN had been flown in.
18. By CPL Summer 2004 came around in July captain elemeNt had left them to a five man all Swedish lineup. ahl and company were still a top team but no longer the dominant force of the previous year. At the CPL they managed to finish runnersup, losing to rivals EYE in the upper bracket and grand finals on dust2 and nuke respectively. During the event the team had won two overtime games on cpl_mill, one against the ESWC champions The-TitaNs and the other against the hot American team of the event Rival. Second place was still worth an impressive $21,000.
19. ahl got a call from good friend elemeNt who was now captain of NoA that they needed a stand-in for OsloLAN in early October of 2004 and obliged by helping them out. Joined by fellow stand-in, then, XeqtR ahl helped the team take second at the event where they were unable to defeat ESWC runnersup spiXel, featuring walle. Second place paid 15,000 NOK, approximately €1,806, and saw ahl and XeqtR play in the same lineup for the first time at a major event. This would also not be the first time he teamed up with elemeNt again outside of SK.
20. Going into Nollelva at the end of October in 2004 SK’s status in the CS world was heavily in question. Having been humilated by losing to MaveN in the WCG bronze medal game, denied a shot at the finals by 3D in the semis, the team who had added Hyper now lost mainstay Potti to inactivity. At Nollelva ahl’s team were able to reclaim the #1 spot in CS as despite an upper bracket final loss to underdogs ICSU they came back from the lower bracket to defeat the unknown Swedes in two maps straight and win the event.
That victory came along with 75,000 SEK (approximately €7,347) as well as bragging rights over ESWC runnerups spiXel and an NoA team who had used the lineup of method, shaGuar, Naikon, elemeNt and XeqtR for the first time.
21. On ahl’s birthday, 1st of January, in 2005 the SK players left the organization and restarted the NiP name. Being unwilling to renew their contracts with SK, and seeing the German team sent to CPL Winter as a result, the lineup of SpawN, Hyper, Potti and HeatoN would now be known as Ninjas in Pyjamas. A couple of months later they recruited vilden from EYE to create what looked to many like a Counter-Strike dream team of incredible proportions.
Their first event proved a little underwhelming as the team managed a third at CPL Barcelona in late April for €3,000, losing in an upset to x6tence in the upper bracket and then coL in the consolation final.
22. With the stacked NiP lineup roster unable to get any wins at Rixhack and the ACON5 Nordic qualifier this round during the first map of the Rixhack final showed that while his team were unable to find the right chemistry ahl remained the same player he had been his whole career:
23. Returning to SK following internal disputes in NiP ahl, SpawN and vilden were rejoined by fisker, who had been toying with joining NoA, and brought in snajdan to become the new SK.swe lineup. Attending CPL Summer 2005 as their first major event, having missed the ESWC qualifiers and ESWC being scheduled for the exact same days as CPL, the team brought another CPL title back to the SK trophy room. Despite having lost to them in the upper bracket final the Swedes defeated a shaGuar and stevenson led Evil Geniuses twice to win the event from the lower bracket and a new era of SK had arrived. On their way to the $15,000 for first they had also defeated GamerCo (featuring method and DarK) twice.
24. Only one team had ever gone back-to-back at the major American CPLs, the SK.swe of 2003. Now ahl and fisker, would become the only players to achieve that incredible feat twice as SK.swe went back-to-back again and won CPL Winter 2005 for $18,000. Coming out on top at this stacked event meant beating HeatoN and Potti’s NiP early on and then Korea’s Lunatic-Hai in the finals.
SK also famously won another chapter of the their war against 3D in a game which reached three overtimes. Regulation and the first two overtimes were played on nuke but then the map was bizarrely changed to cpl_mill for the third overtime, which saw the Swedes come out on top.
Legendary status had surrounded ahl early on in his career due to being part of the great victories in CS history but now he had won a major without the invincible duo of HeatoN and Potti, who had left everyone in the shadow of their resumes to that point in time. ahl had now placed top five at the major American CPLs eight times in nine tries, and with four distinct teams: NiP, esu, team9, elemeNt era SK.swe and vilden era SK.swe.
25. ahl played his last major event with Mousesports (mouz) as a stand-in to help out his friend elemeNt again. The team managed a somewhat underwhelming fifth at WSVG ISC in July of 2006, winning $9,000. On the 17th of the same month ahl went inactive from SK, being replaced by Goodfella. AS one of the last of the 2001 superstars to win major events hung up his mouse it was truly the end of an era.
26. ahl reappeared in 2009 briefly to play for a fun team called ‘Inferno Online 2003’ which put together a group of ex-professionals from that era to play in season two of the Inferno Online league. The lineup was originally to be ahl, vesslan, fisker, quick and XeqtR but when vesslan was unable to play walle took his place. The team did not put on any amazing performances at the event but then that was not exactly their goal or the point.