With the announcement today of the return of the
NiP (Ninjas in Pyjamas
) name to esports, this time to compete in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, it's worth taking a trip back in time to the early days of CS itself, to a time when the original NiP lineup forged its legend and went on to shape the very top tier of the game for the next six years. Whether playing under the NiP or in other teams the elite players who made their name in NiP made up the vital pieces in practically all of the top placing Scandinavian teams of the first half of CS' lifespan.
The original NiP lasted less than two years as a team, and yet those players were the secret thread which the intiated could observe running through the top end of the scene until the birth of the modern era. This is a story about a clan called NiP, but a way it's also the story of top tier Counter-Strike in Europe.
Genesis of the ninjas
In June of 2000 the Swedish CS player
Potti found himself unhappy with the lacklustre leadership of his LAN team [OF], and decided to start up his own team. Taking the other members of previous clan along with him, and adding online members
elajten, he formed Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) with
tootzi. Over time they would abandon their efforts to remain a LAN clan, bringing in other online players. That was the same month Counter-Strike, unaffiliated with Valve and still just another free Half-Life mod at the time, welcomed in the beta 6.5 and 6.6 patches. The netcode was changed, the smoke grenade was added and a host of new maps arrived, including de_cbble and de_aztec, which would become competitive maps in the coming years.
The first generation of NiP played host to a telephone directory's worth of players, with the most memorable full-time members being
notorious. A very young
Souledge, younger brother of Hyb, also had his time as a trial member for the team. In no time at all the team established themselves as the very best in Sweden, the only way you could back then: by winning games online. They reached the top of the Clanbase Swedish and international ladders, while also winning the PC Gamer Cup and CS League tournaments.
NiP were one of the first top tier teams to demand official games only in the CO (Charges Only) ruleset, at a time when that mode had not long been in use. To appreciate the strength of the NiP team back then it's worth noting that they remained undefeated in Clanbase until a suspicious loss against CSA (Counter-Strike Armageddon) in which NiP members cited a number of rules had been broken. Alas one of CSA's members was a Clanbase admin, and thus the result was accepted on the official page by him. NiP's response was to leave the Clanbase ladder.
The EYEballers make their first move offline
There was also some mild drama as elite members MedioN and Potti left the clan at one point in time, unhappy with with how many members the roster had swollen up to and how inactive a lot of them were. They went off to FF until the problem could be solved when NiP joined EYEballers, a famous Quake clan, and picked up sponsorship from the legendary Cafe9 LAN centre, famed home of the famous QW team Clan 9. Becoming
e9 Potti and MedioN were back within the fold and the roster had been trimmed down to those two, Hyb, Pk, Kuros, cogline, Ammis, Trasan, Bullet, kulspruta and Tootzi. That sponsorship also meant the newly rebranded e9 could start in on the newly forming international LAN circuit. First stop: Cologne.
In December of 2000 e9 was all set to attend the first CPL Europe event in Cologne, Germany. The proposed lineup was to be Potti, Hyb, Bullet, Pk and Souledge, due to starts MedioN and cogline being underage for the German event, which required participants to be at least 18 years old. As if the circumstance had not limited the team enough e9 found themselves down to four men in Cologne, as Pk missed his flight. They had no choice but use to
litzer, a talented EYEballers Quake 3 player who had never played Counter-Strike before. In spite of that e9 finished 4th overall in Germany, losing only to the first and second placing teams,
Clan Z and
In their match against the Finns of Clan Z e9's Hyb had even been plagued by BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) errors, but admins forced them to play on. Despite all of the bad the event had meant for NiP's first ever international LAN tournament it had also given them an opportunity to meet and spectate future member
XeqtR, who had helped the Danes of SoA finish runnersup. Before he could join though e9 had another event fast approaching, one that would see them take their first trip across the Atlantic ocean.
e9 does Dallas
Later the same December e9 headed to Dallas, Texas, in the USA for the Babbage's CPL. Featuring the best North American teams, a few European teams with the requiste sponsorship to make such a trip, e9 would be one of the first European teams to test themselves outside of Europe. Pk again managed to miss his flight and with that CPL also hosting Quake 3 litzer was once more drafted in to be the fifth man. Luckily America did not suffer the same kind of stringent age restrictions as Germany, and thus cogline and MedioN allowed NiP to at least field four of their preferred starters.
This time the setback of using a stand-in with no CS experience seemed no limitation at all as e9 rolled over the entire tournament without a single loss. In fact they didn't lose a single half en route to the title and a cheque for $5,000. While the likes of
Bullseye wallowed down in 5th-6th place Potti, MedioN and Hyb had established their offline legends emphatically, dragging what was basically an empty fifth chair to one of the first American CPL titles, effectively CS' first world championship.
team9, the split which tore them in half and the reunification
Returning home from Dallas it wasn't long until e9 underwent some significant changes. On January 19th original member Bullet left and on the 25th the e9 name was no more. Tootzi, Ammis, kulspruta, Trasan and Nostril were left to form clan
smile and the elite members of e9 now became solely the CS division of Cafe9, changing to the name
team9. Two new faces joined the side as young Nostradamus member
HeatoN was added, along with CPL Cologne runnerup and Norwegian star XeqtR, who would be the lone non-Swede in the team.
Despite marking the formation of the legendary NiP lineup (HeatoN, Potti, MedioN, Hyb and XeqtR) the team would not even live to play a single LAN together at that time. The next American CPL, and the first time CS was being recognised as an official tournament by the American league, was the Speakeasy CPL in April of 2001. When team9 discovered, due to management issues, that they would not be able to attend the event, and thus defend their world title, their days as a team were numbered. In May a mix team consisting of HeatoN, Potti, XeqtR, Xorgal (a famous Swedish Quake 3 player) and a fifth went to Norway for The Gathering, winning easily. Meanwhile Hyb and MedioN left the team for
vesslan's MAFIA team.
The final nail in the coffin for that edition of NiP was the departure of HeatoN, following The Gathering, to the very same
MAFIA. With Potti and XeqtR down to only each other in the team they looked around for opportunities for the fast approaching CPL Holland that month. Thanks to his time in SoA XeqtR was able to fix them spots in All-Stars, which would feature Danish players
Majestic. At the CPL the two teams would meet in the final and it was the all-Swedish side of MAFIA, rebranded as SoA.se, who would prevail and take the €3,000 first prize.
Rather than driving a wedge further between the two sets of players, with resentment or pride over the outcome of the final, the tournament's results proved the force which brought them back together. Reflecting back upon the event the previous NiP lineup saw the gap that existed between themselves and the other top Scandinavian players and decided to reform NiP, with the expectation of potentially dominating the entire scene.
NiP does the Euro two-step back to the top
The NiP lineup of HeatoN, Potti, MedioN, Hyb and XeqtR was back, with manager
Savage in tow. Their first LAN outing would be at Remedy LAN in July, delivering a vicious beatdown to the rebuilt MAFIA team on home soil. That win on dust2, which had only been released in March of 2001, seemed the proof of concept for NiP's reformation, with them brutalising the players left over from the SoA.se CPL Holland victory. In August NiP headed to CPL London as the clear favourites and did nothing to dissuade anyone of that notion, dominating the event to win €5,000. Of note were third place finishers
GameOnline (GoL) who would figure into the NiP story a couple of months later.
Heading to Berlin for the next European CPL in September NiP not only had the chance to gain redemption for their loss on German soil back at CPL Cologne, but also the opportunity to test out a potential new member, as they took along Hyb's brother Souledge, who had played in the aforementioned GoL who had placed third at CPL London. NiP once again won the event undefeated and this time scored their first ever five figure prize, with €10,000 going to the champion Swedes.
NiP experiences a bit of the old in-out prior to the World Championship
Just when NiP was firmly back in control, standing firmly on the neck of the European scene, the roster experienced some drastic changes. Souledge's trial was deemed unsuccessful and he went back to GoL. Manager Savage, who had been a player prior to his NiP time, was still under the impression he would get playing time and when he discovered this was not the opinion of the other members he departed. Finally XeqtR was ousted from the lineup, thanks to communication problems stemming from him rarely being on IRC. The talented Norwegian, who had proven himself a LAN monster at CPL London, found himself on Souledge's GoL side.
Needing to fill the fifth spot NiP opted to recruit two players rather than one, setting up an until then rarely tried six man rotation. First of all young up and comer ahl was brought in from GoL, thanks to his performance at CPL London. The squad was completed with the recruitment of MAFIA leader vesslan, who had played with three of the players when they had won CPL Holland as SoA.se. The switch seemed to have caused no ill effects as the team won the qualifier for the CPL World Championship. In the final they defeated
Nordic Division, featuring former member kulspruta. Despite only placing third at the qualifier GoL would be in attendance at the World Championship too, being as their sponsorship came from the wealthy owner of the GameonLine LAN cafe. NiP seemed financially stable also, thanks to sponsorship from Razer.
The clash of the continents decides the first true world champion
The CPL Winter event of 2001 was setup to be the true World Championship of competitive Counter-Strike in all regards. When the first World Cyber games, scheduled for the same week, announced it would not use the CO ruleset, due to feeling the events of September the 11th 2001 made it inappropriate to use a ruleset which only rewarded terrorist victories, the choice of which event to attend for every top team out there was simple: the WCG had a first place prize of $40,000, the CPL had a prize of $50,000 and both would be using mr12 (maxrounds12) as their ruleset.
What's more it would see the first tournament at which the two dominant teams of their respective continents,
X3, would both compete. While team9/NiP had been forced to skip Speakeasy CPL, and participated in only European events, X3 (Xtreme3) had dominated all of the American events that year. Made up of the best players in North America X3 had won the very same Speakeasy CPL, the CPL's 4-year anniversary event and also an invitational tournament held in the CPL's Offices, where the prize had been prototype Intel Pentium processors. They had also won all of the online competitions in North America, winning all but a couple of games.
X3 had dominated North America, NiP had dominated Europe and now fans from both sides would get to put aside their forum wars and see what would happen when both teams competed for the most money ever offered in CS, to that point in time. That the two teams were rightfully seeded first and second was too perfect, that ensured that, assuming both won all of their matches until that point, they would meet in the upper bracket final at the earliest. NiP began the tournament somewhat shakily, narrowly escaping an upset from dkt and wombat's
RDW in the early rounds. After squeaking through that game 13:11 though the Ninjas quickly locked in and rampaged through the bracket. X3 did likewise, including a dominant victory over
DoP, the team considered their biggest rivals in North America.
As if following the script all CS fans had longed to see acted out the two teams met for the first time offline in the upper bracket final. The map was de_train, then considered an American map, but it was NiP, with vesslan in the lineup, who shined in the first clash of the titans. A comfortable 13:6 win ushered the Swedes through to the final, guaranteeing them at worst the second place of $25,000. X3 dropped down to the lower bracket and took care of XeqtR's GoL to setup the rematch in the final. With the tournament being double-elimination X3 needed to win two games, both on nuke, if they were to take the title, while NiP needed only one win.
After a nail-biter of a first map, which went to overtime, X3 won the first map, setting up the dream final of NiP vs. X3 on one map for all the marbles. Europe had already taken eight of the top 12 places, meaning it was no longer about which continent was superior at that time, so all it came down to now was which was the better team of the two and who would leave $25,000 richer than the other. Another classic game unfolded, witnessed by thousands online as the event marked the first official HLTV broadcast, and in the last round of regulation NiP took the crown. World Champions, $50,000 richer and with bragging rights over America's best. In every sense of the phrase NiP were on top of the world. Little could they have known they'd never play another international LAN together.
The Norwegian returns, changes are made and the end arrives
Shortly after returning to Sweden NiP decided to bring XeqtR back into the lineup. Carrying GoL to a third place finish he had once more repeated the lesson of CPL Holland: that these particular players were not only head and shoulders above the rest of Europe's talent but also talismanic figures whom success followed like thunder follows lightning. With seven players officially the Ninjas removed vesslan, who had only played a single event for them, and looked at 2002 as a chance to return to their classic lineup, with ahl now included.
In the downtime of the next months MedioN decided to retire from professional Counter-Strike, tempted by the allure of more time spent playign the MMO Dark Age of Camelot, and Hyb decided to team up with his brother in GoL, being as the team was based in his home city of Gothenburg. Needing replacements NiP turned to the Swedish team
matrix, who were famous for their amazing internet connection at the matrix cafe and being, as a result, incredible online and not so much offline. The player targeted was
ScreaM, considered the star of the team, and he accepted the offer, but on the condition his friend
DraculA, a fellow matrix member, came along for the ride. NiP somewhat reluctantly accepted and the new lineup was set.
With a lineup of HeatoN, Potti, Dracula, ScreaM and a stand-in the team won, the domestic, Birdie LAN in April of 2002 and Dreamhack the next month. That same May XeqtR stood-in for vesslan's new team, Nordic Division, and helped them to a first place finish at CPL Cologne, winning his share of €10,000 and the respect of ND member
Swift, who described him as "a one-man army".
That NiP had not attended a European CPL seemed suspicious and would prove to be a sign of things to come, as the team disintegrated quickly, thanks to the promised financial backing manager
G3X had spoken of never materialising. With the first two big LAN events of the Summer in July NiP disbanded and the race was on to find teams its members could join for the Summer circuit. NiP was dead, once more, and would not return as a team for over five and a half years. Nevertheless its players would keep its legacy alive as they proved to be the movers and shakers of the CS world for that period of time.
NiP continues to mark its mark on the elite scene from beyond the grave
When SK's bds decided to bring in HeatoN, Potti and XeqtR to the Scandinavian SK side the condition was that current member
xenon be a part of the team. That left one spot open, and XeqtR knew just the player to bring in:
DarK, fellow Norwegian and team-mate from the CPL Cologne winning Nordic Division. DarK had placed fourth at CPL Winter with Massive Attack and was by June of 2002 considered one of the world's very best players, even called the best outright by former team captain vesslan. 2002
At the first event of the Summer, LAN Arena 7, the new SK side flopped in 7th-8th, vesslan's Nordic Division finished a notch higher at 5th-6th, Hyb's GoL took 4th and ahl's
ICE (a.k.a. 2easy) finished runnersup. At CPL Summer, the very same month, the top three finishers were
SK.sca (HeatoN, Potti and XeqtR),
GoL (Hyb) and mix-team
esu.swe (vesslan and ahl), leaving the event with six former full-time NiP members in the top three.
That October CPL Oslo saw
mTw.se (ahl) finish runnerup and at the MindTrekLAN CPL qualifier they repeated their performance, this time losing to a differently composed
eoL (DarK and XeqtR). At that Winter's CPL GoL (Hyb) finished runnersup, SK took third (HeatoN, Potti and MedioN) and team9 (ahl) rounded out the top four. 2002 had not seen NiP attend a single international tournament and yet the clan's fingerprints were all over the top placings. 2003
Often remembered as the year of SK, thanks their incredible undefeated run after element was fully integrated, the year looked wide open in the first half. SK (Heaton, Potti and ahl) had won CPL Cannes convincingly over
9.esu (vesslan) but then finished third at the next two events, Clikarena and the first ever ESWC. 9.esu (vesslan, with XeqtR joining for the latter) won both events and eoL (XeqtR and DarK) finished runnersup at Clikarena. With eoL struggling to find financial backing after elemeNt shifted the balance of power to SK's side, so that while XeqtR and vesslan would live large at ESWC, taking the inaugural crown, the
elemeNt era was set to be one of dominance for SK.
Following ESWC SK went undefeated for the rest of 2003, not losing a single map. They won CPL Summer, with team9 (vesslan and XeqtR) finishing second, and took in SpawN as a stand-in for CPL Copenhagen and WCG, which also resulted in first place finishes. At CPL Winter 2003 it was SK (HeatoN, Potti and ahl) in first place and Adrenaline (vesslan and XeqtR) in fourth. 2004
elemeNt's departure threatened SK's dominance and they finished runnersup at CPL Summer 2004, vesslan inactive from Adrenaline. Prior to that event
SpiXel had finished runnerups at ESWC, boasting future NiP member
walle. At Nollelva in October SK (HeatoN and ahl) won over their Scandinavian rivals to once more establish themselves as potentially the world's best team. Contract disputes with their organisation meant SK sat home though while
NoA (XeqtR) won CPL Winter. This year marked the last time two of the original elite NiP lineup (HeatoN, Potti, XeqtR, MedioN and Hyb) would win an event together.
The return, the false start and the meagre year
On January 1st 2005, with their SK contracts expired,
Ninjas in Pyjamas was resurrected as a team. Boasting the support of sports agent
Johan Strömberg, who had represented professional ice hockey and football players, the team hoped to resurrect the legendary NiP name with a new era of domination, putting HeatoN and Potti back on the track of winning titles that had come to an end with the close of 2003. The lineup was the former SK lineup of HeatoN, Potti, ahl, SpawN, fisker and Hyper. In February they added Hyper's former
vilden, who has been in finals of both American CPLs the previous year, winning one.
To say the lineup looked scary would be a massive understatement, everyone in the scene expected them to dominate and imagined they could possibly end up being the best team ever. Amazingly that NiP roster would barely last three months together. With Potti going inactive, his passion for CS drained, the starting lineup was decided upon as HeatoN, SpawN, ahl, vilden and Hyper, fisker being demoted to the bench.
In May NiP headed off to the first European CPL of 2005, hosted in Barcelona, Spain. The event proved a coming out party for
coL, who left NiP in third place, winning only €3,000. For the first time in his career HeatoN had finished a European CPL without taking home the title. Things were about to get a whole lot worse over the next month for him and his Ninjas.
NiP went to Rixhack the same month expecting to take the title with relative ease on home soil. Instead, a 9:16 loss on dust2, to mixteam
Goodfella), in the upper bracket semi-final set aside their expectations of a cakewalk. Reaching the final anyway the NiP team seemed to have righted the ship and won the first map 16:12 on nuke to setup a winner-takes-all final map on the very same nuke. With a dominant 14:1 first half from the mixteam the game ended quickly 16:5 and the mother of all upsets had rocked NiP's world.
The very same May saw two qualifiers for NiP, for ACON5 and ESWC. At the Nordic ACON5 qualifier NiP were upset by the Norwegians of
team9 in the upper bracket semi-final 16:4 on cbble, and then, after avenging that loss to reach the final, a heavily unexpected
SSV Lehnitz, containing future NiP player zet, beat them 16:9 to earn the ACON5 spot. As if things couldn't have gotten any worse the ESWC qualifier saw NiP losing to a mixteam called
teh loserz 2:13 in the group stage, which was made even more humiliating since most of the players were heavily inactive and one of them was famous Geekboys/SK file-admin
gosey. Despite turning things around, beating SSV Lehnitz in the final and booking an ESWC qualifier spot big changes were on the horizon. A team looking to be the greatest of all time does not lose heavily to their former demo admin.
On the 16th of May, less than two weeks after the pre-ESWC qualifier, five of the NiP players left the organisation. ahl, fisker, SpawN, Hyper and vilden would no longer represent NiP and began their search for a new home. Hyper took that moment to retire from the game. June the 15th saw NiP present its new roster to the world.
ins would be the new faces and Potti made his return to active play. The legendary HeatoN and Potti combo was back but lacking any of the supporting pieces which had joined them in their championship runs.
Meanwhile the ex-NiP players, now down to four, took in sNajdan as their last man. The team, under the name 1911, attempted to attend the Swedish ESWC qualifier, but found themselves blocked by the NiP organisation. Since three of them were still technically contracted to NiP and the Ninjas had their own lineup competing they understandably did not want any competition at the qualifier. 1911 pulled out of the qualifier and Nip went on to win an ESWC spot. On the 27th of June the 1911 players were announced as the new Swedish SK Gaming team, seeing three of them return to the organisation they had left just under six months ago.
The rest of the year was a drastically different story for each of the teams. NiP's new lineup flunked ESWC, finishing outside of the top eight, and could only console themselves with a win over an unconvincing GameGune field. At the CPL World Tour stop in the UK NiP made the final only to lose to underdogs team9 of Norway, featuring 15 year old phenom
At CPL Winter 2005 their poor seeding, due to the inactivity of the NiP name, meant they faced off against their rivals in SK early in the upper bracket, losing a close cbble game. After fighting their way back through the lower bracket they found themselves shocked by an unremarkable
JMC lineup, bowing out in fourth place. HeatoN and Potti's unbroken record of never placing below the top three placings at an American CPL had come to an abrupt and unexpected end. There was one light amongst the shadows for NiP though: zet emerged as a full blown star player, topping the stats for the event despite watching the last two maps of the event as a spectator.
While their ex-NiP compatriots struggled to regain championship form
SK.swe defied the odds and proved they could win without Sweden and CS' most decorated star names. Forced to miss ESWC due to the aforementioned 1911 incident SK instead opted for the CPL Summer event which was scheduled at the same time as the French event. Facing an incredibly weak field the only team who legitimately threatened them was a Canadian
EG side using
shaGuar as a stand-in. The Canadians took SK down in the upper bracket but then lost both final maps to see SK take its third American CPL title overall, and the first without HeatoN or Potti in the lineup. At CPL UK the new look SK side struggled and a 7th-8th place finish, below the likes of 4kings and g3x, lead many to suggest the CPL win had only been due to all the good teams attending ESWC.
CPL Winter was the proving ground where SK earned their true championship stripes without their former team-mates. Beating NiP early in the upper bracket gave them a big early win. An overtime win over 3D, a comfortable win over f0rest's Begrip and a smooth victory over Lunatic-Hai put them in the final. Expectations were that they would rematch NiP there, but after the Ninjas fell to JMC it ended up being a rematch with the Koreans of Lunatic-Hai in the final. SK won a tight 16:13 match, the title and $18,000. The NiP era seemed done and dusted, SK ruled the roost now.
XeqtR had been off leading differing NoA sides to suitably varied degrees of success. Winning WEG Season 1 at the beginning of the year, with the CPL winning lineup, placing 4th and 5th-8th at CPL UK and WEG Season 3 respectively. 2006 began with his half-Norwegian half-Danish experimental lineup winning shgOpen, but after that it was fairly downhill until his retirement midway through the year. Only the Swedish ninjas remained active.
NiP's final glorious run and SpawN's return
Whether the undignified break of his top three placings had affected him or not Potti decided to go inactive in early 2006, essentially retiring from CS. In his place came RobbaN, initially as a stand-in. He had won WEG Season 2 with Begrip in the middle of 2005 and then placed 6th with them at CPL Winter. When his team-mates f0rest and Tentpole had left him to join fnatic the Swede had been one of the free few agents out there on the market in early 2006.
The first event of note was WSVG Dreamhack and the newly tweaked NiP shocked everyone winning the event, beating fnatic in the final, and the $12,500 for first place. ESWC was another story though, and the first major of the year yielded only a 5th-8th finish. At August's WEF in China NiP beat fnatic in another final and added $10,000 to the year's total. Shortly afterwards was the TV-based Championship Gaming Invitational (CGI) where coL, 3D, NiP and JMC would compete for a first place prize of $50,000 in a modified mr9 ruleset TV event in America. NiP were eliminated by 3D in the first round, made famous by shaGuar's "what up now Swedes? Wooooo" clip which circulated online for years to come.
That event proved to be the last for HeatoN in 2006, the last of the original NiP members succumbing to inactivity. Replacing him would be SpawN, whose SK team had been struggling to accomplish anything all year long. Back in NiP colours his impact was more reminiscent of his initial introduction to SK in 2003 than his first time as a Ninja in early 2005. NiP won the first NGL-One final only two weeks later, beating fnatic in yet another final and taking a cool $20,000 home.
With SpawN seemlessly integrated and numerous wins over fnatic, domestically and internationally, NiP seemed to be clearly the best team in Sweden. At the WCG qualifier though they were all but out against SK in the final. Losing the first map they won the second to reach a decider. Then on the deciding map, train, SK lead 13:2 after the first half. Incredibly NiP rallied to win 14:1 and take the series and WCG spot outright. Later that month it was off to China again and the first KODE5 event. Beating home town heros wNv.gm in the final was good for $25,000.
With such a hot run behind them NiP headed into the World Cyber Games for 2006 in the position all Swedish qualifiers, who aren't huge upsets, should occupy: favourites for the gold medal! In the Ro16 they faced off against shaGuar's EG team and lost the first map, nuke, 11:16. The second map was train and leading narrowly at 15:14 the game seemed a lock to go into overtime, with NiP's ins holding only a desert eagle. That proved to be all he needed at that moment though as he pulled out an incredible deagle ace at outer to seal the map outright for NiP.
The decider was on inferno and NiP was still not out of trouble, finding themselves down 0:8 in the first half. Then, as if by magic, an opportunity presented itself as EG's lari crashed. When he rejoined NiP won three rounds in a row and the half ended 10:5 to the Canadians. From there on out though it was all NiP when it mattered, the Swedes took their 11 rounds after only 13 had been played, booking a spot in the quarter-finals.
The quarter-finals produced another thriller as NiP beat out Team3D 2:0, but 16:12 on nuke and then in overtime on dust2. When NiP ran into the Finns of hoorai in the semi-final it seemed their story for the event had been written: facing adversity early and then rallying to win a nail-biter of a deciding map. The Swedes lost the inferno 10:16, won dust2 16:13 and then took the decider, train, 16:14 to reach the final. With that dramatic series of matches starting in the qualifier final and stretching through to the semi-final it seemed as though NiP was destined to win the gold medal that year, propelled on by some praternatural force.
That was especially the sentiment when NiP found themselves beating Poland's Pentagram, who had moved through what appeared to be the easy side of the bracket, and who themselves had never placed top eight at a major tournament, in fact their country had never produced any elite level teams prior to their emergance. NiP won the opener on nuke 16:11, but the Poles fired back with a 16:12 win on inferno to tie the series. With trian as the decider NiP seemed to have their story written, even more so when walle completed his famous 1v5 ace clutch. The legendary story being written though proved not to be NiP's, as the protagonists were discarded and instead the underdog Poles prevailed, winning the gold medals and leaving NiP clutching a hefty but underwhlming $30,000.
The last month of the year proved a disappointment for NiP, their prize money count would go no higher. They began the month winning CPL Nordic, but that was only a qualifier to earn travel expenses to CPL Winter, with no actual prize money. At the WSVG Finals in New York they bowed out early 7th-8th and at CPL Winter a disasterous early exit outside of the top 16 marked the end of another NiP era. zet left for the CGS and America, ins relocated to fnatic and SpawN returned to SK and brought RobbaN with him.
The NiP we all wish we could forget
Sadly that's not where the NiP history book ends. There was another era of NiP and it wasn't pretty. In 2007 walle decided to stick by HeatoN, who wanted to come back to activity, and give it another go with the man who had brought him into NiP in 2005. They formed a lineup featuring Bullen, walle's brother miniwalle and Norwegian online sensation Kunfigur3. That didn't last long though, and in late March Bullen and KF3 were ousted in favour of former fnatic man Tentpole and Begrip team-mate face. The two had impressed by helping Begrip to a fourth place at shgOpen, finishing above fnatic. This era of NiP would prove to be a disaster at international events, though.
Things began nicely enough, winning SpiXelania in May for 60,000 kr. Then came June's Swedish ESWC qualifier. NiP found themselves beaten in the semi-final by the very same Begrip they had raided for talent. Then came WSVG Louisville, later that month.. The new look NiP first found themselves bested by SK in the upper semi-final and then forced to suffer a repeat of that loss in the consolidation final. Third place, at an event with a fairly lacklustre field, meant $4,500 and not a whole lot of people impressed.
Despite disappointment of the Swedish ESWC qualifier failure NiP still found their way into the French Grand Final through the backdoor, getting a spot when the American MugNMouse dropped out. In Paris the second group stage proved to be a peach for the Swedes, with dignitas' surprise progression giving them a group of the Brits, France's emuLate and Denmark's NoA. Their quarter-final spot was anything but a good draw though, facing a Pentagram who beat them 16:11 on nuke and then completely tooled them 16:2 on train to put the Ninjas out in 5th-8th.
ESWC proved the last straw for HeatoN and he retired from professional play and went off to manage the Stockholm MagnetiK in the CGS. In came GeT_RiGhT from Begrip, along with azl as a stand-in. At the Swedish WCG qualifier for 2007 the team managed to defeat SK in the semis 2:0 but fnatic denied them the WCG Grand Finals spot, beating them 2:0 in turn. The lineup wavered without any direction between a few less-than-stellar names for the fifth spot and eventually the financial backing collapsed. NiP's parent company's CEO resigned in September of 2007.
With walle and Tentpole making the switch to SK to close out 2007 and GeT_RiGhT and face forced to toil through the semi-elite scene back to the top again the NiP era seemed to have ended with a whimper and the book was put away on the shelf. SK and fnatic would write the rest of Swedish CS history.
The final era without Ninjas
From late 2007 through to July of 2012 NiP was only spoken of along with the CS legends of yesteryear, yet once again its players permeated the top tier. ins had jumped ship at the end of 2006 and in 2007 he helped fnatic become the best team in the world, marking the start of their time as the best Swedish team. In 2008 his team scored some nice victories but ultimately found themselves needing a tuneup at the end of the year, leading to his departure to retirement.
walle, Tentpole, RobbaN and SpawN had their adventures in SK, through to the latter third of 2008 when zet was brought in for SpawN. That sparked a win at IEM III LA, a silver medal at the WCG and a year-closing final win at Dreamhack Winter. In 2009 SK were second best behind fnatic as the latter romped across the CS world with abandon. Runnersup finishes at ESWC Cheonan and KODE5 kept SK relevant but not winning. Missing a plane saw zet removed from the team, but just when his career seemed all but done it was given a stay from the governor in the last hour, his mini-run with MYM.se seeing him place second at IEM IV Dubai and first at Dreamhack Winter. After that it was all downhill for the man who was f0rest before f0rest was f0rest.
walle and RobbaN continued their SK partnership right through to the end of 2010, along the way finishing runnersup at ESWC 2010 and walle, minus RobbaN, taking another second place, at WEM this time. When 2011 began RobbaN was the only full-time NiP player left standing, his career swansong being a period of domination with a f0rest and GeT_RiGhT-powered SK lineup which won Dreamhack Summer, ICSC8 and GameGune. After that SK only lost to two teams for the rest of the year, it just so happened those two teams were Na`Vi and FX/ESC, who denied them numerous titles. The one title SK did manage to grab was a significant one though, winning ESWC over a Na`Vi on a four straight streak of majors. 2012 was not kind to SK and RobbaN's career now looks to be over also. NiP had once and for all been put to rest entire, legacy and all.
NiP GO! GO! GO!
That is until today.
On Friday August the 10th 2012, over 12 years after the team was first formed, Ninjas in Pyjamas has returned. Not to write another chapter in Counter-Strike 1.6, but this time to try their hands at Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. GeT_RiGhT is back to redeem his only top clan failure, having long since erased the memory of his first go-around in SK, and he's joined by NiP legend HeatoN as manager, fnatic's former IGL Xizt and two Source players. Oh, and perhaps I forgot to mention f0rest is now a NiP player. As well as finally collecting a jersey from all the top Swedish clan names f0rest, along with GeT_RiGhT, now look to the future and their successes or failures will be marked under the NiP name, not SK or fnatic's.
At times NiP were the best, the absolute best to have ever played, and at other times they were also-rans. As the eras and years changed so did their fortunes. Eventually all of the members of the original lineup were done but their story still had some legs left in it. Now, 12 years after the beginning one can look back and safely say that NiP was the clan which shaped the first seven years of Swedish Counter-Strike, European Counter-Strike and international Counter-Strike.