<
>

Rebel with a cause - Alex Ich wants to keep playing

Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin Riot Games

The 2016 spring season hasn't gone in favor of the Renegades; the rookie team is now 1-11 on the season. It was another week of close-but-not-close performances from the only squad that qualified for the NA LCS this split through the minor leagues. The other new teams in the competition like NRG Esports and the league-leading Immortals got their seat at the table by buying a spot from a selling organization. After starting the split on a high note with a win on opening day, it's been nothing but the dull, monotonous feeling of defeat for the Renegades -- Sunday's loss to Counter Logic Gaming making it their 11th in a row.

"I think the problem is that it started in the beginning and snowballed from there," veteran mid laner Alexey "Alex Ich" Ichetovkin told ESPN about his team's issues this season. "The changes in lineup over and over [haven't helped]. When [Aleš "Freeze" Kněžínek] was missing it was okay... but I think we would have done better with [him]. After when Freeze came back, [Maria "Remi" Creveling] decided to leave the team and she was our secondary shot-caller. So we lost a person who was talking a lot in-game."

It's been a constant stop and go for the Renegades, having to tinker with their starting lineup all split long due to players missing time or leaving the team. Remi's decision to leave has put Alex and Alberto "Crumbzz" Rengifo, the two most experienced players of the team, in the position to be the in-game leaders.

For Renegades, their synergy has slowly been getting better as the weeks have gone along, but the late-game communication has left them in the position they sit now -- at the bottom of the league with little hope to get out of the relegation zone.

While being one of the most iconic figures of League of Legends' competitive early days with Russian powerhouse Moscow 5, Alex also is a rare case in that he has a wife and family. In a profession that is mostly built from teenagers and early 20-somethings, the European mid laner has handled the balance between the different aspects of his life by taking the game more seriously. "You just start taking League as a job. So, basically, even if you spend less time [playing the game], you make it more effective. You don't play for fun or something, but you always focus and always think about how you want to improve."

The biggest change for Renegades over the course of the split has been that change at the support role with amateur player Nickolas "Hakuho" Surgent stepping in as their new starter. Hakuho started out rough like expected from a rookie player being thrown into a fire of a struggling team, but has improved almost every game he's played since his first weekend. Still, it hasn't been enough for the Renegades -- they get off to decent starts, even getting the early kill leads over Immortals and CLG, yet lack the synergy and execution in the late-game to seal the deal.

As one of the best mid laners to ever download the game, Alex had an interesting answer when pressed about any North American players that had pleasantly surprised him: veteran mid laner from Dignitas Danny "Shiphtur" Le. "He's super underrated and a really good mid laner."

As the campaign comes winding to an end with only three weeks left in the regular season, one of the prevailing questions for the relegation-bound Renegades will be the future of Alex Ich as a player. In Europe, former in-game rivals like Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez and Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago have taken a step back from playing and have gotten into the management side of esports. Other former famous European players back when Alex was at his peak, such as Mitch "Krepo" Voorspoels, have gone down the career path of being commentators or studio personalities.

Moscow's emperor, however, isn't ready to hang up his mouse and keyboard just yet.

"I think I still have the drive and skill to be a player... I'm still passionate about the game and really like playing it. So I think I want to play more."