Climbing the Mountain: Introducing Liquid Kelazhur

October 30 2020

Humble, kind, brilliant, and one of the best Terran's on the planet — we're proud to announce that Diego "Kelazhur" Schwimer is the newest member of Team Liquid's StarCraft 2 team. Kelazhur has been working part time at Team Liquid as an intern as part of his school curriculum and we have gotten to know him a lot better over the recent months. During this time we've come to realize he's a perfect fit for TL. We can't wait to see how he handles his dual role as both player and staff here at Team Liquid and while we expect him to focus on his studies for the immediate future we also know he has an insatiable drive to compete and is always striving to improve his game. We're excited to see just how far he'll go as he continues to grow and improve with Team Liquid.

Follow Kelazhur here

Interview with Kelazhur

What made you decide that you wanted to intern for TL while also going to school and on top of that compete in SC2?

Well, the internship was actually one of the requirements for my curriculum for school. I needed to do 5 months of internships so that I’m able to graduate. That was the main reason and of course Team Liquid is such a giant in esports that for me wanting to focus on the esports industry it seemed only natural when I received an invitation from the company to intern at their place that I should accept.

How did you become an intern for TL?

It was before the internship, a few months before, I had to do a project which was sort of research for a company, we could pick whatever company we wanted but we had to approach them and ask for some information. I had the idea of doing this research together with Team Liquid so I asked my friends who were with Team Liquid, I asked TLO and he forwarded me to Lichter who is the head of business intelligence for Team Liquid and I did the research with him. He helped me out and after that when it was time to start the internship I messaged Lichter and asked him who I should speak to for an internship and he forwarded me to Martijn who works for HR in Europe. He forwarded me to Bo who said he needed someone to help him and that’s how I landed the internship.

What do you feel you’ve learned about yourself and Team Liquid while interning here?

The first thing I learned was about the company culture. In esports Team Liquid kind of has that image of always being the good guys and being the heroes in all the games and starting my internship with Team Liquid I realized it wasn’t only the players, it’s also the staff. Everyone is super nice and helpful and willing to go out of their way to help you out. I thought that was really cool and taught me to try to make time to help other people because it goes a long way. If everyone is helping each other then maybe someone knows something that will help you do your work and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s a lot of teamwork, that’s the biggest thing I learned here.

You’ve already spent a lot of time around the SC2 guys, was it an easy transition now to join them?

I think so. I was already pretty big friends with every single TL player, so joining them I got a lot of very warm welcomes. It’s like being among close friends already.

You started playing sc back in the brood war days, when did you realize you could make a living out of esports?

I had no idea about esports back in Brood War. I was pretty young and wasn’t really cut out for playing 1v1 so I spent 99% of my time playing Use Map Settings maps like Lurker Defense and Sunken Defense. Those were my favourites. It wasn’t really until StarCraft 2 came out, and even then I was only playing the campaign, but around 2012 I started playing the ladder and got to Masters League. Back then LATAM had their own server and I got top 100 pretty easily and they announced the world championships. Brazil actually had 16 spots and once they announced I realized there was actually tournaments for this so I tried to qualify and out of the top 16 players I got 17th so I was quite sad.

What was your experience like as a newcomer to competitive esports?

Well, in the beginning I would say it was an all out war to get second place. First place was just completely impossible for everyone because we had SpeCial who was just completely better than everyone else. It was that way for a very long time until about 2016 when LotV came out and Cham and myself started to get much better because we were practicing pretty hard and getting some decent results in online tournaments. First place started to seem like a possible dream. I think it was the first Copa America in Legacy of the Void where I finally managed to beat SpeCial in the finals for my first Copa America win in 2016 and that was pretty wild.

Seeing Cham get up there with me also made us realize that it wasn’t impossible to take down SpeCial but it definitely takes many years of hard work for you to grow in a region like that to topple one giant. It felt like everyone was slowly trying to climb this mountain, this Juan-ito shaped mountain *laughs*

Would you say taking down SpeCial is one of your favourite moments in competitive SC2 or crowning achievements? That first victory over him?

Definitely. I think when I first beat him if I’m not mistaken it was 4-1 and it was truly… well it’s hard to find a word for it. I was just so happy when it happened that I think it kind of marked a change in my career. At that point I had never really got past the first round in a WCS and it was from that point on that I won my first Challenger and then I started placing well in WCS’ and I realized that I wasn’t just another pro but I was one of the top dogs. I went on to win 2 more Copa Americas in 2017, and yeah it was really life changing. It wasn’t until 2018 when I think I kind of fell off the mountain that I had finally managed to climb and I’ve been trying to climb it again ever since.

How difficult is it to try to keep up that level of play while also focusing on school and on work?

It’s definitely difficult. I think this is where “don’t work harder, work smarter” comes into play. You really start to feel that saying because you have so much less time to practice than full time people but it’s not impossible because if you analyze the patterns of full time pros there are a lot of things they do that are not very efficient. For example just non-stop grinding games without analyzing things — that’s not very useful. The main thing is you really have to be smart about how you spend your time.

You can apply that to pretty much everything right?

Yeah that’s true. One of the things that shocked me was when I first started university was how much some of my classmates struggled with certain things. Things I could do very efficiently if I managed my time well in order to reach deadlines no problem, other people would struggle to meet those deadlines. I think having to balance StarCraft and school at the same time kind of forced me to be really smart about the way I was doing my assignments and studying and making sure that everything went smoothly. I could see that other classmates didn’t have the same realizations.

How does it feel to now be joining Team Liquid officially as a player?

It means a lot to me actually. When I first started the internship it kind of came up where my boss asked Nazgul if I should represent the team while I was playing in tournaments and we all sort of made jokes about it. *laughs* I didn’t really pay much attention to it because I was really focused on the internship and it wasn’t until a few days ago that I got a message that said they wanted me to be part of the team along with the internship and it really caught me by surprise. There wasn’t much to it, it was like do you want it or no? So of course it was an automatic yes from me. It really meant a lot, and I think this goes for any game, where Team Liquid is the team to be in so it’s a badge of honor to wear.

Interviewer // Patrick McCleary

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