It has not exactly been smooth sailing (or terrorist blasting, given the lack of boats) in Counter-Strike land lately. First there was the big pro cheat tool bust right before Dream Hack 2014, then there was foul play at Dream Hack 2014, and now we can add a team purposefully losing a match to the list as well.
Whispers of a fixed August 2014 match between pro teams iBUYPOWER and NetcodeGuides.com have been floating around for a while now, but a report by The Daily Dot appears to confirm them.
Things were fishy from the get-go, given that iBUYPOWER was one of the top teams in the country while NetcodeGuides simply shouldn't have been on their level. And yet, iBUYPOWER got bruised, battered, and bullied to the tune of 16 rounds to 4. At the time iBUYPOWER's strategies were strange, atypical. They tried for showy knife kills when they should've been doing anything but, and they didn't seem too unhappy that it wasn't working.
They chalked the bizarre loss up to timezone/travel issues and lack of practise on that particular map. However, a recent series of text messages posted by Ashley "Blacklotus" Leboeuf, ex-girlfriend of Torqued player Derek "dboorn" Boorn, see Boorn explaining that the match was fixed and he was involved.
He goes on to say that community member Duc "cud" Pham used alternate accounts to place bets on the outcome so that no one would leave their figurative fingerprints at the scene of the crime. Betting site CSGO Lounge provided figures that backed this up, with nine maximum value bets earning cud nearly $1,200 (£796) per account.
While the texts were initially declared fakes, Daily Dot claim they worked with Leboeuf (and apparently even got their legal team involved) to verify that they were, in fact, authentic.
Meanwhile, in the wake of all this Cloud9 CSGO player Shahzeb "ShahZam" Khan confessed to betting against iBUYPOWER in August; a previously made allegation he refused to comment on until recently. That's pretty much the final nail in the coffin of this all being made up.
In a statement, Khan explained:
"The day of this match I had placed a bet on iBUYPOWER. I brought up the bet while talking to [Netcodeguides co-owner] Casey Foster, he then voice-called me on Steam Friends and told me to change my bet. He made it very clear the match was going to be thrown. I didn't want to get involved with any of it but I changed my bet, as I thought would be logical at the time while also sharing this information with a friend whom I assumed to have bet the same."
Khan went on to say he originally planned to reveal everything shortly after the fact, but Foster persuaded him to keep quiet:
"He advised this would be a huge blow to the North American competitive CS:GO scene and cause iBUYPOWER to lose their sponsor, asking me to not say anything at all. The NA scene was fragile at the time, and in my eyes I was between a rock and a very hard place with the partnership I had with Netcode Guides, as it was my sole source of income for playing the game I love."
"So I denied everything, I stayed quiet, and at the end of the day I took the heat of the crosshairs when this first surfaced months back through an article very similar to this one. I know I wasn't the only person to have known, but I was definitely in a position to do what was right and come forward with this information and I didn't because I was scared. I'm sorry. I've never been involved with any type of match fixing and I never will be, neither would any of us at Cloud9."
Too little, too late, in this case. Khan was right about one thing, though: the CSGO scene is fragile — just not in the way he probably thought at the time. Each scandal of this magnitude chips away at the sport's credibility, in viewers' belief that the CSGO pro scene isn't just a crooked stack of cards waiting for a stern gust of honesty to send it all crashing down.
I still think CSGO has loads of incredible players who'd never resort to underhanded tactics to get ahead, but you can only get so many black eyes before people start to see a pattern. And, whether warranted or not, people don't tend to forget about stuff like that.