Match fixing scandals have been a bane of esports’ existence, and Dota 2 hasn’t been immune to this. The latest example is an eruption of controversy around a series between Newbee and Avengerls.
Facing off in a series in the Chinese qualifiers to the StarLadder Season 3 Minor, a number of fans and pro players are crying foul about Avengerls’s performances during their 2-1 series loss. They are honing in on a devastating comeback loss sustained by Avengerls in the second game of the series, which saw the team make a number of misplays that resulted in a Newbee victory. This was followed by discussions regarding the betting lines for the game, which seemingly favored Newbee despite Avengerls leading.
Though fans will often wildly speculate that a match was fixed when a dramatic comeback occurs, the Newbee vs. Avengerls was different as multiple Chinese Dota 2 legends chimed in.
The most notable example of this is former Newbee captain and current EHOME coach Zhang “xiao8” Ning stating he will “eat shit on stream” if it turns out the match was not fixed. The International 2012 winner Chen “Zhou” Yao also spoke out, questioning the legitimacy of the game.
Parsing whether these questions are valid is difficult. Teams punting seemingly guaranteed wins is a reality at all levels of Dota 2, both casual and professional. Other factors can come into play with the qualifier’s online setting, such as lag and communication issues.
There were however some strange misplays in the game. Without additional information, it is almost impossible to speculate on whether one player or the whole team would have been in on the fix.
Match fixing has been an unfortunate constant in every major esports title. The most high profile examples of this came in South Korean StarCraft: Brood War and StarCraft 2. Multiple scandals arose in the game’s pro scene, which saw a slew of top players banned and some hit with legal action.
With the rise of esports globally, more events have created more opportunities for potentially shady dealings. Dota 2, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have all seen match fixing scandals occur, with the majority involving teams or players betting against themselves and then intentionally losing to guarantee a winning bet.
Different stakeholders have taken different approaches to combating this, which has typically seen these incidents play out in smaller events in recent years. Should these suspicions prove to be true, a match fixing scandal in the qualifiers of a Dota Pro Circuit event would be one of the largest in years.
Though match fixing is a serious problem in esports, it remains uncertain whether Avengerls’ loss was anything other than a late stumble by an unproven team. It is also unclear whether Valve, StarLadder, or anyone else involved in organizing the tournament qualifier has plans to investigate the matter.