The coaching bug crisis has had severe consequences already. Some famous faces, even Nicolai “HUNDEN” Petersen, have either been kicked or at least suspended by their teams because of exploiting the bug.
The investigation led by Michael Slowinski and Steve Dudenhoeffer has taken a couple of months already. Shortly after the Grand Finals of ESL One Cologne, the two brought their findings to the public. ESL followed this up with their first punishments, which hit HUNDEN, Ricardo “dead” Sinigaglia of MIBR and Alexsandr “MechanoGun” Bogatyrev of Hard Legion. The coaches have been banned from ESL and DreamHack competitions for 1 year, 6 months, and 2 years, respectively.
WHY THIS BUG IS SO DAMN DANGEROUS
The bug has recently allowed coaches to switch into a free camera via a controlled process. They could choose the location, from which they could now freely spectate. This way, the coaches could scout their opponents and even keep track of their finances. Obviously, this violated the competitive integrity of the matches in questions. For instance, with the help of MechanoGun’s additional information, Hard Legion were able to achieve a 2-0 over Natus Vincere, which appeared like a magical upset from the outside.
Or just take as an example the first match of Astralis’ new roster after gla1ve had announced his break. They had to go up versus Heroic, who managed to mount some fantastic early rounds on Inferno. They achieved an 8-1 lead at some point and only narrowly lost on a 14-16 scoreline. Afterwards, it turned out that HUNDEN had exploited the bug during this match. So naturally, Mohan “launders” Govindasamy had to come and ask whether, by any chance, the coach had done so during the first ten rounds. To this, Michal only replied “Yeah!”.
— Michal Slowinski (@michau9_) September 2, 2020
So far, we don’t know the extent of this crisis. Some coaches, like Faruk “pita” Pita, have turned themselves in and now hope for a reduced punishment. Others have been caught by Michal and Steve. Beyond The Summit have also conducted their own investigation and have retroactively disqualified dead and MIBR from cs_summit 6 for exploiting the bug during their match versus Triumph.
ARE VALVE PARTIALLY RESPONSIBLE?
The case of pita is particularly interesting. While the coach mainly wanted to admit to his wrongdoing, he also uncovered a much more important detail: Valve knew about this.
And they did so at least since 2018! Amongst the coaches, this had apparently been somewhat of a public secret. There are cases dating back to 2015, as has been stated by Steve Dudenhoeffer. So are Valve in part responsible for this? Are the coaches’ actions maybe not as despicable considering Valve had known, but never acted to mitigate this problem?
This argumentation is actually frequently found under the accusations and video proofs against some of the professionals in question. Obviously, we wouldn’t have this issue in the first place if Valve had quickly reacted. But that doesn’t excuse the coaches’ behavior in the slightest. They knew that this bug was obviously counter to the idea of competitive integrity. They knew that they got an unfair advantage by doing this. What they didn’t know was that they could be caught after the fact.
THE ESIC INVESTIGATION
After Michal and Steve had already dissected more than 1500 demos by ESL, DreamHack, Flashpoint, and Summit matches, this process has been escalated to the next level. The Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) is now taking over this case. The two heroes of the CS:GO scene are also on board for this and are tasked with sifting through all matches of the past five years.
ESIC opens inquiry into historical spectator bug exploitation.
Investigation will examine 25,000 hours of demo footage dating back to 2016.
Michael Slowinski & Steve Dudenhoeffer to be contracted into investigation project.
— ESIC (@ESIC_Official) September 4, 2020
This will of course take a lot of time. Until September 13, users of the bug had time to turn themselves in and admit to their wrongdoings. All who are caught after this and have not called in themselves will likely face a harsher punishment. Some call it the ‘purge’ of Counter-Strike, and perhaps this name isn’t so far-fetched. Our way back to a healthy esports scene can only happen if these incidents are all caught up with.
CLEANSE AND RESTART
The scene can only regain trust in the position of the coach and in the validity of the results of recent years if all cases are processed and all perpetrators have been brought to justice. This is why the ESIC investigation is so incredibly important. When we know which pros have cheated and which rounds have been impacted, only then can we believe again that the last few years of Counter-Strike matches were not guided by an invisible hand.
This goal is now being worked towards. So far, 15 coaches have either turned themselves in or have been caught, but the ESIC investigation is still going to take months to complete. Until then, we’ll have to wait and see. The bug has now been fixed by Valve, so we can at least trust in the results of the tournaments that are currently taking place.