On Aug. 21, professional Counter-Strike team NetcodeGuides.com defeated the highly fancied iBUYPOWER in the fifth season of the CEVO Professional league. It was a comprehensive upset, the final score coming in at 16-4.
It didn’t take long for spectators to complain that some sort of fix had taken place—an all too common cry in recent months with the rise of skin betting sites such as CS:GO Lounge. The principle behind skin betting is quite simple: predict the winner of a game and “trade” in-game items that hold a real, monetary value.
It just didn't seem believable that NetcodeGuides—albeit a solid North American team—would hand out a drubbing to a squad that had just competed at the largest and most competitive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament to date, ESL One Cologne. That said, freak results do happen in esports; the NetcodeGuides team did beat iBUYPOWER last season on the map de_cache. Recently leaked screenshots show there may be some some substance to the allegations over the Aug. 21 match, however.
The images of a chat that took place before the game show Shahzeb “ShahZam” Khan stating in no uncertain terms that the match had been fixed to ensure a Netcode win. Khan, who produces play guides for the Netcode Illuminati group, NetcodeGuides.com's parent company, even shows the bets he has placed ahead of the game, almost $120 worth of skins, and boasts that “this is the first match I have ever heard of being rigged.”
“At first I thought he was playing an elaborate joke on me” the source of the screenshots told us “but it began to feel very real.” We've blocked out the source's name in the images below.
Khan declined to comment when asked about the images.
There are potential conflict of interests between the two organizations. iBUYPOWER captain Sam "DaZeD" Marine is the co-owner of Netcode Illuminati. And the victory over iBUYPOWER meant that Netcodeguides team only required one more win to qualify for the LAN finals, with two games remaining—against Cloud9, North America’s best team, and the third-place eLevate.
A spokesperson for iBUYPOWER strenuously denied that any match fixing had taken place. Declining to give an official statement, the spokesperson attributed the loss to a combination of travel and problems with the map, "de_season," for which they do not practice. The team went on to win their subsequent game the next day, against the undefeated eLevate, 16-6 on the map "de_inferno."
Chris Pipher, General Manager CEVO.com , provided the Daily Dot with the following statement when asked about the screengrabs:
With the rapid growth of CS:GO and esports in general, fans betting on the outcome of CEVO's matches have become commonplace, and with that, allegations of 'match fixing' or 'thrown games' are becoming more prevalent. Recently, we've received a number of these complaints, specifically regarding a few matches that were broadcast on CEVO-TV last week.
Allegations of match fixing aren't limited to esports, CS:GO, or CEVO by any means and there have been memorable incidents and/or serious allegations in Major League Baseball, Professional Boxing, the Olympic Games, European Soccer, and in a variety of other professional sports leagues. At CEVO, we view these challenges as serious, but a generally positive affirmation that esports continues to grow!
With that said, CEVO prohibits players from participating in any form of betting on CEVO matches involving their own team, and any player who is caught violating this policy will be immediately suspended.
We have in the past and will continue to investigate match fixing allegations with the cooperation of the various betting sites that host our matches.”
Pipher added that CEVO's own investigation revealed there had been no betting from either team on the player’s primary accounts. CEVO suggested it will review similar situations with a conflict of interest in future seasons.
Image via Valve