After three days of matches at DreamHack Summer’s $25,000 Hearthstone tournament, the biggest tournament in the game’s short history, young underdog Radu "Rdu" Dima faced off against fan-favorite Jason “Amaz” Chan in the finals. Dima was teamless and sponsorless; Chan had recently been picked up by the established esports organization Team Liquid.
In front of hundreds of fans in the crowd and tens of thousands watching online, Dima wearing shorts and a tank top, managed to take the first match in the best of five over Chan.
As game two began, things took a turn for the worst. Though he clawed his way to a convincing lead, Dima looked more and more anxious with each passing turn. The tournament was being played on the newly released iPad version of the game, which, unlike its counterpart on PC and Mac, cannot block private messages from friends.
So while Dima was in the middle of this huge match, he started getting messages live in the game. And everyone watching could see them.
Most wished him good luck. But eventually the inevitable happened. Two turns shy of winning the game, someone messaged him Chan’s hand. And the internet exploded.
Yo that looked like some serious cheating in the chat #viagameHS— Adnan Dervišević (@Darthozzan) June 16, 2014
After the second game was finished the tournament was paused while administrators, broadcasters, and other professional players on site reviewed the footage, trying to discern if there was any foul play. After what equated to an eternity on Reddit and Twitter, organizers decided that the message did not affect the outcome of the game and Dima played no part in prompting it to be sent. Organizers ruled that the game's results would stand, that Dima and Chan would remove all their friends from their friends list, and that the players would move on to game three.
In that game, Dima defeated the fan-favorite Chan to become the DreamHack Summer Hearthstone champion.
The victory ceremony, however, was not met with the usual fanfare. Ignoring what the panel of experts had decided at the event, thousands of angry Hearthstone fans to come to their own conclusion: Dima was a cheater.
The community began speculating that the 17-year-old had cheated the entire tournament. Some went so far as to allege that messages he'd received earlier in the game, which read "Hello mom," were codes he had devised to indicate that his opponent had drawn a certain card.
The anger was being directed in so many different ways that discourse was impossible. Dima's win spawned a Russian nesting doll of accusations. If one issue was tackled with reason, there was another point of conspiracy behind it.
Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski, one of the event’s commentator’s, implored fans in Reddit post that was later removed by moderators: “Please discontinue this ridiculous hatred of young and talented 17 year old.”
Hearthstone reddit removes the only reasonable post on the DreamHack stuff. Disgusting.— Dan Stemkoski (@Artosis) June 16, 2014
It wasn’t until hours later, when runner-up Chan posted a video explaining his side of the story and absolving Dima of any responsibility, that the pitchforks were lowered and the hounds relented.
The young champion, who will forever be associated with this incident, now has one post in the Hearthstone subreddit at 221 upvotes congratulating him on his victory. That is flanked on either side by Chan’s explanation of events sitting at 983 upvotes and the original thread about the illicit message standing strong at 2409.
The nuances of this tournament and Dima’s victory will forever be overshadowed by the accusations of cheating. The conversations about this 17-year-old, who also placed in the top four at DreamHack Bucharest, staking his claim as one of the best players in the world has been drowned out
“After I ended my turn … I knew that the community at home will start a witch hunt against me and ruin everything I trained for all these weeks,” Dima wrote in a Reddit comment shortly following the event. That comment barely holds a positive upvote ratio, meaning just as many people have downvoted him as upvoted him.
The good news for Dima: His victory guarantees a seed into Blizzard’s $250,000 Hearthstone World Championships at Blizzcon later this year.
Image via Blizzard