League of Legends Pro Gamers Stripped of Winnings for Scheming on the SideS

The Major League Gaming (MLG) summer championship events took place this past weekend, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Teams competed in several games, including StarCraft II, Mortal Kombat, and Soul Calibur V. But the biggest upset happened in the League of Legends tournament, which found both the first and second place winning teams disqualified and the third and fourth place teams winning the prize pot in their stead.

Teams Dignitas and Curse played in the final match. Curse won, but the play behavior from Dignitas threw up red flags to observers. According to MLG, the two teams may or may not have agreed for one to throw the game, but both had explicitly conspired to split the prize money afterward. As a result, both were disqualified. The statement from MLG reads:

MLG regrets to announce that we will not be awarding 1st or 2nd Place finishes for the Summer Championship League of Legends Event. We have determined that there was collusion between the two final teams, Curse NA and Team Dignitas. This is in clear violation of both the letter and spirit of MLG's Official Pro Circuit Conduct Rules: "competitors may not intentionally Forfeit a Game or conspire to manipulate Rankings or Brackets." As such, both teams have been disqualified, and no placements or prize money will be awarded.

Riot has agreed with this decision and, in accordance with their Season 2 rules on Unsportsmanlike Conduct, will not be awarding Circuit points to either team.

The 3rd and 4th Place teams will receive the prize money and Circuit Points they have earned, and all other results stand. No 1st or 2nd Place will be awarded for this event.

Both teams have agreed that the disqualification was warranted. While there is some contention over the exact nature of the actions taken by Curse NA and Dignitas which led to the disqualification, both teams, as well as MLG and Riot, agree that any collusion, or anything involving not playing a tournament match to win, warrants disqualification.

So what actually happened?

During the finals, to the surprise of nearly all, rather than carefully lining up their champion selection as one would expect for a $20,000 prize match, both Curse and Dignitas selected random champions and began a match known as an ARAM, "All Random All Mid." An ARAM match leaves huge elements of the game's outcome to chance, which is not exactly typical for championship finals in any sort of competition. Whether or not the teams had agreed for Dignitas to lose remains unknown, but both have admitted to their agreement to split the winnings.

Apparently, it would have been difficult for them not to admit it. RTS Guru pointed to a Tweet from MLG executive Adam Apicella, stating that the two teams had made the agreement "in a public, crowded setting," in front of witnesses. "The entire venue was aware of it."

Both teams have acknowledged the disqualification without contesting it. Team Dignitas managing director Michael O'Dell issued a statement acknowledging that the League of Legends Team Dignitas team had "engaged in misconduct" and found "at least some of the accusations to be valid." The team is conducting an internal investigation and plans to announce further actions by Wednesday.

Team Curse, meanwhile, issued a personal video statement (left), in which they apologized to their fans, saying, "Curse and Dignitas basically agreed on an ARAM for the first game... We thought this would be kind of fun, a play-around game ... to have fun! And not a lot of people really appreciated it, our fans didn't appreciate it... Anything outside of this is false, the accusations are false, and we'd also like to apologize to our fans."

As for the accusations themselves, the facts are still murky. On Riot's League of Legends forums, Dustin "RedBeard" Beck, Riot's VP of eSports, wrote:

Just to be crystal clear, MLG's decision here has nothing to do with ARAM. Both Curse and Dignitas admitted to and apologized for colluding prior to the finals to throw the match.

Whether the two teams were indeed just goofing around for fun, or whether they had agreed for Dignitas to throw the match, the fact remains that both violated the rules of the tournament. As eSports become ever more popular it seems that they, like their more physical brethren, become ever more open to cheating and manipulation.