The Biggest Scandals in Counter-Strike History - KeyDrop Blog
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The Biggest Scandals in Counter-Strike History

KeyDrop Team

Counter-Strike has been around for over 20 years now, becoming the biggest FPS esport in that time. However, this also means that it had its fair share of scandals. In this article, we’ll dive into the various controversial moments that made Counter-Strike what it is today. From stolen skins to rigged games, let’s (CS) go!

1. iBUYPOWER

Perhaps the most criminal scandal of them all, the iBuyPower scandal is quite a story, and we’ll try to give you the Cliff Notes.

iBUYPOWER was the top North American team in the early days of Counter-Strike, featuring IGL Joshua “steel” Nissan, Braxton “swag” Pierce, Keven “AZK” Larivière, Tyler “skadoodle” Latham, and Sam “DAZED” Marine dominating the local scene, while getting destroyed by European teams at 2 Majors in true “Classic NA” fashion. Nevertheless, their domination of other US teams and the colorful personalities of players like DAZED, swag and steel have led them to develop a big fandom, and big expectations.

In August 2014, iBUYPOWER faced NetCodeGuides in a match that quickly became a shocking upset for NetCodeGuides who beat IBP 16-4. It’s important to mention that the game was meaningless for the NA juggernaut and key to advancing to the CEVO tournament finals for the underdogs. Throughout the match, even the casters noticed that something was off, noting the horrible strategies and gameplay from IBP and calling them rusty.

The following day, journalist Richard Lewis received a tip about the game possibly being fixed; however, this was dismissed as idle speculation. However, a few months later, in January 2015, leaked messages from an ex-girlfriend of player Derek “dboorn” Boorn confirmed that theory, pointing out to alt accounts the players used to bet on the game and earn money that way by way of third-party Duc “cud” Pham. With Dot Esports *ahem* connecting the dots to discover the truth. Adding to the intrigue, DAZED was a part owner of NetCodeGuides, creating an obvious conflict of interest. 

Valve reacted fast and hard, banning steel, swag, AZK and DAZED along with dboorn and cud, as well as NetCodeGuides part-owner Casey Foster from all future Counter-Strike competitions. As skadoodle refused to take part in the scheme, he wasn’t punished. The players remained ousted from almost all S and A Tier CS events, until the late 2010s, when ESL and Dreamhack allowed them to participate in non-major tournaments hosted by them. In the end, however, most players moved to VALORANT, while skadoodle won the 2018 ELEAGUE Boston Major with Cloud9 in a landmark win for a North American roster.

2. forsaken

What do Word, CS:GO and India have in common? The answer is OPTiC India player Nikhil “forsaken” Kumawat, who was caught cheating at a live event back in 2018, with his hacks being neatly hidden away under the codename “word.exe” on his PC.

While cheating has been a part of the pro scene for a long time, cheating on LAN was always thought to be unlikely. While many theories came about players such as Robin “flusha” Ronnquist, nobody cheating on LAN was ever confirmed (online is another thing, and we’ll talk about it later), until forsaken got caught red-handed with primitive cheats at Extremesland 2018. It was later revealed that he also cheated at ESL India Premiership 2018 Finals, meaning that somehow, despite the pretty blatant aim locking going on throughout the tournament, he avoided punishment.

Forsaken was eventually banned for life for the incident, while OPTIC India quickly disbanded afterwards. Nevertheless, if you’ve ever wondered why “word.exe” shows up in your PUG chats… well, you can thank forsaken.

3. Gaming Paradise 2015

From a player cheating at an event, we go to an event that has bamboozled its players, and the answer to the question “what if Fyre Festival was a CS:GO LAN” (or rather Fyre Festival was the answer to the question “what if Gaming Paradise 2015 was a music festival).  

It was supposed to be a fun tournament in a Slovenian resort. It turned into a nightmare ride for all the players involved.

The first warning signs came when the teams had trouble booking their flights to the tournament, with the money for the travel coming in extremely late. This was waved off as caused by problems with the company card. 

However, as the players arrived at their hotel, it turned out that it hadn’t been paid for, leading to their passports being confiscated by hotel staff. Eventually, this was all sorted out, however other problems appeared. The PCs for the event never arrived, forcing the organizers to rush to get any working computers to the location.

While the event did take place, the teams never got their prize money, and had to use the influence of local police and embassies to recover their players’ documents to allow them to leave Slovenia. If you’re looking for the ultimate s**tshow in Counter-Strike history – that’s it.

4. Olofpass

Imagine you’re a tournament organizer. Everything’s going swimmingly, a big match is going down. One team is losing big as they move to the CT half on Overpass. Suddenly, the losing team pulls off a weird boost. They can see the entire map and snipe people down from a sniper’s nest. All hell breaks loose. They win the match, but everyone is outraged. You scour your rulebook looking for an excuse to reverse the match result. Eventually, you find something there, and you ask the teams to replay the match. Prompt even more chaos.

That’s exactly what happened at DreamHack Winter 2014, a CS:GO Major in Jönköping, Sweden. The hometown fnatic were on the verge of losing the deciding map in a quarterfinal against fellow tournament favorites Team LDLC. As they were losing 13-3 on Overpass, Olof “olofmeister” Kjabjer suddenly boosted up to a position near the truck, showing him the entire map. He was able to snipe down LDLC players and provide key info to his teammates. Fnatic won 13 rounds straight, winning the match, despite LDLC’s best efforts to counter fnatic’s strategy. 

It was obvious that this glitch wasn’t fair. It wasn’t just a small advantage but a gamebreaking issue. The organizers scrambled to find an excuse to replay the map, eventually finding some regulations about pixelboosting that allowed them to deem that both teams had broken the rules, and thus the map had to be replayed. LDLC’s boost however only took place in one round and wasn’t at all comparable to fnatic’s shenanigans. Eventually, the ruling was changed to replaying the second half of the match (so from 12-3 LDLC onwards), but LDLC didn’t want to replay given they felt that they’ve been cheated and eventually, fnatic forfeited, while LDLC went on to win the entire tournament.

Later on, reddit user Bloetecsgo, told media that fnatic learned about the boost two weeks earlier from a video he posted on reddit. He suggested Jesper “JW” Wecksell asked him to take down the video, and he did so. This has never been confirmed, but contributed to fnatic’s reputation as cheaters, which followed them for a while.

5. Coaching Scandal

This one is very technical. In Counter-Strike, coaches are observers who watch the game from a separate account and thus are able to provide feedback to their players during timeouts. They should only be able to see the game from their players’ POVs, however in 2020 Polish coach Mariusz “Loord” Cybulski reported that he had a bug that allowed him to see above the map and report info to players.

With Counter-Strike being heavily information-based, knowing your opponents’ setup, weak points and positions is a crucial advantage; thus this bug could be heavily abusable. 5 days later, the Esports Integrity Commission announced that they’ve banned three coaches Ricardo “dead” Sinigaglia from MiBR, Nicolai “HUNDEN” Peterson from Heroic and Aleksandr “zoneR” Bogatiryev from Hard Legion. But that turned out to only be the start.

ESIC decided to launch a full investigation, examining game demos (recordings) from coaches starting in 2016 to see the sources of the abuse. Eventually, after 2 years, 100 coaches were banned for various amounts of time depending on the severity and frequency of glitch abuse, with reduced sentences for those who admitted it. That’s an absurd number of cheaters in the space, showing just how far they’re able to go to better those winning odds.

6. ESEA Bitcoin Scandal

So this needs a bit of historical context. With CS:GO being filled with cheaters for years, outside services offering better anti-cheats and separate leagues and tournaments quickly popped up. Among them, two stood out. In Europe, FaceIt quickly became popular, eventually growing from a matchmaking service to tournament organizer. Similarly, ESEA did so in North America, taking over the local market.

However, in 2013 it turned out that the ESEA anti-cheat client didn’t just use your system resources to ensure that ne’er-do-wells don’t play your game, but it also mined bitcoin by using the system resources of 14,000 of their users. 

It’s important to note here that anti-cheat clients don’t just work while the game is active, to join an anti-cheat protected game, you usually have to have the system turned on since boot, with the client having a lot of access to your system to ensure that it doesn’t miss any cheats. This is why, for example, VALORANT’s Riot Vanguard requires you to restart your PC before every VALORANT session if you hadn’t activated it beforehand.

This meant that ESEA’s client was a perfect place to insert an inconspicuous bitcoin miner. While the miner didn’t work full-power to avoid getting spotted, it still slowed down users’ computers and used up their resources, eventually mining around 17 thousand dollars worth of Bitcoin in 2013. In today’s money, however, that bitcoin is worth $510,000 with a peak value of nearly $2 million in 2022.

Eventually, ESEA blamed a rogue employee and terminated them, but nevertheless was fined $1 million, with $675,000 being suspended for a decade given good behavior. Eventually, both ESEA and ESL came under the umbrella of a single ownership group, which hopefully doesn’t think to install bitcoin Trojans with their anticheat software.

7. KQLY and Others VAC Banned

We talked about VAC bans beforehand, but before word.exe, the classic esports nerd reaction to a cheater was writing or saying “OK KQLY”. 

Hovik “KQLY” Tovmassian was a French Counter-Strike pro who played for one of the most legendary French teams of all time, TITAN eSports. You may also know him from this legendary CS:GO play.

Then on November 20th, 2014 his legend, along with those of Gordon “Sf” Giry, Simon “smn” Beck and  Nichlas “Nille” Busk fell due to VAC bans. This combined with the banning of Joel “emilio” Mako during a live game a month prior has led to people questioning how many pros have gotten away with cheating in the past. 

Interestingly enough, unlike other pros who have been busted cheating in the past years, KQLY never protested the ban, he did, however, claim he never used it playing for TITAN or in competitive tournaments, making you wonder… why he did in the first place. In the end, the incident tainted his legacy, and now nobody can really think of a jumpshot on Dust A-Site without thinking of a disgraced French cheater.

8. Howl

We’ve already mentioned this in a previous article on the most expensive CS2 skins, but hey, if we’re talking about scandals, this one is a big one, especially in our skin-dominated world.

In case you don’t know, not all skins are created by Valve. Many are actually created by independent creators who submit their ideas through the Steam Workshop, to later receive a royalty check from a given case’s sales.

The M4A4 | Howl was one of those skins created by Auzii and SiC. However, sometime after it was released, DeviantArt user CanisAlbus claimed that its centerpiece wolf image was actually stolen.

m4a4-howl

After a Valve investigation confirmed the claim, the Howl was removed from cases and remade by Valve, with existing skins getting “Contraband” status. SiC blamed Auzzie for the scandal, saying that the stolen contribution was his, however Valve banned both of them and their skins from the workshop. 

Conclusion

Are these all the Counter-Strike scandals we could muster? Well, there are others, including and not limited to your teammates failing to win that 4v1 in your last matchmaking game, or that guy who kept cheating on Mirage A-Ramp. But when it comes to the big time, this is a pretty comprehensive list. However, if you feel that we’ve missed anything, be sure to let us know on our socials. And, if you’re looking for something less scandalous, why not give Key-Drop a spin!

KeyDrop Team

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