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Esports anecdotes and trivia - Episode 1

A selection of anecdotes and trivia from the history of esports.

From its origins in the early Doom and Quake tournaments of the late 90s competitive gaming, now known as esports, can now boast a long and rich history. Throughout the many years, different games and multitude of events that have been held, there have been plenty of amusing, intriguing and unlikely stories to go around. This series features a selection of anecdotes, facts and trivia from esports history.

Why do you need the blue buff Bjergsen? (LoL)

Back in Grilled Episode 67 Danish rising mid lane star Bjergsen, then of NiP and now of TSM, provided an amusing anecdote to explain his early comparisons with legendary Danish mid laner Froggen, of CLG.EU and now Alliance fame. Following Froggen's departure from a team called LoLLeague, Bjergsen had been brought in to replace him. Confusion arose when Bjergsen wanted to take the blue buff, a standard move for mid laners in that meta, but his jungler didn't understand why he needed it.

In Bjergsen's own words:

"My jungler at the time didn't understand why I didn't just let him take blue [buff], because Froggen could tell him 'just take Blue, I'll kill their mid and take his blue' and then he'd just kill [the other mid]."

Playing a champion for the first time in an offline final? No sweat for hyrqBot (LoL)

Xin Zhao may be well known as one of the signature champions of French jungler hyrqBot, formerly of SK Gaming and now NiP, but there was a time when the Frenchman didn't even have the champion in his pool. At the 2012 Paris Games Week tournament he was the stand-in jungler for the fnatic mix team (xPeke, nRated, sOAZ, YellOwStaR and himself) who reached the final. In the final the fnatic mix were facing GSU, which featured ShLaYa, Dioud, Nono and ViRtU4l, all later to play in aAa in the LCS Spring split the next year.

With Xin Zhao doing well in the tournament the fnatic mix asked hyrqBot if he could play it. Perhaps sensing that a good performance here might be a chance to get into a big team, the Frenchman decided to pretend that the champion was one of his mains, despite never having played him for a single game. His gamble paid off, as he picked it, played well with it and the fnatic mix cruised to the 6,000 Euros first prize.

hyrqBot telling the story in Grilled Episode 75:

"The first time I played Xin Zhao it was at Paris Games Week with fnatic mix. I'd never played him before, like never. We go on the stage and we saw everyone playing Xin Zhao and [fnatic] told me 'Hey man, can you play Xin Zhao? He's really broken!' and I was like 'Yeah, no problem. It's one of my main champion, I can play him so easily'. And I go on the stage and I play Xin Zhao here for the first time, in front of the French crowd, and I just stomped two games in a row and we won the cup. Since this he's one of my mains."

Team Dignitas at one point stopped practicing TSM because the latter would just use their scrims to scout them (LoL)

Jatt may be best known now as the star colour commentator of Riot's LCS NA crew, but once upon a time he was the somewhat maligned Jungler of Team Dignitas. After departing from the team he told a story about why his team had stopped practicing TSM at one point in time. Apparently TSM's approach was to just purposely leave open all of Dignitas' champions, while not playing their own real picks.

In doing this they could scout out Dignitas' strengths, while preparing in case they had to play against them and yet also give up very little information to Jatt's team. In tournaments TSM would then ban appropriately and play champions they had not used in the scrims. Understandably Dignitas were not pleased.

mandatorycloud, Mid laner of XD.GG, corroborated the story in Grilled Episode 90:

"We literally had the exact same issue with them. We realised the exact same thing, they'd ban like Heimer, Annie and something else [...] they'd ban troll bans and we'd ban real bans, then they'd just play whatever."

PuMa thought iNcontroL was an EG manager until he saw him playing SC2 at the EG team house (SC2)

There was a time when PuMa was a famed star of foreign StarCraft2 tournaments, winning three significant tournaments in 2011 and placing top two in two others that year. Following his victory at the first NASL he had been scooped up by Evil Geniuses, the Western team with the most money to spend. Joining the giants of the West meant moving out to their team house in Phoenix, Arizona, which also housed some of their North American players. One member of that team house was iNcontroL, a well known community figure and player going back to BW.

It turns out PuMa was not even aware iNcontroL was even a professional SC2 player until he actually saw him sitting and playing SC2. The Korean had assumed the EG captain was a manager.

PuMa explained the story in a subtitled answer in Grilled Episode 5:

"To be honest I didn't know there was a player called iNcontroL. The only foreigners I knew of were Idra, HuK and JinrO, since they were in Korea, and I didn't watch streams of foreign tournaments until I joined EG. So when I joined EG and went to the team house I didn't know iNcontroL was a player and I never thought of it, since he's so big, so I thought he was a manager or something. Then I saw him playing games, and I was very surprised by it"

NaNiwa finished top four at an MLG he was forced to attend by his managers, despite being sick (SC2)

NaNiwa is not only known for being one of the best foreign SC2 players of all time, but also for his, at times, difficult nature. The Swedish Protoss had placed poorly at Dreamhack Summer in June of 2013, finishing outside of the top 32, and wanted to return to Korea to practice heavily and regain his form. He was also suffering from the effects of a cold at the time. All of the aforementioned considered one can see why NaNiwa didn't want to attend the MLG Spring Championship two weeks later in Anaheim, California. It wasn't up to NaNiwa though, as his managers had already booked the trip for him and forced him to attend.

Despite feeling under the weather and being out of his comfort zone of regular Korean practice, NaNiwa managed to put together a strong run right to a 3rd-4th finish, finishing as the top placing foreigner in the event.

Feast explained in an interview that he thought MMA would win IEM VI Kiev, only to be drawn against the Korean for the quarter-finals seconds later (SC2)

The IEM Season VI Global Challenge in Kiev was the breakout event for the young Belgian Protoss Feast. The IEM online qualification system meant that Feast had been able to qualify into the tournament, despite having no competitive experience of note. At the event he shocked many by defeating HerO and reaching the playoff stage and a guaranteed top eight finish.

In light of that excellent run I interviewed him and asked him who he wanted to avoid for the quarter-finals. Feast explained that he had practiced MMA, considered by many the favourite for the tournament, and that he had been crushed. The Belgian explained (at 10:13 of this video) that he thought he could maybe win a map or two against the Korean, if it were a Best-of-Seven series, and that he expected MMA to win the whole tournament. As he was explaining this the group stage draw was going on behind him on stage, to which I directed his attention, and we saw on the big screen that he had been drawn against the very same MMA.

Feast was noticably a little flustered. MMA went on to win the Bo5 series 3:1 and eventually take the entire tournament.

naSu and contE decided to swap mice before a tournament match against an underdog, as a prank, and went on to lose that match (CS)

In early 2007 69N-28E had put together a dream team of Finnish names. Their previous line-up had been solidly placing top eight, and often top four, at tournaments over the latter half of 2006 and now they had added veteran natu as their fifth man. With high expectations they entered the Samsung European Championship, a European version of the World Cyber Games. With Finland being one of the better countries in CS history and the tournament only allowing one entry from each country, it was easy to expect the Finns would be competing for a medal. Instead they ended up finishing in fourth place, in part thanks to a prank gone wrong.

naSu, brother of lurppis and all-around player, and contE, clutch player of the team, decided that in their early match against goldbrick, a UK team with no notable international accomplishments, that it would be funny if they swapped mice and played with each other's. The skilled Finns couldn't imagine losing the game anyway, so what was the harm, right? It was, perhaps, a kind of amusing justice that 69N-28E then lost that match 9:16 to drop to the lower bracket.

A strong run through the lower bracket took them all the way to a top four finish, but losing to Norway's MYM denied them a top three finish and any prize money. They were, of course, left to wonder what could have been if they hadn't wasted that first tournament life so stupidly.

solo was colour blind and couldn't see areas of de_train well enough (CS)

solo is the greatest South Korean Counter-Strike player in history, and one of the best players from any country to play the game. What may surprise some to discover though is that he was colour blind, and this meant his teams had to structure their communications entirely differently. Rather than use names which involved colours (i.e. yellow hut), which was often common place, they had to learn to number every kind of position, so he could understand.

Since solo was the star player of his teams, this makes sense, but it also meant that not only did the teams he played for have to practice more, so everyone knew all their unique position names, but anyone recruited to the team had to relearn how to communicate. As someone who suffers from the same condition, I can confirm that specific areas on maps like train (outside, looking down the trains towards the CT side) and nuke (looking into the vents from the lower ramp area) can be very difficult, in comparison to how they are for normally sighted people.

Hwanni, former manager of the eSTRO team solo played for, explained the story in an interview (at 1:39) I did with peri

"There's a little secret that, I don't know if I can say this, but solo cannot see some colours. That's why whenever we practiced as a team we named the positions into a number, that's why we had to play more practice than anyone else."

The first great CS match might not have happened if the terrorist attack on September 11th had not taken place (CS)

To explain the storyline behind that somewhat provocative title I must indulge you with a short history lesson on the two differing CS scenes separated by the Atlantic ocean. In North America the ruleset used for competitive CS matches was called maxrounds (mr), the very same ruleset we use in CS:GO today. mr12 (maxrounds12) meant that 12 rounds were played on each half a CS match, with the teams swapping sides at the half, and the first team to win 13 rounds won the game. We now use mr15, but the concept is the same, albeit it the winner is the one to reach 16 rounds now.

Over in Europe the ruleset of choice was Chargers Only (CO). In this ruleset each team played a set amount of time on each side, usually 20 minutes per half, and only the wins of the terrorist team counted. This made for a very exciting format, as if your team had been on T side first half and gotten 10 rounds then the entire second half you knew how many rounds you had to stop the opponent from reaching. In many ways it was a better format for spectating CS, though that is an argument for another day. What's significant is that since this was the prevailing ruleset in Europe none of the European teams were used to the American maxrounds structure.

Early European CPLs all featured Chargers Only, so Europe's best team (NiP) were the masters of this set-up. The final event of the year was set to be the biggest in the history of CS, featuring a first place prize of $50,000. The hitch was that it would be held in Dallas, Texas, in the USA. The best North American team were X3 and they had dominated the NA LAN circuit, much as NiP had dominated the EU LAN circuit. Fans awaited the clash of the two teams to decide the first true world champions of CS, but, little did they know, it very well might not have happened.

Some of the NiP players were in communication with the WCG (World Cyber Games), who had their first event planned for the exact same dates as the CPL Winter Event previously mentioned. With a first place prize of $40,000 the money was close enough that NiP's players were open to seeing if WCG would use the CO ruleset for their tournament. Had they then NiP may well have chosen to win the certain money in South Korea, rather than have to brave a totally new match structure in America.

Those talks fell by the wayside as the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York ended up having effects on the game of Counter-Strike. Some may remember a minor aesthetic change that occured for the CPL, with them changing the text of "the bomb has been planted" to something along the lines of "the communication device has been activated", despite the animation and look being identical, of setting up a bomb and it exploding. That may seem minor enough and mildly amusing, but the effect the attacks had on the WCG's rule decision ended up being significant.

Since in CO only terrorist round wins counted, WCG announced they would use maxrounds, since they felt it was in poor political taste to allow terrorists' victories to be the only ones that mattered. As a result the two events ended up using the same ruleset and, thus, NiP chose to go to the CPL after all. There history was made as X3 and NiP met in the winner bracket and grand finals, playing, in the latter, what has often been considered the great CS match of all time, and crowning NiP as the first world champions of the game's first true super clash of dominant teams.

Cooller plays at IEM Dubai without a visa (QL)

IEM IV Dubai was set to be a huge event for QuakeLive fans largely because it would be the return of legendary Q3 dueler Cooller to the competitive scene. Disaster had seemingly struck though, as the Russian could not get the appropriate Visa to attend the event. Carmac and ESL found a creative solution though, going something along the lines of booking Cooller a trip which included a long layover in Dubai. They then took Cooller from the airport and had him play the tournament during the layover, then depart on his flight after the alloted amount of hours.

Photograph credits: ESL, Readmore, Uli, ESFI, TSM, Corsair, fnatic, Team Dignitas, SK Gaming

1 Comments
Posted by Leffegnu

Well written article Thorin I must say.

Its always fun to re-live the past memories and being an old school member myself it surely brings some extra flavor =)

The story about Solo was new for me and it is really impressive being able to preform at that level with such a handicap. The case is not unique however, I know that Swedish old school Quake player player FooKi had the same issue to some extent and he also achieved some remarkable results in various tournaments.

The story about Puma thinking that iNControL wasn’t a player “since he’s so big” and the Finnish cs team deciding to swap equipment “just for the fun of it” I think show a bit of what the eSport scene these days are missing; humility. To totally judge other people on sight of their appearance or just having a look at a teams previous result and then judge them is not a new phenomena; but at a professional level I think it’s just disrespectful.