By Brendan Passeno
The CSGO NoxFire League, a European based 16-team league that boasts a $70 000 prize pool, has recently come under fire as allegations of cheating, match-fixing, and admin “ghosting” have been leveled. The league hosts notable teams such as 3DMAX, AVANGAR, ForZe, Windigo and Pro100, with AVANGAR and Winstrike both having played in the most recent Major in Katowice.
While the largest of match fixing scandals are sure to be caught at some point in time, there are more than a few low-money minor league irregularities that fly under the radar. Since the infamous iBUYPOWER scandal of 2015, the CS:GO scene has not seen any allegations of major match fixing scandals as of late. The last case of a notable mid-tier match-fixing incident occurred in the Mountain Dew League which saw bans handed out to two players last August. However, cases of potentially fixed matches have been surfacing in the lower tiers of Europe, CIS, and Asian regions for extended periods of time and now it looks as if there is another. This time with some credible evidence.
Enter Noxfire League Season 2.
Recently on Twitter, multiple teams have come forward complaining about mysterious circumstances surrounding games played in the league. Initially, the two teams at the forefront of suspicion were Bojestvata and Heavy Knockouts. But now, after a closer look at the league including communication screenshots, tweets, comments, and betting web sites taking down matches mid-game, it appears more than just those two have the same level of suspicion surrounding them inside of this league.
An examination of the allegations starts with Heavy Knockout. The first time HKO was outed for being problematic in this league was in the qualifiers. The team won a match under dubious circumstances with several video clips showing CT rotations and pushes not aligning with the information gleaned that a team would use unless they were wallhacking or being told of player movement.
Following the initial accusations, HKO went into the league playing games against AVANGAR and Pro100, losing 16-1 and 16-3 respectively. Nothing odd about these games individually, but just a pure showing of better players as opposition. However, the same rotations Heavy Knockout used previously on the CT side were nowhere to be found.
Later, HKO faced two teams that weren’t at the level of competition of either AVANGAR and Pro100–facing Volgare and Akopalipsa. After two games of terrible performances, the Bulgarians learned from their mistakes and began to improve. They began by beating Volgare 16-12 on Mirage, then taking down Akopalipsa 19-16 on Inferno. Late match comebacks are fairly common, so what happened there?
It was after those two matches that the accusations started piling up. Left and right players from numerous teams came out accusing the HKO squad of cheating in games so they could win matches in this league. Nemanja ‘sarenii’ Šarenac, a team member of AKOPALISPA took to a twitlonger, lambasting HKO and listing several videos of questionable play. Apparently, it wasn’t just wins HKO was after.
Following the storm of tweets from players and fans that had watched the questionable videos, people began looking into the betting odds for these matches. Evidence started to mount after scrutiny of more than a few betting sites that there was probably more to the story. Once again, tweets from players in the league more than hinted and in fact accused HKO of hacking in order to win when the odds were stacked against them on various betting sites
With the emergence of potential match-fixing and gambling on games being more predatory than passive, a few sources came forward from the esports betting community and did their own preliminary investigation. The scope of their interest focused on how odds were made and shifted during matches played by teams in the NoxFire League. From their work by tracking multiple sites’ odds at the same time it showed that the suspicion of match-fixing is a large possibility in this league.
Based on watching the betting odds on sites such as pinnacle.com and ps3838.com. Along with input from multiple sources in the betting scene, it is probably not coincidence that there are certain lines of betting being hit by these matches after big bets are placed minutes or seconds before match start. Looking at hltv.org, which you can see here and here, you can line up certain lines with big odds to game score.
While the odds for these matches show anomalies in betting, there are more sites that are being used with fixed odds for winners. Looking at historical money lines from esports-betting-tips.com, it shows the more suspicious games from this league having ending money lines that fall in line with an upset winner on big odds.
While a lot of the evidence presented at first is circumstantial, people in the league and some betting sites are coming forward saying that where there’s smoke there is fire, and this definitely looks like fire.
“While I can’t say there is hard proof such as an admission, to the people I’ve spoken to, what I’ve seen about the league and the crazy odds changes on Asian markets is enough for me at least to be sure that some of the games of fixed,” said Vukan Svojic a gambling industry insider.
“I’ve made a living out of betting for the last few years and I have never seen so many odds changes, last few minutes, pre-game and of course they always hit. I really don’t understand why more bookies haven’t deleted that league from their markets. It’s really weird for me,” Svojiv said.
However, now, one source inside of the NoxFire League has come forward detailing and corroborating the allegations. He asked to remain anonymous because he fears a backlash of violence or even death threats.
“When we played against Heavy Knockout, we saw something is really suspicious. When we went to rush B on one of the maps, HKO stacked it with 3-4 guys every time, same as A site – sometimes with five guys they always knew if we rushed and stacked,” said the source.
“So I decided to investigate and see what happened. I saw that they played like silvers, the way they moved and played. So I asked myself, what is going on. Then I found out, that the admin from the game – from spectators was named Eg. I found out what the steam profile of the organizer of the league called Allen Ackberd. Actually – the point is – the steam profile of Eg, was the same name of that Allen Ackberd guy (admin and organizer) who’s dealing with HKO – spectating, ghosting for them, actually giving them info on the map. We screenshotted that profile before he emptied it,” the source continued.
“Actually, it was post on reddit few years ago from that man, who created the first season of the league with less prize pool, and now, on the second season he invited famous teams and increased money prize. So he’s dealing with HKO for the matches. I mean, they lost against avangar 16-1, because, they’re waiting for non-famous teams like us, or volgare. So they can easily bet money and profit,” the source added.
“This all started from closed Bulgarian qualifier. The organizer didn’t want to invite teams from Bulgaria. He was just searching for teams that were gonna throw for him. Actually, they helped HKO get to main tournament with the same tactics – ghosting for them. So we are thinking of leaving the league now, because I think they will not pay the money from prizes – but it sucks because we just want to play against good teams. But we were so tilted when we saw what’s happening that we don’t think we can stay.”