There is something immediately distasteful when teams that are supposed to play to win instead play to lose. The intentional walk in baseball just feels wrong, even when logically and strategically it may be the best option. But it goes against the spirit of competition, which isn’t rational or logical, but a lot of us like the spirit of competition and say screw rationality and logic when it comes to things like that. This is what I was thinking as Epik was about to forfeit in what was probably an attempt to manipulate seeding.
So the situation is this. The first IEM Kiev pre-qualifier the seeding ended up:
1. Team SoloMid
2. v8 E-sports
3. Counter Logic Gaming
Now, v8 and Goose are not easy teams to beat, but if I had to pick a team to face it would probably be one of them as they are definitely not as intimidating or seasoned as TSM or CLG. Epik (and probably Curse and Complexity) agree with that assessment and therein lies the problem.
The rest of the second pre-qualifier is happening tonight at 5:00 PST. They are just playing for seeding at this point, nothing else. The first match will be Epik and Complexity and the loser will be seeded against TSM. So both teams want to win that and everything is simple so far.
The next match is where everything gets complicated. Curse and either Epik or Complexity will be playing. The loser will be seeded against v8, while the winner will have to beat Dignitas twice in a row or be seeded against CLG (if they do beat Dignitas they will be seeded against Goose instead, although two straight wins against Dignitas is possible, but unlikely). Both teams will want to lose this match as if they win, they are probably facing CLG and they would rather place against v8. The strategically optimal decision is to just throw the game or merely forfeit.
Dyrus was outright saying that Epik was going to forfeit if they won against Complexity. We don’t really know how Curse is going to respond at this point. ESL admins and shoutcasters were discussing the problem during the lull in their stream last night and they were considering how to proceed. The way I see it there are four possible responses.
Possible solution #1: Just let the cards fall as they do now. This might lead to a game that two teams try to forfeit, two teams try to intentionally lose, or a very fast race to surrender at twenty minutes. This mainly feels like a waste of time and is unfair to the already seeded teams as the teams still getting seeded are manipulating the system.
Possible solution #2: Random seeding. This isn’t fair to Team SoloMid or v8 who have fought and earned really high seeding spots and makes those seeding games seem like a waste of time retroactively.
Possible solution #3: Top seeds choose their opponents. This isn’t fair to teams that are viewed as weak but earned a high seed because they might be picked before they get to choose their opponents.
Possible solution #4: The winner of each seeding match gets to decide whether they move forward or the losing team moves forward. This would make every match actually matter and each team would try to win. However, v8 still gets the shaft here because they should be getting the 7th best team and end up with what should be the 5-6th best team.
Maybe in the future seeding shouldn’t be decided in two waves like it was here, because now we’re left with a bunch of solutions that still have holes and don’t really solve everything.