Administrative problems in the Boston Major Qualifiers

I understand that a lot of people will take one look at the title and assume I’m just complaining because my team lost. I almost didn’t write this article just to avoid that perception. The only reason I’m writing this now is because there seem to be a lot of people talking about this right now and it seemed like a good idea to ride that momentum to get exposure for what I deem to be some fairly serious issues.

So here’s a bunch of disclaimers before I start. First, I’m writing this post on behalf of myself and myself alone. My views do not necessarily represent the views of Mineski or any of its members or staff.

Second, I’m obviously exhausted, frustrated, disappointed, and upset after my team failed to qualify for the Boston Major earlier today. I’ll try my best to focus on the issues in an objective-ish manner.

Third, I have no intention to devalue the achievement of WG.Unity, who played exceptionally well throughout the tournament and fully deserve the qualification they’ve won themselves today. People somehow forgot that in the opening match they nearly obliterated Faceless only to beat themselves instead with an unfortunate last minute throw. They’re a really good team, and nothing I say in this article should take away from that.

Last, though this article is essentially a critique of the administration of the Boston Major Qualifiers, this is not a personal attack on any of the admins. They’ve all been very nice and friendly people in every interaction they had with our team. My criticism is of how they’ve done their jobs, not what kind of people they are. If you support the things I say, help apply pressure so future events are better administered — don’t flame the admins.

The Critique

There are three major areas that I think are worthy of critique: scheduling, knowledge of rules, and communication.

First, I can’t for the life of me understand why the schedule for qualifiers requires teams to compete in elimination matches right after losing another match. The schedule for these qualifiers has this happening on two occasions. On the first day of the playoffs, there are two matches. Following this, there is the loser’s match — which includes one team who have only just finished losing, and which will eliminate one team. On the next day there is the Winner Bracket final, followed by the Loser Bracket final — which again includes one team who will have just lost and might now face elimination.

I don’t want to harp on this point too much because I think the theory is fairly simple. In sports competitions it’s practically unheard of for a team to play two matches in one day, much less consecutively. Ok, so esports is different to sports here. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to play multiple matches in a day. But to play multiple consecutive matches can start to become unreasonable, especially when there is a lot riding on said matches. But even this I’m OK with. It might be required sometimes that teams have to play an important match after just finishing another match.

The really key question here is about which team has to incur this disadvantage. If we’re talking about an LB final, there’s one team coming from the LB and one team coming from the WB. Surely if one of those two teams should have a disadvantage it should be the team coming from the LB? Shouldn’t the team dropping down from the WB have the advantage as a reward for having arrived via the WB, meaning they’ve done better beforehand and perhaps earned it. Ideally neither team should have to play two consecutive matches, but this qualifier’s schedule seemed to demand that one had to. If that’s the case, it should be the reverse of what the tournament ran.

The easiest solution to this is to simply have Day 1 include round 1 matches and the WB final, with day 2 including the LB match and the LB final. This would mean that the only time you play twice in a row is after you’ve just won rather than after you’ve just lost. This removes the unreasonable disadvantage placed on the team who loses the LB final, and also whichever team lost the second match on day one, and has to play again right after.

As a minor point it’s also important that the schedule be made available to the teams involved far in advance and that it be stuck to. When the first round of the playoffs finished, there was some kind of uncertainty about which match would follow, as evidenced by several posts on social media and various matchticker sites. Nobody really knew if the Winner’s match or the Loser’s match would be taking place. And this was also true inside the admin Skype conference. Some discussion needed to happen, and a superior had to be called in, before the exact schedule was confirmed. This is unacceptable at the level of a Major Qualifier.

Second, following from the above, the admins of this event simply did not understand their own rules sufficiently well to be adminning it.

The most blatant example of this was at the end of the SEA groupstage. First, Fnatic were informed that they’d face Faceless in the first round of playoffs, having finished 4th while Faceless finished 1st. But this is simply not what the rules state. The rules state (correctly, I think — it’s better this way) that the team placing 1st in the round robin can choose to face either the team who came 3rd or the team who came 4th. After a lot of confusion, management from both Mineski and Fnatic had to actually quote the relevant section of the rules in order for admins to recognize they were getting their own rules wrong. Finally, it was agreed that Faceless could choose their opponent. In the end, no harm was done, but again, for the level of the event, it’s simply not acceptable for admins not to know their own rules well.

Third, Mineski lost a grueling series against Faceless in the Winner Bracket final earlier today. Both games were very long, and very close. After the match finished, we joined the next lobby to enquire how much of a break we were entitled to. Normally we run this stuff by our manager, but she was unfortunately away at the time as she is also responsible for our Overwatch, CS and LoL teams who all had events on today as well. Of course, to that extent, that’s on us, and we could have worked around it better. Perhaps it’s on me, as the coach, to step up at this point.

In any event, our course of action seemed fairly reasonable to me. We joined the lobby and asked the admin how much time we have for a break. The admin wrote ‘20 minutes’. A minute or two later, he wrote ‘15 minutes’. Now, after the dust has settled, it turns out that the rules actually entitled us to a 45 minute break. But if this is the case, why didn’t the admin when asked how long a break we can have tell us we can have 45 minutes? You might argue that we can read the rules ourselves, but it doesn’t change the fact that when consulting an admin about what a rule says, their job is to tell you what it actually says.

Personally, I think it’s absurd for the schedule to have the LB final right after the WB final, even with a reasonable break. I think the WB final should have been on the previous day, thus ensuring that no team has to face an elimination match right after losing a match. After all, ‘Loser Bracket advantage’ just shouldn’t be a thing. But if we’re going to schedule things that way, the very least we can do is award the teams the break time allotted to them in the rules.

From an internal perspective, I can guarantee you that this stuff contributed significantly to our poor performances in the LB final. I can’t say if if we would have won under different circumstances, but I can say that we were mentally defeated. And yes, maybe a better team would have greater mental fortitude and just be able to soldier on. But there’s a part of me wondering if any team should be expected to have that much fortitude that they can go through a very long intense series, have a 20 minute break, and then jump straight into an elimination series.

Again, congratulations to WG.Unity, who have qualified for the Boston Major today. They fully deserve their reward, and they played well in the LB final and the entire tournament as a whole.

But that’s entirely beside the point of my article. What I’m trying to point to here is that the standard of adminning in this tournament was extremely low, and that in a Major Qualifier it ought to be exactly the opposite. Hopefully by the time the next Major Qualifiers arrive, these kinds of things can be reviewed. The schedule can easily be changed, in fact some previous Majors have used the schedule that I’ve suggested above before, and thus avoided giving a LB advantage, so it’s not clear why they don’t just all work that way.

I don’t know if admins are paid to admin these events but if they aren’t they should be. Or they should be paid more or perhaps there should be more of them if the current situation isn’t workable. Again, nothing personal against the admin team, but I should hope they are being paid precisely for the purpose of knowing their own rules and enforcing them fairly.

Anthony is a former Dota 2 coach and commentator. He is currently studying towards his Masters in Public Health.

Anthony is a former Dota 2 coach and commentator. He is currently studying towards his Masters in Public Health.