It's not a common scenario, but sometimes it happens. A premiere esports event is spoiled due to an extremely underwhelming grand finals match. Sometimes it happens because of a mismatch in player skills or maybe one player was completely unprepared for a shift in meta or strategy. Whatever the case, it isn't a good look for an esport looking to gather an audience.
Not unlike a boxing match that ends in the first round, an excessively quick best-of-5 series can at least be exciting if the winning player dominated the competition in spectacular fashion. But this weekend during the Warcraft 3 Master's Coliseum, the grand finals of arguably the most fan-anticipated tournaments of the year ended in just 15 minutes.
Mainly, because one player seemed to give up completely.
An event for the fans
Right off the bat, you could tell that Master's Coliseum was an event created with the fans in mind. The entire tournament was themed after the popular anime Dragon Ball and the unique aesthetic defined the physical appearance of the main stage and the flyers advertising the event as well:
In attendance were a veritable whos-who of Warcraft 3 esports. When it turned out that the infamously young Undead player, 120, would end up facing the veteran Human player, Infi, fans in attendance and online were thrilled. After all, the Undead vs. Human matchup isn't too common and the last time Infi and 120 met in a grand final scenario was during GCS 2017. The competition back then was fierce and the match went to the final game where 120 won 3-2.
Before their Master's Coliseum match, both competitors even remarked on how badly they each wanted to defeat the other.
A frustrating series
After losing the first game of the series in a normal fashion, something happened to Infi. It looked as though he was slightly favored to win the first game, but 120's aggressive style of near-constant aggression proved insurmountable. Losing in this fashion was just the beginning of Infi's frustrations.
During game two, 120 pulled off a risky maneuver that, when executed correctly, grants a huge advantage to the Undead player. With precise timing, 120 successfully interrupted Infi's attempts to fast expand, stole the Human side Shadow Priest mercenary with an Acolyte, then used the priest to last hit Infi's creep, dispell his Water Elementals and keep the Archmage stuck at level 1.
In other words, it was the worst possible start Infi could have had. Immediately after it happened, Infi conceded from the game with a swift GG. If this were the only quick concession from Infi, fans could have maybe let it slide.
But then, the lighting shield happened.
With 120's lethal harassment strategy still fresh in his mind, Infi went full tilt when the majority of his units HP dropped to dangerously low thanks to a fluke lighting shield from the neutral NPC creeps. Without even bothering to recover or try to make the best of the situation, Infi typed GG and left the game.
120 didn't interact with or even see a single unit of Infi's during the game that crowned him the Master's Coliseum champion. Twitch chat was a filled with disappointed confusion:
120's face the moment he realized he had won the game looked equally confused:
And perhaps the most confused were the live casters, who had the unfortunate job of trying to explain just happened:
Reddit user Bubukaka shared screenshots and translations of Chinese fans hotly debating the swift concessions in a thread on the WC3 subReddit. Warcraft 3 is beloved most of all in China, so Infi's decision to stop trying after his early setbacks were extremely unpopular.
Among the shared screenshots were translated comments from Warcraft 3 Pro, Sky, and the primary sponsor of the tournament. Eventually, Infi himself commented on his actions and took full responsibility for the poor sportsmanship, explaining that he felt helpless and powerless.
Considering before this series Infi maintained an 8-3 lead in all-time wins vs. 120, feeling powerless to win was likely a new sensation for Infi when facing 120.
Bad for the scene.
Warcraft 3 isn't the most popular esport anymore, but it is an old one. Most of it's pro-players aren't new to high-stakes competition and, with the recent upswell in Warcraft 3 tournaments and developer support, the Master's Coliseum Grand Finals had a thriving live and offline audience that eagerly awaited high-quality matches. Unlike some modern esports, Warcraft 3 fans maintain a love of game that is rarely concerned with the number of views their major events get online or how their prize pools stack up against other titles.
Most Warcraft 3 tournaments feature the same beloved group of reoccurring players at the top of the heap, so when Infi decided to give up during the grand finals of a tournament with a $28,694 prize pool, it felt personal.
This wasn't just a forgettable tournament. Master's Coliseum was a privately funded event sponsored by Haohan Zhang, a wealthy Chinese businessman, and SCBoys, the most popular Starcraft casting group in China.
The entire event was created because Zhang and the SCBoys felt it was unfair that the Chinese government refused to send Starcraft 2 players to play in the Asian Games. In defiance, they decided to host their own RTS event featuring both Starcraft 2 and Warcraft 3.
It's no secret that Warcraft 3 is currently the least popular out of the two games, so Chinese fans felt it was extremely disrespectful that Infi would accept an invitation to play and then ruin even the chance at real grand finals match.
A somewhat happy ending.
Thankfully, Infi was quick to admit he was in the wrong. Likely seeking forgiveness, he decided to give back the entirety of his 2nd place prize pool in order to fuel future Warcraft 3 tournaments:
So, for every fan that felt cheated out of a grand finals worthy set of matches, they will likely enjoy a whole new tournament that may not have existed before thanks to Infi's decision. At the very least, if Master's Coliseum staff had already planned to host another tournament, it's prize pool will now be $6,000 larger.
RTS esports are technical and highly intense modes of competition. Players skill has virtually no ceiling in a competitive RTS but, tournaments like this are a reminder of just how important mental fortitude is when competing at the highest level. No one is immune to stress and, sometimes all it takes is one tilted game to make next two over in a matter of minutes.
Watch the match for your self if you'd like -- the caster reactions are worth it.
For more info about Chinese fans reactions to this event, check out Gornlanharbor.blogspot.com. They are a small team of dedicated Warcraft 3 fans specializing in translating news about the Chinese Warcraft 3 scene to English. For instance, they translated this Chinese article about the event described in this article.