2021 was an exciting year for esports, but it was as always not without its controversies. Here are our picks for the 3 biggest.

Esports in 2021 had an interesting year, one spent largely recovering from the onslaught of event cancellations. It was really an attempt at returning to normalcy after COVID-19. It was not without controversy, however. We’ve rounded up three situations that defined the year 2021 and surely will have many looking back not so fondly.

While there were many controversies in 2021, we've picked out our four choices for the largest in esports.

Riot’s handling of the Acend vs Vivo Keyd ruling controversy at Valorant Champions

This first esports controversy is pretty recent, so you'll forgive us for having a little recency bias.

To say that we weren’t fans of this move is probably an understatement. Riot issued a competitive ruling in the early group stage of Champions, where Vivo Keyd took on Acend. While Vivo Keyd won the match, it was quickly found that they were using a Cypher exploit that caused his camera to become unhittable, as well as clipped through textures to allow for more information than should have been. This very same exploit was punished by map loss earlier in the VCT in the match between X10 and Giants in the SEA region.

<em>While they went on to be champions, Acend very nearly had to make a Loser's Bracket run through groups. (Photo: Riot Games)</em>
While they went on to be champions, Acend very nearly had to make a Loser's Bracket run through groups. (Photo: Riot Games)

However, Riot decided to award round victories instead for any round where Vivo Keyd used the exploit. This caused the match to be awarded to Acend because they had now gone up 13-9 in the scoreline. It seemed that this was all well and good. However, many in the community demanded some sort of “justice” for Vivo Keyd despite them using a well-known exploit. After fan outcry, and presumably some lobbying from Vivo Keyd, Riot decided to have the whole match replayed.

They said at the time that they had made a mistake in the round counting used when issuing the penalty. But had they stuck to the previously established punishment using a map loss, the whole point would have been moot.

At any rate, Acend and Vivo Keyd forced into replay, with Acend taking the victory after starting with a 7 round advantage, 13-10. They went on to have some very impressive performances throughout the rest of the tournament, where they were eventually crowned the champions.

So while this story has a happy ending, it very nearly didn’t. Had Vivo Keyd won the rematch? It could have been one of the greatest miscarriages of justice seen in esports from an administrative standpoint.

TSM Reginald vs Doublelift

This next esports controversy contained probably some of the best back and forth beefs between streams, reddit, and twitter.

Team SoloMid has been one of NA’s premier esports teams for almost as long as the concept has been popular in North America. While that is the case, it’s owner, Andy “Reginald” Dinh has been a figure that’s been in many controversies over the years and 2021 was no different.

We probably won't see Doublelift don a TSM jersey ever again. (<em>Photo Riot Games)</em>
We probably won't see Doublelift don a TSM jersey ever again. (Photo Riot Games)

Late in 2021, Dinh and Peter “Doublelift” Yiliang, who up until that point had both played for TSM professionally and later in his career rep’d the brand on stream, had it out publicly. Many details of TSM’s earlier rosters became public. These included that Reginald had been so harsh on his players that several of them had mental breakdowns. He went on to detail verbal abuse, harassment, mismanagement, lies, and deceit by the TSM owner. Reginald widely denited these claims, saying that Doublelift was merely salty that things hadn’t gone his way in those situations.

The upshot of all of this resulted in Doublelift and TSM parting ways not altogether amicably, but also put some light on the reasoning behind Bjergsen’s departure from the team. The latter has gone on to say that he wants to “destroy” TSM, while Doublelift has expressed the desire that the team never win anything again.

Beyond Gaming’s Maoan found guilty of attempted match-fixing at Worlds

And what would talking about esports controversies be without a little good old-fashioned match-fixing?

Let me set the stage for you - a team makes Worlds Play-In stage, perhaps one of the biggest opportunities a rising team can have in League of Legends. Better yet, things are going well. Your team is only one win away from the Group Stage of Worlds, and a shot at glory and a significant amount of prize money. Except your teammate, one Chien “Maoan” Mao-An, decided to leak strategies in an attempt to match fix.

Indeed, Riot does not take kindly to these actions, and the punishment was swift. Maoan, immediately fired from his team and suspended, left in disgrace. This led to his team, Beyond Gaming, forced into their match against Hanwha Life with a substitute player. This led to perhaps one of the greatest mid-lane mismatches in Worlds history. Chovy, perhaps the MVP of the Play-In stage was up against a substitute, and a not warmed-up one at that.

Beyond ended up absolutely creamed 3-0 by Hanwha Life. Just desserts for the organization for employing a match-fixer, perhaps. Ultimately very unfortunate for the team, and a mar on the Worlds 2021 competition. It also marked the only time Riot has found attempted match-fixing on the Worlds stage.

Hunden implicated teammates in Coaching Bug scandal in CS:GO

Nicolai "⁠HUNDEN⁠" Petersen has become an infamous name in CS:GO. Earlier this year, he dragged up drama from 2020, in which several coaches in the game had been abusing the infamous coaching bug.

During this new drama, he claimed that his teammates knew about him using the coaching bug to their advantage. Heroic CEO Joachim Haraldsen widely denied the charges at the time, saying that ESIC thoroughly investigated the matter and found Hunden guilty of cheating. Indeed, he says that ultimately this is an attempt by Hunden to pass the buck and responsibility for the situation.

Others in the CS:GO scene took HUNDEN's side, saying that there isn't much reason that he would lie about this. Not only that but details released in an article showed that he and his teammates openly discussed whether to take advantage of the bug.

The upshot of it all is that HUNDEN has been banned for his actions for two years from competitive CS:GO. His teammate, niko, was also sanctioned for a minimum of 30 days for admitting his complicity in the scandal.

What do you think? Any make your own personal top 4 that we didn’t mention? Let us know on Twitter @esports.