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“Sau Paulo Challenge” online tournament faced with ghosting scandal

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The online “challenge” tournaments held unofficially by Sam Pandelis (aka @ZeldaVGC on Twitter) have been a great series of tournaments allowing top finishers to earn enough money to travel to one of the four various International Championships. This tournament had 132 players entered with a $1600+ prize pool. However, recently the “Sau Paulo Challenge” (a tournament held in preparation for the upcoming Latin American International Championships) has stirred up controversy over alleged “ghosting” during the tournament’s final stages.

“Ghosting” in this case refers to other players assisting one of the players playing in the tournament during their games. Basically, other people were in a chat with this player essentially coaching them through their games. This player who was caught ghosting ended up winning the entire tournament, but after this information was presented to Pandelis, their win was quickly revoked.

The controversy

Oddly enough, there were people in the community that were on both sides of this issue. The main argument boils down to the technicality of the rules versus integrity, morals and the fact that this is technically cheating.

The situation

According to a statement from Pandelis, there was evidence presented from a group of Italian players on Facebook who “gloated” about helping ghost the winner of the tournament. More evidence from this group suggested that the player being ghosted was to give out some of their prize money to those were directly involved with the ghosting. Pandelis made the executive decision to disqualify the player and another who allegedly witnessed the ghosting, and the side of the Top 8 of the tournament where this player was seeded would be replayed.

However, the player that was accused of being present for the ghosting will not receive a ban from the future “Challenge” in a later statement from Pandelis. Pandelis has also said that he will reimburse their entry fee for this tournament and grant them free entrance to any future tournaments held.

Pandelis had this to say at the end of his TwitLonger: “Please don’t attack (the player who didn’t report the ghosting) about this, and please understand the decision we made to disqualify him was taking into account the logs we were given, and the likelihood of foul play occurring given the players being aware of the ghosting during the finals. In the future, please consider that it’s important to set this precedent. A strong way we can prevent ghosting going forward is not let players ignore it.”

If you would like to read both posts from Pandelis, you can find the first one here and the second one here.

“It’s not in the rules”

Well actually it kind of is. Whether you cite that the tournament is listed as “1v1” in the Battlefy overview for it, the fact is that this is a VGC tournament and therefore should follow official tournament rules (to an extent). Ghosting isn’t allowed in real-life tournament matches, so logically it wouldn’t be allowed in an online tournament following a similar rule set. We could even use extreme examples like how it’s technically not in the rules to hire a team of well-trained specialists to go to your opponent’s home and destroy their router, but let’s use common sense here. By definition, ghosting is cheating.

“Spirit of the game”

One of the rules that’s outlined the most in the official Play! Pokemon rules guides for both VGC and TCG is the concept of the “spirit of the game”. Anything that compromises the “spirit of the game” should be punishable, and any form of cheating fits under that umbrella.

In a TwitLonger post from 2018 Oceania International Champion Alessio Yuri Boschetto, he says that the ghosting was being discussed in some of the groups he is apart of. According to Boschetto, when this information went public there was a presence of the “snitches get stitches” mentality from many members of these groups.

Boschetto concludes his post with this: “It’s honestly disgusting that so many people thought that hiding or covering a clear cheating incident was the correct course of action and it’s an embarrassment to the community.
There will always be someone that cheats. The community should try to ostracize cheating, not defend it.”

(If you would like to read Boschetto’s post in its entirety, you can find it here).

Many would agree with this sentiment, as defending acts of cheating will not get the competitive scene or community anywhere. With the community already in a huge identity crisis, this is the last thing we need. Integrity should come before competition, especially in a tournament with such a large reward on the line. Like in Pandelis’ second statement, it’s also important to set good precedent for this kind of situation in order for it to not happen again.

*Side note: Also, many players point out just how difficult getting caught ghosting is in a tournament like this, and the fact that this player got caught for it should definitely warrant a punishment. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the moral ambiguity of this argument, but I completely agree with it.

Where do we go from here?

Segments of the Top 8 and onward will be replayed, with only those players/matches affected getting a second go. If you take anything away from this situation, it should be that ghosting (and therefore cheating) is bad and we should all be aware of that. In the midst of this controversy, Pandelis claimed that he was threatened to be sued and that he might just not hold these tournaments anymore if this is the response he’s getting. These tournaments are a shining example of a community effort, and we should be grateful that we have people in the community who are willing to go the extra mile.

The Top 4 and finals matches will be streamed in the near future on Pandelis’ Twitch channel (ZeldaVGC), and I encourage you to check out the stream in order to support this tournament. These “challenge” tournaments are a great thing the grassroots competitive Pokemon scene has going for it, and it would be a shame to see them go away over one controversy gone wrong.

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Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, The Pokemon Anime, Bulbapedia, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International

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