With eSports still in its infancy, it's common for tournaments big and small to face significant issues especially in regards to organization. However, when they deal with significant cash prizes and more well-known games and companies, significant problems during major tournaments can draw a lot of attention and fallout. Such is the case with the current Blizzard sponsored Hearthstone tournament. The HCT Winter Championship for 2017 is by far the most sought after, hosted in the Bahamas and awarding $250,000 in prize money. The international championship is set to take place in March and matches in the four designated regions (the Americas, Asia Pacific, China, and Europe) are well underway. In the end, each region will send only four players to the Championship, and many players have already been eliminated. During these initial games, players have reported on Twitter they've had issues with unfair disconnects and organizational problems that call into question the rules in place.
Shortly after being eliminated, Louis "Mitsuhide" Bremers shared a suspicious situation regarding enemy disconnects. Mitsuhide reported that during a match where he had a clear advantage, his opponent, Russian player "Romanno" mysteriously disconnected, and the two were required to hold a rematch. In the second game, Mitsuhide reported a similar circumstance. Again, when Mitsuhide was on the verge of winning, Romanno disconnected. In the third match, Mitsuhide was not able to gain the advantage, and Romanno won the game, with no connection issue. Romanno went on to win the best-of-seven and proceed in the tournament while Mitsuhide was eliminated without placing. Swedish player Elisa "Bozzzton" Sibelius said he lost a surefire win due to a disconnect as well, which resulted in him losing that series. The four European representatives to the Championship - Pavel, GreenSheep, ShtanUdachi, and Neirea - were decided February 12th.
Mitsuhide has made it clear that he does not necessarily believe Romanno was intentionally cheating in this case and told TechRaptor that finding out if a disconnect is unintentional or due to player or admin influence is difficult. Another player, "Orange", faced the same disconnect issues during a Tavern Brawl tournament. According to Mitsuhide though, disconnects "happen all the time". Regardless of the circumstances in this individual situation, Mitsuhide's experience has resulted in a backlash from the Hearthstone competitive and general community, who ask why the rules are set up to allow this to occur. Another player for Counterlogic Gaming, Sebastian Bentert, points out that the rules are set up to favor the person who disconnects, giving them the option to either reconnect or initiate a new game. A thread was made on /r/Hearthstone regarding Mitsuhide's account, resulting in many more experiences with unfair disconnects being shared and widespread criticism of Blizzard's system for the tournament.
The disconnects were not the only issue reported by players. A player from Moscow, Savva Alkov, reported that he was forced to take a loss while he was in the winner bracket and then another later because he was being forced to play at 1AM. The venue which was chosen to host the tournament in his area was closing just as his game was supposed to be held. Due to the rampant reports of disconnects, some have questioned the quality of the connect at the chosen venues (Wi-Fi is being used and there is no dedicated LAN server for these prerequisite tournaments).
Mitsuhide reported that Blizzard's Talent Manager Robert Wing reached out to him about the incident "on a personal basis" however there has been no official response from Blizzard's eSports division.
Despite the setback, Mitsuhide responded to recommendations he use the same tactics to move ahead on the tournament by saying "I'm not a cheater". There have not been any reports of similar issues in other regions.
This article may be updated as more information becomes available. TechRaptor reached out to the public relations ring of Blizzard eSports and is still awaiting their comment on the matter.