Retired CS:GO coach Soham ‘valens’ Chowdhury encountered the spectator bug in official matches during his time in charge of Cloud9, Dexerto has learned.
Videos recorded by Dexerto show valens using the spectator bug in three online maps several years ago.
The first two instances occurred during an EPICENTER closed qualifier series against Team Liquid in October 2017. On Inferno, valens is seen rotating the camera from a fixed position on the B bombsite during the first three rounds of the game, with his camera placed at an angle that allowed him to observe all entrances to the site as his team were playing on the T side.
On Mirage, valens is seen roaming around the A site from a spectator position — a never-seen-before, more powerful version of the bug that allowed the user to freely roam around the map. He went into this state two times during the map — once before the game went live (the restart reset the camera back to normal), the second three rounds into the first half, after reconnecting to the server during a pause, and for one round only.
The existence of other versions of the bug had already been hinted at by Michal Slowinski, the veteran tournament referee that played a central role in uncovering the bug scandal in 2020. “I think there might be two more different instances that we are looking into right now,” he said on the ‘HLTV Confirmed’ show in September 2020. “It’s actually even more of an advantage so let’s hope it’s not too bad.”
In March 2018, valens was again in a bugged fixed position in the first round of Cloud9’s 16-8 victory on Train against OpTic Gaming in ESL Pro League Season 7 North America. In this case, valens’ camera was positioned just outside of OpTic’s T spawn.
Contacted by Dexerto, valens explained that he came across the bug “several times without knowing what it was.” He stressed that “no information was shared” with the team and that he recalls “being annoyed” by the fact that he wasn’t able to spectate his players as normal.
“I thought it was just another glitch and one time it wouldn’t go away, so I contacted the TO mid-game,” he added. “The other times, I would just try to restart the game as soon as possible since I needed to spectate my players, and it fixed it.
“It was quite possible I was just waiting for it to reset since most weird glitches in-game kind of just went away after pressing some keys, like the weird height bug where your model can see over things until you crouch or press jump.
“I definitely don’t know how it came to be and I didn’t seek it out in any way. I hope the lack of a pattern in getting to that game state is self-explanatory of my intent.”
An ongoing investigation
Valens was not among the 37 CS:GO coaches suspended in September 2020 by the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the historical use of the bug for competitive advantage.
In recent months, the CS:GO community has been left to wonder about the lack of progress in the investigation, which goes as far back as 2016.
In its most recent update, on August 27, 2021, ESIC stated it was still reviewing its sanctions matrix, as well as a second, unannounced batch of cases following the outcomes of the appeals launched by some of the coaches caught in the first wave. It is unclear if valens is part of this new batch of cases.
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“After responding to some appeal activity originating from the first batch of sanctions, ESIC has held meaningful discussions with Valve about the application of ESIC’s sanction mechanics for the Spectator Bug to offending coaches’ participation at Valve sponsored events,” ESIC told Dexerto.
“ESIC is presently concluding these ongoing discussions and still intends to issue its findings thereafter.”
Sergey ‘lmbt’ Bezhanov and Anton ‘ToH1o’ Georgiev had their bans lifted by ESIC after providing conclusive proof of innocence, while Faruk ‘pita’ Pita saw his initial 10-month ban reduced by four months following an appeal hearing.
The inquiry into the abuse of the spectator bug in the CS:GO scene is one of three investigations that are still ongoing, according to ESIC’s official website. The commission is also investigating match-fixing claims in ESEA Premier North America and suspicious “corrupt activity” involving CIS team Akuma during the controversial Regional Major Ranking (RMR) tournament run by Epic League in the Spring of 2021.
Who is valens?
A former Counter-Strike professional who represented teams like LunatiK, Denial, and Complexity during the early days of CS:GO, valens took up coaching in January 2016 when he was hired by TSM to guide their recently-built North American squad, featuring players like Timothy ‘autimatic’ Ta and Pujan ‘FNS’ Mehta.
He went on to join Cloud9 as head coach in February 2017, notably overseeing the team’s victory at ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018 — one of the greatest feats in North American Counter-Strike. In September 2019, he transitioned to a Head of Data Science position within the organization — reprising a role he had fulfilled earlier that year during Ronald ‘Rambo’ Kim’s brief tenure as head coach.
In November 2019, he was appointed by Evil Geniuses to the same role, which he still holds today. He also resumed playing, competing in minor North American tournaments and qualifiers for teams like Savage and ex-Recon 5 in the following two years.
On ‘The ddk Podcast’ at the end of 2019, valens explained that he is involved in multiple esports within EG — with Counter-Strike, League of Legends and Dota 2 being his main areas of focus — and that he has a hand in making practice as efficient as possible for the teams and in talent scouting.
The history of the bug
The CS:GO community at large became aware of the spectator bug on August 31, 2020, when ESL revealed that Heroic’s Nicolai ’HUNDEN’ Petersen, MIBR’s Ricardo ‘dead’ Sinigaglia, and Hard Legion’s Aleksandr ‘zoneR’ Bogatiryev had been suspended for periods ranging from six months to two years for exploiting the glitch.
It was later revealed that the original bug — which allowed coaches to pick a spot on a map and remain locked in that position, giving them the opportunity to inform players of opponents’ tendencies and money situation — had been in the game for years and had been exploited by many coaches in official tournaments.
On September 4, ESIC formally launched its investigation, banning 37 coaches — including the three that had been suspended by ESL — later that month. The final batch of findings was due to be released that October, but “unforeseen complexities” made it impossible for the esports watchdog to complete the investigation on time. Over a year has passed since then, and we’re still nowhere closer to a conclusion.
Contacted by Dexerto, Valve gave the following comment regarding the bans for use of the spectator bug: “Our method for determining bans hasn’t changed from the original one we posted, and we don’t have any plans to update it.”