The choke. It can happen to anyone, at any time, at any tournament, on any given day. And this was a banner year for chokes on the biggest stages in esports.
SK Telecom T1 vs. Ever – Game 2, KeSPA Cup Semifinals
In game one, the team used its third-string mid laner—and lost. So in the next game, it brought on the world’s best player: Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. Everyone expected it to be a cakewalk. It wasn’t.
And after having an extremely steep advantage throughout the game, Faker and teammate marksman Bae “Bang” Jun-sik were caught out of position by Ever support Kim “Key” Han-gi’s Bard’s ultimate Tempered Fate.
The result was SK Telecom losing the game and ultimately the series. Many analysts will tell you the team was in “vacation mode” but overall, the loss shocked fans around the world as the best League of Legends team lost to an amateur squad.
Nairo vs. Mr. R – Loser Finals, EVO 2015
It was a big year for Nairoby “Nairo” Quezada. The Super Smash Bros. for Wii U player quickly made a name for himself as the inarguable second-best in the game. And then he ended superstar Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios’ 55-tournament winning streak.
But before he made history by beating ZeRo, Nairo lost an unlikely matchup against European Smash for Wii U player Ramin “Mr. R” Delshad.
Nairo held a two-game advantage over his opponent before ultimately choking and dropping three games in a row to lose out the set. The second-best player in the world had lost in stunning fashion.
Cloud9 vs. Fnatic – Map 4, Grand Finals, ESEA ESL Pro League
A list of the biggest chokes of 2015 can’t possibly be thorough without including the team whose own nickname includes the word itself. Indeed, there’s good reason Cloud9’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team have been called “Choke9” this year. Against top European competition, the team usually begins with a strong performance before crashing out.
Though the additions of Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham in April helped reduce this problem slightly, the squad continued to struggle at times—most notably, against Fnatic in the ESEA ESL Pro League final.
In what began as a solid seven-round lead over the Europeans, Cloud9 ultimately fell when the sides changed, unable to hold ground against Fnatic’s strong terrorist side. The performance in that game led the the team to lose the series, in what was one of the biggest chokes in Counter-Strike this year.
Counter Logic Gaming vs. Team SoloMid – NA LCS Spring Week 4, Day 2
Before he wrote his 17-page retirement letter (the “Donezo Manifesto”) former Counter Logic Gaming mid laner Austin “Link” Shin was doing what he became best known for—choking. This regular season game versus Team SoloMid comes as no exception.
Link played Ice Queen champion Lissandra in what was one of the closest showdowns of the year between the two legendary rivals. But thanks to his and AD carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng’s poor positioning in the game’s final teamfight, Counter Logic Gaming lost its advantage and ultimately the game.
While Link broadly blamed his poor performances on a poor team environment (which he claims was a result of Doublelift’s bad attitude), that performance will put him down in history as one of the game’s biggest chokers.
OpTiC Gaming vs. FaZe Red – Call of Duty Championship
Except for one blemish: its games versus FaZe Red at the Call of Duty Championship.
After losing to Denial Esports in the winners bracket, the team fell to the losers bracket in a matchup versus FaZe—something it should’ve theoretically won. But due to a poor performance across the board from OpTiC, FaZe Red was able to 3-0 its opponent. The series marked the last time OpTiC legend Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag would ever play a match of competitive Call of Duty.
Team Coast vs. Team Dignitas – NA LCS Spring Week 1, Day 1
If you’ve followed League of Legends for more than a year or so, you’re probably familiar with Team Dignitas choking at pivotal moments around the Baron pit. But in this game, the situation was reversed as Team Coast took the poor Baron decision.
Led by shotcaller Matt “Impaler” Taylor, Team Coast went for a Baron while the fast-pushing Azir of Dignitas mid laner Danny “Shiphtur” Le led his team pushing down the mid lane. And with a gnarly recall cancel from Dignitas top laner Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin, Dignitas ended the game by destroying Coast’s nexus.
Talk about irony.
Leffen vs. Duck – DreamHack Winter, Losers Bracket, Round 8
William “Leffen” Hjelte is widely regarded as the saltiest player in Super Smash Bros. Melee. At his first major after returning to the competitive scene, DreamHack Winter, Leffen took to social media to do what he always does: talk shit.
But little did he know that his tournament would be ended early after an unlikely favorite Samus player James “Duck” Ma took him out in the loser’s bracket. In what is one of the biggest chokes of the year, the Swedish Fox fell three games to one after a poor showing overall.
Lifecoach vs. Pavel – Hearthstone World Championship Europe
Hearthstone games can change in a split of a second. And luckily for German player Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy, a choke sent him off to the world’s biggest Hearthstone tournament, the World Championships at Blizzcon.
After eagerly playing his hand in incorrect order, Russian cardmaster Pavel “Pavel” Beltukov sent his Dr. Boom flying to Lifecoach’s side of the board. Quickly realizing his mistake, Pavel expressed “That was a mistake” using the in-game emotes.
Lifecoach’s reaction—a smile of shock and joy—shows you everything you need to know about just how big a choke Pavel’s move was.
Richard Lewis vs. Loda – DreamHack Winter
DreamHack Winter came full of surprises, but none quite like this.
In what could be passed off as wrestling-slash-esports fanfic, journalist and host Richard Lewis got into a physical altercation with Dota 2 pro Jonathan “Loda” Berg at the November event. The clash happened after Lewis posted a joke on Twitter about a sign he found in the arena, which apparently belonged to Berg’s girlfriend.
Can someone tell the groupie I kicked out of bed this morning that she left her sign. pic.twitter.com/xbZnpVd2Vx
— Richard Lewis (@RLewisReports) November 28, 2015
Berg went backstage to find Lewis and, after rushing in head-first (quite literally), Berg was met with Lewis’ hands—around his throat. The two were separated and later made amends, but that didn’t stop a social media firestorm that lasted nearly a week. That’s more buzz than any other choke on this list got.