On February 19 ESL announced the $30,000 Hearthstone tournament to be held at IEM Katowice, the biggest western prize pool outside of the World Championships. Players and fans alike were pretty excited.
As details of the format emerged, however, some of that shine has come off what will be the biggest tournament of the year so far.
The tournament will be contested as a single elimination bracket, meaning that one loss will see players crash out. Not only that, but only the top eight players will actually make the trip to Katowice. The round of 16 will play out online, before the main event. The games are to be played later today, but will not be broadcast until March 3.
Players aren’t happy about it, either, privately expressing surprise and disappointment that such a significant tournament, where $30,000 and 230 World Championship points are available, is being contested in a single elimination format. No players involved in the tournament were willing to speak on the record for fear of jeopardizing future invites, however.
Alongside the eight qualified players and ESL Legendary Series winner Austin “SilentStorm” Li, seven of the top names in Hearthstone have been invited. These include world champion James “Firebat” Kostesich, Aleksandr “Kolento” Malsh, and Cong “StrifeCro” Shu.
Single elimination is generally considered to be a more punishing format. Poor draws in the first game of a series can see the whole match slip away, and in single elimination that means a swift exit from the tournament. In double elimination, round robin or swiss formats, consistency can lead to victory even if a player loses one or two matches.
The single elimination format also came under fire after a BO3 bracket was used to determine the European qualifiers for the EU vs CN Masters. With even fewer games in the format, luck was often far more important than skill to get through 10 rounds of games. Of the eight players who have qualified, only two have ever even had a match streamed in a high level tournament before.
With the tournament only being allotted one day as part of the Katowice events, it seems that ESL had two choices: a single elimination tournament and getting all the players on camera, or a better format with not all the games streamed. It seems they’ve chosen the former.
Photo via IEM/Facebook