When Kirito froze up, and HeathCliff defeated him, I got the impression that the game master had interfered in that moment. I don't know why, maybe he was keeping an eye on Kirito since he got the farthest in the beta test or something. Also if anyone remembers that member of the laughing coffin guild had been watching kuradeel or whatever his name, is duel Kirito. It makes me think that another member of asuna's guild is a part of the laughing coffin guild.
When the game master appeared in the first ep, the sky and everything else went red just like in the fight so that idea makes sense. What doesn't though is why he would be so interested in Kirito as to go that far. However, it does add a little bit more leniancy to batou01's theory that Heathcliff could be the game master in disguise. Plus, if he does want to keep an eye on Kirito, losing wouldn't have been an option for him.
@Reapersbeast: I didn't say that Heathcliff cheating was out of the question, just that I would give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm not really sure what to think about it. In my opinion, it's still about 50-50 on either cheat or skill. I see your point though that he shouldn't have been able to keep up with Kirito's speed as well as he was. I can understand blocking most of his attacks but going blow for blow doesn't seem right. On the one-hit-win though, I thought it was. It was the bottom choice and that's what Kirito selected. Maybe when Kirito hit his face I blinked and missed it but I'm pretty sure that Heathcliff dodged. I'll go back and watch it just to make sure.
@Dragon0: I don't think they would be foolish enough to make the next ep all about Kirito and Asuna's relationship. Quite a few people were pissed about that ep just on this forum. Unless you know the exact ratings in Japan, there's no real way to tell. I'm just saying that I;m sure they've considered that being a bad idea, hopefully.