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Grand Prix Amsterdam

Or These Shoes Were Made For Judging

Sheldon Menery

Hi. We're Sheldon's shoes. He's supposed to be writing this report, but he's really tired right now, so we thought we'd fill in for him. Actually, we're pretty tired, too. We went to the Grand Prix thinking that we'd have an easy few days. You know, a few days sitting at the Judge stand, chatting with the shoes of the other high-level Judges. Head Judge Mischa Donders (Level 4, WotC Belgium) always has cool shoes (I think they even have little pouches in them), and they're interesting to chat with. We were expecting those wooden shoes from Holland's Ghijsbert H. (Level 3) and Jaap Brouwer (Level 3). Fortunately, they wore normal ones. We hate to say it, but those sabots are lousy conversationalists. The Oxfords worn by Stuart Gosden (Level 3, Scotland) have that quaint Highland accent, but it's difficult to understand them sometimes. Anyway, we figured on a good deal of listening to the Judges hanging about, bossing around the Level 1s and 2s, and just having a relaxing weekend. We were wrong.

We were on the move for 15 hours on Saturday. Nearly 600 pairs of our friends decided to show up. We heard Vicky Korstanje (WotC Belgium; always stylish footwear) say it was the largest Magic tournament ever outside of Asia. Felix and Christophe (also WotC Belgium, both very sensible shoes) seemed to agree. That many players kept us busy. Our hall in the RAI Congress Centrum was immense. You can only imagine how much space 300 tables take up. Unfortunately for us, there were very few Judges other than the illustrious company above. Another 7 lower-level Judges were on hand, but with Side Events to handle, the Judge ranks were a bit thin. To make matters worse, Sheldon was the only Judge who was at least conversant in French (save for Mischa, who was stuck behind the computer most of the day). This meant that every time we hoped on getting a little rest, he'd be running off to translate for one of the many Francophones who showed up. We're really glad that the Germans, Belgians and Dutch all speak decent English.

The only time we were still was when Shel was standing over a match making a ruling. Not only did this give us a chance for a rest, but it let us hear all the funny things going on. The best penalty of the day was a Warning and Duel Loss for drawing a card...from the opponent's library. Don't even ask us. There were all the normal questions, too, but we didn't stand still long. A quick ruling, then onto another. From taking slips back to Mischa at the computer to checking on Lisa (Shel's wife, very small feet) running the Side Events, we logged miles and miles on Saturday alone.

Making matters more time-consuming, the format was Urza's Block Sealed Deck. We were happy that the Judge staff did such an outstanding job of getting the decks to the players so quickly. We were also happy with the 50-minute rounds (although the players seemed to grumble about them). Otherwise, we may have been there all night.

We did get a nice break after Saturday's final round when the WotC folks took us out for dinner. All of us under the table were quiet (we were exhausted by then), but above us, the conversation was lively and the drinks flowed freely. We finally got unlaced at about 1am.

We begged him not to put us back on Sunday morning, but he didn't listen (does he ever?). The Powers That Be were kind to us though, arranging for French-speakers to be on 3 of the 5 rounds of Feature Matches. In one, between France's Michael Debard and Laurent Pagorek, we could have sworn we heard Michael ask Shel to translate something Laurent said into English. It was rather surreal.

The Germans (good, sturdy soles) , led by Grand Prix monopolist Kai Budde (the eventual Champion), dominated the Top 8. Four of his countrymen joined him, along with an Italian (outstanding style), a Dutchman (the right price) and a Belgian (conservatively fashionable).

Since there were so many qualified folks around to Judge the Final 8 Rochester Draft, we were in the car headed back for Belgium by 6pm. By 9, we were home, tucked safely in our closet, hoping that at the European Championships (July 9-11, Berlin), Shel decides to go barefoot. Maybe we'll just hide behind the boots.



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