This was a very special event for me – first because I was being sent to
the event by the distributors in Portugal, so I could get my level 3
interview, and also because it would be the first time I would be judging
at an international event – I had judged at the two GP's ran in Lisbon but
I had never left Portugal to judge. Nevertheless, I felt confident about
my judging abilities as I've head-judged nearly 100% of all premier events
in my home country, mainly because we're lacking judges. An added
responsibility for me to pass my level 3 examination. I'm needed to handle
The trip was arranged with enough advance warning and I was travelling
with three portuguese players, but unfortunately at the very last time
something happened with the tickets and I ended up arriving at the hotel
at 1030pm, three hours later than I had expected. The hotel was amazing!
Luxury all around. I am used to stay at very stinky hotels when I got out
of town to judge, so this was a big, and very nice, surprise. The WotC
staff had already left the site (which was next door to the hotel) for
dinner, so I glanced around the all prepped tournament grounds. The site –
Circullo de Bellas Artes – was very beautifull and the grounds were
handsomely decorated. The one problem I detected was that the main event
was being run on the second floor while the side events room was in the
fourth floor. This could cause some trouble. Anyway, after checking out
the site, me and the other three portuguese players went out to dinner in
a very nice restaurant near the hotel. When I returned, the staff had not
yet arrived from dinner, so I decided to get some sleep and would talk to
them early next morning.
I woke up at 0630 and by 0700 I was at the site, where all of the staff,
both Spanish and from WotC, were pretty busy getting the registration
tables ready. I looked a bit out of place for a while until I found
Christophe, from WotC Belgium, who I already knew from the portuguese GP
who kindly introduced me to some of the staff. At the judges station I met
Thomas Bisballe, the head judge, and Paul Barclay who I knew from name but
had never met. They were extremelly kind to me and we joked around for a
while when they found out that I was there for my level 3 examination
(apparently nobody bothered to inform them). I was then given a written
quiz by Paul to test my rules readiness for the test. Altough it had some
trick questions, the test was pretty easy. They seemed satisfied by the
results and following that I just hanged out by the site answering
questions while Thomas and Paul were busy preparing the tournament. I took
the time to meet the other judges, which were all spanish with the
exception of Thomas and Paul and most of them speaked english which helps
a lot, even though I speak a little spanish.
After the first master list was posted, chaos settled in. There was no
organized way of handling troubleshooting – a severe organizational flaw.
The chaos ensued as we wrestled with incorrect DCI #'s, wrong number of
byes, etc. Registration closed at 0930 but the first round pairings were
only up at 1115 with 330 players registered for a total of 7 rounds on the
first day. I was made senior judge and was given a section of the
tournament with around 50 tables (100 players). I was assigned two spanish
judges. One spoke very good english but had a limited knowledge of the
rules and was not certified, and the other, despite speaking poor english,
had a very good grasp of the rules, so it all worked out fine. The major
problem was the low number of judges which made cigarrete breaks (I'm a
heavy smoker) on my part quite a juggling act. Rullings wise, the
tournament went pretty smoothly on my corner, despite the fact that
extended is by far my worst judging enviroment. The only major problem was
a very serious Failure to Agree on Reality (the dreaded Startrek warning
as we call it in Portugal) which is possibly the worst judging nightmare.
I got called by a panicking spanish judge who pointed me out to a table
where two spanish players were verbally assaulting each other. I made an
immediate call to order – ordering the two players to shut up immediately
or face serious unsporting penalties to which both complied. I then gave
the players a few seconds to calm down and asked each of them separetly
their sides of the story, with a judge translating at my side. I was able
to backtrack the whole game from the life totals and number of cards and
finnaly got the players to agree. I think a bad situation was avoided and
I was feeling quite content with myself.
Then at end of the final round a very unfortunate incident occurred. The
event is now under DCI investigation so I am not at liberty to comment on
the specifics, but basically a player asked a judge to check his opponents
deck sleeves at the end of the second game (with the score tied 1-1)
because he felt that the sideboard sleeves were marked, but the judge,
instead of stopping the match and checking the sleeves told the players to
proceed with the match and at the end of the round if the player sleeves
were found to be marked the game would be considered null. This was very
inappropriate behaviour for a judge and it led to a very unfair rulling
after the player was in fact determined to be playing with marked sleeves.
I got this info second hand and after a debriefing after the end of the
round both Thomas and Paul agreed that it possibly wasn't the best
rulling. I'm just sorry I cannot comment on the situation any further.
Anyway, that was the end of day 1 and after all the 'paperwork' was done,
we were taken out to dinner by the WotC staff and the spanish distributors
staff. It was a wonderfull meal on an excellent restaurant. I had a very
good relaxation period after the tiring work at the tournament all day.
During dinner, Paul and Thomas handled the interview part of the
examination which was actually quite entertaining, even though I stumbled
upon some of the questions. One thing I'll tell you – if you ever get
tested for level 3, avoid Paul Barclay at all costs, 'cause he's mean 8-)
(kidding). He threw out some very complex magic situations and I really
enjoyed the interview. After dinner we went back to the hotel where I fell
asleep reviewing the rule parts where I stumbled during the interview.
First thing next morning, as I get to the site, I am handed out the
written test as the last part of the examination. The test was pretty
hard, but I believe I did quite well. Reviewing the rules just the night
before helped a lot. I end up the exam in the middle of round one and I
immediately get put to work. Paul was handling judge certifications so I'm
basically left kind of in charge of the floor. I assigned the judges the
best I could and sent some out to the side events room. I worked out a
rotation scheme so all the judges could get the chance to judge at the GP
and actually had a chance to have lunch. This was the very first
opportunity I had to manage a large number of judges, but I think I did
allright. At least I got no complaints.
One 'peculiar' rulling was made during round one, the situation handled by
Paul, where a player playing stasis was disqualified from the tournament
for using all island foils, knowing that they were marked by the bend they
made. A full explanation of the incident was made to the judges list, so
just check the archives from February 2nd for details. At the start of
round 3 Thomas come over to me and congratulated me on my level 3
certification. I was very happy with myself as I had acomplished my goals
for the GP. In fact I was so happy that I might have been a little too
lenient on some of the penalty rullings for the rest of the day.
Throughout the day I got congratulations from almost everyone I knew. I
felt quite good.
At the end of the swiss I was exhausted and on top of that I was asked by
Thomas to table judge throughout the top 8. I got to chose which tables I
would be assigned and chose the quick ones in the hope I would not fall
asleep table judging. Nothing major happened during any of my tables, with
the exception of a player forgetting to draw after he played a Vamp. Tutor
in the upkeep, during the finals match. Nothing major, I just instructed
the player to draw and allowed play to continue. During the finals, one of
the players was taking a VERY long time to play, and after one of the
games, I called Thomas over and asked if I could instruct the player too
play a little faster, even if its not a timed game. We decided we would
warn the player if it happened again, but it never did. The whole top 8
games were pretty loose with a good atmosphere on the games. It was
nothing like I expected them to be. It looked like they were praticing at
the local store, despite the obvious tension. I congratulate all of the
top 8 players for their sportmanship during the finals – especially Tony
Dobson who allowed his opponent to go back on something. I was not at that
table, but I heard about it. In end, the winner and runner-up were both
spanish, with illusions-donate and merfolks, respectively.
The GP was finnally over. I stayed at the site, helping the WotC staff
disassemble the site and my body was so numb I couldn't even feel tired.
We left the site pretty late and the only open restaurant left was
McDonald's (restaurants seem to close early in Madrid) – so the whole
staff went there. After dinner I was challenged to accompany the staff to
a local bar, which I did. We had a wonderfull time at the bar, even though
I had a very difficult time keeping my eyes open some times and we got
back to the hotel at 7am!!! I couldn't believe it. I had to hop on a plane
two hours from there – so I wouldn't be able to get any sleep. When I
arrived in Lisbon I slept for 24 hours straight!
All in all it was a good event, with its ups and downs, despite the low
player turnout. After judging at Lisbon with 764 players everything looks
like a low turnout. Anway, the WotC staff, especially Christophe and Felix
were extremelly friendly and I enjoyed a lot the few times we spent. They
are getting very competent at organizing GP's and I'm looking forward to
be part of the judging staff on their events again. It was clearly the
tournament I enjoyed the most as a judge.
On a summation, the best thing about the tournament was the sportmanship
demonstrated by the players and the staff while on the downside there were
severe flaws at registration and post registration troubleshooting due to
lack of organization.
Take care you all and be fair!
DCI Level 3 Judge 8-)