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Grand Prix-Madrid

Rogerio Alecrim

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 judge certifications.

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!

Rogerio Alecrim
DCI Level 3 Judge 8-)
Portugal



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