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Treating Players Equally

John Shannon

Most, and probably all, judges would agree that we should treat all players equally and rule consistently. But does it happen? What does it mean to treat all players equally? Sometimes it means following the rules even though a player may make a good argument as to why we should 'bend' the rules for that player.

At a recent large tournament, a situation arose where players were not treated equally. A successful, argumentative player received special consideration that a newer player did not.

One of the rules in Magic tournaments is that match results slips are final, especially if both players sign the results slip. This rule is and should be enforced at all levels. Players have an obligation to ensure that the results slips are filled out properly. At this particular tournament, in an early round a player came up to the judges' table after standings were posted to state that they thought their results were improperly recorded. The judge investigated and found that the standings were based on signed results slips from the match. The judge explained that results slips that were signed by both players are final and that the result stood. The player moved on with a match loss that the player had signed the results slip for.

In a later round, another well known, successful player came up to the judge table with the same argument. When an investigation revealed that both players had signed the slip with incorrect match results, the player accused his opponent of cheating and argued that the result should be overturned because it was incorrect, stating that he had signed the slip and 'trusted' his opponent to fill it out correctly. Both players agreed that the slip was incorrectly recorded, but each said that the other had filled in the match results. The head judge ruled (correctly) that the results would stand as they appeared on the result slip.

End of story, and the players at the tournament were treated fairly?

Not quite. The prominent player continued to argue that he didn't understand why blatant cheating was tolerated and wanted an appeal to overturn the results. In the end, the TO was called in, and Wizards of the Coast was phoned to get a ruling, and a person at WOTC said that the result should be corrected to accurately reflect the match.

What could have been done in this case to treat the players fairly? The first and obvious answer is that the head judge ruling should stand. There are procedures for appealing a ruling at a tournament, and to my knowledge these procedures do not include calling WOTC during the tournament at the insistence of any player. The second thing is to ensure as judges that we are not swayed by a particularly loud or prominent player.

Some players are very persuasive at making arguments, and sometimes their arguments may make sense, as in this case where both players agreed that the results were recorded incorrectly. As judges we have an obligation to follow the rules and treat all players equally, and this may mean ruling against a persuasive argument to not allow any one player special favors.

At a tournament, if a particularly vocal or prominent player starts arguing, even calmly with a judge, as yourself this question: If this was a timid player, would i rule the same way? If the answer is no, then you are possible being swayed by the player more than by an objective look at the game and the tournament. We have an obligation to treat all players fairly. When we give special favors to some players we discourage younger players from playing Magic and we encourage players who argue, are loud, and use their prominence to their advantage. Magic is about teaching the opposite - intellectual challenge and healthy competition, not bullying your opponent or an authority figure like a judge to get what you want. We can increase the fun and challenge of magic while maintaining the integrity of events by ruling consistently for all players.



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