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
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.