|2000 World Championships - HJ Report
Being the head judge of the World Championship is the kind of experience I was dreaming for a long time (hey, don't you?). But I never thought it was realistic until the day I was selected.
How does the selection work?
Exactly like all judge sponsorship you may see on the judge mailing list, except that this one was posted on the level four list and was dedicated to level 4 only. So, I send an application by the end of 99 explaining all my motivations and what I might bring on the Tour as head judge that was not already done.
It's a fact that I'm far from being a rule guru (there are a lot of level 3 who knows the rule much better than me). My English is not that good, even if I've worked hard on it while spending 3 months in the Wizards of the Coast US Office. My experience as head judge of professional event was not so extensive (ok, in the meantime, I've head judged PT NY).
So, how could I have been selected?
I think that I'm not amazingly good in any skills that make a good judge, but I'm barely ok for a level 4 in every field. The only thing I think I'm very good at is putting my hand on someone's shoulder for a "how are you?"
I mean communication skills.
One of the rare things I've been thanked for is how I make myself available to everybody whatever the workload.
I guess that I received a couple of recommendations from other judges.
Once again, you should insert here a picture of me in my famous Roborally dance when the DCI announced me that I was going to be the red and black dude in Brussels. It was in February.
In between, I've been a little bit busy running a couple of big events (PT NY, French, Israeli and Russian Nationals, European Championship), so, I didn't work on the preparation of the Worlds as I would have liked. Typically, I screwed up the making of the judge team. The main problem was that a lot (I mean a lot) of people wanted to come and judge.
Peter Adkison, personally signing the winner's check.
Let me describe a typical situation. J.Dredd is a level two judge and during GP Alpha Centauri he asked to the head judge the famous question "do you think that I'll be able to judge the Worlds?" The common reply was certainly something like "well, I think so. We'll need some judges to run the monster. I'll recommend you" But J.Dredd understood "Yes, sure. I'll make sure that you'll be invited at WotC expense"
Don't laugh. That's not funny.
Finally, it's around 60 judges from all over the world who were scheduled on the event (main, side or night). Nearly half of them are level 3. Yes, it was the biggest gathering of high-level judges ever made. Just after the European Championship, I sent to all of them a judges packet (which was a simple adaptation of the player's packet) by email and regular mail. I think that half of them never received anything from me (most of the mailbox do not support a 350 ko documents). That's frustrating.
The global schedule for judges was following those principles:
- All 4 judges will be rotating between a senior judge position on the main event and the judge certification program booth.
- All level 3 judges will spend at least one day on the main event and will never work two days with the same senior judge.
- There will be at least one level 3 judge on every single event, including one head judge for the 8 players single elimination tournaments.
Monday 8.00 a.m. Yahhahaaaargh, the site is huge!
It's going to be a very long day to set the monster up. Something like 300 seats for the main event, two times 500 seats for the side events, some more for the drafting area, features matches, demo tables, artists corner (no, it's not just a corner, it's the size of a basket ball field). Some table clothes still have to be cut. Nearly two kilometres of cloth. That was my only activity of the day! There were around 50 peoples working this day. Big site. Big work.
It's time to work on the judge meeting. Collin Jackson helped me to write down the agenda. In fact, he did the entire job. I was here just to give the general view I had and . . . done.
We've put the briefing document here. But, basically, it's a "hey guys, nice to meet you, it'll be a long event and will have a lot of fun. By the way, this is how work a result entry slip . . . "
Collin helped out a lot. It's important to have good team leaders.
The main information is that we tried a new rule during this tournament: mandatory shuffling of your opponent's deck. Cutting the deck is not enough. We think that it will prevent suspicions about deck stacking and insufficient randomisations. We had some doubt about this rule because touching your opponent's deck is considered as an offence in some country (such as in Asia). But, after investigation, it appears that those players are able to "forget" this cultural apprehension and follow this new rule.
Just for the records, we had two scooters on site to cut the long walk from one side to the other. After two full day of set up, I was a kind of easy rider until two minutes before the judge meeting. There is nothing better for your credibility than falling from your scooter in front of a bunch of judges who are waiting for you. It's like falling alone from your broomstick during a Quidditch game. Today, I'm still scratching the pizza on my elbow while writing this report. Gasp.
The first day of competition was the Standard portion. The main thing you have to keep in mind is that a professional event with a staff of very qualified judges doesn't generate a lot of problems or questions. This allows us to spend more time and energy on a good tournament administration (going through all decklists content in one round can be done only when you have a lot of judges and few queries on the floor).
The opening ceremony included dancing and fire.
The Opening Ceremony between round 2 and 3 interrupted the tournament for nearly one hour. It looked great (for more information and pictures, check out the web coverage on www.wizards.com/sideboard). However, one of the comments I received from the competitors is that it was disturbing for them to stop playing and stay there for one hour. I understand their point. But I think that they also have to understand that such event can be run due to a good the media coverage, and this coverage will be properly done with such event as an opening ceremony. So I'm ready to bet that next year, we'll have another opening ceremony right in the middle of day one, even if some players are frustrated by this loss of time.
Knowing that there has been no stop at all during the two drafts of this day, you can easily come to the conclusion that it was a smooth day. I think it's partially due to a great call on microphone by Collin Jackson. We should make a tape with his speech and include it in DCI Reporter as a feature in the draft-pairing mode.
One of the problems we have to solve is how to prevent players from looking at their neighbours 'picks. If you have a good idea on how to prevent this very bad interaction, it will be more than welcome. Screens between players . . . why not?
Block Constructed: Jack and Joe failure to agree on reality.
For any good reason (I don't remember which one, but it's not important) we had to interrupt the match between Jack and Joe and take Joe aside for a little discussion. Couple of minutes later, they are back in their game when Jack calls us. He wants a card count, which we're doing. And there is a discrepancy; Joe drew one more card than Jack. So, or Joe drew one extra card or Jack forgot to draw one . . .
The fact that Joe doesn't speak English is just an appetizer and a loss of ten minutes to find a translator. Here are their views:
Joe: "You took me aside while I was in my upkeep, so I resume the game at that point and took my draw and then, Jack called a judge . . . "
Jack: "You took Joe aside, and when he came back, I asked him to count the cards on the board to make sure that there will be no discrepancy. Joe said, "No, I know where we are in the game" I asked again for a cards count, and again, then called a judge because Joe was refusing . . . "
After a couple of short repeated interviews with both players, we came with a suspicion of cheating about Jack. But, we had no proof at all. So, we resumed the game (Jack, draw one more card . . . and here is some extra time).
But the most important thing is that we issued a warning to both players and we made a full report of this situation in DCI Reporter. That means that today, Jack had a warning recorded in Ms Ferrao's database saying that he was strongly suspected of bad things during the World Championship 2000. Just one additional quick note about how useful is this database. This is the tool that allows the DCI to spot recursive bad behaviours on tournaments.
Wacky photo of Mike Donais and Cyril Grillon using a fish-eye lens.
You may think that this is a flagrant leniency. I don't think so. Being lenient is giving a light penalty when you should give a stronger one, and especially when you know exactly what happened. Which was not the case with Jack and Joe. We were far from being sure that Jack was abusing us. As in most of our law, we should consider that a player is innocent until you are able to prove that he is guilty. We didn't.
My personal view on this is that I prefer to let some guilty players stay on the floor than to kick some innocent players out.
It's always a funny day. And, yes, once again, it was.
Here is an assumption based on experience. Problems occur during the last two rounds of a tournament where there is money in contention. I mean big problem, the one that often lead to a disqualification or very bad news. When two players are playing for a 1,000 US$ difference in the payout between win and loss, it's logic that the pressure goes high and mistake, miscommunication or bad attitude happen.
To prevent such situation, I make sure that there will be at least 2 judges per table (that is to say 4 matches, we're in a team event) on the top 6 tables. It works well. I've done it at the end of day 3, last day of the individual competition, and in both case we went through very smooth rounds. I'm used to do it on GPs or PTQs and I think that it's a good method to prevent some problems before they arise.
Have you ever seen a zombie in a red and black striped shirt? Well, that's me. It is a strange day for me. My mission is to make sure that all players and judges will be on time on the stage after a stop at the make-up station. Don't laugh. It's quite stressing. You have to keep an eye on around 20 peoples who think about something else than being available twenty minutes before the beginning of their matches. So, here I am, a striped nanny, running after the best players of the world and infecting them with a Dominating Licid.
That was my main activity of the day.
What are my conclusions after the World Championship 2000?
It seems that the mandatory shuffle is a good rule. The feedback we received from the players during the World is definitively positive. During some recent event, a general paranoia was well developed amongst the players, calling the judge just to see if their opponent's deck was stacked or not. This bad attitude simply disappeared at World 2000 and that was our goal.
Changing the penalty for an illegal main decklist from disqualification to match loss and correction of the decklist is a very good move too. Since we're able to check the content of all decklists in less than 2 rounds, we ensure that nobody will play illegally more than one full match. Now, the only infractions that lead to a disqualification are flagrant cheating and severe unsporting conduct, which is much more consistent.
On such big event, we need a judge coordinator. Someone who will be fully dedicated to judge's questions and needs such as food tickets distribution, travel reimbursement, accommodation or scheduling problems. During World, we've naturally divided this responsibility between some members of the staff, but it was an additional workload that we would have been happy to get rid of. I can promise you that a big bunch of judges generate a huge need of coordination.
Do I want to do it again? Yes, definitively. I had a lot of fun.
Do I think that it was a good event? Yep.
Do I think that it was a full success? It was good, but we will do better in the future as we've always done in the DCI.
How many players did I disqualify during the World Championship? None.
So, it's done, and, that was groovy. There have been a lot of great moment all week long, too many to be reported here. However, I can't post this report without mentioning the judge's breakfast we've institute with James Lee (it was a successful experience at PT NY, so, we keep it going . . . ). It's a bunch of judges taking a meal together. Exactly like the one most of us are used to have at night after the event, but it's a breakfast. It has tons of good aspects. First, you're sure that judges will be on site, on time, awake and full of energy. And your brain is much more efficient at the beginning of your day than after 12 hours of work on the floor. When you're running your monthly qualifier and you have the choice between inviting your staff to a dinner after the event or to a breakfast before, my recommendation is definitively to go with the breakfast.