|Hungarian Nationals - Head Judge Report
It was not without some fear and anxiousness that I got on the plane heading for Budapest this April. I had been a Head Judge countless times before (including two Nationals) and have judged at many international events (mostly GPs). However head judging a foreign tournament was an experience I was lacking.
The tournament would take two days - the first day was booster draft (77 players registered) - 6 rounds, the second was Standard (with a cut of Top 32) - 5 rounds - rounded up by single-elimination Top 8.
The site was nice, with a room easily accommodating the players, although we had to do the traditional pod / match table transformation, but this is hardly a problem. I was assisted by two judges (Balazs Torok and Pal Balogh) and some staff from the local distributor. As Hungarian isn't a language that I wield, I delegated the task of making announcements to Balazs, only saying a couple of short words in the beginning of each day.
The booster draft ran well, even though a couple of players seemed inexperienced - a common occurrence at Nationals in our part of the World. The only problem was players starting to build decks or looking through their cards before being given permission. This is the worst thing I can say about the players - this part reminded me of dealing with preschoolers, having to nag, nag, nag for people to put down their cards.
The cards were not stamped; I would suggest this to the organizers for next year. I don't think that anyone replaced cards, though. Rounds 1 and 4 we checked all the decklists, several of which had problems (mostly unlisted sideboards). The number of these decreased significantly for the second draft. I guess need the bad experience, before they learn.
During registration for day two, the decklists were collected and checked in "real-time". This portion of the event ran as smoothly as the previous one. During most of the rounds, we did deck checks - one table per round. I can't recall any problems except for deck sleeves. Since this is mostly a cost issue, I was lenient, if no pattern could be discerned.
For the Top 8, we fenced off an area, so as to allow the players some breathing room. With only two judges to assist me, I only had two tables intensively watched during the quarterfinals - this obviously was resolved during the semis and finals with only two tables playing. The finals were best-of-five with no time limits. During the pre-final deck check, I made one player change sleeves - I decided to be stricter at that moment - especially since he could borrow better sleeves from friends.
I was surprised, but honored, when offered to present the awards at the end of the long day. The top three finalists got trophies (and the champion got a plague), the rest of the top 8 got medals. And of course everyone got a round of applause. At the end of the ceremony, Balzas said something in Hungarian then thanked me. Again people applauded. I hope he wasn't making fun of me.
As promised I found some time to conduct judge tests during the finals. Conducting these tests at a foreign event is more complex than usual. At home you have time to get to know a person well, work with him a couple of times, make sure he has prepared. At a Grand Prix or other big event you can at least have him judge a side-event. Here all I had was an introductory interview. Through these interviews I managed to weed out people unlikely to pass the exam - "take test to see how well I do", "never read the rules, but have played a long time", etc. In the end, I administered the test to three candidates, two of them passed. I also gave out some pointers to a possible level 3 candidate.
I found the experience of judging in Hungary interesting and fun. The players, judges and staff were great to work with. I think I learned from this experience and hope that others did as well. I hope to do this again next year, and would like to recommend this to anyone who gets a chance.