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Judging Alone

Thomas Ralph

Any DCI judge can run a small local tournament without anyone else to help, and often help isn't needed. And although a higher-level judge could run a 100-person PTQ with no one else helping, this often isn't enjoyable for judge or players. Also, if you are using deck verification, then being the only judge creates headaches and bottlenecks at the start of the round when you are doing a deck-check.

Here in Ireland, there is an unfortunate shortage of judges willing to work at events. To make matters worse, we have only had a level 3 judge in the country since the beginning of September when Oli Bird was promoted at Grand Prix London. I had to travel to the European Championships in the Netherlands to take my level 2 test. Therefore, by necessity, the head-judge of a tournament is usually the only judge.
If you're judging alone, wherever you are, I have some tips on how to make the event run smoothly.

Before the event:
Be prepared for everything that might happen and for things that might not happen.

  • Make a schedule, based on the expected turnout. Keep to this schedule. I assure you that if you go five minutes over time on something that you can control, you'll be out by an hour at the end of the tournament.
  • If you have a computer, use it. If you don't, then do your best to get one or have the use of one, because a tournament of any decent size will be slowed down horribly if you are making paper pairings.
  • Have a "bring list" with the essential items needed - things like tape, pens, paper, markers (Sharpies), loose change, DCI cards, deck registration sheets, and a scissors are needed at every tournament. If there isn't going to be a trader booth, then bring several boxes of sleeves to sell - there will be players whose decks are not suitable for playing without sleeves, or indeed whose sleeves should be retired.
  • If you're running DCI Reporter and using a printer, bring extra ink or toner and a couple of small boxes to put results entry slips in for easy access. If you're running DCI Reporter and are not using a printer (this is undesirable, but workable) use the new feature of DCI Reporter 2.3.1 to print blank results entry slips without the round number so that you can enter the results with some ease.
  • Make sure you have the DCI Tournament Rules, Magic Floor Rules, Penalty Guidelines, and Comprehensive Rules, either in electronic form or printed.
  • If you're not running DCI Reporter, have the scorecards printed and ready to go, and the other tournament forms available; have a pocket calculator to work out tiebreakers, and have knowledge of how they are calculated.
  • Ensure the venue will be available until you will be finished. If it won't, arrange a backup location or change the tournament structure.
  • If you find yourself saying something many times, then print a notice and put it up with that information. For example, at most tournaments when you are running side events, you'll need to ask people to return their basic lands from the draft afterwards. Other things best explained by printed notices include "Side events this way" and at a prerelease "We cannot sell [new set] cards".
  • Show up well before time - if I'm running a premier event, I try to get to the tournament site 30-60 minutes early so that I can set up and rearrange tables (have you ever noticed how rare it is that the tables at the venue don't need some rearranging?) and put up notices. If the site is big and low-staff, like a university, then try and post directions to the tournament location from the main entrances.
  • If you get asked the same question by two or more people before the tournament, announce it at the start before the first round, because for every person that asks you a question like "what do we do if we're still playing at the end of the round?" there will be another four or five who were too embarrassed / didn't want to bother you / didn't know who the judge was. Make the announcements clearly (put up a notice if it helps) and people will be clear on what's going on.
  • Identify yourself - when there's only one judge, the players have got to know who it is. Wear a judge shirt, preferably a black and white shirt if you have one as they are the most striking.
  • During each round, take at least five minutes to sit down and rest. If you're doing deck checks, this comes naturally. Also practise your deck-checking technique - you will need to be able to check two decks in ten minutes or less; seven minutes is better (in order to give a ten minute time extension). If you need to take a break, schedule it for between rounds and give the players a break too.

Don't forget to have fun! At the end of the day, the main reason you are there is to make sure everyone, including yourself, enjoys the day!

Judging alone can be severely unpleasant for both judges and players, but I hope that when you next happen to be doing so, that you make use of these tips and that your event runs more smoothly from them.

I would like to thank Jasper Overman for his helpful comments and thoughts on this article prior to publication. Any comments on this article should be directed to judge@thomasralph.com.

Thomas Ralph
DCI Level 2 Judge



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