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Pro Tour Houston - Judge Report

Lubos Lauer

Site: Houston, Texas, USA
Date: 8-10th November 2002
Format: Extended, 14 rounds
Head Judge: Rune Horvik
Judges: see below
Players: 340

Teams Blue lvl Gold lvl Red lvl
Leaders Damien Guillemard 2 Justus Ronnau 3 Marc Hernandez 3
Judges Ben Drago 2 B Tucker 2 Chief 2
David Welsh 2 David Hibbs 2 Matt Villamaino 2
Douglass Saadeh 3 Doug Montalvo 2 Mike Rithirak 2
John Cross 2 Matt Tabak 2 Scott Marshall 2
Lubos Lauer 2 Paul Schumacher 2 Yu Kanazawa 2
Teams Green lvl Other lvl
Leaders Jim Shuman 2 Rune Horvik - HJ 4 Teams as assigned on Friday
Judges Eric Bess 2 Shawn Doherty - Feature 3
Gabriel Gaulet 2 Paul Barcley - Oracle 3
Mike King 2 Mike Donais - R&D 4
Miki Urban 2 Mark Rosewater - Feature 4
Kevin Endo - scoring -
Jeff Donais - Manager 5

My name is Lubos Lauer and I am a level 2 judge from the Czech Republic. Pro Tour Houston was my first Pro Tour I have ever been to. A sponsorship for Houston appeared on the judge site and I applied for it not really hoping to receive one. I heard that is quite tough to get a sponsorship to such an event and that even level threes have these opportunities not usually more than once a year. What was my surprise when the invitation had been confirmed! Seeing names like Mike Donais, Shawn Doherty, Justus Ronnau or Rune Horvik excited me a lot.

Lubos Lauer, Level 2, experiences his first Pro Tour
My intention was to gain some experience since the Czech Republic doesn't have a level 3 judge so there is almost nobody who could teach and lead other judges. The only chance is to go abroad to a Grand Prix or, in this case, a Pro Tour. I flew from Prague to Paris and then to Houston. Unfortunately, my flight from Prague was delayed and I had to stay one day in Paris (which wasn't bad at all). But it prevented me from judging at the gateway tournament on Thursday that preceded the Pro Tour.

I have to admit that I was a little bit afraid that I would feel like stranger at the tournament since almost nobody knew me and I didn't know anybody except Justus and Rune. However, I was greeted by Jeff Donais in such a way that I was no longer afraid of anything because I could be sure that somebody would help me. I think it is really important to feel well at such events for you are able to perform far better without fear that you will spoil something or do something wrong.

On Friday we were divided into four teams me being under the supervision of Damien Guillemard. Damien is a French level 2 judge and we became friends very easily. The best thing about him is definitely his ability to unite the team and make people feel at home. We introduced ourselves in the team - everybody told the others where he came from, what we do in our countries, what interests we have and finally what kind of tournaments we usually judge in our countries. This "banal" introduction was, in my opinion, the most important part in getting the team together. Because of that, I knew that the others are kind people, who face the same problems, who are not flawless and who also have some weaknesses to improve. Our team consisted of: Damien Guillemard, Ben Drago, David Welsh, John Cross, Douglas Saadeh and me.

Damien also reminded us of behavior we should maintain when dealing with problems and the event could finally start. Our team co-operated really well and after each round we discussed difficult problems that had occurred. In that way, we all learned quite a lot about the problems other judges had to solve but at the same time everybody received feedback from the others (through the discussion about the particular problem). Nobody was ashamed to speak of the situations. This was possible, I would say, because of a friendly atmosphere that was present in our team. I can't say that, unfortunately, about some other international tournaments.

When issuing game loss, we had to advise our team leader - Damien - who would tell us his opinion and then we gave the penalty (if appropriate of course). As the tournament continued, some players dropped and more and more judges concentrated on quite a small area. This day of Pro Tour was, for me, the best one and even though I was extremely tired (because of the change of time zone). I felt satisfied with what we had done.

The complete Pro Tour Houston judging staff
The teams were changed for the second day and the team-leader of our team was Matt Villamaino. The players became more competitive during this day and there were more problems to solve. Sometimes the players tried to trick each other, which resulted in a large amount of situations that were sometimes ridiculous. On the other hand, there were also difficult problems that concerned procedural problems (in contrast to easier problems concerning Comprehensive rules). For example: a player cut the opponent's deck after the opponent had "oathed" for a creature. This action was irreversible, but didn't give any advantage to any of the players. Rune decided to give a warning for this. Later in this game the opponent with Oath of Druids wanted to count his cards in the library and flipped over the last card in the library. He was issued a caution since it didn't give him a significant advantage (however, there might exist a situation when this would mean a game loss). One of the most difficult and most frequent questions was to decide whether a player is playing slowly or not. In one case I issued a warning for a slow play and was considering a game loss. For that I would need a team leader, but, fortunately, the game was finished shortly after Ben Drago (team leader for Saturday) arrived. In the last two rounds we all were watching closely for any unusual behavior that could indicate some "voluntary" concessions.

After 14 rounds of Extended eight players advanced to the last day - Sunday. Early in the morning, there was a meeting for these players who were told how to behave during the final matches. I had a chance to listen to this and I was amazed. There were so many things that they might not do or they had to do that it must have been really tough to concentrate on the game. They were told how to sit, how to arrange cards, where should they hold their hands and so on. I realized that it is more like a show for other players than creating tranquil conditions for the best concentration of the players. Finally, Justin Gary managed to beat his teammate Robert Dougherty in the last match of the Pro Tour Houston.

To sum up, Pro Tour Houston was a great opportunity for all judges to improve their skills and experience. This tournament had the most favorable atmosphere I have seen so far. And therefore, I urge all judges to apply for sponsorships to Pro Tours because such experience can't be found anywhere else.

Lubos Lauer.

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