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Mid-Atlantic Regionals 2003 - Judge Report

Gianpaolo Baglione

Total Attendance: 264 tables = 528 players
Tournament Organizer: Laurel Chiat, Dreamwizards, Rockville, Maryland.
Judge Staff:
Head Judge: John Carter (3)
Scorekeeper/Administrative Judge: Adam Dale (2)
Red Team Leader: GP Baglione (2)
Blue Team Leader: Paul Morris (1)
Orange Team Leader: Jeremy Cook (1)
Daniel Wong (1), Scott Nerlino (1), Cheng Chow (1), Ryan Stapelton (1), Chris Hartten (1), Stefan Walsh (1), Elie Hsiao (0)

528 Players attended the Midatlantic Regionals
This is not going to be a "traditional" report, as I will not be discussing very much in the way of rules questions received and so forth. 99% of those were incredibly mundane and I won't bore you with them (although one player did think he could activate his opponent's Wild Mongrel to use his own Madness spells... almost had to break out the Pimp Slap for that one). This article is primarily concerned with some tips and strategies for optimizing your own large tournament, as well as some philosophical thoughts on being a Team Leader. I'm going to go over what we did that didn't work, as well as what did work in hopes that you and your TO can learn from us.


The first concern is that I was disappointed at the lack of uniform appearance among the judging staff as a whole. The effect of a room full of zebras with black pants is quite different from one with a bunch of guys running around in gray "staff" shirts, some of whom are wearing jeans, some are wearing khakis, and so forth. I thought we had previously communicated the need for proper judge attire to the staff, but it apparently wasn't stressed enough. I think the effect on both players and on the judges themselves of having a professionally-attired judging staff is remarkably profound. I would like to recommend that Wizards print up black and white striped t-shirts that say "Staff". This way Organizers will be able to quickly and easily supply stripes, which seem to be a widely-recognized symbol of authority.

This is a good time to discuss "The Zebra Shirt." Prior to getting my first (and currently only) Zebra shirt at Grand Prix Philadelphia last year I knew the shirt was spiffy looking, but I had no idea the power it conferred on the wearer. Not only do the players look at you differently, but you feel differently. Stand a little straighter, maybe. Walk a little more confidently. Whatever it is, The Shirt works. Respect "The Shirt". I however, was not fated to wear the famed Zebra Shirt for judging the Mid-Atlantic Regionals.

The night before the regionals, John Carter (who was going to head judge) had come to Maryland and we had the following conversation.

JOHN: "I am officially an idiot."
GP: "Um... why?"
JOHN: "I don't have my zebra shirt."
GP: "Hm. That's a problem. Would you like to use mine?"
JOHN: "Yes please."

I keenly felt its absence during the day.

The second concern was one voiced by a player and that was based on the amount of trash that accumulated in the room during the day. This was due to there being a ridiculously low number of waste containers in the room, and none of them were really convenient to the tables. This problem, though, is a direct effect of the third, more important issue: lack of space.

For the months leading up to this event, I had been in discussions with the TO talking about finding adequate space for this event. If you've ever worked a Grand Prix, you know the rooms are big, usually on the order of about 10,000 square feet or so at minimum. Having that kind of space allows you to do things like have certain areas designated exclusively for food, for vendors, for judges, for drafting, and a host of other things. Aisles can be wider. Spaces between tables can be larger. Judges can easily walk between rows of tables without stepping on players and interrupting their match with a barrage of "excuse me"'s. Players can more quickly get to their pairings and then back to their seats. This year, we were averaging between 20-30 minutes between rounds, due in large part to the time it took for players to make their way single file to the pairings and then claw back out to their seat. The problem, though, is one that is not entirely within the control of the tournament organizer. You see, if you want to book a space that large, economic issues aside what we really need is notice! In the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area, the third-largest in the country, we have an abundance of convention centers and so forth, but they're all booked up to a year in advance. The Baltimore Convention Center in particular is an absolutely incredible location, but they fill up. It seems to me that it would be beneficial to establish a set date for the US Regionals , such as the first Saturday in May, regardless of the date. This way organizers have plenty of time to book the space they need in sufficient time.

WHAT WENT RIGHT - My favorite section.

First and foremost, the judging staff did a superb job and I want to thank the members of my team: Daniel Wong, Ryan Stapelton, and Elie Hsiao. I was very impressed with their hard work and dedication, and I am honored to have had the privilege to lead them.

Enthusiastic judges are Important
The first thing we did right was assemble an excellent pool of judges. This is due largely to the efforts of John Carter, who has been growing judges in the region for over a year, now. When you have a staff of enthusiastic, capable judges you will surprise yourself at what you can achieve.

The second thing we did right was start pretty close to on time. First we seated the players alphabetically by table, and then collected the deck lists. This fulfilled two important roles at once: It alphabetized the deck lists for us, and more importantly it got the players seated for the Player's Meeting. The players could see that we were underway. This got people to stop trading, and made them make sure they were registered properly for the event. I don't know where this idea originated, but I strongly, strongly advise using it for any Constructed event larger than, say 100 players. As a result of this deployment of the players, we were able to start the first round of the event by 11AM. Considering that the previous 2 years did not start until noon or 1 PM and you can see we've made a huge gain in efficiency.

The third thing we did correctly was properly schedule breaks for the judging teams. We borrowed heavily from Nat Fairbanks' standard judge handout and divided the duties into Pairings, Floor, and Deck Checks. Whoever was on Deck Checks for the round were able to take the rest of the round off for break, meaning you got approximately a 30-40 minute break every 3 rounds or 4 hours, which is just about when you start to get hungry again. I don't care who you are or what levels of superhuman judging feats you're capable of, you will judge better after a 20 minute chill-out period. I can tell you, the next day I would close my eyes and flashback to the floor like it was Apocalypse Now; I would hear phantom voices yelling "JUDGE!" all day. 10 rounds of Swiss will do that to a person--I can only imagine the trauma had we not had a break schedule.


I've been a staff judge, I've been a Head Judge, and now I've been a Team Leader. They are each important cogs in the greater machinery of the "Well Run Event", which is what we're all striving for. As a Team Leader this time, I answered fewer judge calls than did the remainder of my team. This did not bother me too much as I was able to watch them work and I was reasonably confident in their abilities. One thing which annoyed me was my own difficulty in answering questions from my staff without actually revisiting the situation in person. For whatever reason, I often knew what I was going to do when I arrived at the table, but I was unable to articulate it without surveying the situation first. Then there were the opposite occasions where I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do until I got to the table, but then it became immediately apparent. I think this is due to my tendency to "gut judge". Just like players instinctively know through practice what the correct play is, I think as a judge you should be able to instinctively make the correct ruling. The trick, of course, is practice and conditioning... you need to habituate yourself into making the correct responses so that they no longer require much in the way of conscious effort or thought. I think my instinct is still developing, although I definitely now have a better feel of whether a specific infraction merits a caution, warning, game or match loss. It's through the merciless interrogation of other judges that I've worked under that have helped me develop this to some degree, and I encourage it in everyone. Asking a judge "why did you rule that way?" can be a tremendously insightful experience, if only to illustrate that there are more than one way to look at a problem.


With the considerable programming expertise of Virginia Magic personality Skip Potter we have developed this nifty little tournament utility called I-Pair. In a nutshell, it sends out pairings to the player's subscribed wireless email device (usually a cell phone), and it works phenomenally. We hit our goal of having 50 subscribers for the tournament (about 10%) and we got nothing but positive feedback. I can only expect that as more players get newer cell phones with email capability built in that tournaments will be able to be run on a more increasingly electronic basis. This is, without question, the wave of the future. The application still needs some work, however, especially in the way of interface enhancements and overall ease of use. If you are a tournament organizer and would like some more information on using I-Pair for your events, please drop a line to I-Pair@pottertech.com.

Thanks for reading!

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