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PT Yokohama - Tournament Manager Report

Jeff Donais

Pro Tour Yokohama was another successful Pro Tour that taught me a few things.

I believe that judges (including me who has the role of DCI Tournament Manager) should actively try to learn as much as possible at every event that they attend, whether they are a judge, player, tournament organizer or whatever. If you observe carefully, with an open mind, you should be able to learn something from every event. Ultimately, it's your responsibility

As Tournament Manager, I'm responsible for quite a few things before, during and after the tournament. I won't go into great detail here (that could be the subject of several other articles), but I will talk about some of the things we tried at Yokohama and how they turned out. I will try to keep the article under 3000 words and focus on one specific subject only: Judge Teams.

I spent a good amount of time at Yokohama thinking about judge teams, so it's probably worth dedicating this article to it. I have numerous tournament reports unfinished with thousands and thousands of lines of text trying to cram in everything I wanted to share from a tournament, but I've learned that if I talk about everything in one article, the article will never be finished. Maybe one day my APAC Championships report will be done, it's currently 8,000 words and I'm only half done, sadly...

If you have an important question that needs to be asked after you read this article, you can email me and I'll gather the questions for a follow-up article sometime next month.

Before we get into the main article, I'd like to thank all the hard-working judges from PT Yokohama, including head judge Rune Horvik. I saw a lot of judges step up to the plate and prove that they are ready for the next level. Good job folks.

Naming the Teams

Over the years, the concept of a judge schedule has evolved quite a bit. At one point, all teams were given names to be able to quickly identify them. Early on, we used terms like "Red Team", "Blue Team", "Gold Team", etc. They were a little similar to the rebel squadron names from Star Wars, complete with people who were assigned as "Blue Leader", "Red Leader", etc. This was a pretty good system and we used it for a couple of years, with minor variations here and there.

The Judges of PT Yokohama
At Worlds 2002, Collin Jackson and I were working on coming up with the perfect judge schedule and we talked about using the 5 colors of Magic as team names, since it was something all judges could remember and use as a standardized system. So, for Worlds 2002, the judge teams were White, Black, Blue, Red and Green.

Each team would have a specific task assigned to it, the Blue team might be in charge of deck checks and the Green team might be in charge of handing out Result Entry Slips. In addition, each team would be assigned certain parts of the tournament floor to cover.

At Pro Tour Houston, I came to the realization that we were adding an unnecessary step in the judge team naming process. We were giving teams a name and then matching a role with each team name. It seemed like an obvious process improvement was to name the teams with the actual role they would play in the tournament. Astounding, no?

Deciding the Names

So, the standardized team names would need to be decided. To determine the names, standardized roles needed to be determined. An obvious role of a team is to do deck checks. So a team should be named "Checks". Naming the team "Deck Checks" would be a tiny bit clearer, but I want to keep the names short so they take up less space on the judge schedule.

Another obvious role of a judge team would be to put up pairings and standings. This would be called the "Pairings" team. Not brain surgery, is it?

Yet another obvious role for a team would be to hand out the Result Entry Slips. This team would be the "Slips" team.

And finally, we needed another team name. We often use 4 teams at the Pro Tour, so it was clear another team would be required. I really wanted a team that could perform some of the miscellaneous functions that were needed at the Pro Tour, including keeping the Logistics table looking professional, setting up the draft tables for limited-format Pro Tours, ensuring the tournament area looks good, etc. The best name I could come up with for this team was the "Logistics" team.

So, we had our four team names: Checks, Pairings, Slips and Logistics. If a judge out there has any areas for much better team names that are still short and easy to read, please let me know.

Less Judges Means Combining Teams

Your judge team roles will vary at tournaments with fewer judges. At a Pro Tour, we typically have between 15 and 25 judges, with approximately 5 judges per team. If you have fewer judges and judge teams at an event, I recommend combing the Pairings team with the Slips teams and combine the Checks team with the Logistics team. The new teams would be Pairings (who will also do Slips) and Checks (who will also do Logistics).

With this combination, the Pairings team can put up the pairings then immediately put out the slips, while the Checks team can focus on doing deck checks and tending to the logistic duties between rounds or during slow times.

In summary, a tournament with lots of judges has the following teams:

A tournament with fewer judges has the following teams:
Pairings (with the combined roles of the Slips team)
Checks (with the combined roles of the Logistics team)

Judge Team Specifics

We know the team roles in general terms, so let's get more specific. I'll outline some of the team responsibilities in terms of what they would do at a Pro Tour. Since there are a few more duties, I'll outline roles as if it were a limited-format Pro Tour. Obviously roles will be adjusted depending on the type of tournament you're running.

Pairings Team

This team is the single-most important in terms of keeping the tournament running quickly. Every second that is wasted in putting up the pairings clearly delays the tournament. The members of the pairings team should be ready immediately following the end of a round and waiting beside the printer at the scorekeeping table. They should have tape ready to go and should get the pairings up immediately.

Use a clear surface for putting up the pairings. Where you put up pairings is important. Try to put up pairings in a place where players are most likely to walk near, but not in the middle of aisles or doorways. You don't want to clog the player traffic in your tournament while players are trying to find their names in the pairings list.

Let's talk about putting up the pairings. I'm personally not a fan of pre-taping the pairings sheets before putting them up. This only slows doing the time it takes to put up the first sheet. However, it's not a bad idea to get a few lengths of tape and stick them on your hand or arm in preparation for putting up the sheets.

If there are enough judges, you can use two-person teams to put up pairings. One member of the team can hold the sheets while the second member of the team manages the tape and has a piece ready as each sheet is in position on the pairings board.

Pairings should be put up around 6 feet high on the wall, around 2 meters. This will allow players to see their pairings from a couple of rows back in the crowd. Do not put pairings lower than this. I have seen people put up pairings in long vertical rows almost to the ground; this is definitely not a good idea and will slow down your tournament.

Make sure each pairing sheet is affixed securely to the pairings board (or wall). If there is any breeze at all, you should use two pieces of tape. One piece of tape is probably OK if the mounting area is secure. If the surface isn't secure, you should probably use two pieces of tape for each pairings sheet.

Assigning judge teams is essential for an efficient tournament
As for the number of pairings, I'd put up two sets of pairings if you have more than 50 players, three sets of pairings if you have over 100 players and four sets of pairings if you have more than 400 players. This is just a rough guide, but should be considered a minimum. It wouldn't hurt to put up extra pairings and it will help your players get to their seats faster, which means a quicker tournament, which is a better tournament.

A very good option for pairings is to use the DCI Reporter that allows you to separate pairings by player name. You will need to create simple signs at the start of the tournament to indicate which letters each set of pairings covers. Even for a small tournament, you can reduce time between rounds by separating players with last names A-M and N-Z. For larger tournaments, like an 800 person Grand Prix, you can have 4 or 5 sections worth of player names. I highly recommend this option; it requires a slight increase in set up and coordination, but the pay-off in efficiency is excellent. Printing pairings is so much faster using this method for larger events.

Scorekeepers interact with pairings also. It's good to keep an extra set of pairings at the scorekeeper table. This will be a good reference if someone needs to look up a player location quickly. If you have feature matches (Pro Tours and most Grand Prix now have them) you should print a copy of pairings for the people who are picking feature matches for their reference. Another copy of the pairings could be given to the deck checks team, but you could also use the DCI Reporter function to choose random tables for deck checks and use the print feature that includes table numbers of each deck check.

At some point, when the head judge, scorekeeper or whoever is making announcements they will need to inform the players that the pairings are going up. I recommend doing this just as the pairings are being taped up so players will get to the pairings as quickly as possible and the round can start sooner.

Putting up tournament standings is also the job of the Pairings team. Standings should go up every round to help players ensure that their scores are correct. Standings are slightly less important than pairings in early rounds, but just as important as pairings in later rounds where people need to see tiebreakers and other player's scores to determine whether they should draw. Players should always be allowed access to standings and tiebreakers. I've heard of a few cases in the past where organizers have refused to allow players access to tiebreakers or standings - that should not happen in a DCI sanctioned tournament unless the organizers are running some huge tournament by hand and cannot physically determine tiebreakers in a reasonable amount of time. In general, you don't need as many copies of the standings as you need pairings, especially in the earlier rounds of a tournament.

Pairings and standings for a round should be removed 30 minutes into the round. The pairings team is responsible for making sure this happens. It's important to take down pairings and standings well before the next round starts to ensure that there is no confusion between the rounds. The pairings do need to stay up long enough for late players to find their seats.

A good organizer or head judge will have signs indicating pairings and standings. Even a simple sign created in Word or Excel is better than nothing.

If a head judge notices that the pairings team is not getting the pairings immediately after they are printed or is taking too long getting the pairings the should address the issue with the Pairings team leader and get the situation corrected.

Slips Team

Getting the result entry slips to the tables is not nearly as time sensitive as getting the pairings up, but still needs to be done within the first five minutes after a round starts.

"Result Entry Slips" (that's their official DCI name) should be printed after the pairings and standings are printed. It would delay the tournament too much to print slips first.

A sturdy paper cutter should be available to cut the slips. Only cut an amount of slips at one time that your paper cutter can handle without shredding the slips. It's unprofessional to have crappy looking result entry slips.

Having teams sorted out leaves time for the real judging
When cutting the slips using a paper cutter, you can pile the slips into four piles and combine them into a nice stack once they are all cut so they are in numerical order. If you have multiple judges handing out the slips you can then divide the slips into piles for distribution.

Judges should hand out the slips as politely and professionally as possible. The slips should be placed on the table beside each match without interfering with a match. Judges should pay attention to the numbers on the slips to ensure the matches and slips are correctly matched. If feature matches exist, the judges should bring the result slips to the feature match tables.

A logistics area should be designated for each tournament where result slips can be cut. All the scrap pieces of paper that are left over from cutting the slips should be disposed of so the logistics area remains clean.

There should be a box of some kind to collect result entry slips near the scorekeeping station. Depending on the number of judges, you may require players to raise their hand once their match is over so judges can verify the results of each match and collect the result entry slips.

As the end of the round gets closer, the Slips team should coordinate with the scorekeeper to ensure that they know which tables have outstanding results. This will help the judges identify which tables may have result slips that were lost or are in a judge's pocket. Having the Slips team responsible for this duty will reduce the amount of time between rounds.

Checks Team

The deck check team wastes no time.
The deck checks teams are the second most important team in terms of speed of the tournament. Slow deck checks means more extra time added to matches, which can add time to rounds if matches go long enough to eat into the extra time.

Using DCI Reporter to determine deck checks is pretty reasonable. If you wish, you could also use another random method that adds more deck checks for top tables.

I won't go into detail about how to perform a deck check in this article. There are many articles on the subject and I'm sure there will be many more as we perfect the technique. However, I will make a few point-form comments:

  • Add extra time equal to the time spent on the deck check plus 3 minutes to give shuffling time. This is DCI policy and is good for customer (player) service.
  • Add extra time even if you give a game loss. Chances are the match won't go long if a game loss has been issued and it's good customer service.
  • Before checking a deck, quickly check the sleeves to see if there are patterns on the sleeves. Almost every deck will have some kind of markings, so don't go crazy here, just look for suspicious patterns or excessive markings.
  • Be very polite and professional when doing a deck check. A judge should always do so, but particularly when doing deck checks because you are taking a player's valuable property from them (at least in constructed-format events).
  • If a problem arises with a deck check where a player has too few cards, give the player a chance to review his decklist before assessing a penalty. I've seen a few cases where judges have miscounted or misread handwriting and thought a deck was illegal when it was actually fine.

Once the Checks team is done with the deck checks, they should move to the tournament floor and help the other judges. The head judge may want to assign the Checks team judge the area with the highest point players since cheating at those tables can have the most prominent impact on the tournament.

Logistics Team

This team takes care of everything else that judges need to do to keep the tournament area running smoothly and professionally.

For draft tournaments, the Logistics team ensures that the draft tables are set up correctly, including ensuring the tables are numbered. For sealed deck tournaments, the logistics teams should prepare the decks for distribution.

The logistics team also has the responsibility for ensuring that the tournament area remains clean and professional. This includes pushing in chairs, keeping table numbers adjusted properly, cleaning off tables and ensuring that the garbage cans are not overfilled. If a judge is not comfortable with cleaning or too proud to do it, they should not be on the logistics team. As Tournament Manager, I've had to do a bunch of dirty jobs, cleaning bathrooms with overfilling toilets, cleaning vomit with my hands, picking up disgusting food remains and hauling overfilled garbage bags dripping with questionable liquid. I would never ask someone to do something that I haven't done before or would do if needed. I'm not particularly impressed when I hear a judge say something like, "I'm above doing that task" or saying that they are too high level to do such a task. I don't really hear it much these days since most of those judges are no longer around.

The logistics team is also responsible for keeping the logistics table clean. What's a logistics table you ask? It's a table that holds the paper cutter, tape, sharpies and whatever else is needed for the tournament. It's great to have this table separated from the scorekeeper so the scorekeeper isn't crowded and can have a clean area to work without having all the judges coming through to get judging supplies. At the Pro Tour, I reserve a table about 15 feet away from the scorekeeper area to act as the Logistics Table.

Selecting Team Leaders

Any team leader you select should be capable of leading a team efficiently and ensuring that all of the team's duties are being done correctly. Basically, a team leader has to have some amount of a natural leadership personality and enough experience to be able to answer questions that their team members may have.

At the Pro Tour, I like to give some up-and-coming judges the opportunity to be team leaders so they get experience in leadership roles. Even very experienced judges should find this experience valuable and will benefit from it.

Team Leader Responsibilities

Team leaders should be available to answer any questions their team members have, or to find someone who has the right answer. Team leaders also need to be available for the head judge if needed. If something needs to be communicated to all judges, the head judge should be able to tell the team leaders and have them disseminate the information to everyone on their team.

Team leaders should fill out judge review forms for everyone on their team. It's very important to spend time ensuring that the judge review forms are as accurate and detailed as possible so that the judge being reviewed can get the most feedback from it.

Team leaders should be observing their team throughout the day in anticipation of giving constructive feedback at the end of the day. Team leaders should watch how their team members deal with players, answer rulings, maintain the tournament environment, act professionally and so on. A good team leader knows how to balance their time between instructing his team members, observing team members behavior and making rulings themselves.

They should meet with their team before and after each day of judging and maybe even before each round if they have time. Meeting before the tournament starts is a good idea to ensure that the team knows they are responsible for and everyone is coordinated properly. Meeting between each round is not usually possible since it's very important to minimize downtime between rounds. Team leaders should also meet privately with each judge and see if either the team leader or judge has constructive feedback for the other. The head judge will fill out review forms for all of the team leaders.

Creating a Schedule

Ideally, a judge schedule will have the judges listed alphabetically and have them listed by team. Every tournament, we improve upon the judge schedule to make it more informative and efficient while still keeping it to one printed page. Here is an example of the Pro Tour Yokohama judge schedule.

Notice that the team leaders are in bold so they are easy to identify in both parts of the schedule. I've also shaded the team name section on the right schedule so it's easier to read. Because of the way we had the tables arranged at the Pro Tour, I used pretty general table assignments, but you could be more specific if you wanted. At Pro Tour Chicago, Mike Guptil made an amazing map of the play area and put in on the back of the judge schedule showing the area each judge team would be responsible for. I will probably get a good template made for this on the next update of the schedule for US Nationals.

Judges should generally be judging all day and should be coordinating with their team leader to take breaks. There exists a school of thought that says judges should be given a whole round off during the day, but I never use that method. Having an entire team off the floor reduces the number of judges too much and can lead to an entire team missing an important event. I much prefer to have each judge take short breaks during the day if needed. Some judges don't get many chances to judge events, so they desperately want as much experience as possible and choose not to take many breaks during the day. If a judge wants to judge all day and get as much experience as possible, they should be allowed to do so. As long as judges get enough sleep at night, drink lots of water and sit down whenever possible between rounds they should be fine to judge all day. If a judge has special health concerns, they can work with their team leader to accommodate them appropriately.

I recommend keeping a judge team on the same job all day. This gives teams the opportunity to learn everything involved in their position very well. This also gives the judges the ability to improve how they do their job throughout the day. The can find more efficient ways to do things and perfect the job. Rotating the teams throughout different jobs does expose them to different roles but doesn't give them as much of a chance to study the job in-depth and refine their processes. Over the course of several tournaments, judges should consult with the head judge to ensure that they are eventually scheduled in each role to ensure they get maximum experience.

Wrap Up

That's some insight into judge teams at Pro Tours and some tips for handling judge teams. I couldn't possibly describe every detail of judge teams in one article, but I hope I've said something that can help your tournament run more efficiently. If you strongly disagree with something in this article and have a better idea, email it to me, I won't be offended and may use your idea. If I get a bunch of questions, I'll write a follow-up article with some answers.

Take Care,

Jeff Donais
DCI Level 5 Judge
DCI Tournament Manager

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