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Team Leading at Grand Prix London

Graham Hopkins

Date - 23rd August 2003
Players - 525
Head Judge - Colin Smith

In my report on the European Championships I discussed my aim of judging at some of the upcoming Grand Prix events as part of my plan to gain the skills and experience required to move to level 3. One aspect of this was the experience of judging in different countries; however the next Grand Prix happened to be in London where I do most of my judging anyway. Still a Grand Prix is still great experience wherever it is so I was pleased to get myself on the judging team, working with Colin Smith was not a new experience for me either but it was Colin's first GP as Head Judge so it was also a great experience for him.

Graham Hopkins, Level 2
During registration on the Friday evening there was some discussion about the number of players expected at the Grand Prix; tables had been set out for 800 but 600 was a more realistic expectation. As an organiser of local tournaments myself matching the venue to the anticipated turnout is a constant problem particularly in England where venues can be rather expensive. News that the main railway links to London would be closed for engineering work over the weekend damped the hopes for a large turnout and the 525 players who played on day one was better than expected on Friday night.

However the layout for 800 players made the playing area that was actually used quite cramped with not much space for the judges and spectators to move between tables whilst a large number of other tables were unused. Another improvement would have been to leave an aisle at the end of each row of tables rather than placing them tightly against the wall.

The Friday night judge meeting discussed the use of bar-coded results slips, which were new to some of the judges. Jason Howlett the score keeper has been using them at the larger London events since he purchased a scanner last year and they greatly improve results entry, but it is important that the players and judges do not deface the bar-codes on the slips with careless marking. We also decided to use a method employed at the World Championship in Berlin for presenting the results slips to the scorer sorted by result, so a number of sheets were taped to the stage marked "2-0", "2-1", "1-2", "0-2" and "Other", scanning of a number of slips with the same result speeds results entry. After entry the slips where sorted into table number order to speed resolution of queries and disputes.

A topic that generated a lot of discussion was around players being clear about whether they were playing or cycling cards such as Decree of Justice. Some players had been placing the cycled card on the table to act as a "stack marker" and this could easily be confused with playing the card. Related to this was the question of players cycling the Decree of Justice and placing a quantity of mana in the pool before resolution and the triggered ability then being stifled. It was agreed that although players would be allowed to untap lands tapped in error before doing anything once they had played a spell or activated an ability the mana would be in their pool. Decree of Silence also generated some discussion about what happened if it was bounced back to the players hand after its ability had triggered for the third time but before the ability resolved, but the countering of the opponent's spell is not dependent upon the counter being placed on the enchantment, so the spell is countered and the enchantment doesn't have to be sacrificed.

Day One
I was assigned the role of team-leader for the Saturday slips team. This was my first time as a team leader at an event of this size. My first reaction was to be a little unsure as to how to tell a team of experienced judges how I wanted the slips to be handled, I assumed everyone knows how to cut and distribute slips. However I decided that I'd point out the key aspects of the role without trying to be patronizing in any way, such as being back at the start of each round so that the slips could go out quickly, not attempting to cut too many at once (a common mistake which can lead to torn and unsightly slips and damaged bar-codes), and ensuring the slips are in the correct order for distribution. As it turned out some of the judges in my team had no experience of cutting and distributing slips so the advice was useful to them. There was some initial confusion over the feature match slips and the S1 slip for a player with fixed seating, but after some discussion with the Sideboard reporter on selecting feature matches everything went well, in fact too well and when one of the rounds had to be re-paired we had already distributed the slips, so a quick collection and destruction exercise was required, Jason altered the tournament name to show "GP re-paired" just in case any of the original slips had been missed.

Allocating breaks and ensuring the team covered the correct area of the floor was straightforward enough, one aspect of team leading which I didn't really consider was keeping an eye on how my team behaved on the floor, how they explained rulings to players and handled difficult situations, I tended to act as another floor judge. However I had some very useful feedback on this from one of the more experienced judges in my team as well as Colin.

Rules questions from the floor were limited, the only one I was asked more than once was "when a face down zombie goes to the graveyard does it trigger Vengeful Dead" players still seem to struggle with rule 410.10d as the card is revealed before it goes to the graveyard. The Lightning Rift mirror matches produced a number of questions on the stack order of triggered abilities and some misunderstanding of the requirements to announce targets on triggering but only pay the mana on resolution, with questions like "how can he place three triggered abilities on the stack when he only has one mana untapped". One interesting situation, which I observed, was a player mulliganing to 6, keeping the hand but then noticing that the 7th card was face up on top of his library. If this happened during play it would usually result in a warning for looking at extra cards, however the floor judge who ruled on this decided that seeing the card at this stage gave a significant advantage when deciding whether to keep the 6 cards drawn and ordered an enforced mulligan to 5 on the basis of improper drawing at start of the game. The player, who was quite happy with his 6 cards and his first draw appealed, but Colin upheld the original ruling.

The judging team
Eight rounds and a short judge meeting later I was quite ready to get a good night's sleep before a 7:45 start on the next day for the top 64. On Sunday I was allocated to the pairings and feature match area team. Pairings was quite easy for 64 players and despite a number of judges moving to the side events there was ample cover for 64 players. I had been allocated to table judge one of the semi-finals, and although I had done this several times before at the English Nationals I spent some time with Jesper Nielsen getting some tips on what to watch for and how to behave, maintaining a "professional" distance from the players and their attempts to out-talk one another. Jesper was to act as overseer and trouble-shooter for the semis, this was his 14th GP and he was an immense source of support and experienced advice. I judged the match between the eventual winner Diego Ostrovich and Mario Pascoli. Kai Budde's report on the match is available on Sideboard. The semi went smoothly and it was then time to unwind and watch the final.

I learnt a lot from this GP. Specifically not to assume that everyone knows how to do the task allocated to your team. The need to create a balance between allowing experienced judges to get on with the task, while ensuring that as team leader you observe their behaviour as floor judges and discuss what they are doing without micro-managing their activities. Team leading is much more about judge management rather than rules knowledge but it has a very different flavour from Head Judging a PTQ. I've applied to judge at GP Genova, so I may be able to report soon on how things are done in the Italian style.

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