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Polish Nationals - Head Judge Report

Adam Cetnerowski

The Polish Nationals took place on April 20-21 in the capital city of Warsaw. 119 players were qualified for the event, 95 showed up to play. This report is aimed at showing the organizational and judging issues that came up during the event.

My preparation for Nationals started out about two months earlier with the preparation of a Player's Packet. The information booklet contained information on the location, schedule, fees and prizes for the tournament. It contained rules to be followed both by players and spectators (cellular phone use, eating and drinking, watching games, etc.). Also basic rules for the formats were given (boosters to be drafted, legal sets in Standard, etc.). One would assume that most people would know this already, but experience shows, that this is not always the case. The Player's Packet was issued mid-march, it was modified in April, due to the finals being changed to single-elimination.

The judge call consisted of two phases. During the first one, I invited a group of judges who would act as senior judges and side-event head judges. As soon as I had the core team assembled, I could announce the open judge call. The end date was set to the day of the last open qualifier, to allow those that didn't qualify to sign up. I got a fairly good turnout.

About a week before the tournament, I selected judges for registration and for the Grinder. A judges packet and sponsorship information was also sent out.

Day 0
I took a day off from work, to be available in case of an emergency. This was a good idea as assistance was required. The basic lands had not arrived, so we had to crack open some boxes of starters. Tablecloths had to be shipped in and tables supervised. Fortunately, the judges were asked to arrived by 4 PM that day (those that could), so we had an hour before the Grinder registration.

As we were going to use the same tables for drafting and playing, we had to prepare. After a lot of hard thinking and moving tables about, we managed to set up enough tables to accommodate 104 players. We memorized the set-up and switched to draft mode.

The Grinder registration started in the side-events area, while the player registration was opened at the main event judge's station. We decided to do registration on Friday and Saturday, to minimize the crowd. I had competent judges running both things, so I could retire to talk with some friends.

My bliss was disturbed only by the fact, that as more and more players registered for the Grinder, the side-events encroached onto the main event tables.

The judge's meeting took place around 9 PM. I felt a little lost, since I lost the well-prepared notes for the meeting. I managed to get through the meeting. Afterwards we went for a beer or two. That's also when I prepared the judging schedule. (I did this so late, since a couple of judges showed up late without any forewarning).

Day 1
Day 1 was two drafts accompanied by three rounds each. I was in a comfortable situation, since I could assign a judge to each table. I did the count for the whole room using time limits popular at GPs. After each draft, the cards were counted out and only one minor incident occurred, but was quickly resolved.
After the draft, the players were switched between pods, so that only two players from each pod sat at the same table. As this was criticized by some players, the next draft had one player at each table. Fortunately, this did not turn out to be the logistical nightmare I was afraid of.

As we were low on basic lands, we had to allow players to use their own. We managed to survive the first draft. However, out plea to return land after the third round, met only with a tepid reply and we ran out after the second round. Fortunately, the players managed to borrow enough land to hold up.

Another problem were the stamps. The judges did a great judge preparing boosters the previous day. However, two problems arose. The first one involved wrongly stamped cards. We did have spares on hand, so we exchanged one booster and restamped cards in another. The second problem was smudges on card backs, our judges proved that this was not a problem, as the ink was easily removed by using a tissue or your finger.
Since that day's tournament ran without any problems, we decided that some beer was in order and we went out.

Day 2
This day was going to be a breeze (hopefully). We required players to register again Sunday morning - 88 showed. Deck lists were collected and I went over the madness mechanic (never enough explanations about madness). The pairings were posted and players were given 5 minutes to find their new seats. It's amazing how many failed at this task.
During the last two rounds we had judges posted at the higher tables to avoid any collusion. All matches played out peacefully and the cut was clean (no need for tie-breakers).
The break before the finals lasted over 30 minutes. We took the time to rearrange the tables, providing breathing space for the players, but still allowing spectators to enjoy the competition. The break took so long, since during the deck checks, we found some of the sleeves unsatisfactory and had two players resleeve.
The finals ran without problems, if a little too-long. At the end of the long day, I secured the results, both electronic and paper and went home for the much deserved rest.

Judging staff
The head judge of any major event in Poland can feel quite lucky. We have a lot of judges, many of them with GP experience. We had 26 active judges at the event with 19 judging the main event the first day and 17 on the second day. The rest helped out at side-events or in the Jakub's case, did judge certification.
The judges were divided into three teams with an experienced judge acting as team leader. I had two sets of team leaders, one for each day as some of them asked for this position, to gain experience. Day one as the harder format to judge was led by the more experienced ones. With so many judges and a high level of competency , I rarely had to intervene at all. The second day was a little bit more rocky, because the "younger" judges had less leadership skill, so they had a harder time controlling the group. However, I feel that this experience will be beneficial to them and that they will do better next time around.
I believe in the everybody do everything school, so each team had two deck checks and tow admins (hanging up pairings / standings, distributing result entry slips). Each team also received one break. I was adamant that the judges take their break seriously and made sure they weren't judging instead of resting. The finals were run with a table judge at each match.

Interesting rulings
I can recall only two. The first one occurred after time was called. Player A presented his hand for a handshake and said "So it's a draw.". Player B took his hand and agreed. Right afterwards, it was found that the damage was incorrectly assigned and Player B's life should have been reduced to below zero. After consideration, I ruled that since Player A was acting on wrong public information (opponent's life total), that the result slip was not filled in yet and that the cards were still on the table, that the game would be awarded to Player A. This saved the match from rules cheesing.
The other problem involves the only disqualification. During a random deck check, we found 4 bent Phyrexian Arenas in a sideboard. The crease was so big, that we had no problem finding the cards in the deck by sight or touch. As this was too much of a coincidence, I felt that a DQ was in order.
I must also agree with other judges that the metallic sleeves are terrible. If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed it. However, thanks to the post-Regional warnings on the judge's list, I managed to announce that these sleeves were illegal - a whole two days before the Nationals. I caught some flak for it, but any player that saw those sleeves had to agree - they're plain wrong.

The end
I would like to thank the judges, tournament and staff for their hard work and dedication, and (most of) the players for obeying the rules. Congratulations to Adrian Brzegowy our new National Champion.

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