Grand Prix Eindhoven – Judge Report

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As we all know Grand Prix are some of the most strenuous events in the world of Magic.
These professional events are a good opportunity for judges to manifest themselves and to gain a lot of experience.

I myself try to attend as many European GP’s as financially possible. Amongst them were Bochum, Brussels, Vienna, Paris and of course Eindhoven, since that’s only 40km away.

Friday:

Even though the Grand Prix starts on Saturday, some judges will be there at least one day in advance. This is not only because player registration starts on Friday afternoon but also because there’s always a need for some extra hands in setting up the hall for around a thousand players, which is about the average attendance for a European Grand Prix. But this time, when I arrived at approximately 13.30 hours, the room was already set up and they were ready to set up player registration so it could start at three o’clock.

It’s always easy to kill some time when judges are gathering around the tournament site. I had agreed on playing some games of Type1 with Gijsbert Hoogendijk. But first he had an assignment for me (and some of the other judges). He wanted us to write down what our goals were for this tournament and how we planned on accomplishing them.

After some thinking I wrote some down and talked them over with Gis. Finally they came down to the following:

  • I want to be more involved with the staff on the “organizational level”.
    • I will try to accomplish this by giving my thoughts on possible situations that may occur.
    • Helping out at player registration and the like will give me a better insight into the organizational areas.
  • I want to be more self-assured in dealing with problem situations.
    Studying the different policies, such as the Comprehensive Rules, the Floor Rules, the Penalty Guidelines and the Universal Tournament Rules could help.
  • I want to emphasize the guiding and training of judges (including myself).
    Talking about possibly hypothetical situations and explaining or asking how they could or should be dealt with will play a major part in this. Reviewing other judges or aspiring judges by means of observation and conversation will help in assessing their intents and wishes.

After this we played some games of Type1 in which fun was the basis for every play. And then it was time to start registration. I was one of the lucky ones (I volunteered) to help out. It went pretty good as there was no big crowd waiting and no serious queue. We registered about 400 players and therefore thought there were going to be another 500 who would show up for registration the next morning.

Usually there’s also a judge briefing on Friday night which starts at approximately the same time that registration closes. At this meeting all the judges introduce themselves and we are informed of our tasks and all the other specifics of the tournament. Jaap Brouwer, who was to be the head judge, announced who was in which team and who were going to be the team leaders. To my pleasant surprise I was going to team lead “Deck checks 3”. I’ve been a level two judge for over a year now and I had indicated that I would want to go for level three someday and Jaap thought this would be a good way to gain some extra experience on this event. I totally agreed and happily accepted the challenge.

After the briefing some judges wanted to do a draft back at the hotel and I wasn’t skittish for it either. Someone even brought boosters; Mirage (English), Visions (Spanish), Weatherlight (French) or something like that. The drafting went fine and I got to beat Frank Wareman, my roommate, in round one. But when that finished it was about 12.30 and Frank and I decided to get some sleep, because it was going to be a long day tomorrow.

Saturday:

It’s an early morning. We’re supposed to be on the site at 7.30 for the final briefing and to get ready to start player registration at eight o’clock. There are about 400 players already waiting at the door when we open registration. When we finished registration it’s about 9.30, which is thirty minutes later than planned, and we’ve registered a total of 1011 players.

Directly afterwards I gather my team to have a small team meeting in which I discuss what is about to happen and what we’re going to do about it. Because we form the third of three deck check teams, we were going to be carrying out deck checks and be involved in collecting and counting the deck lists. I ask my team members if they have any questions or if they think they have a better idea on anything I had just told could be done.

After some delays because of late entries the tournament was on its way. We started out with some announcements by the head judge and during this speech we collected the deck lists in alphabetical order. To be sure to get all the deck lists in the proper order we, the deck checks team leaders, gave every team member a designated area to collect the decklists. Next was the counting. We encountered quite a few deck problems, such as the well-known “eight copies” or the “incomplete decklists/sideboard”. It required too much time and manpower to count all the decklists before the end of round one. According to me this was mainly because of miscommunication and bad instructions.

I was supposed to be in charge of coordinating the counting of the decklists, but by the time I finished collecting my area of the room someone else was already handing out decklists to judges for counting. Some of the less experienced judges weren’t informed on what to look for when you’re counting decklists. Altogether we lost about 15 minutes because of these mishaps. Luckily for us the tournament didn’t suffer the same. However this did mean that we didn’t have sufficient judges on the floor during the first 10 minutes of round one.

Next order of business was handing out the decklist penalties. There were no real problems here although later on I heard about some judges not being diplomatic towards players while handing out the penalties. Diplomacy is an important trait for a good judge. Being able to explain why a player gets a penalty is as important, if not more important than handing out the penalty itself. And doing it with show of respect towards the players usually has a much better effect than just putting it on the table. I mean, we do want players to have a good time and to come to the next event as well, don’t we?

The other task my team had was carrying out deck checks. To have this go as smoothly as possible I had divided my team into pairs and at the start of each round I would give each pair a table number to deck check. All they had to do was decide who was going to swoop the decks and who would be lingering around to pretend to swoop.

The remainder of the day went rather smoothly. The only thing I need to remember is to make better arrangements for taking breaks. There were some obscurities about this that could’ve been avoided.

During dinner we had another judge meeting in which we discussed some exceptional situations and rulings. One of my team members spoke of a player who he gave a match loss for marked cards major. There were some cards that were clearly identifiable. The player disagreed and appealed to the head judge. After seeing the marked sleeves he ruled that the penalty was justified and tried to explain this to the player. The player disagreed and said he had bought the sleeves that morning and didn’t see how the sleeves were marked. We showed him that some sleeves had a different size, others had a different color and that all of his Pernicious Deeds were in a derogatory sleeve. The player still didn’t accept the penalty up to the point where he was visibly aggravated by it. At this point he shouted that he wanted to drop from the tournament and walked away. We’re always saddened by situations like this, but they’re sometimes unavoidable.

Another situation that happened was one I encountered. A player wanted to ask me a question, but did it in such a way that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to answer the question. After quickly thinking about it again, I thought that if I asked him to rephrase the question, the player would gain as much information from that as if I just answered the question. So I decided to be really brief about it. Unfortunately his opponent disagreed and accused me of coaching. I asked him to explain his thoughts and gestured him to do this away from the table. He didn’t move and started to say exactly what I had been trying to avoid saying. He talked about knowing exactly what his opponent had in hand and what he wanted to do and how this was a legal play which wouldn’t result in the intended situation. Shortly said he meant to say that I had helped his opponent not to make a bad play in a situation where this mistake was commonly made. The opponent didn’t want to divulge in this any further, but it still stuck on me. During the discussion it appeared to be the general consensus that this situation was practically inescapable. It could not be avoided even by asking the player to rephrase his question or by saying that I couldn’t answer the question without giving him too much information. Looking back on it I probably should’ve done the latter anyways, because this way I probably would’ve avoided his opponent from acting up.

Saturday Night:

Since a friend of mine had a roommate moving out, he threw a party while the room was empty. Gis and I decided to pay our respects. When we arrived it was already kind of late and we did have to get up again at 7 am. Before we entered we agreed on staying till 3 AM max. Even though we were tempted to stay some more, we kept that agreement.

Sunday:

After a quick shower and a decent breakfast I walked to the site at 7.30. This Sunday I was put into the ‘result entry slips-team’ as a floor judge. During this second day of the Grand Prix there are less judges needed on the main-event. Usually the somewhat more experienced judges that aspire towards the next level are selected to help out on the second day. This is to give them the extra bit of experience they will need to progress in their judging skills.

The second day of a constructed Grand Prix isn’t exactly exciting. There are only 128 players who usually are a lot more experienced players than most players in the magic community and therefore make fewer mistakes. Considering this, it means that next to the usual tasks (pairings, slips and deck checks) there isn’t much work for the judges.

After five rounds of taking it easy there’s the excitement of the forming of the top eight. This is one of the few moments for the judges to pay special attention to the players on day two because we need to watch out for collusion and bribery, which don’t belong in a sportsmanlike tournament.

Top 8:

To my pride three Dutchies made it into the top eight (and if you count the judges there were six).

I was selected to table judge a quarterfinal. This means that I’m responsible for that specific match and I have to make sure that there’s nothing illegal happening. I also have to keep the players informed about what’s happening in the other quarterfinals.

I was assigned to table judge the match between Tobias Radloff and Kamiel Cornelissen. Sadly for Kamiel he didn’t get the cards he was hoping for while his opponent was more fortunate. The match ended quickly and my job was as good as done. All that was left was an evaluation with Gis about my goals for this tournament.

Evaluation:

Setting goals for yourself doesn’t really help if you don’t evaluate them afterwards. So here are mine and their evaluation:

  • I want to be more involved with the staff on the “organizational level”.
    • I will try to accomplish this by giving my thoughts on possible situations that may occur.
    • Helping out at player registration and the like will give me a better insight into the organizational areas.

Considering I had the pleasure of helping out at registration and was even assigned to be a team leader, I would want to say I gained quite a bit of experience on the organizational level. There were still some minor problems that probably could’ve been avoided. For instance, my laptop didn’t have the latest DCI software, which meant I wasn’t able to register ten digit DCI-numbers.

  • I want to be more self-assured in dealing with problem situations.
    Studying the different policies, such as the Comprehensive Rules, the Floor Rules, the Penalty Guidelines and the Universal Tournament Rules could help.

I quickly reviewed the latest version of the penalty guidelines on Friday evening. During the final judge briefing on Saturday morning I asked some questions on how, according to the head judge, some specific situations were to be handled during this event. Sometimes head judges have a different perspective on how certain situations should be handled apart from the penalty guidelines, but in this case Jaap didn’t want us to abbreviate from them at all.

  • I want to emphasize the guiding and training of judges (including myself).
    Talking about possibly hypothetical situations and explaining or asking how they could or should be dealt with will play a major part in this. Reviewing other judges or aspiring judges by means of observation and conversation will help in assessing their intents and wishes.

In my role as a team leader this goal was advanced because during the team meetings we discussed all the difficult and exceptional situations that came to pass during the tournament. The discussion that followed usually brought forth new hypothetical situations that often slightly deviated from the original situation

The DCI has special standardized forms, which can be used especially for judge review. Officially they’re anonymous, but I myself am a big proponent for evaluating with the subject while filling in the form. Because I was a team leader I’ve had the opportunity to pay special attention to some of the judges on my team. I have tried to evaluate with every single one of my team members to find out what they are looking for in the future and to give advice on how they could accomplish that.

Wrapping up:

As a final note I want to thank everyone who helped out, visited, played at Grand Prix Eindhoven for a fantastic weekend. I’ve certainly enjoyed myself and I hope you’ve done the same.

A special thanks goes out to Gijsbert Hoogendijk, for the discussions and evaluations we’ve had.

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