News: Update on Disqualifications

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The letter T!his year's World Championship has had a higher than normal number of disqualifications, with a total of six now by the close of the second day of competition. Given some of the questions and confusion this has led to, particularly for those not actually at the event, we wanted to take a moment to get the facts out there, clear up some of the common misconceptions when it comes to the penalty process, and then offer advice for doing everything you can to keep your own play from running afoul of judging problems.

Where We Are So Far

First, the details. As of the end of the second day of competition, six players have been disqualified without prizes. Here is the list of who they are, if they are on a national team, and why they were disqualified.

Amiel Tenenbaum (German National Team)
Infraction: Cheating (other) - Deliberately failing to correct an error.
If you haven't read it already, I went into significant detail on this one in my article, "Two Players Disqualified in One Match."

Haluk Ornek
Infraction: Lying to a judge
As with the Amiel Tenenbaum disqualification, the article linked above goes into all the details on this one as well, since both DQs happened in the same match and were related to each other.

Max Bracht (German National Team)
Infraction: Cheating - Stalling
During Max's final match of Day One, he was found guilty of intentionally playing in such a way as to ensure that the game could not finish by abusing the time limit. The key for this one was intent. Among several other things, Bracht clearly made decisions like taking several mulligans strictly for the purpose of running out the clock. This one caused some confusion initially, as players were mixing up the infraction with slow play, which is different. To be clear, a "slow play" infraction is when a player is inappropriately causing the match to go too slowly, but unintentionally. Stalling, on the other hand, is when a player is found to be intentionally abusing the clock. Over the course of the final game of this match, the judges observed many instances of intentional abuse of the clock, which is why the infraction was Cheating - Stalling as opposed to just Slow Play.

Hyun-Il Jang (South Korean National Team)
Infraction: Cheating (other) - Changing game state and lying to a judge
This one actually ran into two different issues. First, the player was accused of changing the game state. With Green ManaGreen Mana open but badly needing to cast a 1 ManaWhite Mana spell, the player was accused of leaning over his lands to obscure them and then changing which of his lands were untapped so that he'd be able to cast the 1W spell. Worse, once the judges were called over, the player was found guilty of lying during the investigation.

Takahiro Suzuki
Infraction: Cheating (other) - Deck manipulation
This one occurred in a feature match against Gary Wise. In this case, Suzuki, who already had a warning history coming into this event, was found guilty of manipulating his opponent's deck during the shuffling process.

Francisco Barboza (Mexican National Team)
Infraction: Cheating - Changing game state and lying to a judge
In the process of playing out a Crookclaw Transmuter, the player in question made a poor play but didn't realize it until he put his own creature into the graveyard at the end of combat. At this point, realizing his mistake, the player took the Transmuter back out of his graveyard and tried to claim he had blocked another (more favorable) creature instead. Judges were called in and during the investigation it was determined that the player had indeed tried to misrepresent what had occurred, as well as changing his story in the process and lying to the judges.

While we're clarifying penalties, let's cover something I've heard get mixed up from time to time. In all the cases in this article, right now we're only talking about disqualification. "Suspension" may sound the same or similar, but it means something completely different when it comes to official DCI policy. Disqualifications (or DQs for short) just deal with the current event. Once we get into the realm of suspension, that's when we're dealing with players that have been barred from competing in any DCI sanctioned events, a penalty that is applied for a certain amount of time such as six months, three years, etc.

So DQs deal with one event whereas suspensions are something that go into effect over a certain amount of time. The reason that's important here is that I want to be completely clear that none of the players mentioned in this article have been suspended at this time, as the investigations will still need to be carried out. As I mentioned in the article about Amiel and Ornek, getting DQed from an event without prizes automatically triggers a DCI investigation of the incident. From there it's a question of what comes from that process. Depending on the severity of the incident and the circumstances of the investigation (which, among other things, takes into account the player's history), a DQ may stand as the only penalty, or more severe penalties may be imposed. It all depends on the circumstances and the results of the investigation process.

Level 5 judges Jaap Brouwer (the Head Judge for the event) and Gis Hoogendijk were kind enough to sit down with me Thursday night to go over all the details on these incidents so that we could get the facts out. While we were going over all this, they both mentioned that they've been getting a lot of questions this weekend asking why there has been an increase in disqualifications, if there's been some policy change or adjustment in how aggressive the judging is, and who knows what else.

They were both quick to point out that they think it really comes down to two different things. First, the judging staff is becoming increasingly better educated and more sophisticated in their methods, which makes catching cheating more likely. Second, and just as important, the players themselves are now more comfortable calling over judges when needed. Whereas at previous points players may have been reluctant to call the judges over for fear of how it may seem to their peers, Gis and Jaap felt that now players are getting more comfortable with the idea that the judges are there to help and maintain the integrity of the game in the process.

There certainly aren't enough judges to watch every single match in progress at this stage of the event, so it's critical that players be willing to call judges in when needed so that they can do their job. Looking at it that way, Jaap felt it's really two sides of the same coin: "It all comes down to judge education and player education."

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