Grand Prix Madrid – Floor Judge Report

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Location: Madrid, Spain.
Head Judge: Bruno Barracosa, level 3.
Date: 21-22 of February, 2004.
Attendance: 1353 (!).

Grand Prix Madrid was a judging opportunity I could not pass. Most GPs are on a bad date for me so whenever there is one I can easily make it to, I do my best to go. This led me to the 20th of February, 2004 when I was entering the plane to Madrid not knowing this GP would be the biggest GP ever.

Before I go on, I must apologize for not providing a complete report. Although I knew I was going to write a report for this GP and expected to take notes during both days, it turned out that I had no time to do so. The start of day 1 made me give up any hope I had for taking notes, so I have to rely on my memory. I will however try to outline the most important point of this event.

After the usual quest for finding my way to the hotel, I arrived at the site at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. I took some time to write some notes for the team meeting in case I was going to be a team leader on any day. I had also thought up some rules quizzes for my team members, which were proven useful, but not on day 1 due to the workload. I then went to help at registration by being the one giving the free competitor T-shirts to the players after they completed their registration.

The judge meeting was at 9:00 p.m. after registration. This actually meant we started at 9:20 p.m. because that is when the registration closed. We had 730 approximately players registered on Friday which gave us a hint for the huge turnout.

At the Friday judge meeting, the head judge introduced himself and gave each one of us the opportunity of also introducing ourselves to the rest of the judges. He then went on and explained the tournament mechanics but more details were going to be given on the Saturday judge meeting. Day 1 was going to be sealed deck and we had to do a deck swap because the decks were not preregistered. Bruno also asked that we do not give match losses without asking him first, and that team members should consult game losses with their team leaders. Lastly, he introduced the teams for day 1. There were going to be 5 five judge teams: deck check A, deck check B, logistics, result slips and pairings. I was going to lead the result entry slips team. The final team composition was going to be announced tomorrow and we had a short team leader meeting after the judge meeting which was interrupted because the site was closing down for the night. What we did manage to discuss at the team leader meeting was the professionalism of our team members, the penalties and more details on tournament mechanics. We then proceeded to have dinner and a good night’s sleep, which was more than needed, as it proved.

Mobile phone shot of judge George Michelogiannakis

I had to wake up at 6:30 a.m. the next morning so I could be at the site at 7:45 a.m. to help at registration as requested. There I did crowd control and registering new DCI members until 8:30 a.m. when we had the judge meeting. At this judge meeting, the head judge explained the tournament mechanics in more detail.

At first, we were going to post player seatings so that players could find their seats. Then, players were going to be seated and we were to supply them with 1 Mirrodin tournament pack and 2 Darksteel boosters along with a checklist they could use to register decks. Then we were going to perform the swap by giving the player decks from one table (we asked the players to gather all decks on one side of the table) to the next table and keep doing that until we reach the last table and give the decks from that table to the first table. As my team was in charge of the balcony (there were about 200 tables on something like a balcony) we used this system on every row of same tables because some tables were joined together to form one table. The method used by the teams on the big floor was to give the decks not to the next table but to the table besides that table. Players were to keep foil basic lands and put all non foil basic lands on the center of the table.

Then, players would do deck construction and either give their decklists to a wandering judge who would check for the player name and basic lands, or go to the land station if they needed more lands. After this, 9 rounds of play would follow.

We then had a short team leaders meeting repeating the points we made yesterday and explaining the tournament mechanics in more detail and coordinating the teams for the various duties that had to be performed. My team was in charge of the 200 tables on the balcony.

Right afterwards, we had to equip that balcony with tables and chairs for the amount of players we were getting. Registration was over, and the attendance was at the record high number of 1353 players. We placed tables 561+ on the balcony, and clear signs on the pairings board saying that.

The attendance was at the record high of 1353 players

After preparing the balcony, the teams had their first team meeting. I had made some notes on what I wanted to say. First of all, I introduced myself to my team members. Then I went on to explain what we were doing and how. Firstly, the players were going to seat down and we were supposed to give them the product and a decklist. The balcony was somehow separated into two smaller areas, one almost half the size of the other. One team member was going to give out the product for the small area, and the two others were going to do the same for the other area. I was going to assist as needed and give out product to some tables at the same time. Then, we were going to do the swap when the head judge gives us the signal, as I have already described. Before that, judges would pick up trash from the tables and put them into a garbage bag.

Then, players would finish constructing their decks, and the judges who would be patrolling as designated (also answering calls) could receive their decklists after checking for name and lands if the players did not need any more lands. They then would give the lists to me and I would give them to the team responsible for counting the lists.

We then would have the Swiss rounds. I asked all my team members to be near the judge station at the end of each round after they could not find a match to watch so we could be quick in handing out the slips. That is important to follow and causes trouble if it is not followed because the team leader has either to use less people, or go looking for the other members.

We then went on to discuss breaks. I assigned my four members to have two 25 minute breaks but we said that that could change accordingly to how the tournament progressed. I also appointed who was going to be responsible for the team when I was away. I then went on to present the barcode slips and how they worked. Moreover, the tournament was going to have many non-English speaking players so I discussed the translation issue. When you are called at a table where one of the players does not speak a language you speak, you can call for help a judge who does speak that language but remember that you are the responding judge and the other judge is there only to translate. You can make an exception if the situation would require asking many questions and translation would be wasting too much time and complicated but still you should be there and maybe have a talk with the other judge before issuing a ruling. Letting the other judge take over would allow the players to choose their local judges instead of you.

Lastly, I informed them that I would be reviewing them, something which I could not do as well as I wanted to due to the amount of workload which we were not aware of at that point.

After the meeting, I went to fetch product for the balcony. This was approximately 18 boxes of tournament packs, around 400 boosters and 200 checklists. We then handed out the product and waited for the signal by the head judge.

It was not that simple however. Because of player errors or maybe wrong calculations, we needed 15 – 20 more decklists for the balcony. I immediately went to fetch some more, but there were none to be found. I also found out that about 200 or more tables from the rest of the floor were missing decklists and from a quick quest for more decklists (by asking the other team leaders), we found out that we had no more! As we later discussed, this could have been because although we were told that we had 1500 decklists, we actually had less.

Anyhow, we started printing some more but it took time. During this time, players with no decklists would just sort out their decks and would have 10 minutes from the moment they were given a decklist to complete it. This was enough time if the deck was sorted.

We then proceeded to perform the deck swap as we had planned beforehand and the players opened their decks to begin construction. At this stage, we had the usual problems with decklists being wrong which were corrected with caution. Also, a player had opened 4 darksteel boosters and had written them down on the list which made us give him two new boosters and a new checklist (there were some available at that point). Then, players who needed no more lands than the ones they could have from their table (players were told to put them in the middle of the table) gave their decklists to a judge. After all this, I collected the decklists all my team members had and gave them to the responsible teams. Before round 1, we had a short team meeting on what is going to happen in the rounds.

At that meeting, we rescheduled breaks a little bit and I also emphasized that it is important for the team members to be near the judge station after the round time has elapsed and they could find no more tables to watch. I was going to give piles to hand out to each member and also some for myself.

Rounds 1 and 2 were not exactly smooth. Having three teams counting decklists means that only 10 judges were left to do everything on the floor, post pairings and distribute result slips. Round 1 and 2 also had some tables on the balcony, so one judge had to be assigned to them (one judge was enough). This left us with 9 judges for tables 1 – 560. As you can understand, this was a problem.

My team was distributing the result slips. We had a rough time out there at rounds 1 and 2. Giving the result slips while being called by two or three players at a time is not optimal. This caused us many delays and at round two, the slips were given 25 minutes into the round which was very late, but there was little we could do to avoid it.

Before round 3, the head judge called a team leader meeting. Things were not going very well. He noticed that judges were not working as hard as they should, perhaps due to lack of motivation. Also, from this round we would have the three teams back on the floor when they were done with handing out penalties at the beginning of the round. The head judge also asked that we have a team meeting to motivate our members.

We did so. At my team meeting, I asked my members to work hard to get this thing finished. The problem was focused at the end of the round when extra turns were played when most judges would stick around the judge station or talk to their friends instead of watching matches. Apart from that, I asked my team members to come to me should they have a question, not to the head judge. The head judge is only one man and has to do so many things that he cannot possibly answer every judge’s question. Should I not know the answer, I would go to the head judge. Then I assigned breaks to my members and reminded them to be near the judge station after the round finished when they could find no matches to watch. Lastly, I asked my members to be extra careful when signing result slips and circling the right result barcode. Incorrect results were a big delay source so far and we could not spare the wasted minutes.

The extra member from the other team and the pipeline technique (give slips to hand out before printing is done) did the trick and slips were fully distributed 10 minutes into the round. This left us with 40 minutes of answering calls when needed. My team was originally assigned to the balcony, but only 35 tables were actually playing there, so one judge could handle them. The other four of us could therefore float everywhere on the floor to help other teams. This was a rather busy round but all teams managed. At the end of this round, we held another team leader meeting where the head judge said that this round was much better and that teams would keep their assignments throughout the day to avoid confusion. Originally, my team was going to do deck checks from round 5 and thereafter.

For round 4, I asked help from another team as well which meant that we had 7 judges in total distributing slips. This proved to be a very good idea as slips were fully given out 5 minutes into the round this time. This round, although we were busy, I had some time to look at my team members in action giving rulings or doing other tasks, to provide them with feedback at the end of the day. Still I did not manage to do this as well as I wanted from the beginning because there was not much time between answering calls, coordinating team members, signing result slips and handing out slips.

At this point, we had unavoidable delays. One source of this delays were incorrect results or drops which took time to fix and made us correct tables and reprint result slips. Another source as I later found out was the computer, which took 4 minutes to generate pairings or anything else needed. In later rounds, another problem was going to show up.

Rounds 4 and 5 were busy, but they had no surprises. We were still very busy with the floor, but players were starting to drop so it was going to improve. The slips were fully distributed 10 minutes into the round maximum and by round 5 there were no tables playing on the balcony so we could fully be on the big floor to assist the other teams.

By round 6, the problem of incorrect drop outs was becoming serious. As the scorekeeper had discovered, this was not only because of human error. At round 8 we made an announcement of the problem and at round 7 we held a team meeting so we could inform our members to expect delays.

The problem was that when a barcode scanner was used to drop players, the software would drop people at random instead of the one actually dropped. This led to players complaining when they did not show up in the pairings, which caused further delays to the tournament.

By round 7, players did not exceed 800, so we could tightly handle them. At this round, team leaders had to coordinate 10 minute breaks for their members so they could go and eat some pizza provided by the organizers. This proved to be a bit of a problem for me because the time was strictly 10 minutes so everyone could eat, and I had to go and remind my members that their time was up.

At rounds 8 and 9, no team members would have a break, as requested by the head judge. At these rounds, especially 9, we assigned some judges at the tables suspicious for bribery attempts, slow play and other “bad things”. These rounds were after midnight and tiredness was becoming even more apparent. However, players were no more than 650 so we managed to finish day 1 by 2 AM.

As I think back of day 1, we had many problems we could do little about. Given that, and the fact that we were slightly understaffed especially for the first rounds, I am convinced that we did a good job. Being a team leader for the first time at day 1 of the biggest GP ever, is quite a shock. Despite making errors due to inexperience, I did a fine job according to feedback I received. I still need to improve on initiative and taking actions to prevent problems though.

Only 3 hours of sleep separated us from day 2. Everyone would carry with him the tiredness of day one, but that affected us as little as possible. At the beginning of day 2 teams were announced for those of us who were put into the main event. I was going to team lead the logistics team only this time, and being day 2, it would be much easier.

The logistics team is in charge of keeping the tournament scene looking nice, setting up the draft tables and land stations, and helping out other teams if requested.

Day 2 was going to have two booster drafts of 16 tables according to new DCI policy of making a cut to 128 players if the tournament had 800+ players. We had 16 judges for day 2, which meant that there was going to be a average of one judge per table.

At the beginning of the day, we posted seatings and players found their seats to complete their names on the checklists we put on the tables. My team had set up the draft tables. After the draft where each one of us had one table to watch (we coordinated with the other team leaders to assign tables to judges), players went back to their seats without talking, and my team set up the land stations.

We had two land stations this day. Our job was to take the player lists, let them help themselves with lands we had put on the land station, and give the lists to the team counting them. This was fairly straightforward and allowed us to sit for 30 minutes as players were constructing their decks.

Rounds 1, 2 and 3 were quiet. During these rounds I scheduled breaks for my team members and assigned two of them at the beginning of rounds 2 and 3 to the deck check team so they could do more deck checks. Two members means my team was left with one member and me (we had 4 judge teams on day 2) but that was no problem because the floor was small enough and 16 judges were more than enough.

After these three quiet rounds which at no way reminded me of day 1, we would do another booster draft. At the end of round 3, my team cleared the draft area of spectators and cleaned the tables so that they were ready for the second draft. After round 3, the players were again seated and then found their draft pods so we could have a second draft.

After the draft, we set up the usual land stations and saved all the remaining lands for top 8. We then remained at the land stations (two members on each one) and collected the players’ lists.

After deck construction for the second draft, three more Swiss rounds followed. We scheduled team member breaks at rounds 1 and 2 and we also assigned some members to the deck check team at rounds 1 and 2 for handing out penalties and performing deck checks.

Round 3 was the last round. Before this round we held a team leader meeting where we assigned teams to the floor with a slight focus on tables who had people who could make top 8. These tables are more likely to have instances of “weird” talk, slow play or nasty situations. Fortunately, round 3 was smooth so the Swiss portion of the GP was over.

A judge meeting was held afterwards where the judges needed for the top 8 were announced. There would be 4 judges for the top 8 draft and constructions, 4 tables judges for the quarterfinals, 2 for the semifinals and 1 for the final. I was going to table judge a semifinal match.

Before my semifinal match, I had the time to get a good rest, get something to eat and talk to the more experienced judges about receiving feedback for my performance. The bottom line is that I did well as a team leader but I made some mistakes due to inexperience. It is up to me to get more international experience and correct them.

I also got the chance to talk to the judge doing certification for one of my members going for level 2. Until today, I still do not know if he passed, I would be glad if he did.

The semifinal match I table judged was interesting but at the end I was tired because of the concentration during the match and the lack of sleep! This semifinal match finished last, so for 10-15 minutes we were the center of spectator attention.

In a nutshell, GP Madrid was a great experience and I was lucky to be there. Team leader for the first time at day 1 of the biggest GP ever was a shock, but a great opportunity as well. I am confident that we all did a good job despite the problems we encountered and I am looking forward to my next GP experience with more than 1535 players!

If you need any more information about the tournament please feel free to contact me. For the time being, may you all topdeck like pros!

George Michelogiannakis
Level 2

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