Czech Nationals – Head Judge Report

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Event: Czech Nationals 2004
Date: 12th – 13th June 2004
Head Judge: Lubos Lauer
Participants: 93 (128 invitations)
Day one: 3 rounds type II, 3 rounds draft
Day two: 3 rounds draft, 3 rounds type II, TOP 8

Deck Checks, Logistic lvl Pairings, Results lvl
Miloš Prochazka 2 Rostislav Reha 2
Stefan Čonka 1 Tomáš Langer 1
Tomáš Kourek 1 Robert Jurkovič 0
Jan Judas 1 Lukáš Vobořil 0
Scorekeeper Head Judge
Richar Glassner 2 Luboš Lauer 3

This article is about the problems you can and will face when head judging an event. However, you will find some of these issues interesting even when you are not the 'ONE'. This season, I had the opportunity to head judge three nationals (Hungarian, Slovak and Czech) and I learned quite a lot of things. Therefore, I would like to share some of the situations with you.


In my opinion, every judge should realize what he expects from the tournament before going there. It is no use to take every tournament just as a “job” to get some product. Therefore, you should assess the areas you want to improve and plan how you will achieve this improvement in advance. But you should not only think about what you are going to learn (your weaknesses), but also what you can bring to the team and what you can teach others (your strengths). My goals for Czech Nationals were:

  1. The tournament should be run smoothly.
  2. Find out how good Rostislav Reha and Milos Prochazka are in their team leading and give them feedback.
  3. Tell those team leaders what are their crucial tasks (to teach those people in their teams).
  4. Try to teach other judges as much as possible.
  5. Certify three candidates.

These were my goals and I tried to stick to them and remind myself during the course of the tournament. The following points were the steps I made before actually running the tournament. They are mentioned as brief as possible.

  1. I got the staff for the tournament. We had finally 10 people, two of them from Slovakia.
  2. I did not want to finish the Swiss part of the tournament with a draft (players paired down/up, space for collusion) and I convinced the organiser to change this. As a result we had no table nor player in the last round that could somehow get advantage by some shady deals (6 players were already in after 11th round, 4 players played for the TOP 8 and they were paired together)
  3. I wrote the players packet. The publishing was easy, because we, in the Czech Republic, have only one good Magic web site. I also made a blank type II decklist available for download.
  4. I checked with the organiser many times that we had everything (like lands, stamped boosters, prices and so on).
  5. I wrote the judge packet about 3 days before the tournament so that the judges would know what we would be doing during the weekend in advance. A very important thing for judges is, in my opinion, to know whether a player calls the judge because he does not know the result of a situation or he wants to gain an advantage through the rules. I clearly stated in the packet that judges should find this out before making the call.
  6. The day before the nationals, I went to the venue and, together with the staff from the organiser, we arranged the tables. The only thing I did not like was the feature match tables in front of judge station. They were there, because we had only six table clothes for regular tables and these were very, very long .
  7. I decided I will bring my own computer and my own printer as a backup. We also made software backups every round burning it on CD every time. Moreover, I brought my own sound system, so we did not have to shout at the players.
  8. Last thing I did before Saturday was that I set the alarm for the morning...

Saturday and Sunday

Saturday went well, but Sunday went better. We ended the registration on time and we started the 1st round just 5 minutes behind schedule. Here, I will list only things we did well or some problematic points (there are more problematic issues, because I noted these down and I forgot the good things already). But there were more pros than cons!

  • We seated the players and I made a speech about the tournament. The scorekeeper and I did not think that we could print the pairings in the meantime, so when I finished, I realized that we could have done that in advance. Therefore, players had to wait about 2 minutes having nothing to do...
  • Our deck check team was very efficient and they were able to check all the decklists during first round and make the deck check in the first round as well (after sideboarding).


  • First big problem came up during the draft. There were boosters without stamps, there were 14 cards boosters and finally, there was one Mirrodin booster that had one card from Darksteel. We always stopped all the tables, resolved the problem and then went on. The players were a bit angry.
  • For the second draft (after the first day), we double-checked all the boosters, which proved to be the best idea, because we found many problems and we corrected them. There were only two problems in the second draft and we did not stop all the tables immediately when the problem occurred, but we let the players make their pick and then they waited for the table in question.
  • I let one judge, who had not done it before, call the first draft and he made some mistakes. Normally, it would be ok, but since we already had many problems with the boosters, this caused more distractions.
  • We also saw that it is better to ask the players to count the cards they are passing instead of asking them to count them before they choose their pick. Players are too eager to see the cards, so that they do not count them even when asked for this. For the second draft, we always asked the players to lay down the boosters in rows of four, so that the players on their right/left could count that by looking at it.
  • Some of the stamps were not so dry and as a consequence, some of the cards had slight markings on the back of the cards (maybe a pen could be better). Therefore, I required all the players to use sleeves for the draft. This aroused some disapproval, but players finally respected it.
  • When setting up land stations someone asked whether we had enough lands. We quickly checked that and we realized we did not have enough lands. This was probably the most stressful situation during the tournament, since nobody had any lands in the venue and the only way to get them would be to open around 3 displays of starters. Another possibility would be to get them from a nearby club, but it would take around 45 minutes to get there and back, which was not acceptable. The only possibility left was to open the starters. However, we found out that nobody had starters at the tournament. We called the marketing manager from the distributor firm asking how long it would take him to bring some lands from the club. He was coming back from a marketing event and he said he had those “demo boosters” that contain lands. He arrived in 10 minutes. Meantime, we borrowed all the lands from the shop at the venue (around 200), which gave us the 10 minutes. After this, I will always remember to ask not only whether we have lands, but also how many we have.

Other issues

  • The two teams were coordinated well. The only problem I noticed (and also caused) was that I asked the scorekeeper to announce the start of the round. However, he did not know that “pairings” team was still choosing feature matches. Therefore, that round was without feature matches. So when telling people something, you should always tell them also what is the other part of the team is doing.
  • During the whole tournament, I did not have to overrule a single ruling. This was quite a surprise, but also a satisfaction. There was one situation, when a player complained about the deck check, because the judge took the decks after players shuffled opponents’ decks. This was a mistake of a judge and I told him to return the decks to the players and excuse them. The message is that we should not take knowledge of judges for granted, even trivial things. It is better to tell your team the things every tournament than not at all anticipating that they know them.
  • I asked the team leaders to devote some time to the “new” judges so they would learn as much as possible. This worked well, leaders sat down with them when they had time.
  • Once, our scorekeeper forgot to start the clock on the computer. He realized that about 15 minutes later and we estimated the elapsed time together.

General Advice

The previous section listed some of the problems we faced. I did not give many recommendations, but I hope you can see what might go wrong and avoid this in your events. Generally, if you are the head judge of a tournament, it is not the best idea to try to think about every detail. It is more important to have the “big” picture and if you want to have something done, just advise one of the team leaders. With the responsibility you give them, it is also crucial to give them space for their decisions, otherwise they would have responsibility without any possibility to influence the situation. Here is list of ideas to think about:

  1. Think “in advance”. Do not think what should be done now, but think about what will have to be done in an hour. You need to realise that the land stations are not prepared before players actually start searching for them.
  2. You should be aware of things that might go wrong and that would disturb the tournament significantly. These things have to be taken care of and you should double check whether they are being taken care of. For example, you should check that the time is running and that the backup was made, but you do not need to double check whether the old standings are out.
  3. Make sure that everybody has the relevant information. The team leaders should not only know what they should do, but they should also know what the other team leaders are going to do. This helps them to coordinate their work. Players are the other group that needs information (for this, see the article about “Public Speaking Judges”.
  4. Try to have the “big” picture at all times. This was already said, but it is that important that it does not do any harm to repeat it. You should know who is doing what at the moment and what they are going to do in the near future...

I have to finish here, because I am leaving for holidays. I hope I mentioned some important points for everyone and I am looking forward to your reactions and comments.

Lubos Lauer, Lauer_L at hotmail dot com
Czech Republic

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