Time Issues

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This article can serve as a guideline on how to make a tournament shorter. It is written from the viewpoint of a head judge, but it should also be beneficial all judges who are going to be at the tournament. The idea of writing this article came to me after I returned from 2 PTQs later than 4AM the next day…

Issues related to time will be considered in two sections:

  1. Things you should think about before the tournament
  2. Time concerns during the tournament

1. Things you should think about before the tournament include

  • Time constraints
  • Player Registration
  • Product registration & Deck building
  • Rounds
  • Tardiness

Let me comment on those areas you can prepare for in advance.

  • First establish your time constraints. You should include when you are able to be at the venue, when your staff might get there, how long it takes before you can start registration, when you have to leave and when the other judges have to leave etc. Think about the time constraints of the players – particularly in case of a regional tournament, when you should think about possible connections (in Europe, a lot of players from distant places travel by train or bus). Combine these two. Then make a schedule of everything and check for areas that might be shortened…
    Here is the schedule for one of the limited PTQs I attended– no more than 32 players were expected:

    8.30 Judge meeting
    9.00 Door opens
    10.00 End of registration
    10.05-10.25 Deck registration
    10.30-11.00 Deck building
    11.05 First round
    16.05 End of 5th round
    16.15-16.45 Draft for TOP 8
    16.50-17.20 Deck building
    17.25-18.25 Quarterfinals
    18.25-19.25 Semifinals
    19.23 last train to Prague leaves :-)
    19.25-20.25 Finals

    1. The beginning of the tournament was set too late. However, once I realized this, it could not be changed, since it was already advertised on the web page.
    2. We calculated using 1 hour rounds, which is feasible with 32 players, but not a realistic assumption with 64 or more players.
    3. Quarterfinals/semifinals/finals are expected to last one hour. This is because it was a draft in TOP 8, so the matches were expected to be short. With current standard (Blue Urzatrons decks), I would put minimum 1.5 hour for each. However, you still have to follow the official requirements for PTQs that currently make TOP 8 matches un-timed.
  • Player Registration:
    If you have a large tournament (100 and more players), a second computer might be useful for registration. You can register players on the second computer with DCI Tools and then merge the two files. Alternately, you can use the two files created by DCI reporter and then manually merge them. In either case I recommend that you try it out at home before doing it in a tournament
    We usually don’t run flights in the Czech Republic for pre-releases, since most players do not have enough money to play in two or more flights. As a result, we have about 100-140 players all in one event for prereleases in Prague. It always takes about 1 hour to register that many players and therefore, we decided to register with two computers. It proved to be much faster. We then edited the two files and merged them. As a result, players do not have to wait one hour for everybody to be registered.

  • Prague at night
  • Product registration & Deck building:
    If you can afford it, it is useful to have some pre-registered product in case something odd happens and you would have to make the player register cards again. Or if you know someone will be late, you can register the product for him (recommended for local events only).
    If you want to save time during deck swaps, you can do the swap in such a way that each player sends his product to the left. This may save some time (instead of collecting the product and redistributing it). In a prerelease, it is beneficial to do it in a way that nobody receives the same product, so that players get to see more cards (in case you use deck verification at prereleases). We have done similar swaps like this, e.g. first, send it left around the table and then give it across the table to the person sitting in front of you. As such, two people receive their deck back – those who are sitting at the ends of the table (but we use this only from time to time, so that nobody knows how we do the swaps).
    To further speed up deck construction, you might want to announce that whoever is late with the deck construction receives a game loss for tardiness (not recommended for REL 1, 2). I have to say that I have not used the game loss penalty so far. We would rather remind the players more often. When there are 5 minutes left and somebody is still not finished, we help him (not with his or her choices of course :-).
    If someone comes really late (e.g. he comes when the deck construction is in process) and you registered the product for him, then you might give him a warning for tardiness – with shorter time for deck construction. In this way, your tournament will not be impacted by the late arrival.
    I have done this at the limited PTQ in Bratislava. Players were on the way from another country and it did not cost us anything to pre-register the cards for them. So we did this. However, they still arrived after we started deck construction, so I gave them the pre-registered cards and they had shorter time to build their decks (which served as a penalty for them.)
  • Tardiness:
    Decide the time limit within which you will not give a game loss. It is usually 3 minutes (lower RELs) and if the player comes in during these 3 minutes, he will be given a warning for tardiness, but not receive a game loss. This should help you to start the tournament even though you see that not everybody is at his or her seat…
  • Rounds:
    According to the Floor Rules, it is possible go down as far as 40 minutes per round. This is the minimum time required for a round. However, 40 minutes is very low, so if you can, try everything else to shorten the tournament before going for this option. What you cannot do is to shorten the rounds once you have announced the time for each round. Also watch for slow play during rounds, not at the end of the round. If you catch your slow players early, it will save you time at the end of the round. Moreover, be very strict about playing slowly when the five additional turns are given. The extra turns have a direct effect on the length of the tournament. Also be sure to have a judge at the very last matches. It is not bad, if the players “rethink” the situation when the end of the round is announced. After all, the “game constraint” has changed; they only have 5 turns left. However, they should not think say 2 minutes every turn. It might be ok, if they think 2 minutes, but only in their first extra turn. Thus, they may spend more time initially to choose a new strategy on how to win the game. However, after that they should play more quickly since the situation changes only 1 card per turn.

2. Issues during the tournament

  • Deck checks
  • Rulings
  • Between Rounds
  • Team meetings & breaks
  • Weird situations
  • TOP 8
  • Deck checks:
    Set a time limit on your deck checks. In a normal tournament, 10 minutes should be enough. If you are in a hurry, you might decide on a 5 or 7 minute limit for a deck check. Advise your judges that you really mean to stick to this limit. Then if you or somebody else is not finished within the limit, return the decks without finishing it. Another good thing is to watch closely those matches that were deck checked. The reason for this is that if this match is played slowly, it will delay your tournament more than any other match.

  • Lubos Lauer
  • Rulings:
    Advise your team that the rulings should not be long. However, making rulings short is not easy and, moreover, not in your interest. A good way to shorten the ruling time is to have enough judges on the floor. Another thing is to prioritize, i.e. what kind of problems have to be solved immediately and which problems might wait (e.g. writing down a penalty on a result slip might wait in contrast to a player who needs lands for sideboarding). Generally speaking, the highest priority should be given to the problems that might severely impact your time schedule. In extreme cases, if you are sure that the problem will result in a match loss at least, you don’t need to hurry. In those cases, thorough investigation is a must.
  • Between rounds:
    Be sure that you have all the results from already played games when the time ends. Also make sure that the last matches are covered and that you (as a scorekeeper/head judge) get the last result as soon as possible. When posting pairings, you might also check out whether all the players are in the room (not smoking or in the Pro Lounge). Of course, it is their responsibility, but if you are in hurry…
  • Team meetings & breaks
    Schedule for these carefully, preferably making them at the beginning of a round after the slips have been distributed and deck checks have been done. However, you should still have someone on the floor. Have more frequent, shorter breaks rather than less frequent, longer breaks. It sounds strange, but breaks may shorten your tournament. If there are enough breaks, people will work more efficiently, will be more concentrated, and they will make less mistakes.
  • Weird situations:
    You might also encounter some weird situations. Instead of trying to resolve tough situations from the start to the end, think about different less time consuming solutions. For example in the beginning of the 6th round you realize that the pairings for the 5th round were wrong (people played differently than what DCIR says). You can verify for yourself that you cannot touch the pairings for the previous round in DCIR once you made pairings for next round. What you can do is to correct the pairing for 6th round (so that nobody is paired down) and start the round. You solve the problem with the 5th round during the 6th round. If you have a back-up, you can do the last 2 rounds manually.
  • TOP 8:
    Have everything ready for the TOP 8 (product, sheets, clock for announcing the draft, judges, prices etc.). Then, as time draws near, be sure you (or someone else) clean the venue and you pack your things (including computer, since you can enter the last results at home) and make yourself ready for departure.

I hope that my points will help you in your tournaments, especially if you need them to be run very quickly. I look forward to having some feedback from you on this article, especially where you save time in your tournaments. If you send me more examples where the time can be saved, you will see a follow-up article.

Lubos Lauer, lauer_l at hotmail.com
Regional judge, Czech Republic

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