I'm lucky enough to have been allowed to judge two World Championships in a row. I came back from the first edition (Yokohama 2005) disappointed by several things that happened to me there. Several weeks of reflection about all the stuff that happened, with almost no judging, and analyses made by a few people I trust proved necessary to start improving again.
I was aware Worlds was definitely different from PTs: it's longer and the stakes are much higher. The combination of both these factors forces one to be more concentrated than anywhere else, longer than anywhere else. As a result, you're simply exhausted at some point. Better be after the event! But Worlds in Paris was far more than this: it was simply crazy!
More than 80 judges from all across the world seems to be more than enough to deal with anything that would happen, right? If that is what you think . . . sorry, you're wrong. The 2006 edition gathered so many players that 80 judges and volunteers wasn't enough!
Here's the story of my Worlds:
Wednesday, November 29th:
Up at 6:30, I arrive at the venue around 7:45 to listen to the pre-tournament briefing. A new policy has been prepared almost all night long and we are to test it over the next five days. Another one is tested for the second time. At this time, both remain experimental, so I won't explain what they are. I'm part of Team Logistics this morning. We quickly set the whole area up, helped by anybody who's currently not busy with a specific task.
I know my L3 interview is to take place in the afternoon. I'm really happy that it is that soon. My preceding one (at Yokohama) happened on a Friday afternoon. I was totally jetlagged and really tired. If I can give you a piece of advice: if possible, ask to take the interview at a local PT or at least as soon as possible in the tournament. The process of interviewing takes a lot of time (probably about three hours), and even if you feel OK when it starts, you may not be able to be at your maximum throughout the interview. If you're not a native English speaker, it's likely having to think and talk in a foreign language for hours will be exhausting as well.
One of the reasons I failed in 2005 was that I had tried all along the (short) interview to answer what I think the interview team wanted to hear, instead of developing my own opinions. Remember that: there's often no good solution to problematic situations. So you have to think a bit, make up your mind with a solution, and develop arguments to support it. This doesn't mean also that you should at all costs maintain your solution. Sometimes you'll be wrong. Everybody can be wrong sometimes.
I try to apply that this time. To sum it up, I aim at behaving the way I would naturally behave. There's no point playing a role. And it turned out to work well. I survived the general philosophy questions. I realized the limits of that reasoning during the scenario I was proposed though. And I managed to convince my interview team.
I go back to the floor for the last minutes of the last Standard round, listen to Jaap's debriefing, then leave to go and eat something and rest a little bit. Being far too excited to sleep, I go back to the venue to help friends of mine overwhelmed by hundreds of players at side events, to finally reach my bed around 2am.
That's only the first day.
Thursday, November 30th.
I'm scheduled on side events, on the afternoon shift. Sides were open from 8 or 9am to 3am, so three shifts of 9 hours had been designed. The flaw was that these shifts were too light in judges compared to the crowd that was eager on playing tournaments. Despite being French, I hadn't expected at any time that Sides would be that crowded in the middle of the week
I get up quite early to get breakfast at the hotel, then go to the venue to say hello and talk with fellow judges I haven't seen in a while. I end up putting stripes very quickly to help on the main event before I take my shift at 12. Here comes my first interesting ruling of these Worlds:
A player calls me for the following reason: At the beginning of his turn, his opponent had two untapped Forests on the board. While he was playing a spell that significantly impacts the board in his favour, he claims his opponent did something shady with his lands and ended up with one Forest and one Plains untapped. I spend a few minutes to try to get both players' versions, but the accused player doesn't speak English, and we have no translator for this language available. I manage to understand that the accused player claims he just put his arms on the board, disrupted everything and tried to put everything back. But the clock is running, I have to make a decision. Cheating may be involved here. So I decide to ask the accused player where his hand is. It is only one card. Before I look at it I think: "If this is Temporal Isolation, I report that to the HJ immediately." I take a look at the card: Temporal Isolation. A glance at the board shows me the player needs to play the Isolation this turn to be able to keep the tempo and hope to survive a few turns. I involve Jaap, who will end up DQing the player.
I report at 12 at Sides to discover I'm HJing a PTQ of 256 players with 2 judges as staff. This is a bit understaffed, so my shift leader offers his help while we're trying to find more staff. The seat all players is posted at 13:00. I'm shouted at by the Sides Manager for being late. I'll learn afterwards that 13:00 was meant to be the time when the first round should start... as if I could know :/
Along with 2 more judges, my team ran an impressive tournament, managing to count 256 decklists during the first round! Meanwhile, I have a weird ruling happening, which took me time to deal with:
A player tried to grab the graveyard of his opponent. The latter's sleeves being brand new, the graveyard ends up spilled all along the row. Finding then restoring the order would be really easy. But two cards are missing. When I'm involved I learn that they've already spent 5 minutes looking for them. I let them a few more minutes to find them while I'm busy with something else. Nothing. The players do not manage to know what's missing. I have to interrupt the game to make a deck check. Two rares (obviously!) are missing.
Everything that happens here is purely accidental. But only one player creates a situation which ends up forcing me to interrupt the game. So I classify this as Procedural Error – Severe and issue the player who spilled the cards a Game Loss. He doesn't really understand what's happening, argues for a moment. I put an end to the discussion quite quickly and give them 15 minutes of additional time.
Nothing relevant happens afterwards, which allows me to leave the venue around 9.
Friday, December 1st.
I'm Team Leading Logistics today. I discover in the morning that there's some stuff to do since the organization of the room has been entirely changed due to massive affluence at Sides. I coordinate the new setup, asking any judge that's not busy with anything specific to help. The day is quite slow until round 4, where I'm involved in a slow play call that ends up being stalling, from the player who called me first! The details are available in "Practical Approach on Slow Play."
A slight chaos happens while we're handing out Tax Forms, but nothing more. I leave the site quite early and we go to a nice Japanese restaurant not that far from the venue. As I come back on the venue, I help a friend to handle a PTQ he's HJing and working by himself. I go and grab another friend who's making extra hours, helping on another event so that we can go and drink something for my L3. Along with an L3 who taught me a lot, one of my best friends, and a friend who involved in the Vintage community, we find a bar that closes at 2 AM we talk about subjects going from the L3 interview process to the current status of the Vintage community in France to the people we think could advance in a near future until we're kicked out at 2 AM.
Saturday, December 2nd.
I'm supposed to be on the Sides' PM shift. I go to breakfast, wander into the venue in the morning, and chat with friends. I'm so tired though that so I go back to the hotel to sleep a few hours. I'm supposed to start at 5 PM, but there's work to be done from 3:00. So I put stripes on and help with a PTQ. At 17:15, my Shift Leader grabs me and the following discussion happens:
"You're the last French judge available. You'll take care of the 2HG tournament that starts at 18:00."
"OK, who's HJing it?"
"Considering the staff is you . . . [pointing at a list] this guy and . . . this guy [pointing at the same name], you are!"
"OK, where should that take place?"
"No clue, you'll have to find space."
"OK, how many teams do we have?"
(If you've ever watched City Hunter, there are crows rebounding on my head at that moment.)
So, it's 17:20, I have a 256 person tournament to start within 40 minutes, and all I have is 1 judge and 256 players. I know the judge though, and he's worked at GPs, which is rather good. We split the venue to try to find 128 tables available. I end up finding a square with 64. That's the best score we get. I grab two friends of mine who are respectively busy with seminars and a GPT to ask them to remove players playing 8-man tournaments to go up to 128 tables. We obviously do not have any area where to send them. But. . . .
At this time, an employee from Wizards comes to me to explain there will be specific coverage on this event because three Pros will team with players who defeated them at Gunslinging, so this event needs to happen smoothly. So I ask for a computer, a printer and a microphone. I get the microphone 2 minutes afterwards. My personal laptop is brought back from my room 15 minutes later. Meanwhile, all players have started registering the product at 18:30, which is rather good, considering the situation.
(Mauro, Lois, DavidL, you all did an incredibly good job to setup this tournament. Thanks a lot!)
While we're collecting decklists, a crash of rhinos . . . of tables overwhelms us. For purposes of setting the area for the Sunday event, they need room. So now, there is a massive crowd stuck between two areas of tables. I start wondering whether this is a joke or not, whether there's TV filming from the ceiling.
I bargain to obtain the tables to be moved shortly, so that my 250 players can at least move. Pairings for round 1 are posted. It's 19:50. The venue closes at 3 AM. I have 7 Swiss Rounds to run. I'm already aware I'll run only 6.
Running a tournament with one round too few is usually not a problem. It becomes a problem when the prizes for the first place are unique and can't be doubled. This is obviously what's happening to me.
OMG, good news! Here comes a printer! A judge tries to plug it in. The plug is US and we're in Europe. He finds a French plug and plugs the printer in. Did you know that US Voltage is 110 and French is 220? No? I'll spare you one printer by telling you what's happening. A nice white smoke goes out of it.
So I have no printer anymore (not that I ever had one). And this one was the last available – the one from the Main Event actually. I'll nevertheless scorekeep the tournament on my computer then run to the scorekeeping stage to get everything printed.
Pairings for round 2 get posted at roughly 21:10. I announce there will only be 6 rounds. A team comes to me to explain that there may be two teams with perfect records. I'm aware of this and assure them I'll find a solution if that happens. Rest! Finally! Barely a team that was mistakenly dropped and who didn't care anyway. I compensate them with a SE voucher to apologize.
Pairings for round 3 get posted at 22:30. A team comes to me to say they're not on it, and several others come to me to point out they do not have the right number of point. DCI-R v3.0 apparently bugs. The round finally starts at 22:45. I know I won't be able to make more than 5 rounds. So we need to find a solution; since up to 4 teams may be at 5-0.
The complaining team hasn't reintegrated the pairings. I know what's wrong. One of the people who entered results made a mistake. But we just can't re-enter them, not even by breaking the pairings for the round and manually re-entering them afterwards. I ask them about their record: they're 2-0 with strong decks. We've tried everything for 30mns, but we had to come to the conclusion we wouldn't be able to do anything about it. I apologize for that, bring them to the Side Events station to refund them and give them vouchers for additional events.
Pairings for round 4 get posted at 23:50. They're once more wrong. When all teams are seated, the organizer makes an announcement. There will be only 5 Swiss rounds, and a Top 8 will be run on Sunday at 12:00. All prizes get doubled. I'll spare you the last two rounds, where nothing relevant happened.
During round 5, Andy Heckt, back from the judge dinner, comes to hear the whole story, which I'm happy to share, since I definitely need to laugh a little. We even bet on how that tournament managed to be scheduled at that moment.
I managed to post the final standings at 3:06 outside the venue, which was closing.
Sunday, December 3rd
Nothing much happened, besides an excellent evening with a second judge dinner and great talks with great people in the evening.
To conclude, I'd say this is the most challenging event I've ever been to. I've suffered from pressure when I've been playing on the Tour, but that was nothing compared to these 5 days. And the obstacles I've had to pass all along these 5 days were nothing compared to the great moments I've passed within the judge community.
Lois, Fabien, Gis, the Davids, Daniel, JB, Matthieu, Arnaud, Carlos, Michael, Johanna, and all the ones I've forgotten. Thanks for these days. I hope to see you as soon as possible.
Special thanks to Sheldon Menery for proofreading.