Welcome to my GP Sao Paulo 2009 report, where I'll try to sum up why this event is the most challenging and the most rewarding tournament in the year for the Latin American community, as well as trying to uncover what those double Ls mean!
As you might know (and I won't blame you if you don't), Latin America only gets one Grand Prix per season and, after years of having none, the return of these big events last year for GP Buenos Aires was a big hit on the southern continent. It meant that, after a very long time, judges from Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and even more distant countries would get to meet old and new friends. Of course, the idea for this "second" GP was to improve the experiences we had from last year. Also, Latin America is a very isolated region (Magic-wise) because we don't have any PTs or other major tournaments, therefore we don't have as much contact as we would like with high-level events. Thus, we (the L3+ community especially) have to ensure that everyone gets as much "food for thought" from this event as possible.
For me, the event started well in advance. On the more "local" focus, the Latin American Judge Conference was being shaped. It's basically a pre- or post- tournament meeting with all the available judges to spend time together, run some seminars and get to know each other better, and it was organized mostly by Thales Bittencourt, L2 Judge from Brazil. After some discussion on the theme for the whole conference, the individual topics and so on, the dust settled and I was appointed to run a "How and Why we do reviews." This is a seminar I had already done some years ago for Argentinean judges, but which deserved to be updated and spread to the whole Latin American community. It would also get the benefit of being reworked by Alejandro Raggio (L3 from BA, Argentina) with whom I was going to prepare and present the seminar.
Meanwhile, I sent an email to Scott Marshall, who was going to be—as he had been in GP: Buenos Aires last year—our HJ. I offered to help in any way I could or was needed. Not too far away from that date I was offered to be one of the two LLs. What does LL stands for? I've heard two meanings, which are basically the same: Local Liaison or Local Leader (Local Liaison could also be Local Link . . . the double Ls keep appearing!). The LL position is a new and still-in-development position the DCI is trying. The position is given to one or two L3s (in this case it was Rafael dei Svaldi from Brazil and I) for a variety of reasons, mostly translating documents (not everyone in the community can read the documents and emails in English that Scott prepared for the event), recommending judges for various tasks (such as head judging Sunday's PTQ or team leading on the main event on Sunday), gaining insight into the planning of these big events, and showing ourselves as leaders of our communities, both to the players and the judge community.
My trip to Brazil started on Thursday morning, arriving to the HUGE city of Sao Paulo around midday and, after 90 minutes of Bus+Subway+Taxi, I arrived to the conference site. Sadly, I wasn't able to attend last year's event, but I do believe that seminars were interesting enough and that the day gave us the opportunity to meet old and new friends and have some time to talk, about Magic and non-Magic stuff, as well as start our Portuguese-Spanish jokes which became a fixture for the whole event.
That night we went out for dinner, looking for an open place during a holiday, and we ended up in a "churrasqueria" (something we would call a steak house in English) which, well, really made me miss Argentinean meat. Later, while I was having some very interesting and mind-opening chats with Carlos Ho (L3 Panama/Spain), some Chilean judges arrived and we went out for some beers.
Friday wasn't a very busy day, with some sightseeing around the city's downtown and a visit to the event site which, to our surprise, was a circular building with many levels . . . not what you would call the most classic play area, but nothing where we couldn't work in. I got to see Mr. and Mrs. Marshall, whose luggage hadn't arrived yet and after a brief chat with my Saturday's team "sub-leaders" (more on this later), I was ready to go for dinner, shower and get ready for the first day!
Circular Layouts: not the best for Magic although pretty nice for the eyes!
For Saturday, I was appointed Team Leader of the whole deckchecks team, which consisted of roughly 11 people. For better management, the whole team was split into two, each of them having a L2 as a sub-team leader. In such way I was able to communicate everything I needed to be done to only two people and, thanks to their great work, everyone else always received the message. On the details about the team's work, we had two problems: First, Brazilian players are used to having their names printed (on slips, pairings, and the DCI database) as First Name – Last Name (opposed to the usual Last – First). This meant not only changing the order of every paper print, but also having to figure out in each decklist which was the first and which was the last name. On top of that, we had the problem that the master list given to us by the Scorekeeper was lacking some names although, for some time, we weren't sure how many were left out. This caused delays in the first round for us and, unfortunately, we didn't have everything sorted out by the start of the second round, although by 10 minutes into the round, we were all set up and ready to start doing some mid-round deck checks.
Throughout the day, I was also asked several times to translate Scott's messages from English to Spanish, which was not only a great experience for me, but a great addition to the event as well which, otherwise, would've been conducted only in English (when many players may not understand the language).
Due to the very strange layout of the venue and the difficulties finding out outstanding matches, as well as some delays caused by scorekeeping problems, Day 1 ended up really late (I can't recall the exact time but around 12.30 / 1:00 am). After a very short debrief by Scott, we were off to dinner and rest.
Sadly, sometime between Saturday and Sunday I lost a black jacket recently gifted to me, which now I really miss. I hope whoever found it not only feels bad about not giving it back, but enjoys it as well.
On Sunday, most of the staff was split between the main event (which, with only 70-ish players didn't need all the judges it had on the previous day), the large PTQ hosted on the Public Events area, and judge certification (one judge for Portuguese speaking candidates and another for Spanish speakers). In my case (and Rafael's) we were free to do, mostly, whatever we wanted to do. We started having a chat among ourselves, discussing his current status on the program as well as the Brazilian community as a whole. That evolved into having many 2-on-1s with every L2 judge from Brazil as well as a very promising L1 from an isolated area of the country. After that, Rafael had a meeting with all of his L2 judges, since it was one of those rare occasions where they get to be all together and started to plan the future. Meanwhile I tested a L2 candidate; this included a written exam as well as a long debrief. After this, everything got kind of blurry . . . some chats here and there, some others which were lost because people got called everywhere and, before we knew it, the tournament was over and we had a champion!
After all was over, we went together to a very nice pizza dinner in which we got to relax, share stories, and get our blood alcohol contents a bit higher than usual. That is something many of us continued doing in the hostel we were staying at, including some judges who fell asleep and woke up several times throughout the night. I must add that, even though the organization couldn't pay for our accommodation, most of the visiting judges got to stay at the same hostel. That really paid off in terms of serious chats, funny ones, and a kind of socialization we couldn't have had otherwise. Even the fact that there were four to six judges per room led to very interesting snoring stories (no zebra pillow fights took place, although more than one deserved them for failure to keep quiet during night).
In conclusion, GP Sao Paulo was a great experience for many of us and the tournament itself, besides the delays we experienced on Day 1, which did end up quite late, was quite well run. Regarding the LL position, it's something which will keep on moving and shaping with time but which I personally enjoyed greatly. Being involved in the pre-event thought process, being consulted about the selection of judges' roles, and being a present image throughout all the event is great for the learning process as well as a great recognition of one's everyday work.
And the best is that, no matter which tournament you're going to, local or international, recurring themes are meeting old and new friends and chatting as much as possible, while always having fun, always keeping it fair.
Thanks a lot to Carlos Ho for proofreading (very much needed!).
DCI Level 3 Judge
Buenos Aires, Argentina