One of the great stories to come out of this tournament was that of Yann Hamon and Nicolas Labarre. In an era of uber-teams these two friends collaborated to build their Severance Charbelcher that put them both in the Top 8. They were playing card for card copies and found themselves scheduled to play each other this morning in the quarter-final round. Unfortunately they also found themselves scheduled for an 8am flight back to Paris with no easy way to reschedule it.
After looking at all the various travel sites and begging and pleading with the airline the best they could come up with was that they would have to buy a new one way ticket, which would cost over $1,000. They approached the DCI last night about the possibility of playing their quarter-final match out that evening so the loser could take advantage of the existing travel itinerary.
Acting head of the DCI, Chris Galvin, was consulted on this matter along with the senior judging staff. It was quickly decided that this was not possible. "The Pro Tour runs on a schedule which is set to optimize many, many factors and we are not prepared to change that schedule to accommodate the competitors. From the DCI's point of view the quarter-finals start at 9am on Sunday and that was not going to change."
Both of the competitors expected and completely understood the DCI policy. The two players had already agreed to a 50/50 prize split on their winnings when they realized they would be playing one another and they could not see the logic of spending more than $1,000 each for a new ticket-they would only be losing money.
They made a subtle change to their question to the DCI. They wanted to know if they could play out the match-unofficially-to determine which player would concede to the other. This prompted another huddle for Galvin and the judge staff. Chris Galvin explained DCI policy, "At that point the gist is the conversation became, 'We're going to play this match to determine who is going to concede to the other.' The DCI rules are pretty clear that as long as the winner is not determined randomly and there is not bribery or coercion-as long as that is not happening-then we don't care. All I know is that if one of them is not in their chair at 9am they will be forfeiting the match."
Chris laughed at the unusual situation that will surely prompt a policy meeting for the DCI when everyone is back in Renton, "It was a weird situation. I am certainly glad I came to this Pro Tour."
Labarre and Hamon hoped to play the match on the site that evening. While Labarre has played in three Pro Tour Top 8's over his long career, the spotlight has never shone on Hamon. While Hamon has been in the finals of two Grand Prixs this year-winning Lyons last week-his best Pro Tour finishes have been two Top 16s and his career has been nearly as long as Labarre's.
In the end they realized that they could not play the match out at the site. Officially the DCI could not allow them to play and they could also not ignore the match if it was being played with a wink and a nod. Rather than make an uncomfortable situation more awkward the two friends decided to return to their hotel room and play the match out and determine who would forfeit their chance for glory on Sunday. Nicolas came very close to simply conceding the match and allowing his pal to experience his day on stage but in the end they played it out.
It is ironic that Chris Galvin stated that DCI policy would not allow the forfeit to be decided on a coin flip when that was considered by many players this weekend to be the determining factor in many of their matches. Tomi Walamies claimed that his informal poll of Day 2 competitors provided overwhelming anecdotal evidence that coin flipping skills caused many of them to advance to Saturday.
When Yann lost the coin flip to go first he was confident that he would not get his chance to play today and the games played out on-serve for the first four games. Yann broke serve in the final game when he topdecked a Mana Severance and was able to win the turn before Nicolas could untap and kill him. Presumably Nicolas was winging his way back to Paris while Yann was taking photos for the Top 8.
It is interesting to note that the match between the two was not binding in any way. Had Nicolas shown up this morning at 9am to play the match would have been played out with no regard to what transpired in their hotel room last night. It was made explicitly clear to both players that this was the case.
One might suggest that an easy solution for the DCI would be to threaten to give the spot of the player who failed to show up to the ninth place competitor but the DCI rules are written in such a way to expressly forbid this. It is impossible to drop from a tournament after a cut is made. This rule is in place to prevent people from buying their way into Day Two of an event or even the Top 8.
There will still be a DCI investigation into this incident. Both players and any witnesses will be contacted to determine if any undue influence was brought to bear on Labarre-either threat of physical violence or promise of financial compensation-to compel him to stay away from the competition today.
Both players were very careful not to violate any DCI rules and were extremely apologetic about any disruption they caused. Yann was looking forward to winning his second major event in seven days and sat quietly-with a rather large smile on his face-as he waited to face the winner of the Harvey/Osterberg match.