Tuesday, March 22, 2016

GP DC 2016: Friday

Welcome back! The saga of scorekeeping Swiss side events at Grand Prix: DC 2016 continues this week. As I mentioned last week, the Tale of Friday comes in three parts:
  • Pairings board signs
  • Events that start on time (and why some don't)
  • Three stories
If you haven't read the first post in this series, I recommend that you do. It provides some context for the things that happened over the course of the weekend.

Also, you'll get to read the story of how I killed Shift, one of SCG's event printers. Late last week there was an important update to that saga: Shift lives! He's probably still recovering from his ordeal, but at least he's not dead-dead.

Yet. When's my next event on stage for SCG? May?

Pairings Board Signs

The table numbers for the weekend were set up by SCG when I arrived in the hall early on Friday, and they were glorious: each tent had two numbers on it, a traditional table number and a match number. The same match number was used for three consecutive tables, along with an A, B or C designation for which player was supposed to occupy each seat.

I mention this because these numbers snaked through the entire hall, and the events I was scorekeeping were placed at the high-end of the table numbers — most events started in the 2500s or 2600s.

On top of that, our use of pairings boards was limited. There were two or three designated for side events use, which means that events had to share pairings boards. Each board had 12 slots for sheets of paper, but we had to make it easy for players to figure out what bits of information posted there was relevant for them.

About the time that each event started, I gave the head judge a stack of papers. These were printed on the color paper that matched the match result slips for the event:

Oh. There were also schedules and prize payout signs on the pairings boards too!

These signs are super basic, but they get the job done. Each HJ got one copy of the sign on the left and four of the one on the right. Some of the larger events, like the Sealed Challenges and the Foiled Again! on Friday night, posted their pairings on two different pairings boards. Those events got twice the signage. Yay!

The slots on the pairings boards (which are just giant-sized top loaders) comfortably fit several pieces of paper, so they could hang up all of them at the beginning of the event and toss them as each round finished.

These signs, combined with the giant Gathering Point banners that now come in the GP kits, made it pretty easy to direct players to their seats. I pointed about a billion players to the round end signs over the course of the weekend, too: I tried to make notes of when I printed pairings for each round, but that only gave me a rough idea of what the round end time would be.

This brings me to a bit of advice if you're responsible for an event that's using these kinds of signs: make sure you announce at the beginning of the event that you'll be posting this information. Your players will appreciate knowing where to go to find the answers to their questions.

Events that Start on Time

For the most part, I had signs created for all my events at the beginning of the day, usually just before the first event fired. Once I've made the template and started printing things, it's easy to make the small tweaks for each other event. More importantly, it's something that each event needs to get started, and by doing it early, I won't have to remember it for the rest of the day.

Small things like this make it much easier to get events started on time. The other, biggest thing that helps is closing registration on time.

At SCG GPs, event registration closes ten minutes before the scheduled start time of the event. If you're in line by that time, you can sign up, but no one else can hop in line. This is super, super important. Ten minutes gives the awesome folks at registration enough time to get through those last few players (and some times "few" really means "dozens"), and it gives me time to get the tournament files set up and seatings or pairings generated and in the hands of the event's judges.

The "Tournament Files" Part

To start each of the Swiss events, I had to export a player file from SCG's registration system and import that file into WER or WLTR. Often, this process is pretty simple:
  1. Confirm with the registration stations that everyone's signed up.
  2. Click the export button.
  3. Save the file in the event folder.
  4. Alt-tab into the appropriate bit of tournament software.
  5. Press the import button.
All in all, it takes a minute or two. If the event is large, exporting the player file might take a little bit longer.

Sometimes, if you're me, you forget that the main event gets exported by default, so you have to twiddle your thumbs while your computer generates a .csv file with data for 3000+ players and their team affiliations, but we're not going to talk about that. Much. It only happened twice. OK, maybe three times. Maybe.

Two-Headed Giant events, on the other hand, are the absolute worst. Creating events for those is ... well, it's an adventure (and the headline of my Saturday post, so stay tuned).

After the import, it takes a few more clicks to get to seatings or pairings printed. Those have to be walked to the pairings boards, and someone has to make an announcement that they've been posted.

None of the pieces of this process are particularly time-intensive, but each one does take some time. If registration stays open until the scheduled start time of the event, there's no way that it's starting on time. Even if registration closes on time, there's a chance that Something Wonky happens, and the event starts a couple minutes late.

My pile of Friday match result slips.

So, signs have been created beforehand and registration closed on time and I have a functional tournament file. What else is there?

Starting Table Numbers

This is where side event judges can help their scorekeepers get events started on time. I need to know where to put this event.

In WLTR, once you've seated or paired the event, you can't change the starting table number. (Well, OK, you can, but it's has consequences, especially for limited events. Just pretend that you can't.) This means that I need that information ASAP.

In an ideal and perfect world, I have the starting table number for an event as soon as the one before it is seated. This makes sense, right? As soon as you know what the last table number for the noon event is, you can figure out where the 1 p.m. event should go.

That's not always the case, though. Lots of factors can influence what space you want to use for an event:
  • The number of players
  • The number of other events firing at the same time
  • The number of players in those events
  • The events that might be wrapped up (but also might not be) before this new event starts
Because WLTR makes it harder to move events than either DCI-R or WER, it's important to keep these things in mind when you're finding a spot for each event.

I'd prefer to have a tentative table number for that 1 p.m. event at 12:15 than a definitive one at 12:59:59, especially if you know under what circumstances and how that number might change.

For example, if you have an ending table number but don't know how many players are signed up, let me know that. Worst case, I can't do math, but my computer can, and I can figure out the starting table number for you or help you adapt your plan to whatever's going on.

The Friday Verdict

Friday started off on the right foot. The 11 a.m. Legacy Challenge fired on time. The Vintage Challenge started a few minutes late, but that was because we were short players and had to recruit a few more to sanction it.

The 4 p.m. events also started a little bit late because the registration system blew up. By "blew up," I of course mean that there was an update to it to fix something that was causing issues, and the update kicked everyone out. Naturally, this happened at about 3:48. Some not-panic ensued, and after the update went through, it took a few minutes to get things back up and running.

Everything else that ran from the Swiss section of the stage went out on time on Friday, which is kind of a feat by itself.

Three Stories

All three of these are player interactions. Scorekeepers interact with hundreds of players in a day, from the all-too-common "Does my slip go here?" to problems with match points and event registrations. Those things are pretty mundane. Only the wonky thing end up in my notes, and these are the highlights from Friday:

#1: "My name's not on the seating."

At first, this one seemed to fall into the mundane category. A player who had signed up for the Sealed Challenge wasn't on the seating assignments. He had an Infinite Challenge Badge (which means that he could have registered for free), so I didn't need to try to figure out whether he had actually paid for the event. Instead, I was just going to add him to the tournament and send him to his seat with six packs.

Some background is necessary here. When players pick up their Infinite Challenge Badge (which is card-sized laminated card that can hang from a lanyard), a small sticker is placed on the back of the badge. This sticker has a bardcode that's tied to the player's DCI number, and the registration stations had scanners to read it. The sticker also has the player's name and DCI number printed on it.

This player's badge didn't have his name or DCI number printed on it — it had someone else's.

Well, I thought, that's interesting. I poked around a bit to verify that this player should have had a badge, and it turned out that Customer Service just printed the wrong sticker for his. I checked, and the player whose name was on his badge was registered for the event.

I thought that maybe that player wasn't actually in the event, and just made it into the file because this player's (incorrect) badge had been scanned.

Nope. They were both supposed to be signed up. No problem. The judges seated the payer whose name hadn't shown up, and I tracked down an appropriate replacement sticker for his badge.

As it turned out, he wasn't the only player to experience that problem over the weekend. From what I was able to discover, it seems like one of the Customer Service printers had somehow gotten off by one sticker for a little while on Friday morning, so players were getting the sticker that should have gone to the player in front of them in line. Most of them caught it quickly because they noticed that the name and DCI number on the sticker were wrong.

Some of them hadn't caught on right away, though.

#2: "My name's not on the seating."

Well, this sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Completely unrelated to this particular story, I had problems all weekend with people who didn't realize what the drop box on the match slips were. WLTR slips look pretty different than the ones from DCI-R and WER, and in addition to people accidentally dropping themselves because they thought they were supposed to initial there, there were all sorts of other weird slips turned in. But, I digress. Back to the story.

This is what slips generated by WLTR look like. They print a little bit differently, but it's close.

When this player gave me his name, I recognized it as one of the no-shows from the previous round. I dug the slip out of my pile (which I hadn't gotten to sorting yet), and showed it to him.

He seemed ... perplexed, and then insisted that he had, in fact, played a match. He even signed the slip. Not the no-show slip with his name on it, obviously, but he had definitely signed a match slip.

He recalled that he won the match and his opponent had dropped, so I flipped through the slips that had the loser dropping. The event was on the small side, about 50 or 60 players, so there were a handful of those, and it only took a minute to find the one with his signature on it. He understood what had happened: he sat at the wrong seat and filled out the slip for a match that he wasn't a part of, all without noticing that his name wasn't on that match slip.

No big deal. We can fix this. I got him back in the tournament and paired him with the player who had the bye — because the Challenge events awarded points based on record, a bit of a mismatch wasn't a Problem.

I also had to explain that, even though he won the match he played, that wasn't a match as far as the tournament was concerned. He had been assigned a match loss for that round, and that would be reflected in his match points. I also had to adjust the result that was reported on the slip that he filled out.

#3: "I want to give my opponent the win."

Players can't be enrolled in more than one Challenge at a time. In order to sign up for one, they have to be dropped from their previous event. Some players didn't know that when they went to sign up for their second event of the day, but most of them were fine with it.

One player felt really bad that he had beaten his opponent and was then dropping from the event. That didn't feel right. The least he could do, now that he knew he wouldn't be able to play anymore, was concede.

But, they had already turned in their slip. At that point, the results of the match were final. This is enforced for lots of good reasons: we don't want players going out into the hallway, threatening or bribing each other, and then coming back in to change results. That concern doesn't extend to this case, but the policy is still the same: once you've filled out and turned in the slip, the result is final.

[Side note: There's actually quite a bit of nuance to the point at which a match result is final. Most of that conversation is impractical.]

He just didn't want to be That Guy. I explained what the rules are and why, but I also pointed him toward Kali, the event manager. I expected that she would give him the same answer that I had (spoiler: she did), but I thought that this was one of those situations where escalating would make him feel like we understood what he was trying to do and wanted to make it work.

The Future!

I have two more days from DC to write about. The most "exciting" thing that I did on Saturday was start the Two-Headed Giant event. That was in WER, and it gives me an excuse to talk about how you can edit players and teams in a 2HG event :D

BUT ... before I can get to the Saturday and Sunday reports, I'm going to be putting up a post about End-of-Round. That post ties into a seminar that I'm presenting this weekend at the Northeast Spring 2016 Judge Conference with my roommate and Area Captain, Eric Dustin Brown — who will also be writing a complementary blog post. Both of those will be up on Thursday night, and you can look also look forward to some seminar reports after the conference. If there are specific things you want to ask about EOR, let us know!

(Did I mention that Shift isn't dead? :D)

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