Thursday, March 24, 2016

NE Spring 2016 Judge Conference: Five Additional Turns

The day after tomorrow (which is Saturday, March 26th), EDB and I are presenting a seminar on end-of-round procedure at the Northeast Spring 2016 Judge Conference (you could probably tell because that's the title of this post).

Leading into that conference, we agreed that we would both write posts about EoR best practices and post them today (which is Thursday). His has been done for at least a week. I've been procrastinating.

Part of that is because his post touches on almost all of the pieces of EoR. It's brief, and the seminar is more detailed (plus with, you know, live-action roleplaying, and stuff), but there's not much he left out. He even mentions two of the biggest problems I run into when I'm scorekeeping at EoR.

Since I need something to write about, and I only have an hour and a half before he scheduled his post to go up, I'm going to expand on those two things:

  • Matches with no players and no slip.
  • Reliance on the EoR printout.

No Player, No Slip

This comes up all the time: you're sent out to a table, but when you get there, there aren't any players and the match result slip has disappeared. These missing slips have the potential to delay the event significantly, and if there's no resolution, my only option is to assign a loss to both players (which can be fixed later with some work if it needs to be).

Fortunately, if I know about them early enough, I have time to track down the slip and/or the players who were at that table and find out what happened in their match. When I hear about a table with no players and no slip, there are two easy things I can do:

  1. Start looking through my pile of match result slips.
  2. Find the names of the two players and have them called to the stage.

Generally, I start with the first thing. The players might be on the way up with the slip, and this gives it some time to show up before an announcement is made. I often enlist the help of nearby judges to do this, because at this point in the round (at large events), I probably haven't finished sorting slips yet. I may have typed the wrong table number for that slip or it got stuck to another slip, and finding it in the pile helps me figure out if anything else might be wrong in the round.

There's also a chance those players are still playing--they moved to a different table or the judge glanced at the wrong table or whatever other weird things might happen at Magic tournaments--and calling them up could disrupt their match. This happens way more often than you would think.

Calling players up to the stage is a last resort, if you will. Most of the time, if I haven't been able to find the slip, it works. Sometimes only one player shows up, which isn't ideal if they're claiming to be the winner of the match, but it's better than not knowing what happened at all.

Sometimes it takes a few tries to get players to the stage. If I have more notice that there's a missing slip, I can make more announcements and wait a little longer for those players to show up. If I don't know about it until it's the last match out, I have less wiggle room: every attempt to find out the match result costs every other player in the event that much time.

"Leave the scorekeeper alone" is pretty solid advice most of the time, especially if things are breaking or are broken. Sometimes, however, it's the worst advice ever. This is one of those times. So:

If you're working on EoR and you discover a match that doesn't appear to be playing and has no result reported, tell the scorekeeper ASAP.

You'll probably have to help me sort through some match slips to find the missing table, but you might save the event from a delay.

EoR Printouts

Reliance on the EoR printout isn't a "problem" in the Something Awful Is Happening sesne. It's a "problem" in the sense that I've seen many judges rely on it as a crutch when they could be effective without it. The list of delinquent matches is certainly one tool to manage EoR, but it's not the only way to get things done.

For large events, even at the moment time is called, there could be dozens of matches outstanding. (Or delinquent. I prefer calling them delinquent.) For example, in Philadelphia a few weeks ago (which had about 750 players), I had more than 100 slips still out when time was called. That's not an usual number for an event that size. It's also not a useful number of tables for a couple of reasons:

  • There likely aren't enough judges on staff to cover all of them.
  • A bunch of those matches will be clustered together, so trying to send one judge to each of them isn't an efficient use of resources.
  • It's too much information to keep track of. In fact, it won't even fit on one sheet.

When I'm scorekeeping, I print the EoR sheet based on the number of matches that are out, not based on the time left in the round. Normally, 30 matches is my target. This number changes a bit depending on the size of the event and the judge staff.

You don't need to wait for a printout in order to start end-of-round.

If you're the EoR lead, you can have judges sweep the room for slips that haven't come up yet or direct them to tables with time extensions (if you have a list; if you don't, you can just ask them to find those tables) while you're waiting. This has an added bonus of getting more slips in faster, which means a shorter wait time for a printout that's usable. If you're on the floor, these things are a great idea even before you report to the stage for an EoR assignment (whether there's a printout or not).

A few events in very recent memory have run into issues with printing the list of delinquent tables (because WLTR). Being able to manage the end-of-round process without a list of matches was essential for the EoR leads at those events.

Sigh. Even WLTR calls them "Outstanding."
(Oh, my Paint skills are the worst. In case you were wondering.)

They made their own maps of the tournament floor or their own detailed notes about the matches that were out and who was covering them in place of the printout. EDB, my conference partner in crime, is one such EoR lead. He wrote a blog post about how he managed it, complete with MS Paint maps that resemble the ones he made at the event.

End-of-round procedure is one of the most effective tools we have to keep tournaments on pace, and performing it effectively involves many roles and moving pieces: scorekeepers, floor judges, the EoR lead, the HJ, match result slips and players. We're going to touch on all of those pieces during the seminars on Saturday, and it's going to be awesome.

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