Sunday, June 26, 2016

GP Pittsburgh 2016: Sunday Morning

8:40 AM: In the hall. Dani’s been working on Super Sunday Series registration, and there are 71 people in the event so far. She has one registration slip that she can’t figure out—the number is illegible and the player’s name isn’t returning any results in the search. I take over. Turns out, that player is Canadian, so I have to change the Country drop down to find him.

9:09 AM: I realize I left my wallet in the hotel room, so I can’t sneak off stage to get a nice, fizzy beverage from the super-secret soda machine in the loading dock. Whomp whomp. SSS registration is up to 124, and I have some time to work on registration for events starting later in the day, like the Eternal Weekend Trial and Modern Mayhem.

9:17 AM: SSS Pairings go out. Final player count: 130. Head Judge Nicholas Sabin is forgoing the player meeting, which is less paper I have to print. Yay!

9:18 AM: There’s some confusion about whether anyone made the last call for SSS registration, and there’s one more player who wants to sign up. The registration staff gets him taken care of, I get him entered in the event, and an announcement is made for the last call. No one else signs up, so the final player count is 131.

9:31 AM: I’m caught up on entering registration for the 10 AM event (Eternal Weekend Trial). I take a few minutes to set up my chart for the day in my notebook. I’ve used an extra column all weekend, Rounds, because, well, different events have different numbers of rounds.

9:39 AM: First match slip from SSS comes in It’s a no show. I band up the registration slips from that event to get them out of the way, which frees up my little basket for results I’ve already entered.

9:46 AM: Snack time. There aren’t any more Swedish Fish in the tubs of “Miscellaneous Stage Supplies” in the judge/staff area, so I fill my jacket pocket with Kisses instead. When I get back to the stage, the HJ of the Eternal Weekend Trial is waiting for a player count update. There are seven new slips to enter. Three of them are for players named Nick. Current player count: 35.

9:57 AM: Last call for the Eternal Weekend Trial. I remember to put purple paper in the printer and print a sign for round end times to go out with the pairings, then go back to entering SSS results.

10:01 AM: Eternal Weekend Trial registration is done, and the final player count is 40. I pair round one, then set the Multi-Print queue. I’m about to print pairings when I realize that I forgot to set the starting table number. Whoops. At least I didn’t print first :)

10:15 AM: A player is missing from the Eternal Weekend Pairings. Turns out, his registration slip was marked with the wrong event (Modern Mayhem). It took a minute to track down where the problem was, but in the end, I got him in the event and assigned him a bye for the first round. There are 56 players currently in Modern Mayhem, and there are two minutes left in the first round of the SSS.

10:25 AM: There’s one table still out in the SSS, and the last call is made for Modern Mayhem. I notice that the match slips for the Eternal Weekend Trial are still on my printer. Hrmmm….

10:27 AM: I pair and print Round 2 of the SSS. I need some judge DCI numbers to enter the last few penalties from Round 1, but it’ll be a few more minutes before I get that. Pink paper is up next for Modern. I remember to set the starting table number this time.

10:30 AM: This was fun and exciting. I entered one of the results from the SSS backward. I just had the players switch seats and then started to do computer things. (Registration was working on sorting out the last two sign-ups for Modern Mayhem because they had some issues with their Modern Passes.) I change the pairings in WER, click “Done”, and get an error message along the lines of “All players need to be matched.” (They are all matched.) All of sudden, all 120-some players in the event appeared in the list of unmatched players, and the only actual pairing is the most recent one I entered manually. I’ll deal with this after Modern Mayhem fires.

10:34 AM: I get the last registration slips for Modern Mayhem, get those players entered, and get pairings out for Round 1. Time to work on this SSS problem. I grabbed the copy of pairings by table and tried to re-match the first two players. Nothing happens. I mean, I click the buttons to enter the pairing, and the players don’t show up in the column of pairings or leave the list of unmatched players. I start to estimate how long it’s going to take me to rebuild the event and then I try clicking a few more buttons. I hit enter from the (empty) search box on the pairings side, and everyone reappears, including my two attempts to re-match table 1, which are now tables 63 and 64. The unmatched player list is still full. I delete the two extra instances of that match, and the unmatched player list is now, suddenly and magically, empty. I click “Done” again. It works this time. That was close.

10:44 AM: The first slips from the Eternal Weekend Trial make their way to me. I get through those and the registration slips for 11 AM Turbo Sealed. There are 7 of them so far.

10:47 AM: Gorilla Todd appears in front of my stage with a cold, fizzy Diet Pepsi and my wallet.

10:53 AM: Three slips still out in the Eternal Weekend Trial. Some Round 2 SSS slips have appeared, but I’m going to leave those in the basket for a few minutes.

11:02 AM: I go to start the Turbo Sealed event, which is only one round, and I realized that there wasn’t an “Enrollment Complete” button. Whoever sanctioned the event sanctioned it as “Player List Only.” This means I can’t pair. I sanction a new event, export the player list from the old file and import it into the new file, and create pairings for Round 1. It takes about a minute. The HJ of the event gets seatings and pairings at the same time. It’s on yellow paper. The next event that fires will also be on yellow paper. Since this event is only one round, I won’t have to do anything else with this event until I have free time to enter the results.

11:24 AM: I band up the rest of the registration slips from the morning events and the match result slips from the first few completed rounds. In the process, I cut my thumb on a piece of pink paper.

11:29 AM: There are two slips left out in the SSS round, and I have to pee sooooooo bad. The 11:30 AM Vintage Plus event has one player registered, so it’s not going to fire. Vintage hasn’t fired all weekend :(

11:36 AM: SSS Round 3 pairs. I really have to pee, but now there are only two slips out in Modern Mayhem. I band up some more slips and drop them in my filing cabinet. There isn’t an event at noon—the next event is the 12:30 PM Standard Plus. I open up that file and start enrolling players.

11:43 AM: Modern Mayhem Round 2 pairs. I sprint off the stage. Brb.

11:52 AM:Ahhh. That’s better. It’s time to catch up on paperwork: banding match slips from finished rounds, entering players into Standard Plus, making sure I have judges entered in the WER files for all the active events.

12:09 AM: Someone handed me two Jeremy Tomacooper Clue tokens a second ago. The Eternal Weekend Trial round flips, and I get the starting table number for Standard Plus, which has 19 players registered right now. There are a couple blue and pink slips in my basket, so I start entering those.

12:16 AM: Table 30 in the SSS lost their match slip. One of the judges on the event asked if I could print a new one—nope :( I handed him some blue paper and asked him to make a match-slip-sized replacement. This is what I get back:

12:32 PM: Standard Plus parings are on the printer on yellow paper, but the HJ is missing.

12:33 PM: A judge asks about information for an investigation: a player is playing with badly warped foils, and she (the judge) thinks that it might be the same player she issued the same penalty to yesterday in a different event. I dig out the event file and check the penalties—it wasn’t the same player.

12:35 PM: There’s the Standard Plus HJ! Pairings for Round 1 go out.

12:43 PM: There are two slips out for both the SSS and Modern Mayhem. I’m betting that SSS flips first, so the printer is set with blue paper.

12:45 PM: I was right. SSS Round 4 pairings go out. The Modern Mayhem HJ comes up with one slip, thinking it’s the last one. Nope. Table 745 is still missing. I start entering players for the 1:00 PM event, which is Team Sealed Plus, while I’m waiting.

12:55 PM: The HJ of the Turbo Sealed event comes back with his match result slips. Team Sealed is about ready to go with 14 teams registered. The mystery of table 745 has been solved—that table has a lengthy extension as a result of the aforementioned investigation. They still have 16 minutes to go.

1:04 PM: After two last-minute team registrations, seatings for deck construction go out for Team Sealed Plus. That event is green. I’m almost out of different colors of paper.

1:10 PM: Table 745 is in! Round 3 pairings for Modern Mayhem go out. The Eternal Weekend Trial is getting pretty close to the end of its third round too, so I switch the printer to purple paper.

1:13 PM: Speaking of Eternal Weekend Trial...Round 4 pairings go out. The first few slips from SSS Round 4 are trickling in now—they’re all no-shows. About 6 of them.

1:17 PM: I have a second, so I enter the results from the Turbo Sealed round. The event doesn’t want to upload because it’s only one round. Two-Headed Giant starts at 1:30 PM, so I open that event and start entering players. I wish I were working a little further ahead on this.

1:25 PM: My match result slips are languishing in the box at registration. I leave the stage to rescue them.

1:31 PM: I print 2HG seatings--actual seatings, since the table numbering hasn't been adjusted yet for the event's space. There are 23 teams total.

1:39 PM: The last slip in Round 1 of Standard Plus comes up. I also discover that the printed schedule I have is all wrong—it says that Legacy Plus is at 2:30 PM, but it’s really at 2:00 PM. The gap in the schedule is really at 2:30. I plan on sneaking away for French fries as soon as Legacy Plus fires off.

1:42 PM: I should drink more water.

2:02 PM: Legacy Plus pairings go out. I go get food. Yay, food!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

GP Charlotte 2016: Saturday (Swiss Sides)

While the events on the GP certainly impacted my day on Saturday (I spent some time on the GP stage and the events that started after 6:00 PM got absolutely wrecked), that wasn't really my focus for the weekend. My focus was on Swiss side events, and my scorekeeping buddy for the weekend was Jeff Darran (who has written a guest post here before!). Previously, I'd worked with Jeff directly at GP Atlanta last year, and he's awesome. Without him, Saturday would have been a giant mess.

Since the events that unfolded after the announcements from the main event that players would be able to drop for a free Infinite Challenge Badge were far more interesting than anything else that happened to Swiss events on the weekend, that's the story that I'm going to tell.

For a little bit of context, the initial afternoon schedule looked like this, including the number of players registered:
  • 1 PM — Sealed Challenge — 300 (226 were paired for Round 1)
  • 1 PM — Standard Challenge — 10
  • 2 PM — 2HG Sealed Spectacular (notably, not a Challenge) — 98 players
  • 2 PM — Vintage Challenge — 8
  • 3 PM — Modern Challenge — 95
  • 4 PM — Standard Challenge — 96
  • 5 PM — Legacy Challenge — 70
  • 6 PM — Modern Rebound Challenge — 144
As a part of the offer to GP players, a few more events were added to the schedule. Before those changes were announced, we had been told that there would be a new Sealed Challenge at 5:30 PM — less than an hour away. That was going to be a really tight deadline to prepare for that event, especially with the number of players the main stage was predicting we would have. By the time the new events were actually announced, that event had been pushed back to 6:30, which provided an extra hour to prep product and make plans.

These were the additional events:
  • 6 PM — Standard Challenge
  • 6 PM — Legacy Challenge
  • 6:30 PM — Sealed Challenge
  • 7 PM — Modern Challenge
The 7 PM Modern Challenge might seem a little out of place, but it was there to give players dropping from the GP (which was Modern) the option to get their six packs from the Sealed event and still be able to play Modern for the rest of the night.

When the schedule was finalized, Jeff and I had to start making plans, and the awesome judges on the side events staff had to find a place to put a Sealed event that might to get a thousand players.

Step One: Figure Out the Status of EVERYTHING

It can be tempting to respond to this kind of situation by focusing on the new things that need to happen, but there are some risks to that. It's unlikely that an event slips through the cracks because there are players and judges engaged with those events, but it is very possible that some details of active events are overlooked while making that plan, like where they're located, how many active players they have, and who's scorekeeping.

The first thing I did was establish that customer service couldn't make use of an extra person. At that point, all of the afternoon events I listed earlier were still on our plates, but one of us could have stretched a little to handle all of them, which might have helped with the massive line of players getting badges from customer service.

After that, we updated our notes on all the active events:
  • What rounds were they in?
  • Who was in charge of them? What HJs were on break? Was that going to change in light of the schedule changes?
  • What's the highest table number for each one?
  • When were the current rounds going to end?
This information is super important. When things aren't breaking, I might not keep tabs on when I expect rounds to flip because I have plenty of bandwidth to handle them flipping whenever. However, when things *are* breaking, I need that information in order to prioritize what I'm working on — how important is it that these slips be entered? What about slips from that other event? Can I afford to leave the stage to work with the sides leads and HJs on a plan? Are these events going to start their last round early enough to be off our plates around six?

One of the other things I made sure we did was sort and organize all the slips currently on the stage. This tends to be a low priority, especially for smaller events. That's not to say that there was a giant pile of rainbow-colored pieces of paper — there were some neat, tidy stacks of slips that were sorted by round, but not table number. As we ramped up to getting the new events fired and earlier events were wrapping up and prizing out, I wanted to make sure that we could find slips quickly if we needed to.

Some of this was delegated to judges (who, by the way, were awesome), and a few other tasks were delegated to judges as well, including setting up a station to let players redeem their playmat vouchers without having to stand in the massive line.

Step Two: Make a Plan

This was a little more challenging. The first thing we had to do was figure out who was scorekeeping which events. Jeff started the 5 PM Legacy event, which had been the plan since the beginning of the day. I still had the 4 PM Standard event, and we each had an event or two from earlier in the day.

Our initial plan was to split up the 6 PM events — I was going to take Modern, and Jeff was going to take Standard and Legacy. That would (roughly) split the players in those events between us. I was going to take the Sealed event at 6:30, and Jeff was going to take the 7 PM Modern event.

Then we got starting table numbers from the judges for those events — the Sealed event was going to start at table 685, with all the 6 PM events starting around table 1200. In short, this meant that the table range for the Sealed event was closer to the GP stage than it was to the sides stage, and the 6 PM events weren't much closer. I stepped off the sides stage to take a look, and it took me a good 45 seconds to walk to those tables.

That's a lot of time. That's especially a lot of time if you need to collect and communicate a ton of information about drops from the Sealed Challenge, especially if you're expecting a need to process 300 of them in half an hour (which, by the way, is basically impossible).

Fortunately, I had a brilliant idea: we set up a satellite scorekeeping station in the middle of the tournament hall. By "satellite scorekeeping station," I mean "a table with my computer and a printer." When we realized we needed to do this, it was about 5:45. Registration was closing in five minutes for the 6 PM events, and since they were roughly in the same area, we decided that I would just ... scorekeep all those things. I passed my remaining events (mostly the 4 PM Standard event) off to Jeff.

There wasn't enough time to move me, my computer and my printer to their new locations before starting the 6 PM events, so I started them from the stage. The judges on those events knew what was going to happen, so they were able to tell their players where their slips were going to go from the start. These rounds started a few minutes after six. This is going to be important later.

At six on the dot, when Round 1 pairings for all those events were posted and announced, I relocated. Steve, a member of SCG's OP team, joined me at my table to and got ready to enroll players in the Modern Challenge as they dropped from the Sealed event.

Step Three: Do ALL the Things

Sealed deck construction seatings went out at about 6:34, with Nicholas Sabin, Grand Curmudgeon of the Mid-Atlantic (read: RC), at the helm. There were 680 players total. Nicholas's team distributed sealed boxes of Shadows over Innistrad to every six seats — there hadn't been time to make sealed sets for 680 players.

I’d previously warned him that processing all the drops would probably take me 10-15 minutes longer than the build time of the event, and we had a plan to make it as efficient as possible.

Four judges were stationed at a table close to mine with copies of the player seatings, divided into four name ranges. After players got their packs, they could hop in line, highlight their name on one of the lists the judges had, and sign up for the 7 PM Modern Challenge (or not). Deck construction started at 6:45 or so. About ten minutes later, I traded the judges at that table a fresh copy of the player list for the one they had already, and I started processing drops.

The player list for the event was 16 pages long, and I went through a two full lists, plus a few random scraps of paper with stragglers who dropped only after seeing their pools, to process the drops. Partway through the first list, the last slips from the first round of all the 6 PM events made their way to my table, so I had to pause to flip those rounds (remember how I said this was going to be important?).

All in all, pairings for Round 1 of the Sealed Challenge were printed at about 7:25, almost 10 minutes after Nicholas announced the end of the deck construction period. That’s not ideal, but the only way to process drops from WLTR is one player at a time — in theory, you could edit the file you use to import players to remove the drops and then re-import it into a fresh event file, but then you wouldn’t have a record of the players who dropped in the file. Given the circumstances, I wasn’t terribly upset with the amount of time it took.

A total of 234 players indicated that they were dropping before Round 1, which meant that the round paired with 446 players. There were quite a few no-shows that round, more than is usually for the Sealed Challenges, and I suspect it was the result of players either not knowing how to drop or not wanting to wait.

Step Four: Sleep

Everything was downhill after Round 1 paired. At that point, the four events I was responsible for only had about 650 players combined. Nicholas sent the judges on his team on half-round breaks in the early rounds, and the sides leads worked on getting the people who were coming back early on Sunday off the floor for the night after that. Eventually, Nicholas himself took off and Casey Brefka took over for the last round and a half of the Sealed Challenge.

After Round 4 was paired, Casey and his team helped me break down my satellite station and carry things back to the sides stage. Since the players were taking their Round 4 slips to customer service to pick up prizes, I didn’t need to hang out in the middle of the hall.

Everyone was exhausted, and even though they were doing their best to maintain the level of energy necessary to close out the night, it was obvious. I left the hall sometime after midnight, made the short trek back to my hotel room, and passed out.

I woke up on Sunday to do it all (albeit without all the craziness) again.