Monday, March 31, 2014

GP Richmond and the Pink Paper Team Part 2

Last time, I started my diatribe on how to run a good Paper Team and made it all the way through... posting pairings. It turns out there is a lot to the subtle art of traffic control. Yes, part of this is on the TO to rest a sufficient space for the expected number of players and lay out the tables in a manner that helps. I've actually given some thought to whether it is better for the tables to arranged vertically or horizontally relative to the main event stage area and/or pairings boards. I don't have a definitive answer on this, but if you've got some theories, I would love to hear them.

Moving on to the next task for a Paper Team, the cutting of match result slips. Just as with pairings, it's important to start pulling these off the printer as early as possible. In Round 4 of the GP, it took 3 minutes and 25 seconds to print all of the match result slips. This is with SCG's super fast tower-style printer, probably one of the fastest I've seen in use at a Magic event. The average box-style printer will be a little slower still. Point being, waiting until all of the slips are printed for a GP-sized event will take several minutes, and those are minutes that could be spent cutting an early batch of slips.

Recently (at least in the United States), the GP kit has featured a massive paper cutter that can only be adequately defined as a guillotine. I'm not sure what the upper limit of this paper cutter is, but I've heard tales that it can slice all the way through an entire round's stack of slips. Even so, it's probably best to cut half of the slips at a time. The sooner you cut at least that much, the sooner you can get to passing them out. Why such a hurry on passing out the slips? It's not like any matches will finish that quickly. Two reasons: first, getting the slips out quickly allows the players to verify if they are at the correct table. Ideally, we'd like to have the slips out before the round clock starts so that players who do find themselves in the wrong seat can work on fixing this problem before they are subject to Tardiness penalties. The second reason to get slips out before the round starts is so that judges will have an easier time recording said Tardiness penalties. Without result slips out, judges need to resort to various triage techniques like writing down the table numbers with all of the Tardy players or telling the opponent to call a judge if the opponent shows up or the clock hits 40:00. These methods are fine in practice, but there are various things that can go wrong, and the best way is to have the slip available to record the penalty. For GPs, it's probably not realistic to have all of the slips out before the round begins, but for smaller events, this should be a top priority for the Paper Team.

In the Pink Ballroom, we didn't have one of the new super guillotines. I imagine those were in use downstairs in either the Green or Blue split (or both if they were running concurrently). Instead, we had 2 of the basic plastic cutters. These are, quite frankly, sub par. They can only cut 10-12 pages at a time. However, having 2 of them allowed us to form an assembly line of sorts. One judge would stand by the printer and pull off pages of slips 10-12 at a time and put them in piles by the paper cutters (which we placed right next to the printer). Then 2 judges would take those piles and go to work on cutting them. A final judge (or 2 depending) would take the cut slips from both cutters and consolidate them back into ordered piles.

This last part of the process is very important any time you have a sufficiently large tournament that requires you to cut the slips in sections. Normally match result slips are printed "for cut machine" which means that table #1 is on the first page, table #2 is on the second page, and so forth. This is repeated for each of the 4 rows. If you have 100 tables, your first page might have tables 1, 26, 51, and 76. This is so that when you cut the slips starting at the bottom of the page, the third section will naturally fall onto the 4th and the numbers will be continuous throughout. However, once you start dividing up your pile of pages, this all falls apart and you need to set aside each section to consolidate with the other sections in that particular row.

In Richmond, it took us one round to get this right; the way we were consolidating worked out better to put the slips face down so that the next section could be laid directly on top of it. Once we did get the proper method down, things really took off in the cutting department, but we still weren't getting the slips out fast enough. One of the earlier rounds we almost didn't get them all out by the 40:00 mark, which is really bad for all of the reasons I stated above. It turns out that 6 or 7 judges isn't enough manpower to distribute 700+ slips in a timely fashion. This is especially true if any of those judges gets stopped during their task to answer a call. When I'm handing out slips and a judge calls goes up in my row, I'll always look around and see if I can flag down someone else to take it. If you're not assigned to anything specific at the beginning of the round, keep your eye on the judges distributing slips and either run interference for them, or if they do take a call, swoop in and take their slips to continue distribution. To alleviate the distribution problem, Ryan Stapleton made 2 judges from his team available to me at the start of each round to assist with slip distribution. I was grateful for the help. It's always nice when other teams chip in at times like this.

One final thing. As part of the Paper Team's duties, I emphasized taking good care of our Scorekeeper, Kali Anderson. having done plenty of scorekeeping, I know just how integral this position is to a well-run tournament. And yet so often judges ignore the Scorekeeper unless they absolutely need something. There are a couple of things that judges can do to help, and they are generally very simple. First, be a blocker. The SK is often the most visible person on the stage because they sit there at the corner where the match result slips are turned in, and the Head Judge tends to wander away from the stage for things like appeals. This means that players will bother the SK constantly with questions that range from "Where are Side Events?" to "How do I drop?" and everything in between. The SK doesn't need to be the one to answer all of these questions. This is where a blocker judge can be invaluable. Just stand in front of the SK and answer questions. Direct traffic. Just make sure not to block the result slip box.

Oh, and while you're standing there, go ahead and sort some slips for the SK. This doesn't mean putting them all in numerical order. Take the slips that are coming in and make them face the same way. See, slips tend to get turned into the basket/box facing up, down, upside down, and folded in half. Fixing all of these issues eats up valuable time for the SK and if you as a blocker judge can do that instead, your SK will be eternally grateful. On that front, I also came up with a new invention called "the Wedge." It is... exactly what it sounds like, just a simple wedge that goes under the results box to prop it up at a 45 degree angle. This has the interesting effect of making people not turn their slips in facing every which way because they can see the previous slip in the basket and will orient their slip in the same way. The angle also utilizes gravity to pull the slips down towards the bottom. The use of the wedge actually greatly reduced the need for a blocker judge at this event and I encourage all SKs to utilize this simple yet effective technology. The final thing that we did for Kali was to have at least one judge helping her to sort all of the entered result slips at the end of the round.

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