Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Grand Prix Denver Tournament Report: Saturday

Have you ever noticed how tournament reports inevitably mention what the person had to eat that day? This seems like a holdover from player reports, although it's something I always found unexciting when reading those. And now you've gotten the meta-section that uselessly complains about this useless aspect of many tournament reports. Enjoy!

Saturday of a Grand Prix used to be a hectic scramble as hundreds of people needed to register for the event at the last minute. With online preregistration and no Saturday morning registration, we've traded that scramble for a new one: the player meeting. Now every player with a problem will try to fix their problem after the player meeting seating is posted because they just walked into the hall five minutes ago. These problems might include:
* A player who is unable to find their name on the seating. This is actually several potential problems:
@ The player is not registered in the event. Usually the solution is to direct the player to a TO representative to confirm payment and entry into the event.
@ The player's name is spelled wrong on the seating. Again, several possible reasons for this depending on how pre-registration was done.
@ The player didn't look down both columns on the seating. Ugh. This is an unfortunately common problem. Players are used to finding their names down the left-hand side of the sheet for pairings (since the opponent's name appears down the right-hand side). However, for the player meeting, and only the player meeting, DCI-R saves space and paper by putting names down both columns. I would say that probably confused 1-2% of the players at every GP. That doesn't sound like a lot until you have a dozen extra people coming to the scorekeeper who don't really need to be there.
* Bye issues. This is another one where the range of issues can range from "legitimate problem that we fix" to "players don't pay attention." However, all of the blame for this can't be put at players' feet. Yes, a large number of bye issues stem from players who completely misunderstand the Planeswalker Points system when it comes to earning byes. Then again, where the heck is this information? Why does it keep changing so much? And why, oh why isn't there a graphic on a player's PWP site that just explicitly says "You have X byes from this date to that date"?
* Players whose names are misspelled on the seating in a way that still allows them to find themselves. This is an issue--I hate it when people spell my name wrong--but it isn't a pressing issue. You've found where you need to be seated. Just go there and we'll deal with the fact that your name is spelled "Jon" instead of "John" later. Your first match result slip is a good place to do this. Just cross out your name, and neatly print the correct spelling. If there is some ambiguity as to whether it is actually you or not, you can certainly come up and check, which sometimes leads to...
* There are two or more players with the same first and last name. Yuck. This actually happened with 3 players at GP Denver. Unlikely as this is, 2 of them being a father-son duo made it slightly more likely. However, when the third person with the same name showed up, some kinds of hell broke loose. Okay. Not really. Situations like this usually require middle initials to be used. If that fails (because of same middle initials), we end up adding the 4 digits of their DCI number, or making one of them middle initial "X." Some day, I aspire to be Riki X Hayashi.

All of these issues often add up to 50+ players lining up in front of the Scorekeeper right after seating for the player meeting go up. For Denver, we tried to triage this with a team of judges in front of the Scorekeeper. Some of them had a second copy of the seating to weed out the easy problems like not looking down the right side to find their name. This cleared out about a dozen or so, and the rest had to the figure out the various problems listed above. I didn't write down how long this all took, but it was a significant amount of time, and it is an ongoing problem at GPs now.

Once we got the event started, I was responsible for the Pairings, Result Slips, and End of Round Procedure. A few anecdotes about these various procedures:

With close to 1600 players, we had to put up two physical copies of the pairings, or risk terrible traffic jams. Even with two copies, we had terrible traffic jams because the room was narrow and many of the players going to different pairings boards had to utilize the same traffic lanes. One board, the second set of S-Z pairings went almost completely unused because of its location... by table #1. Go figure. Even as the tournament shrunk towards this pairings board, players insisted on walking to the farther board because papers were posted on it first. Not everything can work perfectly.

An important note about posting pairings on the Grand Prix zip banners. Do not cover up the "Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix" logo with any tape or paper. This is a branding thing. Also, do not cover up the Planeswalker's face with any tape or paper. This is also a branding thing, but as someone recently pointed out, it is also a practical thing. We often tell players to go to their pairings at "The Ajani banner." Covering up the face reduces the effectiveness of the announcement and makes it harder for players to find the right banner.

Result Slips
The GP kit now comes with a super-industrial strength paper cutter. Unfortunately this thing is so heavy-duty, or just plain heavy, that you cannot use it unless you put on a very secure surface, otherwise you risk breaking the table, the paper cutter, or your ego, as things go flying in a horrible mess. It also happens that the strength and pressure needed to use the super cutter might result in said cutter breaking under the pressure. Yeah. Be careful.

End of Round Procedure
As I mentioned, the hall for the GP was very long and narrow. This lends itself to a lot of walking for judges. "Go to table 1..." all the way across the freaking hall. Oh, the match finished and the slip slipped by you in the crowd? Go all the way back and report. "Yeah, we got the slip right after you left. Go to table 3." Sigh. To cut down on this, I assigned some judges to do some "Zone End of Round" which is something that I plan on writing more about in the future. The short version is that a judge scouts out a zone at the extremes of the hall and begins sitting judges on matches manually without having to wait for the "Delinquent Matches" printout. (Never call them "Outstanding" because there is nothing outstanding about Slow Play.) Ideally, this cuts down on a lot of the walking back and forth. When your match finishes, you just need to walk the slip to the judge who is responsible for the zone to get a new assignment, not all the way back to the stage. There's also the added benefit to this procedure that sometimes the Scorekeeper isn't in a position to printout a Delinquent Matches sheet because he or she is too far behind on results entry. Even with super-SK Nick Fang at Denver, he couldn't keep up to have this ready to go when the clock struck 00:00.

That about covers my day on Saturday of the main event. I do want to call out a standout performance by Elliot Raff, who handled Zone EoR for the front 90 tables. Not only did he get the zone scouted out, judges sitting on matches, but he also reported in when all of his matches were covered by judges, a useful piece of information for the home base team. Thanks for the work, Elliot.

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