Ask the Judge 1/18/2008: Feature Friday
[The seed of this article was a great judge seminar that Johanna did with Argentinean L3 Juan Del Compare at Pro Tour San Diego. Johanna asks me to communicate that Juan is responsible for all the good bits here. Well that's not exactly what she said. But it's close enough. -Seamus]
Hello Feature Friday fans. I've been very lazy lately mostly because I didn't have any interesting events to write about (the other reason involves 90's flashbacks). My local events didn't bring up any interesting stuff (although I'd love to talk about the Odyssey block draft I totally dominated back in November) and I didn't go to any events outside Finland after the National season was finished. I did my local Lorwyn prerelease and all of the Kuala Lumpur Pro Tour Qualifiers in Finland. Speaking of Kuala Lumpur it's going to be my first ever Asian Pro Tour. I'm pretty excited about that and you'll get to read the report in a month or two.
This week however I'm going to talk about something a bit different. If you've ever been to a tournament you have some idea of what a judge does. If you read this column regularly you most likely have a very good idea. But judges are not the only people involved in running your local tournaments. Every sanctioned tournament has a tournament organizer the person ultimately responsible for the whole event.
Theory—What's a Tee Oh?
When I talk to people who are interested in becoming a judge I always ask them why they want to do it. One of the better answers I often hear is "there are no tournaments in my town and I want to start running some events". Some people are not aware the a judge is not the same thing as a tournament organizer. The first step towards getting some sanctioned tournaments going is not the L1 judge test. You need a tournament organizer first (I'll talk about the process of becoming one later in this article). A certified judge is a bit of a luxury but a certified tournament organizer is a necessity (every tournament has to have a head judge but the head judge doesn't have to be a certified judge).
The tournament organizer is in charge of all the financial decisions associated with running a tournament—for example renting a venue providing the sealed product and the prizes and compensating judges and other staff. Because of this the tournament organizers' goals are slightly different than the judges' goals. The tournament organizer is (generally) a businessperson who wants to make money. Many TO's own a store or work at one but even the ones that just organize events as a hobby certainly don't want to lose money. For many judges their main goals are helping players and keeping things fair. However "making money" (or "getting foils and boosters") is also somewhere on that list and TO's also care about fairness and want players to have a good time (players who have a good time will come back and give them more money).
The tournament organizer is also responsible for all pre-event logistics and advertising. They need to make sure all the necessary equipment (computers printers paper pens tape scissors DCI membership forms etc) is available and ready. They decide the format and structure of the event and handle the sanctioning paperwork. During the event they are responsible for handling any logistical issues (for example finding more tables when the turnout is higher than expected). They also deal with customer service issues and problems that are not part of the tournament (and thus not the head judge's responsibility). For example it would be the TO's job to remove a disqualified player or a drunken spectator from the venue.
Finally the tournament organizer is responsible for reporting the results to the DCI in a timely manner. For the official word on tournament organizer duties see section 12 of the DCI Universal Tournament Rules.
Of course many of these things often get delegated. As a rule the tournament organizer can delegate almost anything to a judge or another staff member. The TO doesn't have the responsibility to do everything personally; he or she just has the responsibility to make sure it gets done the right way. It's quite common to delegate certain logistical tasks to the judge staff: all judges are used to setting up tables and table numbers. Many judges are also used to bringing their own laptop to events because that's how they have arranged things with their organizer. Many TO's ask their judge to handle the distribution of prizes or the reporting of the results. This is all fine but it's good to remember what the standard distribution of duties is in case you go to work for a different tournament organizer or hire a judge you've never worked with before. Communication is also important even with people you work with all the time.
The delegating doesn't work both ways. The duties of a head judge cannot be passed on to the TO because there is only one head judge. The tournament organizer can't disqualify players or handle appeals. The tournament organizer should not be performing other judge-only tasks (making rulings issuing penalties) unless they're also on staff as and dressed like a judge. It should always be clear to the players who is a judge and who is not.
Practice—How to Become a TO?
If you want to become a certified tournament organizer and start running your own events you should explore the Tournament Organizer Information website. It contains a lot of information and step-by-step instructions about sanctioning and running events. It also contains links to rules documents that you should study before taking the Tournament Organizer Exam (available at the Judge Center) . The process for taking the test and becoming a real TO is a bit different for different parts of the world so read the instructions on the website.
You should think about what kind of events you want to run (Limited or Constructed) where to run them and how to tell people about them. It might be a good idea to start with something easily accessible (such as Standard or Sealed Deck). If you don't have a local store that will let you use their play space other options might include university facilities libraries schools coffeehouses and youth clubs (to mention just a few used by tournament organizers in Finland). Finally you should think about who is going to judge your events for you—is there a local judge that wants to help or are you going to do the job yourself and eventually pursue judge certification?
Organizing and judging events means that you don't get to play in the events you're running but you can still have a lot of fun if you're the kind of person who enjoys organizing things for other people.
That's all from me this week. I wish everyone a good Morningtide prerelease and I'll be back sometime in the relatively-near future with my Kuala Lumpur report.
Level 3 Judge Finland
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