September 2014 Anniversaries

Here are the September 2014 judge anniversaries!

15 years

Russell Alphey, Victoria, Australia
Gottlieb Yeh, Niedersachsen, Germany

10 years

Jin Arai, Chiba-ken, Japan
Jose Miguel Sanchez Navarro, Spain
Luke Hagerling, Colorado, United States
Brian McKay, California, United States
Jeff Morrow, California, United States
Jack Chikovany, Ukraine
Peter Nellemann, Denmark
Pasquale Capasso, Napoli, Italy
Makoto Himura, Osaka-fu, Japan
Alvaro Ibanez, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Alex Ledbetter, Washington, United States
Jorge Rodriguez, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
Rene Villeneuve, Ontario, Canada
Javier Luna, Argentina
Ben Rasmussen, Wisconsin, United States
Nate Siftar, Minnesota, United States
David Kotsonis, New Jersey, United States
James Mackay, Victoria, Australia
Tony Lin, Mexico

5 years

Matthew Tang, Alberta, Canada
Jason Doan, Western Australia, Australia
Erik Frano, Slovak Republic
Ivan Stefanov, Bulgaria
Ti Chase, Romania
Charley Curtis, California, United States
Aaron Hopkins, Georgia, United States
Balkan Cilingir, Turkey
Tianxiong Dong, Beijing, China
Stelios Christos Kargotis, Great Britain
Bob Solorio, Massachusetts, United States
James Darrow, Michigan, United States
Charlie Hurrell, England, Great Britain
Sean Roffey, Northern Territory, Australia
Vivien Mace, France
Julian Marin, Minnesota, United States

Congratulations, and thank you for all your hard work!

This month’s featured judge is Stelios Kargotis from the UK. Regional coordinator David Lyford-Smith says:

“*Muy *Stelios! What more can I say?

*not shown actual size

*not shown actual size

Stelios came to me first of all at a London prerelease, where he was looking to get Level 1. He was pretty new to Magic at the time, but had immediately noticed that judging was where he wanted to be. Stelios worked harder than anyone to overcome his difficulties with exams and with the rules, and made it to L1 and then to L2. From there he showed his real strength in commitment and hard work. Stelios is a road warrior, known to players and TOs up and down the country and at GPs across Europe. His work ethic and dedication to fairness are amongst the very best I’ve encountered. And I’ve known very few who were so willing to help drive others, host them, or help them; his care for the “DCI Family” is humbling. I find it hard to believe it’s only been five years, but am happy to look
forward to five more :)”

This month, there are several notable L3 anniversaries.  The four judges have a combined 55 years of experience at Level 3!


First, we recognize Johanna Virtanen, Level 3 judge from Finland, Regional Coordinator for Europe North, and leader of the Judge Anniversaries project.  Johanna certified for Level 3 at Worlds in San Francisco, CA in 2004.  Chris Richter provided the following:

“Once while playing board games, Johanna Virtanen taught my children how to swear in Finnish.




Say “Perkele”, children

Say “Perkele”, children

Oh, you probably want more than that huh?  OK, fine.  I first ‘met’ Johanna like so many others do online, on irc.  Johanna, or flame-, has been a very active member on the various Magic judge related irc channels and an operator (or OP) for as long as I can remember.  She’s always been known as someone that doesn’t put up with much off topic shenanigans, but also for her great sense of humor.  I found that her outlook often matched my own and therefore I was thrilled to finally meet her at PT Hollywood in 2008.

I could tell you so many things about that event and Johanna, but very few memories are about the tournament itself.  In particular I recall a rather fun Sunday night riding the hotel elevator, enjoying a traditional Finnish beer (Sahti and making Johanna laugh so hard she had to prop herself up agains a hallway wall.  I don’t entirely remember the joke, but it was something about comparing her to a European dictator.  And after actually meeting her, I was even more happy to continue to interact with Johanna every day online.

While I’ve never had the pleasure to travel to Finland (something I hope to rectify at some point) through my interactions with her, I knew that Johanna was very active in her community and in a lot of ways a central hub.  She had worked with the games distributer for the region and because of this became integral to not only the judge program, but organized play.  Her summers were often spent traveling to head judge nationals all over Northern Europe.  Every year I’d hear about the various troubles and victories involved in helping out with Ropecon, a Finnish role playing and gaming convention.  And just like the judge program she became a vital part of Ropecon as well.  So much so that this past summer they awarded the Golden Dragon to her for her contributions to this convention over the years.

When the RC program came around, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who would be the best person take charge of that region.  If there’s one thing to know about Johanna and her region it’s that she cares, a lot.  The judges there are her judges, and she wants them to succeed.  She organizes conferences, and doesn’t just fly to them, but finds ways to get L3s from other regions to come and be there too.  Many of you see the posts I make announcing new L3s to the judge community.  Whenever a new L3 is created, I email the RC and ask for a introductory biography to post to the forums.  When Northern Europe recently got another L3 I didn’t have to ask Johanna for this, she sent it to me one before I could.  I really hope that the judges in her region appreciate what they have in their RC.

Johanna is many things; L3 judge, irc op, RC, etc.  But the one that means the most to me is she is one of the best friends I’ve made through the judge program.




Well, that and the person that taught my daughters Finnish profanity.”


Next, we recognize Eric Smith, who is celebrating his 15th Anniversary as a L3 judge.  Here are a couple of comments about him.  Level 3 judge, Steven Zwanger had this to say:

Regeneron? Is there also a Trampleon?

Regeneron? Is there also a Trampleon?

“ In his judging career, Eric has head judged dozens of PTQ’s and other premiere-level tournaments, and he was one of the first judges to pass the Sixth Edition rules exam, for the first of Magic’s many major rules changes. When not judging, he works as a biologist for Regeneron. Based in New York City, Eric is an avid gamer; he plays board games and D&D and attends Gencon every year.  Congratulations, Eric!”

Shawn Doherty, Regional Coordinator for Northeast US added:

“Eric has been a stalwart in the New York City Magic community for over a decade.  It was almost impossible to attend a PTQ or other large Magic event and not see Eric there (usually as the Head Judge).  While the Northeast US region has had a great deal of flux in the past decade, Eric has been a true constant, who had provided support and stability to the region.  Well done, sir!”

Another judge celebrating 15 years at L3 is John Carter.  Aaron Hamer, former RC of the Northwest US region, provided comments for both Carter and James:

Pants? Request granted.

Pants? Request granted.

“Carter’s been involved with the program for almost 20 years and has spent that time taking care of other judges. Although he’s been in almost every role (L4, GP Head Judge, WotC Judge Coordinator, and even the Rules Manager) my favorite story about Carter takes place at a prerelease.

Prereleases used to be these big regional affairs – you’d see several hundred people playing with the new set at a time. It was a great time for the community – players from different stores and different niches came together to play, and they needed a ton of judges. This meant that we had lots of opportunities to learn from each other and come together as a group every set release.

Obviously this also meant that we had a lot of people come out to help as judges for the first time. At one prerelease, we had a kid – couldn’t have been a day over 15. This kid showed up, worked really hard, had a ton of fire and enthusiasm. It was great! The only thing was that he was wearing blue jeans, and Carter had sent out an email outlining expectations, including black slacks.

Carter sits the kid down and asks him if he got the email. The kid goes all sheepish and looks down. Turns out he got the email, but didn’t own any black pants. He really wants to come back next time so he’ll save up his allowance and ask his parents if they can help him out and get the pants he needs.

Carter pulls out his wallet and hands the kid $60.

Imagine how awesome it would be for that to be your first experience with other judges. You’d feel like family.”

Aaron Hamer pulled double duty this month and agreed to write about the final judge celebrating his 15th year anniversary at Level 3, James Lee.  He said:

The Voice of God

The Voice of God

“James Do Hung LEE is a larger-than-life character. I’ve heard him do announcements in a GP hall that had people calling him “The Voice of God” – and then he got on the microphone. He’s been the judge manager and head judge of a GP at the same time.

James’ focus now is on his local community. While he makes it out to West Coast GPs, he mostly spends his time developing judges in local stores and bringing a sense of grandeur to everything he touches. James sounds ridiculous at first blush – there’s no way that one man could fit so much into a lifetime and manage to stay so spry and enthusiastic, but somehow he pulls it off.

James has a sharp sense of humor. I was the head judge for many Seattle PTQs, but I had an event in Portland one weekend so James took to the stage. It was a limited event and they had just finished with deck registration. He asked the players to pass their pools to the left. He asked them to pass to the right. He told them that was their pool for deck construction. He went on to tell them that if they had any feedback about the deck swap, they should contact Wizards of the Coast customer service, and tell them that the head judge was the Asian with glasses named Aaron Hamer.

I don’t know if anyone at Wizards ever heard about how I managed to screw up a deck swap at an event I wasn’t at, but I do know that this is one of my favorite judging stories.”

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One Response to September 2014 Anniversaries

  1. Too much awesomeness in just one post!!

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