Daniel Kitachewsky

Welcome back to another installment of Judge of the Week!

This week’s honoree recently celebrated his 10 year anniversary in the program. Daniel Kitachewsky has been credited for his enthusiasm, his diplomacy and his passion for the program. Let’s get to know him a little better, shall we?

daniel-kitachewskyName: Daniel Kitachewsky
Level: 4
Location: Paris, France
Judge start date: L1: June 2005, L2: June 2006, L3: June 2009, L4: June 2014 (I like June!)
Occupation: Software Engineer like most people it seems
Favorite card: Primeval Titan
Least favorite card: Splinter Twin
Favorite format: Modern Masters draft
Commander general: Azusa, Lost but Seeking
Favorite non-Magic Game: Chess
Best tournament result: PT San Diego 2007 27th
Random fact about yourself: I don’t eat fish.

Daniel 1How did you become a L4+?
I became more and more involved in L3 testing over the years and in 2013 took over from Jeff Morrow in managing this process when he stepped down. I did a good enough job that the other L4+ thought I’d be a good fit.

What’s it like being a L4+?  What would you like the community to know about what being an L4+ is like?
It takes a lot of personal time. The busy weeks can have me spend 20 hours reading/sending emails, reading reports, crunching numbers, reviewing and fixing policy. There is little reward so self-motivation is quite important.

Why did you become a judge?
Hard to admit, but in my first few competitive events as a player I was a bit disappointed by the local judges. They often made mistakes and didn’t know the rules that well. I was certain I could do better and gave it a try. Well, I later discovered that being good at rules is only 10% of being a judge and there is so much fun to be had beyond that!

How does it feel to be a role model for your community? How do you use this to improve the judging community?
I hardly think I’m more of a role model now than when I was Rules NetRep (a position I held from 2010-2014, where I stepped back due to lack of time). At that time, I was often approached for tricky rules questions and corner cases. I had privileged access to some of the brightest rules gurus around the world, including WotC’s rules manager Matt Tabak, which I used to facilitate some communication. Most of the time though rules are solid enough to answer and the tricky part was making judges accept that it’s ok to only cover 99.9% of the cases.

What is your primary role as an L4+ in the judge community?
The visible part is that I head judge Grand Prix and often act as appeals judge on other GPs. Being in burgundy stands out quite a lot and people know they can trust my decisions.

What are you currently working on within the judge program?
I’m managing the L3 testing process. This includes managing each candidate’s application and testing, which involves 10-15 people from end-to-end in order to ensure the most fair process possible without taking too much time.

Daniel 2What tips do you have for advancing to L3?
Focus on being the best judge you can, not on meeting the checklist items. Those are requirement minimums and barely making them doesn’t make you a great judge. But if you focus on doing a great job as a judge, on helping others rather than caring about your own status, you’ll find that you meet most of the checklist soon enough. I’ll repeat the emphasis on “helping others”: judging is all about service, serving players, serving the community, serving the game. If you do it for yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

How has being a judge influenced your non-Magic life?
I met my girlfriend Kim Warren while judging! We met while both judging PT Amsterdam 2010 and started dating at GP Prague 2011.

Apart from this, judging has taught me a lot about working in harmony with talented people. Giving feedback is easy for menial tasks: either you’ve done it or not. But for something as complex as judging, which combines aspects of technical expertise, customer service, logistics, and leadership, giving effective (and acceptable!) feedback is much more complicated. It’s not hard per se, but it’s a skill that needs to be learned. I’m definitely glad to have learned how to do that in the relatively safe environment that judging is before applying that in a professional setting.

Daniel 3What motivates you to do what you do within the community?
The thing that fascinates me the most is people. I’ve spent a great deal of my time studying people’s behaviors and I enjoy learning about how someone works immensely. The L3 test is one of the most in-depth feedback processes I’ve ever seen, surpassing even many companies’ recruiting process. It’s a unique opportunity to get to know someone really well. This is the reason I chose to specialize in this and over time took over the process.

What is the best part about the Judge Program in your opinion?
Meeting new friends! Thanks to the judge program, there are now few places in the world where I won’t be able to find a Magic friend to meet. When someone from France meets someone from Serbia in England and says “see you next week in China”, one can truly grasp the unique opportunity the judge program offers.

What in your opinion is the greatest challenge for the judge program at this time to overcome?
The number of players and of judges has expanded hugely in the last few years, and the scale of organized play as well (there are now more layers of competitive Magic than ever, from FNM to GPT to PPTQ to RPTQ all the way up to WC). But the number of judge levels has stayed the same. I feel that one issue this has created is a vertical fragmentation, where for example L3s and L1s rarely get to judge together. There is a growing disconnect between the base of the judge program and its leadership. There is no easy solution but we keep looking for it.

What is your favorite non-judging moment that happened with other judges?
While walking in Kobe just after the GP in 2014, we stumbled upon an owl bar. Take a drink, observe and pet owls. What else could a person wish for?

Daniel 4Who are (were) your role models in the Judge Program? What are (were) their certain qualities that drew you to them?
Matthieu Durand was my first mentor. He introduced me to judging and made me understand (sometimes through cruel pranks! But no hard feelings) that fun is an important part of community building.

Kevin Desprez has been my main mentor for almost all my judge career. His powerful analytical mind and critical thinking ability always impressed me, and inspired me to lead a few projects through data analysis. He showed me the value of thinking ahead, so that nothing is a surprise – and even if it is, the mental habit of rapid analysis makes almost any situation easy to solve.

A few others showed me the way in different areas:

  • Jaap Brouwer for exemplifying what charisma is about.
  • Kim Warren for showing the value of compassion and of storytelling.
  • Jason Ness for showing how structuring one’s thoughts makes communication much easier.
  • Antoine Bouaziz for teaching me to look deeper in people’s motivations,
  • Claire Dupré for showing me how to do indirect mentoring.

Please recognize a few outstanding members in the Program.
Frank Wareman is the embodiment of efficient management. Even though he stepped down from L4, the value he brings to events is extremely high – it takes just a few minutes chatting with him to change your vision about leading and managing a staff.

Jeff Morrow is the voice of reason in a sometimes baffling world. Many situations are so complex that dozens of judges have approached them without success. But ask Jeff, and you’ll have the ultimate reality check, cutting right through all the complexity to extract the root cause. This is a very unique and valuable talent.

What is the strangest card interaction you have seen in a tournament?
Given that FNM can be anything now and Chaos Drafts are run at many GPs, I’ll take one from the latter. A player at GP Pittsburgh 2011 asked me “does Cheatyface trigger Pandemonium?” I ruled that if no one saw Cheatyface coming, then neither did the Pandemonium. The ruling didn’t favor the player but he was so happy about the flavor that he high-fived me!

What advice would you give to a Judge growing up through the program?
Don’t wait until opportunities rain from the sky, look around you for those which already exist and make the best of them. The judge program rewards those who take initiative and create without asking for permission first.

Another important piece of advice that took me some time to realize: when a senior judge tells you something, there are always good reasons behind it. Don’t just dismiss it. Learn to listen and strive to understand.

How do you make events you judge at fun, and what do you do to help judges under you have fun during events?
Never take anything too seriously. There is a lot of room on events for humor, so I use and abuse that. As long as it doesn’t interfere with operation or hurt anyone’s feelings, it helps a lot. Amused judges are also much more likely to help you in difficult tasks!

What country/continent is your favorite for GPs/PTs, and why?
Latin America, because the passion people put into the game is limitless there. I have great memories of GP Santiago 2011 which took place on the top floor of a building. The venue was surrounded by balconies. In the finals, it was Argentina vs Brazil, a classic matchup! The spectators were so noisy that we had to evacuate the room; about a hundred spectators gathered around the TV set up outside to watch the match. And when it was over, we opened the doors… and it was a real human flood, with the supporters of the winner dancing around him! Unbelievable! Something I’ve only seen in a stadium.

What’s the farthest you have ever traveled for a Magic event?
According to www.gcmap.com, Honolulu is the farthest destination I’ve gone to for Magic. But flying time-wise Santiago and Japan feel just as far.

What hobbies do you have outside of Magic?
I’m a competitive chess player and spent way too much time on video games (Civ 5 being the current time-sucking vampire). I also enjoy board games, sightseeing and hiking.

What was the proudest moment of your Judge life?
One of the local judges where I started judging was L1 for a long time. He was very shy and wasn’t helped by a coarse voice that made him hard to understand and unpleasant to interact with. It was clear that judging was his only escape in a life trodden with difficulties. After a few years of letting him push the boundaries, empowering him, he achieved L2 and started to get out of his shell. Another local L2 once had a tough talk with him, that finished in tears. Tears of grief? No! Tears of joy, because he finally understood that he didn’t have to be the victim, that it was ok to express oneself, no matter how bad you might look, no matter how many obstacles life has put in front of you. This moment made me quite proud; I had managed to show my mentees that judging can have a huge positive influence on our lives.

Two Truths and a Lie
Two of the following statements are true and one is false. Figure out which!

1. I was once among the top 500 fastest solvers of Windows Minesweeper.
2. I’m a completely self-taught programmer.
3. I speak 6 languages.

The answer to the last Two Truths and a Lie...
Steven admits: “Coming soon!” 

If there is a judge who is also doing something exemplary, please nominate a judge TODAY!

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