You’re Head Judge of a PTQ. One of the players – who also happens to be a judge that you know – comes up to you and says, “Hey, Freddy is over there telling everyone how he ‘bent over and raped’ his last opponent. I don’t know about you, but I find that really offensive.”

Before you can say a word, Jorge, one of your event judges says, “Really? Again?!? I just warned him about that last round!” You confirm that Jorge did register an Unsporting Conduct – Minor for Freddy in the previous round.

What do you do (and, did Jorge get the initial penalty correct)?

Judges, feel free to discuss this scenario on Judge Apps!

Thanks to everyone who participated in this most recent dip in the Knowledge Pool. A lot of discussion about how to handle this (obviously) sensitive subject. And, with our apologies, we offer up a rather lengthy “answer” – that goes well beyond just providing “the answer”. Please, take the time to read and understand this, as it’s a very important subject – for all of us, at any level, and any sort of event.

In order of occurrence, the original penalty by Jorge was correct – even if nobody else was complaining about the language Freddy used, Jorge is correct in stepping in and asking Freddy to stop using that type of language and assessing the USC:Minor.

For this occurrence, having been already assessed a USC:Minor, Freddy will be receiving another one, this time upgraded to a Game Loss as per the upgrade path for that penalty. Given that he is between rounds in this scenario, the Game Loss will apply to next game Freddy plays in this tournament (most likely Game 1 of the next round).

The number of people who felt the initial ruling may have been too lenient illustrates an important point; if nothing else, take this from the scenario: everyone is different, and we must respect that. Respecting different comfort levels is important, and doing so in a compassionate manner is important – even (especially?!) when you don’t share or understand someone’s discomfort with a situation.

Paul Ekman, a highly respected and honored psychologist, gives us this great quote:
“A test of your humanity is to be able to be compassionate with a patient who is afraid of something that you know there is no reason to fear. Suppose a patient is afraid that a procedure is going to be very painful, and you know it will not hurt. You have to recognize the patient’s fear and then act to reduce that fear. Do not brush it off as not worth your attention just because you know the fear is not based in reality. The patient is feeling fear; that is real. You do not feel the patient’s fear, but you must act compassionately to reduce it.”

A number of people wanted to move from USC:Minor to Major here, citing that Freddy had been told not use the language previously. It’s true that one example of UC – Major is “Fails to follow a direct instruction from a tournament official.” Let’s not be overzealous with our application of that. Typically, if a player is doing something they shouldn’t – often that’s a violation of the MTR that’s not specifically listed as an infraction in the IPG – then we explain why they shouldn’t repeat that behavior. That constitutes “a direct instruction from a tournament official.” Also, we may directly instruct a player in other areas: “Please don’t sit on the table, it might collapse” or “don’t run in the venue, you might knock someone or something over”. When a player ignores such direct instructions, that’s UC Major.

When we assess an Infraction from the IPG, and educate the player on their error, it does imply a direct instruction of “don’t do that again”; we might even clearly state that. However, if they do repeat that? It’s still the same infraction as before, and follows any upgrade path specified for that infraction. (Remember, not all infractions specify an upgrade path!) Note also that there are no upgrade paths that lead to DQ – that’s an artifact of long ago.

Often, when we’re faced with Unsporting Conduct, it’s appropriate to involve the TO, venue management, store owner, etc. We recommend these steps, in order:

de-escalate the situation, as appropriate;

inform the TO and welcome their involvement (or accept the lack thereof);

inform the player of any infraction;

either ensure they will correct the behavior, or – with the TO’s involvement – remove them from the venue.

A player crossed a boundary. As a judge, you are asserting that boundary. (Aim for “compassionate and respectful,” not “robotic and unfeeling.”) As a representative of the TO, you should understand any additional boundaries the TO may want to assert. If the TO is not willing to maintain the boundary set by tournament policies, challenge yourself to understand why, and – if it’s available to you – educate the TO. And recognize that each of these steps can be uncomfortable, so take good care of yourself along the way.


Word choice matters. Specific words affect different people in radically different ways. While we used the word “rape” in the scenario, that word and words like it can themselves be harmful. We added the warning for trauma trigger language after a reader brought up this potential problem. We’d like to thank him for his awareness and for raising ours, as this knowledge will help us all improve these forums, our tournaments, and beyond.

For more information, we highly recommend Tasha Jamison’s blog:

Thanks again for participating and we look forward to seeing you at the next Knowledge Pool scenario!