Loco and the Adventures of the Missing Luggage (GP Sydney 2015)

Sashi Kumar Balakrishnan (Loco), Level 2, Malaysia

Sashi Kumar Balakrishnan (Loco), Level 2, Malaysia

Loco and the Adventures of the Missing Luggage
(GP Sydney 2015 Travel and Tournament Report)

Let us start off the story with not getting a flight ticket until a week before the GP. Due to financial constraints and pending payment being just that, I had to jump on the cheapest flight (was not cheap enough) that was available to me. Transits through Manila. What could go wrong, right?

Landed in Sydney and was told that my bag missed the connecting flight in Manila. Sigh. This has never happened to me before. A reminder to those who travel, if your luggage goes missing or does not show up, get a lost luggage report filled up and a number to call them. I, being a newbie, did not realize this.

Day 1. Thursday. Judge Conference in Games Cube.

Beautiful day, awesome judge conference and some interesting things learnt. Paul Johnsons talk on how to do announcements, how to project your voice and how to be clear while doing it was one of it that stood out for me. Being a full time emcee, watching others standing and doing breathing techniques and also speaking from their diaphragms was definitely a delight. The day was topped off with a yummy pizza dinner in Parramatta.

That’s me on the left. Photo credit – Yew Yu Win

Luggage update. Made calls to a call centre about missing luggage. Call centre in the Philippines had no idea what I was talking about but promised to look into it. My apartment mates for the weekend, Wearn, Yu Win and Dennis proceeded to follow me shopping for replacement clothes. $78 later I am set for the weekend.

Day 2. Friday. GP grinders and the Sydney Swap.

Since finding out about the new sealed deck procedure the day before at the conference, we were set to try it out and find the best possible way of announcing it. Ryan Dare and Paul Johnson were tasked to do the announcements for the swap so that we will have the same type of announcements until the players get used to them. With the first grinder we realized where the problem issues would be. Getting the players to write down their names on the player using deck and passing it to the opposite player seemed the better option compared to before where players write their names on player registering deck. Although we took a few minutes longer than usual, we realized these extra minutes were needed to make sure that the players understood what was going on.

If you need more details on how Paul did the Sydney Swap announcements, you can read his tournament report here. (Swap, Drop, and Roll? A GP Sydney Tournament Report – Paul Johnson)

I was head judging the warm-up sealed event at 3pm and Paul helped me to make the announcements regarding the Sydney Swap. More issues that we saw which was prevalent was the fact that players talked more during the swap. We had to remind them that they could accidentally give deck building tips and that they should remain quiet. I had John Aldefer and Morgan Meehan-Lam in my team and they helped make sure that my tournament ran smoothly. No major issues besides the usual judge calls.

John Aldefer, me and Paul Johnson. Photo credit – Tom Wood

During the start of the day, we had issues with WER which caused delays but the players understood our difficulties and waited patiently for tournaments to fire off. The TO team of Lindsay and Alex, did a great job considering the circumstances.

Luggage update. Made more calls to the call center and still nothing was sorted. My luggage was apparently still in Manila.

Day 3. Saturday. GP Day!

I was in the deck check team under Fabian Peck. We were instructed to use the normal deck check during start of round and the Australian deck check technique during the mid rounds. Everything went smoothly, even during the Sydney Swap, thanks to John’s clear and precise announcements. We moved players who did not have anyone sitting opposite them to the end of the room and and to the very few who could not be moved, did a triangle swap. The judges did great to make sure the players understood what was going on.

Unfortunately, I was also involved with two DQs during the day. One was for IDaW and the other was for adding cards to their card pool. Contrary to popular player opinion, we judges do not like to disqualify players.

Side note, if a player, during the finals of an on demand draft says they’ll split the prizes and then looks at you and asks “Can we roll a dice to see who wins?” How would you react? Has any infractions been committed? (This happened to me in GP Beijing)

Luggage update. I finally received a call from Manila office and they informed me that my bag would be on the night flight and would arrive in Sydney on Sunday morning. They also said that it would be sent to my location.

Day 4. Sunday. Head Judging Super Sunday Standard.

Since my tournament started an hour after the Sealed Super Sunday, I was tasked with helping them get ready with packing the boosters into sealed plastic bags. Meanwhile, my assigned scorekeeper was missing. Registering the players into the database took some time due to other scorekeepers picking up the slack. Managed to start round 1 at the same time as round 1 of the SS Sealed. We had 8 rounds and they had 9. I was slightly understaffed with only Dennis Xiao and John Tong in my team. Deck check duties was shared with the team from SS Sealed.

Nothing major occurred during the tournament, besides my team members being shuffled about. I did feel understaffed and mentioned it to Ryan, who was Public Events manager and I was promised some extra judges would show up soon. Floor coverage is always my personal priority.

Issue 1 : Marked Cards upgrade. During deck check, a player was found to be playing with four Jaces without checklist cards. Unfortunately his sleeves was not opaque and the Jaces were identifiable from the back. The deckcheck team determined that the player did not realize this and I issued the upgrade Game Loss. Player was told to use either checklist cards or replace the sleeves. Another judge questioned this fix and asked why would we force the player to spend money to buy sleeves if checklists cards were not available. He said I should just issue proxies. To me I felt that there was no policy supporting this fix as proxies can only be issued if the cards are accidentally damaged or excessively worn in the current tournament. The judge suggested that although it was not in the policy, I should deviate in the spirit of customer service. I replied that customer service would be if we judges went out of our way to find checklists cards for the player. This interaction was good for me as I was able to state policy and reasons behind it. It also helped me in my diplomacy in my interaction with other judges.

Issue 2 : A player was dropped by either WER or the scorekeeper accidentally. This happened twice in two rounds. At the start of round 4 a player on 2-1 was dropped. I could not pair him with the player with a bye and it would require cascading a few matches. After another judge tried to help out the scorekeeper to do this, it seemed that it was taking too long and the scorekeeper was having trouble doing this. I decided to award that player a bye to save time although I deeply disliked this decision. It happened again in Round 5 but the player was on 2-2 and he decided he was gonna drop after that round anyway. I apologized for the error and the player accepted. Lessons learned, make sure your scorekeeper is experienced enough. If not have someone help him out earlier. At the end of my shift I passed off my tournament to another judge and was satisfied with my performance.

Luggage update. My luggage was not sent to me as promised and when I called them, I was told that it should be in Sydney Airport. I told them to keep it there and that I would pick it up the next morning before I fly back home. Lo and behold, when I arrived at the airport early the next day, it was there.

Although I was having fun during the GP, my morale was down due to being bothered about my missing luggage issue. But during the GP I had so many judges who checked in on me just to make sure I was doing okay. Lexx and her awesome hugs, morale boosting high fives from awesome judges, infectious smiles and energy from Paul, Michael Puccio and John. All the above got me through the weekend in high spirits. All in all, reasons why I love judging in Australia and the awesome judge program.

Note the not fully black shoes since my judging shoes were in my luggage. Photo credit – Ray “Blisterguy” Walkinshaw

Thank you for reading!

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