Hello, I am Sophie, level 3 from Grenoble, France (in the mountains), and I want to talk today about a judge experience I had last November. I won’t talk about rulings or how long the rounds went, but I want to highlight some difficulties we can meet when we judge in a different environment, and how to get prepared to be the most efficient judge possible. I am a stressful person, and every small mistake I make, I think about it for hours. I know it and I try to improve. This weekend was an excellent time to do this.
This past summer, I decided it was time to grow up and applied for my first outside-of-Europe GP, GP Chiba. I wrote my cover letter, and asked my RC if I needed to do something more, and waited anxiously, knowing that many judges applied for this tournament!
I jumped all day long when I got accepted. But then I started thinking, and to be honest, I started to be afraid of what this GP could be as I almost never judged outside of Europe (I would judge my first tournament in US at PT Honolulu a few weeks before GP Chiba), and never ever went in Asia, (my first time would be in August 2016 for my honeymoon). Going to a totally new continent, that may have different practices is both exciting and impressive!
So weeks passed and I started to read and ask around me how to get prepared. I feared mainly 2 things.
- I was afraid to make a blunder without noticing, and I didn’t want to be impolite doing something that I thought was good.
- I was also afraid to be useless, as I don’t speak a word of Japanese and I heard that a lot of Japanese players (and sometimes judges) don’t speak English. I didn’t know if I’d rather team lead a team with different practices than in Europe or just following and maybe have nothing to do. I asked again around me, and I had very few but sometimes useful advice like if I have a call, I should literally run, at the opposite of what is taught in Europe.
After a few days visiting Tokyo with amazing judges willing to show me every great place (I’ll never thank them enough for what they did for me), Saturday arrived and I decided to come early at the GP, even if I was late shift. I wanted to see the venue, how it was organised, where were the different places. I wanted to be ready and knowledgeable as much as possible, to be able to help as much as possible.
- Judge room: it was amazing, with a lot of food available, nice chatting and a masseur just for judges! I never saw that anywhere else.
- Toilets: their different location, by gender if any, so I could answer player’s question
- Vendors: You can’t miss them. When you enter in the venue, people are yelling, there is animation everywhere, pretty ladies and big colours. They had a complete space for them, almost separated from the rest of the venue. There are a lot of noise, mostly due to a lottery where you can win cards in the middle.
- I also wanted to see how table number and pairings were organized in the venue. How they managed Latin alphabet with Japanese names, and how online pairings were working. I was surprised to see that more than half of the players used online pairing, and we had very few players on pairing board. Needless to say that when online pairings had a breakdown in round 6, players were a little lost!
- I saw that judges had an armband with JUDGE written on it, and learned that we needed to wear it to assure that we were staffed on this event.
I also wanted to see something new, not only for me but also a first in GPs: online Decklist submission. I imagine such a thing coming right now in Europe, and imagine the mess it can be. But there, everyone was seated, almost every deck list already filled and submitted. We had less than 200 lists missing – all found at the beginning of the round. It was amazing. I then met my team. I was a little shy because I might be the only one not speaking Japanese, and some judges told me that they might not be able to speak English. I was happily surprised that they all spoke fluent English so I could communicate with all of them. I felt welcome in the team, and everyone was willing to help me if I needed, and I knew that I could ask advice from them anytime.
Then the day started, and I tried not to panic. No panicking when I asked two Malaysian judges if they came from Tokyo: I started my day showing that I couldn’t recognize Japanese people from Malaysian ones. And I wanted to look good. I was distraught. No panicking when it was pointed out that I was hanging around the main event stage without a judge shirt. I wanted to see how the GP would be launched but forgot that I wasn’t a judge without the shirt and the armband. And I wanted to look professional. Missed. Did I tell you that I am a nervous person ?
Ok, maybe I should relax. Go on the floor and see what happens. I had my first call early in the round, and went bravely alone on it. Players didn’t understand English, and started to explain in Japanese what was the issue. Do Not Panic. It will be fine. I started to look at the board state, interpreting their moves. I showed cards and repeated keywords to be sure of the situation. I looked at both of them, showing what is happening now and how we can fix the issue. I made sure that they understood me making moves with cards and saying again just a few words. I stayed around the table to be sure they did well. They accepted my ruling, thanked me, and I went off.
After this first call, all day went way better. I ran often, answering many calls, each time with gestures and repetitions of the situation. I called a translator twice, but just as translator. They knew perfectly how to just translate and not making the ruling, and were really helpful with their kindness and their efficiency.
After a few rounds, I had the opportunity to have great discussions about policy philosophy and could also make a little mentoring. But most time of the day I was concentrated, like a runner on the line, ready to jump as soon as a hand raised. Did I mention that calls are quiet in Japan? Players didn’t yell at judges, but instead just raise their hand. So if you start a discussion with a judge or anyone, you may miss it. So I was watchful, answering many many calls and even if each one was a little test, I was really proud to succeed answering, and also very tired at the end of the day to have stayed focused all day long.
I didn’t detail here every situation, or my tasks on Saturday or Sunday, but I wanted to highlight how we can adapt ourselves in a new environment, and even if I was not perfect and I made mistakes, I succeeded to move on and continue my day. I focused my thoughts on helping players as much as I could and this experience brought me a lot. I was just a floor judge role, without big logistics challenges or difficult investigations, but I found ways to be helpful, to bring something to less experienced judges and to learn a lot about differences in judging. Again, I am really thankful to have had this opportunity, and can’t wait to go again!
(Editor’s Note: Join the discussion on Sophie’s report here!)