Sanctioned tournaments require the physical presence of a Head Judge during play to adjudicate disputes, interpret rules, and make other official decisions. The Head Judge is the final judicial authority at any DCI-sanctioned tournament and all tournament participants are expected to follow their interpretation. Although it is beneficial, the Head Judge does not have to be certified.
The Head Judge’s responsibilities include:
- Ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to deal with game or policy rule violations that they notice or are brought to their attention.
In larger events the Head Judge may not be the primary individual fielding judge calls. Sometimes the Head Judge will be handling other tournament aspects and be unable to take calls, or the Head Judge will be trying to let an available Floor Judge answer the call. One reason for the latter is to maintain a chain of appeals, allowing players to receive an initial ruling from a Floor Judge and have the option to appeal to the Head Judge to either confirm the initial ruling or reverse the ruling the player objected to.
The Head Judge should be a ready resource for Floor Judges. One of the more important things a Head Judge can do here is discussing a missed call with a player. If a Floor Judge incorrectly answers a call, or an appeal is handled incorrectly the Head Judge should absolutely address that with the players involved.
- Issuing the final ruling in all appeals, potentially overturning the ruling of a floor judge.
Players are allowed to appeal the decision of any Floor Judge to the Head Judge. The Head Judge is the final arbiter of all rulings and sometimes that will mean reversing the decision of a Floor Judge. If a decision is reversed, it is vital that the Head Judge explain the reasoning behind the reversal to both the players and the judge.
- Coordinating and delegating tasks to floor judges as needed.
In tournaments with multiple judges, the Head Judge is responsible for assigning and organizing Team Leads and teams. The Head Judge creates the teams (at big events sometimes with the assistance of the Tournament Organizer or Judge Manager), and makes sure everyone’s tasks are understood. The Head Judge is also responsible for overseeing other judges at the event. Not all tasks assigned are always strictly tournament operations and may be other things needed by the organizer.
If necessary, the Head Judge may temporarily transfer their duties to any judge if they are unable to fulfill them for a period of time. Also, in exceptional circumstances, if the tournament’s integrity would be damaged otherwise, the Tournament Organizer may replace the Head Judge.
Certain Premier tournaments have multiple Head Judges and/or different Head Judges for different portions of the tournament. All Head Judges share the same responsibilities and exercise the same authority while they are serving as a Head Judge.