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 his or her interpretations. 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 he or she notices or are brought to his or her attention.
In larger events the Head Judge may not be the primary individual fielding judge calls. 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.
Also, in events with multiple judges, the Head Judge will avoid being the first responder to a judge call, if a Floor Judge is available. This isn’t the Head Judge being lazy, it is because they want all players to have the right to an appeal. If the Head Judge answers the initial ruling, it is final. Allowing player to appeal an initial ruling often makes them more certain that they received the correct one, as they either have a second opinion confirming the first ruling or a reversal of the ruling they objected to.
- 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 his or her duties to any judge if he or she is 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.