The Level Limbo

If you’re reading this post, you probably are already aware of the updated requirements for L2 announced this week and to go into effect August 1. You are probably also aware that this is not the first time that requirements for judge levels have been changed. This is my attempt at reviewing a few of those changes and the motivations behind them.

For simplicity, I’m going to break these changes down into 4 categories: the Early Years, which were before the judge center; Policy L1 years, during which time judges also had to answer questions about policy and procedure on their L1 test; Redefinition, which took place in 2010-2011; and this most recent change labeled simply as August 2014.

The Level Spectrum

To simplify things, let’s think of judge skills as being on a scale from the lowest knowledge point of an L0 to the highest point of any L5 judge. In this system, any judge level has a starting minimum point (which is where a judge can test for that level) and a maximum point which is where they could be seeking advancement (and have a reasonable expectation of getting there).  I’m also going to group L3-L5 together since the promotion process from L3 up to L5 is not really the same as that from L0 to L3.

I’ll lay out my own interpretation of this spectrum for each iteration here in a graphical form. (Click to expand.)  Pause for a moment to look at where I placed the intersections between the levels.  Open it in a new window or tab while you read; I don’t mind.

Visual start/end points on the judge level spectrum

Visual start/end points on the judge level spectrum

The Early Years

One thing you’ll notice here is that the bar to become an L1 judge was pretty low. I’ve discussed this elsewhere, but it meant that you could become L1 without much effort (as long as you could get tested), and then you could be L1 for quite some time before you reached L2. L2 was generally of a skill sufficient to judge a PT.

And, L3+ was incredibly difficult and even Zen-Like to reach.

Policy L1

The most glaring problem with the previous iteration was the very basic entry point. It didn’t mean much to be an L1 as opposed to being an L0.  So, we (as a program) tried something different: we required a very difficult test that included some tricky rules interactions and a number of IPG questions.  In a way, this L1 test was very much like the current L2 exam… and apart from the question pool, it wasn’t that different from the L2 test, either!  This meant that the difference between an L1 and an L2 was not obvious.  It also meant that quite a few people who may have otherwise joined the program… didn’t.

I have to say that this was the hardest bar to draw, because L1 and L2 could be considered to overlap so much, but I think I have it pretty close as a result of considering the availability of who could test you for L2.


With time came the recognition of the inherent difficulties with the above system and so… those levels were redefined.  The entry point for L1 was lowered to help with acquisition.

The entry point for L2 was set pretty much where the old L1 point had been (and hence is lined up that way on my graph). This (somewhat understandably) upset a number of people who had worked hard to gain experience and find someone to test them. The important thing to remember with this change is that this was an adjustment for a requirement that was too high.

The path to L3 was also clarified at this point, which opened it up to some judges who (like myself) previously had no real guidance on how to get there. So the L3+ section of the chart is wider now.

Now that that’s all shifted… Do you notice anything awkward about the bar for this particular update?

August 2014

Since I was promoted to L3 in 2011, I’ve worked a large number of events with judges from around the world.  I’ve been on the floor, I’ve been HJ for PTQs and Star City Games events, and I’ve been TL at GP events. Do you know what I noticed in that time?

That L2 section of the “Redefinition” bar is really wide.

When I have a group where I haven’t worked with my team members, I see a lot of “L2” listed. What does that mean, though? It means you have some knowledge and probably some level of experience, sure–but what can I expect of an L2?

With the changes introduced, I expect to have a better idea of this. I know that someone listed as L2 has an idea of working with other judges.  I know that they have an idea of teams, and how an event will operate.  I know that they have a good attitude toward working an event in a new location and toward helping teach other judges.  I know that if I’m coordinating public events at a GP, I can hand that person the HJ role for one of those events. And I might actually receive a review from someone besides Riki Hayashi.


My chart isn’t perfect, but I think it’s at least a fair representation of how the entry points have moved.  I doubt this will be the last change to the level system, but I think these changes are great and will help Restore Balance.

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