Tournament Error — Tardiness

Note: This article was originally published in Dec 2009. It’s been edited for content to make it match the current policy. Most notably, the part about handling lost cards has been moved to another article.

It’s fairly easy to be late at a table. There are variety of more or less good reasons for it, but nevertheless, the associated penalty is fairly harsh.

Why is Tardiness worth a Game Loss? How should you deal with it? That’s what I’m talking about in this article.

Areas of application


To fully understand how to apply a penalty and a remedy, it is important to start from the rules. Tardiness covers several different situations:

  1. Not being in the correct seat.
  2. Not being able to play because part of the deck is missing.
  3. Handing in a decklist late.

Although these three aspects do share the characteristic that “A player fails to comply with announced time limits,” they don’t quite exactly cover the same situations. The first two aspects aren’t very different, as they both refer to a player who cannot start playing, either because they are not physically present or are missing part or all of their deck. The third one is more specific and addresses tournament procedures rather than matches.



Why is Tardiness an infraction?


Players are entitled to have 50 minutes to play their match. If we were allowing players to show up at any point without a penalty, either the opponent would have less than 50 minutes to play or we would need to give that match a potentially very important amount of extra time.

On the one hand, there is a social aspect: A late player’s opponent shouldn’t be waiting for ages before they can start playing and they should be given 50 minutes to play. On the other hand, there is a logistical aspect: We can’t just give an unreasonably large time extension to a given match.

In the same way, if a player has lost part of their deck, they need to be given a reasonable amount of time to try to solve the situation; otherwise we could end up in the same situation as described above: Giving a very long time extension.

As for the decklists, players have to give them on time to ensure fairness between all players and not delay the start of a tournament because a couple decklists are missing.



Understanding the penalty


Why is Tardiness worth a Game Loss and not a Warning? Indeed, there aren’t that many Game Loss penalties remaining in the MIPG and the JAR doesn’t pull the trigger for a Game Loss until the infraction has been repeated several times.

We’ve just seen that there is a need for Tardiness to be an infraction to protect the tournament integrity time-wise. This is and has always been a major concern at events. Now, what is the appropriate penalty to enforce this? Currently, this has been set to Game Loss, so let’s reason backwards: What could happen at these events if Tardiness was worth a Warning? Basically, players would have no real incentive to be in their seats on time as they could feel that once per tournament they have ten extra minutes to come to their table. Worse, a player not in the right seat and discovering it after 30-40 minutes should be issued a Warning, brought to the right table and given additional time. (Worst case being their opponent isn’t there anymore). As a direct consequence, it will result in many more tables with additional time, which makes it more likely at least one of them will use the full 50 minutes.  A ruling that would happen at one of these tables would increase the additional time even more. Eventually, this will simply result in delayed tournaments.

At that point, there is a need to evaluate how dangerous this is for the tournament integrity: It is important, as we cannot afford extending the length of an already long event. Therefore there is a need to increase the incentive for players to comply with the requirement “You need to be on time so that the tournament progresses,” which justifies the Game Loss.
Note that it can easily and with some success be argued that if the penalty was a Warning, it would of course be upgraded at the second offense, as this is a Tournament Error so there would eventually be an incentive. This is relevant. However, harm may already have been done.

This reasoning also applies to players who can’t start their games because their deck is illegal. If they cannot make their deck legal and start playing eventually, they need to lose the game/match, as we cannot, again, afford giving them a significant amount of additional time.

As for the late decklists-handing, another aspect is to be taken into account: The potential for a player to have received assistance before submitting their decklist at a limited event. The balance between receiving a Game Loss and getting to know which card is the best 23rd slot makes it unlikely to encourage players to do it.


Range of application



Being late to their seat


Amongst our Best Practices, for quite some time already, we apply the following rule at most Grand Prix:
If a player is hurrying to reach their table or making efforts to start their match (being late because they’re struggling to find a chair for instance) and is late by a little, no Tardiness penalty should be issued.
This seems at first look to directly contradict the sentence from the MIPG that states “Players are responsible for being on time and in the correct seat for their matches […]” and therefore could easily be perceived as a deviation. However, it all depends on which issues we want to address.

The first reason that could come to mind to justify this course of action is customer service. However, it isn’t customer service if being nice with one player can be disservice to 1500 others. Indeed, why should we be lenient with one specific player and having several others miss the last metro? In the same way, neither the unusual size of the event for players nor a will to keep players happy are good reasons. One important thing to keep in mind is that this “deviation” can be applied only if the player is hurrying to their table. This is a hint towards the right answer: There is a difference between players paying attention to the tournament, its procedures, trying to do great but failing by a little and players who believe their personal interests (completing their trade, finishing eating, etc.) matter more. If the first category isn’t problematic, members of the second one can eventually be. These players are those who really commit the infraction as it is described. Penalties exist to uphold rules and to educate players. A player who is running to their seat doesn’t need to be educated. They have understood that being on time is important.

Therefore we’re not deviating here. We’re simply sorting the indelicate players, whom we want to penalize to have them realize that being on time is important, from those who have already learnt this lesson and tried to help the tournament to finish on time.



Handling lost cards


This section is now an article on its own.



Tardiness’s key points

  • Tardiness is an infraction to prevent players from delaying the tournament.
  • Therefore, Tardiness should only penalize players who endanger the tournament’s integrity and not those who are doing their best to comply with the rules.
  • A player involving a judge to request help for starting playing shouldn’t be penalized with Tardiness, unless they prove unable to start their match, in which case they should receive a double Game Loss


Kevin Desprez