Level 5 Judge Jaap Brouwer
To find out more, I was fortunate enough to have Level 5 judge Jaap Brouwer sit down with me for a bit and walk me through the details of this strange event. Jaap is the head judge for Worlds this year, so it was a great chance to find out from the source what had happened.
Here's my understanding of what occurred. Having each won their first round, Amiel and Haluk were paired against each other for Round 2. After Game 1, while sideboarding Amiel noticed that his sideboard was missing a Disenchant and thus was only 14 cards. Rather than notify a judge immediately, he chose to continue on with the illegal deck without telling anyone about the issue. (He later admitted to the judges that he'd done this to avoid getting penalized, and that it had been a mistake and a very bad decision.)
He and Haluk split the first two games, and then ran out of time for Game 3, so the match was a draw. By this point Amiel had figured out that his Disenchant had probably gotten mixed into a pile of cards that his opponent had been using for tokens. So, when the match was over, Amiel told his opponent that he thought a foil Disenchant of his (the missing sideboard card) was probably in the pile of cards and could he please have it back? A judge was called and eventually the situation was escalated to Head Judge Jaap Brouwer, who went through the process of interviewing everybody involved and sorting everything out.
At the end of that process Amiel Tenenbaum was disqualified from the tournament for knowingly playing with an illegally configured deck/sideboard. While accidentally playing with an illegal sideboard would normally have a maximum penalty of a game loss, the key word there is accidental. By his own admission, Tenenbaum knowingly played the second and third game with an illegal sideboard, and doing something like that intentionally is why the penalty was escalated to cheating as opposed to something unintentional.
The weird thing is, that's not where the story ends. When the first judge was called over to investigate the situation, Amiel claimed that his foil Disenchant was probably in the pile of cards his opponent had been using for tokens. Looking through the pile, the judge did indeed find a foil Disenchant, at which point the judge asked Haluk if the Disenchant was his. Haluk said yes, the Disenchant was his, not Amiel's, at which point Amiel became very upset and said that the foil Disenchant was definitely his. The judge asked Haluk a second time, to make sure, and again Haluk said that yes, the foil Disenchant belonged to him, not Amiel. After investigation by the Head Judge it was determined that the foil Disenchant was indeed Amiel's, and that Haluk had lied to the judge about owning the Disenchant. Lying to a judge at any level of rules enforcement is very serious business. Here at Worlds, where the highest level of rules enforcement is in effect, the penalty was disqualification without prizes, causing Haluk to end up with the same penalty as his opponent, due to his attempt to mislead the judges.
The lesson to be learned here, particularly if you're at all new to the Pro Tour or tournament play, is three-fold. First, always ask for a judge whenever you notice something is amiss and as soon as you notice anything is amiss. Had Amiel just called the judge over as soon as he noticed the missing card it's likely they would have noticed the missing card and sorted out the problem right then and there, possibly with no penalty at all depending on the exact circumstances. (That cards could inadvertently get mixed up isn't unreasonable. The key is to notice the problem and then call someone over immediately to get it fixed.) Second, once a judge does get involved, always tell the truth. That seems obvious, but for whatever reason some players get themselves into trouble once a judge becomes involved. Judges are there to help by maintaining the integrity of the game, and they can only do that well if you do your part by being completely honest. Had Haluk just told the truth he would never have gotten himself into this mess. Lastly, don't use cards as tokens unless they're specifically token cards. Mix-ups like this are just one of the reasons you shouldn't be using non-token cards to represent token creatures. If the deck or format you're playing in requires tokens, particularly if it's a premier level event, bring something acceptable to represent those tokens.
Per DCI policy, any penalty of this level automatically triggers an official investigation by the DCI. Part of that process will be to determine if the current penalty is sufficient or if something more severe is required. (The investigation is automatic, but additional penalties are not. It all depends on the outcome of the investigation process.) On top of all that, because Amiel was on the German team, the rules stipulate that should a team member be ejected with this level of penalty, the team may not have the slot filled by the team's alternate member. That means Germany won't be able to replace Amiel on their national team, and since that leaves them with only two players, they also won't be able to participate in the Saturday team draft competition.
(In a separate incident after this piece was written, fellow German National Team member Max Bracht was also disqualified.)