Overcoming All Obstacles

Posted in Event Coverage on June 10, 2004

By Wizards of the Coast

Mike Olivson's claim to Magic fame is his casual Magic column in Mage magazine. Although Mike is a competitive player, he never made Top 8 of a PTQ before, so when he qualified for the North American Challenge, he was ecstatic. There was only one problem. Mike is a practicing orthodox Jew, and the finals were on Saturday.

Mike OlivsonThe Jewish religion places many restrictions on its followers when it keeps to keeping Shabbat (Saturday). On Saturday you are not allowed to light fire (or use electricity), write, or perform any other kind of work. There is nothing, however, that prevents you from playing games.

One of Mike's friends is a chess grandmaster who is also religious and who constantly competes in chess tournaments on Saturdays. Apparently, things can be worked out if done correctly.

In order to attend this tournament, Olivson had to travel to Milford early Friday afternoon, to make it into the hotel room before the beginning of Shabbat (around 8pm). He dropped off his deck at TJ Collectibles (since he is not allowed to carry things with him on Saturday) on the way to the hotel.

On the morning of the tournament, Mike had to walk to the site for about two miles. It took him about 45 minutes to get there. His deck had been registered the day before, so he was able to pick up his deck and begin playing. Since Olivson could not use pen and paper to keep track of his life total, he bought a spin-down life counter the night before. His opponents or judges would sign the result slip for him. He managed to play without breaking the rules of his religion, and without inconveniencing anyone else.

Olivson played a variant of a Tooth and Nail deck. He did very well, going 4-1 after the first five rounds, but then lost the last two rounds of the tournament. He had to wait about an hour after the tournament (and Shabbat) ended to claim his prize of three-quarters of a box of booster packs (27 boosters), and felt that the experience was very much worth it.

"I would gladly do it again next year," said Olivson.

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