The Judge, Jury and Executioner

Posted in NEWS on December 8, 2015

By Wizards of the Coast

Gijsbert Hoogendijk

When you are a judge in Magic, you also are the jury, executioner and a lawyer. A lot of judges are able to hand the hardest cases to someone else, the head judge. Before this last half year, I was always able to hand over those cases in premiere events. I had been the head judge of nationals twice, but that's very different from international events in my opinion. In 2001 I Head judged day 2 of GP Amsterdam because Jaap Brouwer got sick on Sunday, after which I head judged both GP Prague and Turin and then was asked about 2 weeks in advance if I wanted to head judge the European Championships. Being a head judge at those kind of events is a different job altogether, you get a lot less simple questions but when they DO need you, it's not a simple problem most of the time.

Gijsbert learning by head judging the European Championships

So what have I learned this last half year? There is but one answer to that: "A lot!" But the most important thing must be that I learned to be a better investigator. Yes, that's what I meant with lawyer. Let me give an example.

As the head judge of a premiere event, you get called to a table by one of the team leaders. The team leader explains that a very tricky situation just happened. You get to the table and listen to the stories of the players. The actual situation is unimportant because I want to compare this to a courtroom case. What would have happened if we used the courtroom system in tournaments?

Player A accuses player B of an illegal action, which puts A at a disadvantage. The offense can't be handled by the neighborhood police officer, because of the possible sentence. Player A has to get a lawyer, so does player B. They have to get a date for the courtroom. The lawyers investigate the situation, while the judge makes sure the investigation is legal and that the jury isn't given the wrong impression. The jury decides if the suspect is guilty or not and the judge then gives the sentence to the suspect if found guilty.

Let's get back to reality. I stopped at the point where you as head judge, listen to the stories of the players. Basically you are the lawyer here, deciding to take the case, better, you take both cases. Then you have to start the investigation. The offense of which player B is accused is very serious and the situation not fairly clear for any of the involved judges. You start your investigation with player A, you take him away from the table (away from the spectators) and start asking him questions. When satisfied, you repeat this with player B. If you are lucky you have some unbiased bystanders who can serve as witnesses. In this process you are the lawyer. You have to make sure you are asking the right questions though. The wrong questions can get you the wrong answers; this is where you have to be the judge. And all the while you have to listen as the jury, because this is what your verdict will be based upon. After all this you have to take a moment to think everything through, decide if one of the players has gone against the rules , and if so what the penalty for the infraction will be.

As the head judge in these kind of scenarios you have to play a lot of different roles, which isn't always easy. In my opinion it is good to do the investigation with two people. This way you can complement each other. Sometimes you think you know all you want, when the other judge comes up with just the right question. Which reveals some crucial information. Especially in team formats it's important to have two people, because it is very hard to discuss with three people when you are alone.

The most important things in these cases are your people skills and your ability to feel people's incentives. These will hopefully enable you to ask the right questions and interpret the answer correctly. In the end making the right decision.

Gijsbert Hoogendijk (left) and Jaap Brouwer (right) conferring at GP Amsterdam

Other then making the decision, it should also be done in a timely fashion. So on one hand you are pressed for time - on the other hand you are trying to get all the details. Only through experience will you be able to be faster in the process.

The summer of 2001 has proved to be a summer full high impact judge issues, the last being the DQ in the top 8 of worlds. Each of those decisions has had a lot of attention in OUR media, the internet, articles were both pro and con about what had happened. The general opinion is the DCI is cracking down harder on players, this is probably true. I think it is all a learning process. Each year the importance of the game increases and each year we learn more about how to make the tournaments as fair as we can make them at that point in time. I myself have always disqualified people who I knew to be cheating, but through experience and experiences shared we are now more aware of what to look for.

People have been voicing their concern that the DCI is doing nothing for local tournaments and that only cracking down on players on high level events is good, but a lot of cheating occurs at other level events which are not being judged that harshly. I think that the DCI doesn't differentiate between infractions at local tournaments and pro events. The problem lies with catching the cheaters, if the local judges don't catch and punish the problem players the DCI won't notice and therefore can't act the way it wants. But doing this is very hard as I explained above, as it involves interrogating and convicting people. The lower level judges who are judging these local events can only learn these things through experience and learning takes time, you can't expect them to be of the same caliber as the judges walking the floor of a pro event.

In the end the only thing the DCI aims for is that the winner of each sanctioned match is the rightful winner. We as judges are the ones who should try and make sure this happens. As we learn more about the ways people use to "enhance" their chances of winning in illegal ways we are better suited to fight them.

I hope I will have to do less of those investigations in the future. We'll just have to wait and see.

Gijsbert "Gis" Hoogendijk
Level 3, The Netherlands

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