Level 3 Judge Testing (at GP-Frankfurt)

Posted in NEWS on January 5, 2000

By Wizards of the Coast

Thomas Bisballe

GP Frankfurt was on the 8th to the 9th of April 2000, a 3 man team event. I was invited well in advance to do judge certification all through the event. Level 3 primarily. The opportunities are not so many and there is a 6-month waiting period to try again, should you fail. So you better take your chance seriously if you have it and prepare. I am writing this report so that applicants get an impression of what I think makes a judge so that you can better prepare. :)

I left Denmark on the 7th of April. Bringing an extended oracle, (thanks to Collin J), the A1 test and answer key, the B1 test and answer key, history and review forms. As I was told that it would be possible to Xerox on site. I was planning on getting comprehensive rules and nemesis oracle on site. Usually I would bring this myself but the printer broke down and I was printing just before I left... Go figure.

I was picked up in the airport by Mario and Bernd from "Amigo Spiel und Freizeit" the German distributor. Now there's a first for everything. A really nice and appreciated gesture.

We drove to the site "Stadthalle Offenbach", where we met Felix Huybrechts OP Manager Europe, Christophe Weyers Core Events Manager and Vicky Korstanje, Web Marketing Executive. They were setting up the site and testing everything. We went back to the hotel to check in and get some breakfast.

When we got back I got all the copying done and was advised to choose a room out back for the judge interviewing. Now mass judge certification is a lot of paperwork so it's important to locate a good office-like location.

I found a VIP restroom out back. Leather sofa/chair, 3 tables, bathroom with shower and 3 meeting rooms next to it. Whoa! This must be a record... I went back down and helped set-up while waiting for the judges meeting. Here all judges candidates were handed out a history form so that we could get an overview of who was to be tested, recommended by whom etc. We used this info to better select senior judges and their assigned floor judges.

Carl Crook Organised Play manager UK had shown up meanwhile. He is also one of the most experienced Head Judges in Europe and a little of a legacy, tournament record wise. A lot of players and judges hold him in high regard due to the way he solved some really icky situations throughout time.

The judges received an excellent handout describe each step of the tournament and a penalty quick reference.

We finished setting up the site and went to dinner and then bed, we had to get up awful early next morning. Rogerio Alecrim offered to help also out of interest for how judge's interviews were conducted by others.

We started calling applicants in for a short talk followed by the written test. There is always quiet and uneventful until the first candidates have finished the tests. But this must have been the exception that confirms the rule. As we were invaded by two stretcher-bearers a doctor and someone who suffered an epileptic assault.

All right back to business... After the candidates finished their written tests we send the back to the floor while we either interviewed someone else or scored their tests. Whenever we finished one I went and got them for the interview. I started with placing the candidate review form in front of me and for each point I asked 1-3 questions to get an impression of how they were. These results scores are estimates and when I wanted additional info I later on asked or discussed their performance with either their senior judge or whoever would have additional info.

Integrity is an especially difficult issue to get an impression of in a short amount of time. But often you can present situations where you ask if they would disclose information. (Naturally in a more subtle way). Especially in grey zones where it might be prudent even though it is technically wrong. Tournament organisation is very easy: ask them what bits and peaces they would bring or take care of if they were in charge of an tournament and you will in no time get an impression of how solid their background is. Regarding consistency I find it easiest to, at different points in the interview, present slightly similar situations and see if they choose the same penalty and/or infraction. Lastly I try to find out how they act as a judge when in the field. One thinks he knows the right infraction, penalty or rule. Another is how you interact with the players and your fellow judges. The impression a player gets that made an error or was caught on the wrong foot with a rule he didn't quite know. You also have to bear in mind that we deal with kids. And you can really scar someone if you hurt his or her sense of justice however wrong that is. So an estimation of how the judge deals in emotional/stressful situations is always nice to know. Or how the candidate interacts with fellow judges when either he or they are wrong. Does he treat his/hers peers even with respect? How does he/she act when fellow judges questions his/her rulings? Communication is typically the sum of the interview as a whole.

Then I quickly go through the various points that has to be included in the review and look through the history form if there should be something I would like the candidate to elaborate on.

It could be that a candidate pursues a judge level for the wrong reasons. i.e. "I'm a player and I would like to pass to level one so that I can get access to the judge conferences, so I can learn how to better abuse the rules without crossing the line". It's also interesting to see if the candidates have a sense of reality. i.e. does he have any idea what his weaknesses are?

Now this was what I did for level 1 and 2 candidates if I have the time.

If you're scheduled for a level 3 interview you're standing at the door to a different world.

You have to really know the rules. The questions in the test are so numerous that it does you no good to dive into judge conferences for months in a row. What you need to do is really read the comprehensive rules thoroughly. In my view all candidates that have focused on either rulings galore or D'Angelos do a lot worse that those that keep their focus on comprehensive rules. I cannot emphasise it enough. Read the rules.

After that you should know the floor rules real well. We can ask you about anything. Ban or restriction list formats. What sets is included in formats. So floor rules is required reading too.

In my experience, penalty guidelines is also something where a lot of candidates knowledge is to shallow. They either don't know the names of the infractions or have no idea about what to do if it isn't something that happens often in a tournament.

When somebody is up for a level 3 interview usually you have a lot of time to judge with the candidate and see him out. This wasn't the case here. So I had to some degree to base my evaluation on external advice in addition to what I see as the actual level 3 interview. Remember that the candidate has already been through all of the above. I give the candidate three non-straightforward rules questions. As much to evaluate the candidate's thought process and get an idea if they guess out from their intuition or are working towards the right answer slowly or something completely different. Based on how and the candidate answers, I may ask additional questions to probe deeper into an area or to get the candidate to expand on something they brought up themselves of which I do not see the relevance. This is a great supplement because you can find out how the judge works in the field, and because it tells a lot about the candidate's grasp of the rules.

Lastly I do three role-playing situations with the candidate. I prefer by far to have a secondary to interact. The livelier the better. These will be situations were nobody is on firm ground. Prepare to get anything you say or believe questioned. Prepare for situations where there is no one answer. It is here that you will demonstrate that you can control and solve situations when you're not prepared or won't know the answer by heart. Where you will leave the players smiling happily with how you solved the situation thinking that they got a slap over the wrist but they deserved it. That you are on top even when players keep questioning your rulings and 500 others are waiting for next round to begin. That you don't lack the broad view of things when Jeff Donais in the role of some player asks you a rule questions simply to make you waste time on empty debate.

At the end of Sunday we had processed all candidates. We offered follow-up for all that did not pass. In other ways they could come back and we would go through their errors and explain why they was wrong and what the right answer was. And when we finished, we offered the same for those that passed.

PS: Bear in mind that a judge test can be lengthy. One judge spends 2 hours on the written test. 2.5 on the 1st and 2nd part of the interview and then 1/2 hour on follow up. So remember to eat and drink in advance.