Feature Article – The 2010 StarCityGames.com Open Series: Head Judges!

Claim your territory at The 2009's State and Provincial Championships!
Friday, November 27th – What has 89 levels of Head Judge and 16 stops in 2010? Jared explores what a Head Judge means to a large tournament, and reveals all of the Head Judges for the 2010 StarCityGames.com Opens. He explains why he’s really excited about this year’s crop and, whether you are a player or a judge, why you should be too!

Every DCI tournament technically has a Head Judge, but the larger the tournament, and the larger the judge staff, the bigger impact that a Head Judge has on the event. While it may feel that the Head Judge becomes more remote as the judge staff grows, the impact of the Head Judge actually becomes more pervasive.

Let’s start with the DCI definition of the role of the Head Judge from the Magic Tournament Rules: (MTR, 1.7)

Sanctioned tournaments require the physical presence of a Head Judge during play to adjudicate disputes, interpret rules, and make other official decisions. The Head Judge is the final judicial authority at any DCI-sanctioned tournament and all tournament participants are expected to follow his or her interpretations. Although it is beneficial, the Head Judge does not have to be DCI-certified.

The Head Judge’s responsibilities include:
– Ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to deal with game or policy rule violations that he or she notices or are brought to his or her attention.
– Issuing the final ruling in all appeals, potentially overturning the ruling of a floor judge.
– Coordinating and delegating tasks to floor judges as needed.

This means that, whether you know it or not, there is always a Head Judge at every tournament. It may just be the shopkeeper running FNM, or it might be the Level 5 judge heading up the World Championships, but in both cases, their responsibilities to the tournament are the same. The way that they go about fulfilling those responsibilities, however, is vastly different.

At its heart, the Head Judge’s responsibility is to anticipate and deal with challenges that arise during the event. As a tournament grows, both in size and prestige, the challenges facing the Head Judge grow as well. Some are straightforward, such as where to place pairings boards, while some require a deep knowledge of rules and policy, such as a disqualification investigation. Some challenges can be anticipated, such as counting 432 decklists by the end of round 1, while others pop up without warning, such as an appeal of a floor judge’s ruling. A Head Judge’s ability to plan ahead and think on his or her feet is as important as his or her understanding of the rules and DCI policy. As a player or a judge, you want the Head Judge to be on top of everything and ready for anything.

At a larger event, most players do not interact directly with the Head Judge, but a good Head Judge makes a player’s experience better in a lot of ways that are not immediately noticeable. A Head Judge influences floor coverage, how long it takes between the end of a round, and the posting of pairings, as well as room flow and the overall tone, feel, and pace of the tournament; all of that is without getting directly involved in a judge call. When the Head Judge has to get directly involved and deal with appeals, he or she has to make sure to be fair and take appropriate time to understand the situation without unnecessarily delaying the tournament. A good Head Judge must find the balance between digging deeper into an investigation and realizing when there is nothing more to uncover.

One of the most overlooked things that a Head Judge can do happens weeks and months before the tournament. A well-known or high level Head Judge at a large event also helps to field a better floor judge staff, as the chance to work with certain Head Judges will encourage quality judges to travel further in order to work the event. Judges will drive for hours, sleep in hotels, and work long hours for the opportunity to work with some of the best practitioners of their craft.

This is the part where I get to brag a bit about the track record of the StarCityGames.com Opens: We have made a point to bring in high level judges from all over North America to help create an atmosphere that encourages judges to make a point of showing up for our events. Our past Head Judges include four Level 4 judges (including the Judge Manager at the time) and the last four U.S. and Canadian Nationals Head Judges. Here is the quick roster:

Date City Head Judge Level
02/23/08 Charlotte, NC Ingrid Lind-Jahn DCI Level 3 (Since Promoted to Level 4)
05/10/08 Richmond, VA Scott Marshall DCI Level 4
10/24/08 Richmond, VA Jared Sylva DCI Level 3 (US Nationals 2008 HJ)
12/06/08 Philadelphia, PA Jared Sylva DCI Level 3 (US Nationals 2008 HJ)
02/21/09 Richmond, VA John Alderfer DCI Level 3 (Canadian National 2009 HJ)
03/28/09 Indianapolis, IN Gavin Duggan DCI Level 3 (Canadian National 2008 HJ)
06/13/09 Atlanta, GA Aaron Hamer DCI Level 3
06/20/09 Boston, MA Seamus Campbell DCI Level 4
06/21/09 Boston, MA Jared Sylva DCI Level 3 (US Nationals 2008 HJ)
06/27/09 Minneapolis, MN Eric Shukan DCI Level 3
08/29/09 Dallas, TX Nicholas Fang DCI Level 3
09/12/09 Charlotte, NC John Carter DCI Level 4 (Judge Manager at the time)
09/13/09 Charlotte, NC Riki Hayashi DCI Level 3
10/10/09 Philadelphia, PA Chris Richter DCI Level 3 (US Nationals 2009 HJ)
10/11/09 Philadelphia, PA Adam Shaw DCI Level 3
11/07/09 Nashville, TN Steven Zwanger DCI Level 3
12/12/09 St. Louis, MO Jason Lemahieu DCI Level 3
12/13/09 St. Louis, MO Nicholas Sabin DCI Level 2

I can tell you that we often get calls and e-mails from judges who want to work our events before we even start looking for volunteers and I feel that can be directly attributed to the quality of our Head Judges.

Now, let’s look to the future. 2010 is going to bring us some exciting firsts including our first Head Judge from outside North America and our first husband and wife Head Judges! The 2010 StarCityGames.com Open Series will have Head Judges from four countries and fifteen states! You may also notice that we will have some DCI Level 2 judges at the head of our Sunday events. We decided that our Sunday events would be great opportunities for some of the up and coming DCI Level 2 judges (including two from the Justice League!) to get a chance to be at the Head of a some great tournaments with some extremely strong judges working the floor. Here’s a secret: don’t be surprised if some of those 2’s change into 3’s before you get a chance to see them up on the StarCityGames.com Open stage.

Now without further ado, the 2010 Head Judges for the StarCityGames.com Open Series!

Los Angeles, CA — January 2nd — 3rd

Saturday Head Judge — Jason Ness, DCI Level 4 — Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
Sunday Head Judge — Jeff Morrow, DCI Level 3 — Oakland, California

Dallas/Fort Worth, TX — January 9th — 10th
Saturday Head Judge — Hector Fuentes, DCI Level 3 — Mexico City, Mexico
Sunday Head Judge — Kevin Binswanger, DCI Level 2 — Austin, Texas

Richmond, VA — February 27th — 28th
Saturday Head Judge — Nick Sephton, DCI Level 3 — Kirkby-in-Furness, England
Sunday Head Judge — Abe Corson, DCI Level 2 — Alexandria, Virginia

Indianapolis, IN — March 13th — 14th
Saturday Head Judge — George Michelogiannakis, DCI Level 3 — Stanford, California
Sunday Head Judge — James Elliott, DCI Level 2 — Herrin, Illinois

Orlando, FL — March 27th — 28th
Saturday Head Judge — Ingrid Lind-Jahn, DCI Level 4 — Belleville, Wisconsin
Sunday Head Judge — Peter Jahn, DCI Level 2 — Belleville, Wisconsin

Atlanta, GA — May 1st — 2nd
Saturday Head Judge — John Shannon, DCI Level 3 — Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sunday Head Judge — Casey Hogan, DCI Level 2 — Atlanta, Georgia

Philadelphia, PA — June 5th — 6th
Saturday Head Judge — John Alderfer, DCI Level 3 — Hermitage, Pennsylvania
Sunday Head Judge — Jeremy Smith, DCI Level 2 — Nyack, New York

Seattle, WA — June 12th — 13th
Saturday Head Judge — Adam Shaw, DCI Level 3 — Manchester, Connecticut
Sunday Head Judge — Aaron Hamer, DCI Level 3 — Portland, Oregon

St. Louis, MO — June 28th — 29th
Saturday Head Judge — Jared Sylva, DCI Level 3 — Roanoke, Virginia
Sunday Head Judge — Nick Rzeczkowski, DCI Level 2 — Aurora, Illinois

Denver, CO — August 21st — 22nd
Saturday Head Judge — Michael King, DCI Level 3 — Aurora, Colorado
Sunday Head Judge — Eli Shiffrin, DCI Level 3 — Tucson, Arizona

Minneapolis, MN — August 28th — 29th
Saturday Head Judge — Chris Richter, DCI Level 3 — Madison, Wisconsin
Sunday Head Judge — David Rappaport, DCI Level 2 — Westland, Michigan

Nashville, TN — October 16th — 17th
Saturday Head Judge — Scott Marshall, DCI Level 4 — Lakewood, Colorado
Sunday Head Judge — Joseph Johns, DCI Level 2 — Blacksburg, Virginia

Charlotte, NC — October 30th — 31st
Saturday Head Judge — Gavin Duggan, DCI Level 3 — Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Sunday Head Judge — Aaron Stevenson, DCI Level 2 — Roanoke, Virginia

Boston, MA — November 6th — 7th
Saturday Head Judge — Nicholas Sabin, DCI Level 2 — Roanoke, Virginia
Sunday Head Judge — Charles Reinman, DCI Level 2 — Rochester, New York

Baltimore, MD — November 20th — 21st
Saturday Head Judge — John Carter, DCI Level 4 — Renton, Washington
Sunday Head Judge — To Be Announced

Richmond, VA — December 4th — 5th
Saturday Head Judge — Jason Lemahieu DCI Level 3 — Madison, Wisconsin
Sunday Head Judge — Ryan Stapleton, DCI Level 2 — Chantilly, Virginia

Wait, you want the Invitational Head Judge?

He is a DCI Level 5 who has Head Judged three Pro Tours and the World Championships in 2008. Ladies and Gentlemen, hailing from Los Altos, California, your 2010 StarCityGames.com Invitational Head Judge — Toby Elliott!

So there are your Head Judges for the StarCityGames.com Open Series, and now you know why you should care! I’ll see you at the Opens!