FINAL JUDGEMENT: Meet the Judges, Part 2

Who are Sheldie’s favorite Level 3 judges? Aside from himself, we mean. Sheldon really digs Sheldon.

Last time we talked about the Judges, we discussed all the Level 4s in the world. It was easy because, there are comparatively few. Today we’re going to talk about some of the Level 3s. At current count, there are around thirty in the US and sixty elsewhere in the world. It would be impossible to cover them all in a short column, so I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite folks from around the globe.

Before we get rolling, I got a note from Nat Fairbanks regarding Part 1. He corrected my math a bit. He said that it would only take 3.95 Cyrils to make one Nat, as opposed to the five that I had calculated. Mea culpa. He also made note that he’s moved to one of my favorite states in the union, New Hampshire.

When we talk about Level 3 Judges, we have to start with my dear friend from Enschede, the Netherlands, Ghisbert Hoogendijk. If you’ve been to a Pro Tour or this year’s European Championships, you’ll recognize Gis as the extremely tall, thin fellow with the ponytail. Gis and I were certified as Level 3s on the same day, at Grand Prix Antwerpen, and we seem to be following the same path upward. Gis is an extremely strong candidate for Level 4. I expect him to see him achieve that rank very soon.

We’ll stay in Holland for just a moment and visit with the other influential member of the Dutch Vikings team, Jaap Brouwer, also from Enschede, the hotbed of Dutch Judging. Jaap also certified for Level 3 around the same time that Gis and I did. Another huge physical presence, it seems as though Jaap, Gis, and I attended every major event in Europe together for the longest time. As gentle as he is large, Jaap is also a potential Level 4 candidate.

Speaking of large, we have Canada’s Chris Page, who you’ll recognize as the Head Judge of Side Events at this year’s US Nationals. Chris, an aspiring actor, has a role as a kind, happy, well-adjusted biker in an upcoming independent film.

Another European with whom I worked countless events is Norway’s Rune Horvik. Easily the smallest of the Level 3s, it would take about ten Runes to make one Nat Fairbanks, and I’m sure my math’s not off this time. Rune is married to the lovely and controversial Cathy Nicoloff.

From Florida comes US Air Force Captain John Shannon. John is also one of the most influential TO’s in the Southeast. If you were at US Nationals this year, you caught John over at the JSS working his TO magic. Before you get visions of John zipping around in multi-million dollar aircraft and shooting down the bad guys, I’ll tell you he’s not a pilot (although he does own a Corvette). His actual job is highly classified. I don’t want to get Star City into any trouble with men in black helicopters, so I won’t say any more.

Another strong American Judge is Arizona’s Mike Bahr. You’re most likely to see Mike doing Judge Certification at major events, as he did at this year’s US Nationals. I believe he set some sort of record, performing nearly seventy interviews over the weekend.

Heading back across the Atlantic, we have another of my long-time friends, Mario van Leeuwen. Mario, a Dutchman having lived quite a while in Germany, has been a Level 3 for as long as I can remember. One of the calmest folks I’ve ever met, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen Mario get flustered or lose his cool. And he has the second-best moustache among Judges.

An interesting contrast to Mario is the fiery Bernd Keller, his partner in crime while they both worked for Germany’s top Magic distributor, Amigo. An excellent organizer, Bernd and I knocked heads once or twice (inevitable with two "strong" personalities), which actually served to make us better friends in the long run.

Texas’ Tim Weissman (and his lovely wife Sheila) hosted me when I was the Head Judge for Grand Prix Dallas. Despite numerous challenges, they (along with Ed Fox) put on a good show. My report is in the archives. Tim is an extremely active TO and promoter of the game, and an all-around good guy.

Austria’s Michael Kastberg is one a leading member of the Delphi group and a serious rules guru. My first memory of Michael was him trying to trip me up with rules questions while he was playing in and I was Head Judging a PTQ at European Championships ’99. He eventually got ejected from the tournament for making the same procedural error four times.

France boasts the newly re-certified and much-mellowed Marc Hernandez. Once a WotC-France employee, Marc is an outstanding player (eclipsed among Level 3s only by Holland’s Bram Snepvangers). Marc is a fluent speaker of English, so don’t let him get away with any of that "je ne comprends pas" stuff.

Justus Roennau, another of my European pals, traveled all the way from Germany to Judge at US Nationals this year, underscoring his commitment to the game. An eventual Level 4 candidate, Justus is an extremely well-rounded Judge and surprisingly funny guy — something to be said for a German!

You know Kim Eikefet as a top Sideboard reporter, but she’s also a fine Level 3 in Norway, that hotbed of European Magic. In 1998, Kim became the first woman to play at the World Championships.

My old buddy Adam Cetnerowski hails from Poland. A huge "Final Judgement" fan, Adam is the guy that keeps me honest. He’s always the first one to send me an email when I make a mistake.

I worked several events with Scotland’s Chris Llwelleyn, a maniac who also happens to know the rules pretty well. Chris is a compadre of another of my old friends, former Level 3 Stuart Gosden, who has gotten married and moved on to non-Magical pursuits. If you go to events in the UK, Chris will be the one in a kilt, speaking some unintelligible language which he swears is English. Wait. That’s every Scottish Judge.

I’ve never worked with him, but I must introduce you to the judge with, hands down, the best name: Singapore’s Mountain Hung.

There are lots of other folks that I haven’t mentioned here. Trust me, it’s a space issue more than anything. There are a few notables, such as WotC’s James Lee and Elaine Chase, who I’ll cover when we conclude this series in "Meet the Staff."

Of course, modesty prevents me from detailing my favorite Level 3 of all, a marvelous entertainer, a great humanitarian, and my personal friend since 1961.

And that’s my Final Judgement.

Sheldon K. Menery