The Minutiae of Minutes

As judges and staff, what is our job at a tournament?

This seems like a question that has a ton of answers, particularly if you consider how those answers change depending on what your specific role is.

It’s not, however all that complicated. I’d argue that you have exactly two:
1) Give a good customer experience – get the rulings right, provide good customer service, help answer people’s questions.
2) Get done faster.

To be fair, this really could be one task, as getting done faster has a big impact on the customer experience. However, it’s important enough that I’m going to call it out. This may not be visible to all of the floor judges, but every single head judge that I’ve ever worked with obsesses about getting done faster. How quickly do we get started. How long does it take for people to get seated. What are our turnaround times. What tables have time extensions. All of it boils down to the same thing – how do we get this thing done faster, so that we’re eating at Miku instead of McDonald’s. So people get to hang out with their friends instead of crashing straight away. So everyone gets a good night’s sleep.

Far as I can tell, the first point is constantly in the minds of the judges. They spend tons of time talking about policy, rulings, debriefing on interesting judge calls, working on coverage around the floor, watching each other, etc … And while I can’t say that the second isn’t in people’s minds at all, it’s evident that it isn’t as instinctual for people to think about how their actions affect this goal.

Don’t believe me? I get asked constantly why I bother having people sort result slips at the end of the round while we’re waiting for the last slips to come in, a task that takes quite a bit of time overall and wastes a lot of minutes. Why do this if I’m constantly asking people to add value and save time?

Here’s the rub: the time of yours I’m wasting isn’t, by itself, worth anything. It doesn’t matter. Not all minutes are created equal.

Other than making sure you get off your feet and are resting (which, you can do while you sort slips), while we’re waiting for the last three slips, unless you’re one of the judges who is watching and making sure those matches progress apace, literally none of your time can be spent in a way that makes the round end faster or slower – it’s inconsequential right now.

However, it might not be in the future, when a player comes up and complains that they didn’t get all of their points for the round (probably because they didn’t fill their slip out right, but that’s another story). Now we’re talking impact. Either the round waits until we find their slip and verify everything to repair it, or that table gets a time extension – either way, now we’re into the realm of slowing down how fast we get done. Now, having the slips sorted saves time that means something. And if we wasted twenty judge minutes during dead time to save one minute during live time, every single person on the floor should take that trade.

There are exactly three times that affect end of day timing:
1) Any time that affects round turnaround and starting the round. How fast you post the pairings. How quickly we can find result slips of people with issues. How easy you make it for people to find their pairings and sit down.
2) Any time that affects match extensions. How quickly do you get there, make the ruling, and get out. How fast do we repair pairing issues. How quickly do you handle your deck checks.
3) Any time that affects getting the last slip in. Making sure people turn in their slips right away. Not getting in the way of the last result being reported.

That’s really it. Everything else is manufactured urgency and doesn’t actually help. All that stressing out you do about how quickly the result slips get off the printer and cut. How quickly you run up the third to last slip. That third and fourth and fifth judge you send to watch the match that a competent judge watching for slow play is already on. Doesn’t do anything.

Relentlessly save time. Every minute matters – a single minute saved per round is ~10 minutes per day. A couple of these and, to steal a cliché, we’re talking about real time. But only the minutes that matter. Take the time to figure out which ones those are. And which ones aren’t. The faster you learn to answer the question, “does this actually get us done faster,” the better you will eat and the more you will sleep.

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