Cut to the Chase

“Where is Player X sitting?”

“Table 184.”

“Player Y?”

“Table 212.”

“Player Z?”

“Table 63.”

“Player …”

“Would you like pairings?”

“No, I just need to find these players to give out their decklist penalties.”

“I see. And how many are there?”

“Uh … 15?”

“So, maybe you might be able to find them faster on these pairings?”

“Oh, yeah, I suppose so.”

A few times each tournament, I find myself wondering what it is that causes people to ask for the information that they’re asking for. Not because I don’t understand what needs to be done, but because I can’t fathom how the dotted line between the questions they’re asking and the task they need to accomplish makes any sense.

Let’s take, what I imagine most scorekeepers will agree, is the very most common case. This happens several times, every single tournament.

“Who did Player B play last round?”

“Player S.”

“OK, thanks,” as the judge ambles off.

95% of the time, here’s what’s happening. The judge has been told by Player B that they found something that was from their previous match. Oftentimes, this is a stray card that they shuffled into their deck, so there’s even some urgency here. Judge thinks, “OK, pairings are up, this should be easy, let me go look up where they’re sitting. Wait, I need to know the player name before I can do that.” Then they ask the player, who of course doesn’t remember the name of their previous opponent. And now it’s judge tunnel-vision time. “Figure out who he played. Figure out who he played. Figure out who he played.” So they go up to the scorekeeper and ask, since that’s the only easy way to find out. “Awesome, now I have a name. Off to the pairings to look up their table,” and away they amble.

So what’s the problem here?

Technically … nothing. The right thing will end up getting done. Eventually. However, there’s a faster way, and reading about it now, it’s probably even an obvious one – that same scorekeeper that told you their name can also pretty quickly tell you where they’re sitting (and if they can’t do it faster than you can walk to the pairings, you might encourage your TO to reevaluate their staffing choices).

Wait, didn’t I just lead off with an example where I suggested that you get pairings rather than ask the scorekeeper? Yes, but it’s not that asking the scorekeeper for all data is faster in all cases – context and task are important. If you’re already getting one name, then we’ve already got it and it’s a trivial task to pull up their location. But at some critical mass, it becomes easier for one person to look things up without the clunky process of transferring names back and forth. If you have the list written down somewhere, handing them all over would be better. But it takes time, and there’s often other things going on at the beginning of the round, hence it being better to take a look at the pairings yourself.

Let’s not get too bogged down into the specifics of this example, though. There are plenty of similar examples. The endless parade of, “did this person win,” that really means, “I need to know all of the people who reach this record this round in order to pull their decklists.” The ongoing drone of, “did this person drop,” that actually translates into “who’s still in the tournament so we can make sure we aren’t missing any decklists?” And on, and on, and on.

The lesson here isn’t about the right specific thing to ask for in any of these specific cases. The real point here is, ask for help solving the task you’re trying to accomplish, not the bits of data that are the best you can think of to get your way there. This will always, always be faster. At the very worst, the person you are thinking of will think of the same thing you did, or ask you for how they can help you accomplish it. But oftentimes, they will help you get past your tunnel vision. Sometimes they will do even more.

What do I mean? Well … do you know what data the scorekeeper has access to? Do you know what’s fast to look up and what’s slow? Do you know when is a good time for them to be more involved and when they have other things to attend to? No? Well, I could and eventually probably will explain much of this. But you know who else can? The scorekeeper. Give them a chance to tell you.

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