Papers, Please

Riki has done his usual insightful job summing up his experience running one of the Paper teams at Grand Prix – Richmond. I shall do my usual job having unsolicited opinions on said summation.

First of all, let’s make sure we don’t lose the forest for the trees. At a macro-level, we agree 100% on the goal – get done faster. Rather than hard and fast guidelines, though (as good as they may be), I’d encourage a slightly different perspective. Here’s my key bullet – different scorekeepers can operate very differently from one another. And different ones will care about different things (for example, some will be quite irritated if you don’t trim the tops off the top row of result slips, the ones that are a little taller by virtue of how result slips print. Others won’t care at all.). That doesn’t necessarily mean that one is right and one is wrong, or that one way is always better than another. At some level, comfort in your own system is going to produce better results than shoehorning yourself into an uncomfortable alternate scheme.

Communicate with your scorekeeper. Figure out how they like to do things. Observe the way they operate. Find out how to work best together to accomplish that goal. Guidelines are useful because they give you a starting point, and can help you from having to talk about every last thing, but as paper team lead, you and the scorekeeper have to work as a team at the start of a round, and being out of sync will become evident to everyone.

Case in point – taking pages off the printer as soon as they start printing. Generally I agree with the sentiment, if we phrase it as “start preparing the pairings before they finish printing”. The distinction here is subtle but meaningful – you can’t always assume that the first or only thing coming off the printer is for you, and if you work with a dynamically printing scorekeeper (more on this in the future), making that assumption will actually burn you time and possibly irk them.

If you’ve sorted out that the first printouts will always be your pairings and you’re careful not to take whatever comes next (and you really do need to be careful not to swipe the next pages, or to put them back in the right spot if you accidentally do), then great. Go with what Riki says. If not, though, you might wait until they hand them to you (not all at once, hopefully – they should be giving them to you as they come out) or until they tell you that the next set of printings is yours.

When taking down pairings, check with the scorekeeper to see whether they want a set returned to them. Some of them prefer to wrap their result slips with a set of pairings for easy finding of particular pairings in the future. If this is what they want to do, make sure that you return a full set, in order, and with the tape removed. This will ease the reuse of those pairings considerably.

If you’re having trouble with crowd control and getting out to the pairings boards to post things, consider taking a cue from some of the more experienced head judges and asking your head judge to announce when pairings are in the process of being put up, with a note to clear space for the judges that are trying to do so. Then keep your arm raised with them while you walk toward your boards. Having observed this in practice, there’s nothing quite like the feeling that you’re parting the Red Sea.

Riki’s touched well on some subtle points of traffic and pairing board layouts. I’ll go one step more subtle. When possible (without violating any other core traffic-flow principles), you should put A farthest from the stage and Z closest. Why is this? A prints first. If you’re doing it right and handing out pairings as they come out, A will be ready to go first, and then conveniently will involve the longest walk. This will help you get all the pairings up just a smidge faster – remember, every second counts.

Finally, remember that your job isn’t done when you’ve finished posting the pairings. Sometimes issues happen and pairings will need to be switched or pairings will need to be interrupted or found for some other reason. Sort this out with the other teams on the floor to make sure that you aren’t double-covering this role, but making yourself available back at the stage for those first couple minutes as the round gets started can make you a very useful judge. And if another team is handling this, then cover the floor for them to make sure that all the players are still getting great service.

At the end off the day, even these are still guidelines, and no guidelines are set in stone. Have the motivation to make things as efficient and cooperative as possible. Then think. Observe. Think some more. Let his lessons be a starting point, not a finishing point.

One thought on “Papers, Please”

  1. I should have re-read this before last Sunday. Although whenever I work on paper I never find a good opportunity to speak with the scorekeeper, do you have any suggestions? Also, what are a few good questions to ask to minimize the amount of time needed to sync up?

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