Resolving he-said she-said at Worlds level

Discussion in 'Judges' Chambers' started by losjackal, May 19, 2014.

  1. losjackal

    losjackal Technical Administrator

    This has been bothering me over the years, and I'd like to understand better why it went down this way. I thought it might be better to abstract it out, leaving out details, but the instructions are to include as much detail as possible, so here it is...

    Worlds 2011, Junior Division, middle of the Swiss Rounds. My Junior son, the US National Champion that year, is playing a rogue deck against a European National Champion, which utilizes Yanmega Prime's Poke-body of matching hand size to perform an attack without meeting the energy requirement. So after many practices and winning Nationals with it, you can imagine my son is very practiced at playing his hand to strategically match the opponent's hand size.

    Nearing the end of the Swiss game, where my son is a couple of turns away from winning, my son asks the opponent his hand size. The opponent says 6. My son plays a Professor Juniper, drawing a fresh seven, benching a Basic Pokémon, and then declares Sonic Boom (which he doesn't have required energy attached for, but has the same hand size so Poke-body is in effect). The opponent says no you can't do that, I have 7 cards.

    After the game, we had a very hard time understanding the Judges of what happened, while trying to console our sobbing son, so I'm sorry I can't recall what was said...but the net result is he couldn't complete his attack strategy and ultimately lost the game.

    The only thing I can fathom is that ultimately the burden should be on the Player (my son) to be very sure about the opponent's hand size...even visually inspecting and counting. But even then, if the opponent is going to cheat like this, they can be deceptive about that too (hiding a card on their lap, for example). What I don't understand is that if the game state is so easily rewindable one step (benching the Pokémon) to match the opponent's real hand size, why that wasn't the proper Judge intervention, especially given it was Juniors? Did Worlds-level have something to do with it?

  2. P_A

    P_A New Member

    That is indeed a tough one. It's hard to say what the appropriate procedure to go through with this problem, since it's a he said/he said situation. First of all, I'd try to determine what the situation was by interviewing both players away from the table - but not far away, just far enough to be somewhat out of the earshot of the other player, and still able to keep an eye on the opposite person and the table. I'd even try to get corroborating evidence from any nearby players who may have noticed the incident. I'd try to determine if I think someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes. If the player replying to the question originally gave the correct answer of 7 cards, then the final outcome would be as you mentioned. However, if the situation is such as you've described, and the opposing player did indeed try to cheat and misrepresent how many cards he actually had, OR, if he mistakenly gave the incorrect number with no intent to cheat, I would rewind the turn to the point where your son had the option to put down the basic and allow him to make the choice whether he would indeed do so again. The penalty given to the offending player would depend upon my presumption of the guilt or innocence of the player - whether I thought he tried to gain an unfair advantage by not telling the truth in his answer.

    I'm sure my way of handling that is not the only way of handling the situation, but it is how I would have done so - given the opportunity.

    Garret Dent,
    Former PTO for parts of Ontario, Canada, and head judge for all age groups at Canadian Nationals 3 years running, and masters division 1 year.
  3. PokePop

    PokePop Administrator

    And of course, this leads directly into why this forum is going to be difficult. :ambivalence:

    Based solely on your description, it would seem that the opponent misled your son, which would fall into the category of "Use of dubious game actions intended to deceive your opponent into making misplays" which carries with it the penalty of Disqualification.

    However, that is if the judge determines that that is what happened.
    Since we're not hearing the other side or the judge's reasoning, it's hard to say what other factors led them to decide the situation was a he said/she said situation.
    A difficult situation.
  4. losjackal

    losjackal Technical Administrator

    For what it's worth, this particular foreign player was DQ'd the following year for other shenanigans.

    But in the moment, I can respect the conservative approach a Judge would take in giving the benefit of the doubt and opting for a he said/she said situation, rather than deception.

    So my question was focused on, given a he said/she said, what other factors could have led to to resolving the way it did (my son could not undo benching his Pokémon), rather than the suggested method P_A said? Maybe my son didn't articulate his side of the story well enough at the time? Because the only takeaway I have is that the ruling fundamentally is saying that my son made a mistake. Which of course I can accept as a possibility, but it's hard as a parent when from that very moment your child insists their opponent was lying.

    (Agreed this forum is going to be difficult! But again there is no other place to get stuff like this out in the open, especially as an educational opportunity for other judges. It's hard being a good judge, but also know it's hard being a parent on the sidelines, accepting situations like this with incomplete information. As a community and successful organized play program, the parents need to be reassured that the game itself is always looking out for the best interests of the Juniors and Seniors.)

    tl;dr This Worlds experience was not a positive one for us, and I don't have a positive message to give to other parents about it yet. I'm struggling to find advice for prospective parents who might find themselves in a similar situation to help them have a better outcome.
  5. P_A

    P_A New Member

    Well, given that the outcome went the opposite way to how I would have done it, perhaps the judge considered the fact that Worlds is classed as a level 2 event, and those who play in it have to be well versed in the game and procedures. Perhaps he/she felt the onus was on your son to prove the amount of cards were identical. Of course that means that he/she did not entertain the possibility of deception on the part of the other player. I find that scenario as somewhat unlikely in my experience, but definitely within the realm of possibility. Frequently judges have to make decisions based upon scant amounts of information, so perhaps in that case they may not have had enough to judge a particular way. Also, we are who we are due to our own experiences. Perhaps their own experience lead them to judge in that manner. Hard to say.
  6. Chairman Kaga

    Chairman Kaga New Member

    There is an old Russian proverb: Доверяй, но проверяй — trust, but verify. That's really all I can tell players to do.

    I can't imagine having an easy time proving intentional deception there, even if I witnessed the whole exchange myself. There are so many plausible ways to talk your way out of it, especially with the younger players.

    So, if the count is that important to your plan, count it yourself. It's the only way to be sure.

    Nationals Senior Division Judge / States Head Judge
    Last edited: May 24, 2014
  7. PokePop

    PokePop Administrator

    Yes, it is good to get these discussions out in the open.
    Leaving aside this particular instance and whether the judge made the right or wrong call, I think we can be productive in looking at this for two things:
    What can the player do?
    How should a judge handle a situation like this.

    In terms of what can a player do, I'm not sure that it's fair to put the onus on a player to assume that their opponent is lying/mistaken and think that they should manually count the cards themselves. Spirit of the Game mandates that players tell the truth at all times. They generally don't have to volunteer information (although in this instance they do), but if they give information it cannot be false.

    The only thing I can recommend to a player in this case is to make sure it gets appealed up to the Head Judge. If the Division Head judge made the ruling, at Regionals and larger, there is also an event Head Judge and I'd ask for the ruling to be brought to them.
    The player should also make it clear that they did not mis-hear their opponent, that the opponent clearly gave them incorrect information.

    As for a judge, it is important for judges to do the following (and this applies to most rulings):

    1. Make no assumptions that you know what the problem is based on the first few words you hear.
    2. Listen, listen, listen to what the players are telling you.
    3. Just because it is a younger age division, don't assume everything is a mistake. Some younger players are coached about lying and cheating, knowing that it is easier to get away with in younger divisions since players are usually given the benefit of the doubt.
    4. Ask yourself, "does this make sense to me?" Does it make more sense that a player who has been using a specific combo successfully all day would make a brainless error or does it make more sense that a losing player is lying?
    5. Don't go for the "easy call", go for the right call.
  8. Abudoggie

    Abudoggie Moderator

    Pop.. knowing the detailed history of the offending player, I'd like to also throw out that communication amongst the judges to identify grossly recidivist offenders during an event is helpful too. Don't be quick to dismiss suspect behavior in the lower age groups when a clear pattern is formed. The following year in Hawaii, same child was notorius for changing/removing marked damage and misplaying cards over many rounds (never penalized). His shenanigans came to an end when he tried to finagle a win by claiming the match was over claiming it was the +3 turn and he was ahead on prizes when in fact it was only +2 turn (which led to a 45 minute delay to sort out..ending in DQ for intentional deceit). I cannot think of a more grossly recidivist offender in any age group in my several years of Pokemon. Ultimately, the system prevailed. :adoration:
  9. NoPoke

    NoPoke New Member

    A ruling based upon the observable game state is the default position when a judge is unable to resolve a he said/ she said. The presumption is that both players are honest and observing SotG. Sadly this isn't always true. There are times when I wish that judges would assess the likelihood that a player would perform a particular play but as far as I'm aware that assessment is currently not allowed.
  10. TheStrictNein

    TheStrictNein New Member

    Would it be legal to ask your opponent to lay his hand on the table face down so that you can count the number of cards in his hand?

    If your opponent refused and you did not believe your opponent, what would happen next? Could you ask a Judge to force the opponent to allow you to count his hand?
  11. PokePop

    PokePop Administrator

    Yes, a judge could either count the hand themselves, or instruct the player to clearly display the cards to be counted (face down).
    I'd probably count it myself, as a judge.
  12. lophocvuinhon

    lophocvuinhon New Member

    I'm sure my way of handling that is not the only way of handling the situation, but it is how I would have done so - given the opportunity.
  13. PokePop

    PokePop Administrator

    And that way is...?

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