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Agents of Judgment: Pairings Team
Julia Hedberg


Last time, we reviewed the duties of the match slip team. This week, it’s time for a close-up look at the pairings team! As I mentioned last week, each team—whether it consists of one judge or several—has a vital role in the overall strength of the tournament. If one group is lagging behind, that will bog down the event for everyone, so regardless of what team you are on, you are responsible for knowing what you need to do, and being ready to do it. I might as well mention you’d better do it correctly and quickly, too! Let’s see what the pairings team has to contribute to the overall success of the tournament, shall we?


Pairings Team, You’re Up!

The pairings team is the team that gets the next round moving. All those players are just going to mill around in confusion until someone tells them where to sit. If you’re on the pairings team, your job is to get those pairings up as fast as you can and to get the players to the tables quickly so the round can begin.


I’ll just mention that the parings team is a good team to be on. Why? Being on the pairings team is like being the UPS delivery person—everyone is happy to see you. “Here come the pairings! The pairings are ready! Hurray! Look everyone, they’re going to post the pairings! Let’s all frolic around them at once!” By “frolic” I actually mean “mob and trample,” but really, it’s how they show their love and appreciation for you (and try to find their tables before anyone else can find theirs). Players love the pairings team—as long as the pairings team is fast and efficient—because they can’t wait to find out where they’ll be sitting in the next round. Let’s not disappoint them! Here’s what you need to know in order to be an ace member of the pairings team.


1) Make sure all old pairings and standings are removed from the walls or pairings displays when the round is over.

Some Tournament Organizers like to have old pairings or standings taken down about 15 minutes into the round. Others leave them posted, with the round ending time written on them. Check to find out what your TO prefers, and make sure that all old pairings and standings are off of the wall when they’re supposed to be. This should always be before new ones go up, to avoid any confusion among the players. If there’s ever any confusion to be found, players will find it, so try and keep the confusion away from them where they can’t see it.


2) Be at the judge stand ready to receive the pairings when they come off the printer.

The team lead in particular should stick near to the judges’ station when the round has ended, especially when the event is running smoothly and there’s little down time between rounds. All pairings team members should remain close by, to come up for the pairings when they’re being printed. As the pairings come off the printer, the team lead should take them and sort them into sets (the number of sets of pairings to be posted will depend on the venue and number of players in the event) so other members of the team can post complete sets quickly.


3) Prepare the pairings for posting.

Occasionally, you’ll have a nice pairings display with plastic holders for the sheets. Then all you have to do is slide each sheet in the correct holder. Usually, though, you’ll use tape to stick the sheets to a wall or support pillar. When I worked on pairings, I liked to get the tape ready as I waited for the pairings to come out. It was easier to have the right amount of torn tape strips all ready for each set of pairings than to have two or three judges fighting over the tape roll after the pairings are printed and sorted. If you’re lucky, you have one or two rolls of nice fresh masking tape that is easy to rip and won’t take the paint off the walls. If you are unlucky, you might have an economy sized roll of packing tape in an industrial tape dispenser that features a deadly sharp saw-tooth edge to mangle the tape. I hope you are lucky.


Each member of the pairings team should take his or her pairings and the tape needed to post them, and head to the posting location. If you’re dexterous and there aren’t a lot of pages to post, you can put the tape on the papers beforehand. If you are prone to disaster or there’s a sizeable stack of paper to post, you are probably better off applying the tape to the pages once you’ve reached the posting area. (If those pages get stuck together, tournament life becomes much less pleasant.)


4) Get the pairings posted, in the correct spot, at a good level, in the correct order, as quickly as possible.

The faster these go up, the sooner the players take their seats—but that’s only if they are posted in the proper area, in order, at a readable level, and right side up! Speed won’t compensate for sloppy posting, so take some care you do it properly.


Each team member should have a designated area to post his or her pairings—the same place every round. Players need to know where to go to find them, so the areas need to be consistent. If you don’t know where you’re supposed to put the pairings, don’t just pick a spot at random—ask the team lead or the head judge.


The pairings should already be in the right order, but check to make sure as you post them. It’s easy to mix up papers in the pre-round bustle, especially when the players are jostling you around. Don’t forget to take the height of your audience into consideration—if you’re working an event consisting entirely of small children, put the pairings down where they can see them. About five feet up from the floor works well for just about everybody. Spread them out somewhat, so there’s more available space for players to crowd around and look for their names. This will help get them seated faster so the round can begin.


5) Don’t mix up standings with pairings.

Most events won’t begin posting standings until several rounds into the event. Players love standings almost as much as they love pairings (provided their names are on the first page) and the same posting rules apply (not too high and not too close together in the designated area). One thing you should avoid is posting the standings too close to the pairings. Make it very clear which is which, because I cannot count the number of times a player has walked to a standings list, looked at their standing in the tournament, and interpreted it as their table number. Yes, I know it says “STANDINGS” at the top of the list. Yes, I know there isn’t a pair of names there. It really doesn’t seem to matter. There will be at least one person who sits at his or her standing, and another who wanders around looking for the non-existent Table 232. You can cut back on this kind of thing by keeping the standings at a reasonable distance from the pairings.


That’s pretty much it! Once those pairings are up, move on out to the floor and walk the tables. You’re now a general judge until the round has ended.


Just as thinner judges make good match slip distributors, I think taller, solid judges make good pairings team members, because they often need to push their way through the waiting mob. You’d think the players would know that they’d get to see the pairings faster if they’d let you through, but that’s not always the way it works out.


Without the pairings team, the players wouldn’t know where to sit, and the next round would never get started. Everyone would just mill around in confusion instead, and that’s not why people came to the tournament, right? When the pairings go up on time, in order, in an organized manner, then the players can take their seats, the round can get started, and Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG fun can be had by all. It doesn’t stop there, though! We still need the mighty logistics team to keep everything running perfectly, and next time we’ll read all about their contributions to the well-oiled tournament machine. Don’t miss it!

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