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EGC 2023 Tournament Organisation

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Robert Jasiek

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Aug 13, 2023, 3:13:05 AM8/13/23
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At the European Go Congress 2023 in Markkleeberg near Leipzip /
Germany, I was a co-tournament director of the side tournaments 9x9
and blitz. I am experienced with directing these or 13x13 side
tournaments at EGCs (and was the major tournament organiser in 2000).
This year, however, organisation faced some difficulties. 9x9 occurred
on earlier days than blitz.

City bureaucracy demanded closure of the venue at 22:00 so that
schedules had to be tight and prolongued schedules had to be avoided
at all costs. Early starts at 17:00 or 16:30 helped a bit but were
insufficient for the blitz tournament. 9x9 was played as group
qualifications and KO finals on two evenings so the schedules fit
(with less than desired thinking time for 9x9 though: we wished 30'
but must set 13').

At first, the congress organisation planned to skip blitz until I
volunteered and was admitted a schedule slot of only one evening. This
made group and KO stages impossible but blitz had to be played as
Swiss (or McMahon in the case of many participants). I chose the
pairing program MacMahon. Swiss pairing for a blitz tournament had
occurred once before in 1999 and posed problems for fast pairings
between the rounds. I knew that this would be the central problem of
organising this tournament so ensured enough helpers collecting and
reporting the results to me. During the tournament, I and the other
co-tournament organiser were permanently busy entering the results and
publishing the pairings. Just for a few seconds, I took the freedom
and looked into playing rooms to see some of the tournament games in
progress. 9x9 organisation was much more relaxed and I could also
participate in that tournament.

Most of my earlier directions of side tournaments at congresses I had
done as a single tournament director, although sometimes assisted by
referees. It had gone smoothly and usually punctually. Registration
deadlines could be two hours before a tournament start with expected
up to ca. 150 players but since 2012 three hours with 250+ players
thanks to the congress director's wise recommendation to me. This
year's major tournament organiser insisted on co-directing my two side
tournaments. This presumes mutual willingness to cooperate - no
problem. Two directors can do more work at the same time so a
co-director helps progress with organisation in principle. We used his
computer for blitz. However, the existence of a co-director also
created organisation problems explained further below.

The congress organisation used additional online pairings for major
tournaments and registration for most tournaments. For the side
tournaments, players could register in paper registration lists or
online. At congresses, I travel without electronic devices so, at
first, was unaware of the alternative online registration for side
tournaments. Roughly at the registration deadline of 9x9 three hours
before the tournament, I learned about online registration from the
co-tournament director. Apparently, exactly one player had registered
online. I prepared the group pairing sheets and the tournament was
about to start punctually. Then, however, a few dozen additional
participants appeared who had also registered online. The programmer
of online registrations had made a bug so that access rights prevented
too many relevent organisers including the co-tournament director and
major tournaments organiser from accessing almost all registrations.
Accordingly, the start was delayed and several additional groups had
to be formed ad hoc. We learn the obvious: if new methods of
communication shall be invented to tournaments, they also require
thorough procedural testing.

At the end of the 9x9 group stage, I collected the groups sheets and
was faced with two problems: the ad hoc groups were not numbered so I
had to ask the co-director for the tentative number of groups so that
I would collect all sheets. It turned out that one group was missing.
We reconstructed that two under-occupied groups must have dissolved
and merged but I needed a few nightly hours to verify this from
context information of names on groups sheets and in lists of
registration and prepared pairing.

During a round of the 9x9 KO stage, I had to interrupt three games
early. In each of these games, one player had allegedly won his
previous round game due to a missing opponent. It turned out, however,
that language problems let one of the referees declare that those
opponents were supposed to wait in the next room to ensure reasonable
silence in a particular playing room. As the chief referee for this
tournament, I interrupted my own game to decide that the three
previous rounds games still had to be played and, if the same player
would win, he could then continue his previously started next round
game. One player first wanted to call the appeals committee but, on
seeing that the other two players were playing their previous round
games, eventually agreed on doing alike.

Later during the congress, the appeals committee decided not to
arbitrate for side tournaments but they did not know that the EGF
Rules Commission had clarified this after the 1999 congress that the
appeals committee is also in charge for side tournaments of its
congress and must judge even if only one of its members is present. In
2003, such an incident had occurred when I as the only present member
of the appeals committee had to arbitrate as second instance in a side
tournament. On another occasion that year, the appeals committee could
judge normally with the spectacular ruling "win by 1 or 3 points" by
almost reconstructing an area scored game.

Blitz faced its own problems of organisation. Some players registered
twice on paper and online so we had to figure this out by deciphering
names. The real problem, however, were reckless players registering
for both blitz and torus go, which was another side tournament at the
same time. I would have solved this by emphasising an early start of
round 1. The co-tournament director, however, insisted on enabling as
many played games as possible. There were also players leaving shortly
before round 1 or after some later round. During rounds 1 and 2, this
contributed to delay while we could handle such swiftly during later
rounds. The MacMahon program does not allow changes of players and
pairings of a round quickly so a delay of an additional circa 20
minutes occurred.

Since I played in the congress's main tournament and could not
organise during this time, I had set the registration deadline for
blitz to 20:00 on the previous day to enable a punctual start despite
Swiss pairing. My co-tournament director promised to manage the online
registrations (the bug was fixed by then) on that evening or else
during the next morning. Two hours before the scheduled start of
blitz, he admitted to have overloaded himself with too many tasks of
organising other tournaments. Since he had access to his computer and
online pairings, I could only do the paper work but not help him with
initial entering of names in the program and the online pairings. This
resulted in his readiness only 20 minutes after the scheduled
tournament start and we had to reconfigure the parameters in the
pairing program again. What can we learn? If a tournament organiser
suspects his time trouble, he must be willing to accept more help from
other organisers in time. I could have helped him more if he had
informed me about his own time trouble earlier. I co-directed this
tournament with its 41 minutes delay of round 1, it was not my fault
but, nevertheless, it feels bad to have been in charge when my own
standard is always punctual start.

According to one of the referees / helpers, there have not been any
disputes during blitz. My clear tournament announcements including
references to the EGF General Tournament Rules §5.5 do wonders as they
discourage attempts by players to create trouble. They know they would
not succeed with provocing random arbitration.

Occasionally, the torus go tournament director would simply plug our
USB cable to the printer while we were busy entering results hopefully
flawlessly...

The delays and the very limited schedule of the venue, however,
resulted in only 6 instead of 8 rounds Swiss of the blitz. Except for
possible ties (jigo and shared final result places without tiebreakers
were possible due to my tournament system settings) and pairing
peculiarities, 8 rounds would have enabled a unique winner. After 6
rounds, we had three players with 6:0 wins and quite a few players
with 5 wins. We wanted to solve this problem by letting the top
players decide whether they wanted a shared first place or play a
mini-KO on the next morning. They preferred a KO. Instead of four
players in the KO, the Koreans suggested a cute three-player KO used
in Korea and relying on the pairing tiebreakers (here: SOS-SOSOS)
after round 6 as follows: the top three players were sorted as players
A, B, C. In the first KO round, the pairing was A - B. In the second
KO round, its loser played against C. In the third KO round, the two
winners decided the first two places. This way, a KO with one player
too few avoids a BYE and still pairs fairly by giving C the least
chances to be in the final game. If he is the strongest player, he can
win the tournament nevertheless.

Announcing pairings on paper and online is all fine and well in
principle. However, I abhor delays of paper announcements several to
many minutes after online announcments. This discriminates all offline
players like me, who can reach their tables only later unless they beg
for smartphone access from other players. Unfortunately, such delays
were common especially for the main tournament. Universally accessible
pairings (those on paper) ought to be published first. If organisers
want to avoid huge crowds in front of walllists, publish pairings
early, such as on the evening before. Such is possible and was
sometimes done in the past! Planning pairing publication only at, or
after, the supposed starts of rounds is a bad attitude towards
organisation.

As usual, it turned out to be useful that my heavy rucksack always
contains copies of the rules and tournament rules. On the second
Wednesday during the poker tournament, the under-demanded participant
Pascal Müller, who was the main tournament director (the most
important but least appeciated job of congress tournament organisation
presumably every day as busy as I was during blitz) and chief referee,
asked me about handling disputes when stones are moved along the board
surface to its supposedly intented intersection. My related advice for
EGF tournaments is: on the first occurrence, explain the rules; on the
second occurrence by the same player, issue a warning; on the third
occurrence, issue the second warning meaning a default loss.

There can (read: should) never be enough pin walls for announcements!
Publishing the 9x9 KO qualified players on the hidden back of a wall
was suboptimal. Before the congress, I had declared demand for large
cardboard, on which to draw the 9x9 KO tree. Nevertheless during the
congress, at first none was there but there some organisers would
swiftly buy everything other organisers needed. Accidentally, I
learned that organisers would get food coins. This did not work on my
first day of organisation but worked on later days. Accordingly, I got
hold of a few dubious meals (one per day) and hopelessly overpriced,
small but tasty coffees.

In my opinion, the most remarkable aspect of tournament organisation
was the fairly large number of side tournaments. There were more than
I could witness. Germany was assigned the congress only in November
2022 but, IMO, overall we have produced a reasonably organised event
nevertheless. Perfection, however, can hardly be achieved within such
a short time of preparation.
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