For the next couple weeks, there will be periodic posts revolving around notes and experiences at Grand Prix Kansas City, where I assisted Rune Horvik in scorekeeping the main event, and Legion Events debuted RTools at the Grand Prix level. Additional posts will be based around scorekeeping notes/stories, program lessons, and analysis on the statistical data received from EPIC during most of the weekend.
The stage-side view of the tournament was one of the more interesting demonstrations of human learning which I have seen. The first occasion the scrolling system was used was when we were seating everyone. I believe the best description of this was mass confusion; this was the one occasion where it seemed that things were going slower than with paper pairings.
RTools was being run in a completely new way here. A playset of 46″ TVs were flanking the side of the hall that the main stage was on. Each TV was being displayed in portrait mode, able to display 32 pairings at a time. (normal TVs are in the 14-16 range) Everything was being run remotely, and we had just spent most of the morning getting the remote machines to a point that we weren’t worried about them changing IPs. Nothing like this had ever been tried before.
In retrospect, the issue was pavlovian: as players, when we are presented with paper pairings, we instinctively don’t pay attention until we are within a few feet of the postings. While this works decently enough with paper, scrolling names only display a portion of their total information at a time, in return for much greater viewing distances. In that first listing, players were not taking advantage of the additional viewing distance, and as such a portion of the players were not paying attention as their names passed by. Once they were “in front”, within a couple feet of the screen, they then needed to wait a minute for their name to come around again, causing a pretty annoying cycle to watch.
During round 1, however, things began to change, as you could see people beginning to adjust. With EPIC’s assistance, we began seeing players adjust to the different format. Reports from the far end of the room (which Steve Port and others purposely spent time at to watch) showed steadily increasing usage of EPIC, while players began to pay attention to pairings at steadily longer distances.
After round 1, some of the more senior judges, as well as both the head scorekeeper and myself, all agreed that we should start posting at least one set of paper pairings in addition as a secondary source for slacking players. The argument was that we would save time by giving those stragglers a place of guaranteed pairings, without having to wait for 30 seconds to a minute for their name to come up. We didn’t get the opportunity in Round 2, though, as there wasn’t visibly anyone to post the pairings for by the time we got pairings ready to post.
By round 4, we were easily going faster than by paper. Players were visibly just hanging around the hall, grabbing their pairings online when the time came; others stayed by their playgroup, and when pairings were announced, the people with smartphones disseminated the information to others in the group. By the end of the day, we found ourselves around an hour ahead of schedule.
The real story for me came on Sunday, when I was scorekeeping for the PTQ. The players were constantly surprising me in how quickly they were finding their pairings, dramatically reducing the expected turnover rate for an event like this. By round 3, players were already seated by the time I had finished my bookkeeping of the previous round (a minute, tops, due to 95% of it already being done during the round) and we were hitting sub-3-minute downtimes from last slip to clock restarting. It’s really quite something to look up after feeling that you _just_ put up pairings, and find all the players already shuffling up at their table. You wonder if you actually put pairings up at all, and that’s quite an interesting feeling.
Even more stunning (or telling of today’s pre-ban Standard) was that despite this speed, the GP Day 2 outpaced us by 30 minutes through the periods we were both running rounds.