“I’m not on the pairings.”

Cascade repairs are the normal fix in scenarios when the process of fixing an issue results in either an odd number of players being re-added to the event, or an odd number of players being left opponent-less. Very likely, the relevant player also has a record that would preclude them from just being given the bye, so instead we need to get them playing someone.

These repairs are normally the most difficult single task that a scorekeeper will need to do, as it requires coordinated effort with judges, and needs to be done expediently, in order to have minimal impact on matches that could already be playing.

Caveat / CYA

This is one of the areas in scorekeeping where there are no mechanisms in tournament documents to define process. What is described below are common variations on the established processes in-use at events today, but the Head Judge has final authority to determine the appropriate fix.

Additionally, it helps to keep in mind that cascade repairs is the alternative to re-pairing the round, and the decision of doing one vs. the other is contextual to the event that is being run. Cascade re-pairs in small tournaments also result in larger deviations from “ideal” Swiss pairings for a round; as a result, it is likely “better” for small tournaments, or tournaments right up against round thresholds, to simply re-pair rather than performing a cascade.

General Process – Constructed

You may find it helpful to print out a copy of pairings by-table when you begin; it provides all the information you’ll need at once, can be written on, and can be passed off to judges. You will also want to get floor judges involved early, as you will likely require one judge per table affected.

First, you will need to verify and identify what record the player has. This is your starting point, and you’ll need to identify and break a pairing at this point total in order to insert the hanging player. Which pairing you break is up to you, but if there is a pair-down at this point total, breaking that particular pairing will have the lowest potential effect on fundamental rules of Swiss pairings.

So, now you can pair the hanging player with someone at that table, but that leaves you with a new hanging player. So, now you need to continue this process, but going down the point totals each time. So, if you start with a 9-point player, your first table break happens at 9 points, and then you look at 8-point players, then 7-point, and so-on, until you have run out of players. The last hanging player will either get paired up against the bye (if they can be located and it isn’t too far into the round) or given a bye.

As you find your tables and players, you can start telling judges what needs to be done. How you do this is up to you – some scorekeepers get both players up to the stage, others ask for just a specific player, and others will try to direct everything at once.

General Process – Limited

With a limited tournament, the key difference is that everyone is podded, and as-such, your resolution options are much simpler, as you’re only rebuilding that one pod, instead of trying to navigate between the entire tournament. This can get tricky in some cases, though, because you may need to pair outside-the-box in order to end up with a valid pairing. (occasional pods at Grand Prix and other large events will have matchups with players 6-9 points apart, due to pod compositions and drops)

Handling Re-pairs

A common problem when performing a cascade repair is when the fix results in two players that have played each other already. In these scenarios, you will need to break a separate table and adjust those matches in order to manually reach a pairing set that does not include re-pairs. Generally, I will instruct judges to handle this at-the-table, then just tell me what the final result is.

(yes, you could verify that all re-pairs have not played each other, but you have 1-2 minutes to complete this entire process, and there is no easy view in any tournament software to discover a player’s previous opponents)

Efficiency Improvements

What I describe above is the “complete” method of handling a cascade repair, but in reality, there are a couple efficiency trade-offs that can be made with minimal additional effect on the tournament.

  1. Break pairings only at bye-less point totals. A common refrain amongst competitive players is trying to avoid getting a bye early, because players with byes tend to be playing control decks, be playing slowly, or both; as a result, they tend to congregate together. That congregation is also bad for the odds of a pairing-break resulting an accidental re-pair.
  2. Stop the re-pair process at a point total where players are still playing “for fun” or “for Planeswalker Points”. (giving an out-of-prize-contention 3-5 player a bye, instead of going all the way to one of the 1-7 players) This one really is context-dependent, but can be an option when you have a shortage of judges, or are time-constrained beyond normal circumstances.

My Personal Process

  • I either let the on-standby judge know there’s a cascade, or start getting judges wrangled together as I navigate future steps.
  • If the tournament is in WER, I print a copy of pairings by table and get ready to write on it. If the tournaments is in WLTR, I get a piece of paper ready to write on, and navigate to the view of match tables. (the WLTR view has point totals on it, WER doesn’t)
  • I start at the point total that the hanging player is at, and circle/write-down the last table that has a player at that point total. (either a pair-down, or two players at that point total)
  • I say to the first judge, “Go to table ###(1), find [player on right of table listing], and tell him to move toooo … ” (trailing-off slightly to imply that I don’t want them to go yet)
  • I then move to the next point total down that doesn’t involve byes. (so, if I started at 13/14/15 points, my next table is at 12 points) Same thing: find the last table that has a player at that point total, and circle/write the number.
  • Finish talking to the first judge, “table ###(2).”
  • Start talking to the next judge, “Go to table ###(2), find [player on right of table listing], and tell him to move toooo … “
  • Repeat this process until I’ve at least reached to a point where it won’t affect relevant standings. The last player is asked to come up to the stage.
  • Begin cascading the pairings in the tournament software, moving the right-listed player down.
  • Wait a minute / deal with other issues, both to talk with the remaining hanging player, and also to watch in-case of a re-pair that needs further work.
  • Print out new slips for the changed matches.