“Why aren’t result slips digital?”

Because it’s a horrible idea once you dive into it, and would only make tournaments worse for just about everyone involved.


… no, that isn’t enough of a reason? Well, let’s dig into this further.

When people bring up the concept of digital result slips, it’s usually about one of several reasons:

  • Saving paper
  • Speeding up the tournament
  • Reducing errors

But before we get into those, let’s look at the concept at its core, then start working outwards. How would a digital slip work? You would need a method for proving each player is who they say they are, and an area to enter in the result. The entire process could theoretically-happen on separate devices, (each player entering in their result separately) but that has inherent flaws:

  • It depends on each player having access to a smartphone or similar device independently. (which depends on country, and availability of cellular networks)
  • If there is a discrepancy, it can only be fixed easily when both players are next to each other. (i.e. if both players say they won 2-0, you have to find them to fix it)

So, the operation would need to happen from a single device. (which isn’t even a guarantee that there is an internet-enabled device between both players in a match) Then, you would need some method for each player to authenticate themselves, because you wouldn’t want someone surreptitiously entering in a result alone, or for a table that isn’t theirs. There are two options here:

  1. An authentication code of some sort that the players are given, or setup with ahead of time.
  2. Their DCI number.

Authentication codes are problematic, because they require varied touchpoints with players. Some percentage of your event registered online, while some registered on-site; each needing to acquire that code in some way. If you post codes with pairings or seatings, then you have the same issues with unauthorized authentication. (if everyone can see my code, everyone can say that they’re me) If you send them to players via email or a separate way, you still need to deal with the on-site players. And, beyond all this, you need to deal with the situation of players who forget (or didn’t know to look, or didn’t care to look) and need this information while they’re at the table, which means judges need to be able to access this level of information.

DCI numbers have some of the same problems, namely that players tend for forget them, mix up numbers, or accidentally swap them in their mind with their social security number. But, there’s another, more internal issue: the DCI# in the tournament software can be different from the one you registered with. If you have a Wizards Account, that account holds all of the DCI numbers associated to you, as well as all iterations of each. So, if your number is 123456, you’re Wizards Account will have three numbers right there 123456, X0123456, and Y0X0123456. If you’ve merged DCI numbers at some point, both numbers (and their iterations) are in your Wizards Account. You can use any of your numbers to register for a tournament, but only the primary one will be used in the event. This means that there will be many occasions where a player will type in their DCI#, but it will not be their primary number, and authentication will fail.

You also have a more physical problem: batteries. It’s relatively-common for players to be using their phones throughout the day, and for their batteries to be dying towards the end of Swiss on Saturday. This leads to situations today where player check their pairings online in the earlier rounds, and need to check them on-paper towards the end of the day. This leads to situations where you can’t trust that someone having the capability to do something digitally in Round 1 will be able to do so in Round 7.

So, what if we scrap the whole player-centric version, and look at centralizing the system. Kiosks would be the labor-free option, but that really only solves the battery problem – you still need to deal with the authentication problem, and now players need to remember to come up together to report a result.

If you think that this could be solved with staff, (either with dedicated staff or judges) then you need to look at the staffing needs for something like that. About half of all matches finish in a 15-minute period, between 20 and 5 minutes left in the round; at a 1500-player tournament, this would mean 375 of the 750 matches would finish during this time, or 25 matches per minute. There are about 30 main event judges on the floor at an event this size, but that’s the number needed just for normal event work. Assuming staff interaction on all slips, you’d likely need another 10-20 staff just for this, as you’d either be dealing with these request at-the-table (which requires time to move people around) or at designated areas around the room (where you now need to do authentication that people are who they say they are or played where they say they did)


So, hopefully that’s enough words on the main problem, but let’s look at those arguments again quick.

Would it save paper? It would in the abstract, as long as you’re forcing everyone to use a digital method. If you give people the option, then people’s preference may change during the course of the event, (i.e. the battery problem from before) and you need to provide the customer service capability to handle these requests.

Would it speed up the tournament? Likely not; this kind of system will never integrate smoothly into tournament software, so there will always be interaction from a scorekeeper. Additionally, the only place where there’d be a speed bonus would be in the processing of the final slip, and there are processes in place today to pass that info to the scorekeeper via judges, before anything is written down or players even start packing up.

Would it reduce errors? Maybe, if the argument is that judges would be more-dependable than players, or that a UI can help make sure that results are entered correctly. You’re never really going to remove the scorekeeper-error aspect without automated-entry into the tournament software. Realistically, though, the number of player issues is pretty small, even in a large tournament; you’re trying to fix — maybe — five player mistakes over the course of the entire event. Even if you automated your scorekeeper entry, at most tournaments, that would account for only 3-5 additional slips.


And one last issue with digital slips.

It’s round seven and a player comes up and says their points are wrong, and they’re disputing that they won in Round 5 when the system says they lost. Their opponent dropped in Round 6 and has left. A paper slip makes this easier.

A paper slip doesn’t get someone complaining that they’re “not a computer person”.

A paper slip doesn’t have to deal with battery issues, kiosks, staffing, or technology being moved and setup between sites.

A paper slip sits at the table, immediately-accessible to the players. No forgetting by players, no forcing players to wait in lines, or have a charged device. (or a device at all)