Call a judge. Right. Right? (on Mori and cheating)

Rich Hagon is one of my favorite members in the meta-community of Magic. He’s the reason I know the name of many more players than we see in the coverage and than I have met personally. He’s why, anytime a player finally “breaks through” in the text coverage, I tend to find myself thinking, “Wait, I already know this name…right, because Rich interviewed him last year in his podcast coverage for a GP!”
Rich Hagon’s article this week is about the Hall of Fame. It’s not about his vote in particular so much as, in appropriate Rich Hagon style, it is about all the candidates.
Hagon on Mori
Since Rich is also a super-nice guy, the kind who is loathe to say anything negative about anyone, his commentary about Katsuhiro Mori really stands out:
Katsuhiro Mori

12 thoughts on “Call a judge. Right. Right? (on Mori and cheating)

  1. Cheating on camera in the finals at Worlds wouldn’t just be brazen, it would be crazy.
    Would it be crazy? If your normal form of cheating is intentionally misrepresenting the game state and then pretending it was just a sloppy mixup
    (I don’t know if that is what he does or not, but just providing another view)

  2. @thom – That’s a good point; it’s also important to keep in mind that that happened at Worlds 2005, which was the first one Mori had attended. I don’t know if he had as much of a reputation at the time, or if that’s why Sheldon is so irked at him (it was a pretty embarrassing thing, judging-wise).
    That said, given the amount of suspicion out there about him /now/, I’m seriously concerned about the idea that he continues to win events while a host of people think he’s cheating /while/ he’s not, for some reason, under constant surveillance.
    Mike Flores recently addressed the idea of gaining edge from cheating in Spreading Seas and My Imaginary Superpower, which I think is also relevant to this discussion. My primary concern is the amount of talk on the topic versus the amount of action, as I think a high talk/action ratio is in many ways intrinsically a problem, independent of how much action is taken on the topic.

  3. Its tricky though.
    Possible outcomes of doing it:
    He cheats and gets banned – Fair
    He cheats and the judges still miss it – Bad for DCI
    He doesn’t cheat and does badly because cheating is his normal method – Fair
    He doesn’t cheat, because he isn’t a cheat, is on tilt because of being watched and does badly – Not Fair
    I suspect most people would tilt a little bit if they were under surveillance for a whole tournament. So if he is actually innocent we don’t learn anything and just treat him unfairly. Some form of control needs to be devised

  4. I guess I missed:
    He doesn’t cheat and does well putting the rumours to bed
    But I’m not actually certain one tournament of surveillance would be enough to change people’s minds. How many times would it be fair to monitor him if the judges found nothing and he does well?

  5. I’m the player in the example playing against Mori at PT San Diego. I could have called on him for slow play earlier in game 3, but I think there was a judge watching already. I had assumed that the judge would take action, but he didn’t until I called for it when the stalling got rediculous.
    I also had to call for a judge in game 1 when Mori played his 2nd land for the turn. I was surprised that a player with a reputation as his only got a warning for that.

  6. @Peter –
    Thanks for commenting. That second land thing is, well, apparently par for the course? Unsettling, really.
    Thanks for clarifying about there being a judge around already – this highlights the very important point that even judges aren’t immune to a reticence to call slow play (or stalling), and explains a little bit more about why you didn’t jump on it earlier.
    I recall that you were incredibly frustrated by the time you made the call, and Mori was clearly playing glacially, following a pattern of reviewing his hand, then reviewing the board, then fiddling with his cards…and then repeating that all over again without doing anything.

  7. I’ve covered Mori cheats numerous times in past articles. For a period of time during 2005-2006, Mori was absolutely savage in bending ‘misunderstandings’ to his advantage, up to the point where there was enough evidence of this that the judges DID follow Mori every round, judge manager Andy Hecht had a come to jesus conversation explaining that his behavior would not be tolerated. Then Mori still managed to get another warning and was banned.
    For quite a while, the judge program wasn’t tracking accumulated warnings across tournaments, making it much harder to catch pattern-of-behavior cheaters like this. After some ranting and very clear pointing out how not doing this was bad for the game, they started doing so.
    Additionally, if what Hagon says is true and he got warnings in every round at Gothenberg – what makes you think the judges weren’t there keeping an eye on it? I can tell you from experience that the DCI/judges don’t give out everything that they know about players because there is no reason to help them put their guard up. If Mori has another bad tournament like this, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him go right back under the ban hammer.
    Finally, Hagon actually had to have some balls to say what he did and deserves props. If you call someone a cheater who is not retired/Mike Long – incredibly, even if that person has been banned before – the eye of suspicion always seems to fall on the accuser. People never want to believe a star is a savage cheater, even when the evidence is smacking them in the face again and again.

  8. Teddy –
    I definitely appreciate Rich saying it, and providing details. Honestly, the thing that annoyed me initially was more what Sheldon did – “Yeah, he’s a cheater. Nope, no details.” I’ve heard everything from Mori cheats (which there are a lot of supporting first-hand accounts for, like Peter’s, above) to “Japanese players cheat,” which is face-slappingly stupid. I’m of a mind to think that Mori is pretty much cheating now, but I want people to be very explicit about their case when they say that, just so we don’t generate the impression that all successful players cheat.

  9. This article struck me as unabashedly idiotic. “If someone says a Japenese player cheats, then that person is saying something ‘comes from the same place’ (whatever that means) that saying ‘all Japanese players cheat’ does.”
    Or your slippery slope:
    “If someone comes to think that a pro cheats, then that person will immediately think that all pro’s cheat, and then that person will lose confidence in tournament player, or perhaps become a shady cheater himself.”
    Both of these lines are ridiculous. You should be ashamed.

  10. Ty –
    I’m going to have to volunteer you to go first on the shame bus, sir. The lame “straw man” version of what I said is pretty easy to refute, sure.
    The real statement, on the other hand…
    At this last weekend’s SCG 5K, Alex Bertoncini calls the judge on his opponent. This leads to the opponent subsequently being observed and DQed. Opponent posts on MTGSalvation and spawns nine pages (last I checked) in which a solid majority of the posts are pure invective against Bertoncini, many with players claiming that “cheating by pros” and “judge bias toward pros” is why they don’t go to tournaments.
    Bertoncini isn’t even a “pro” in the sense we usually mean it, but the fact that he’s done decently in the small pool that is SCG 5Ks means that he’s a name, and enough people believe that ‘successful players are there because they cheated’ to generate these massive, angry responses.
    Similarly, I’ve read and heard “Japanese players cheat” quite a bit. This is also pretty bad for the community.
    The point is this – if I say “Mori cheats” and then provide no facts (or even anecdotes) to support it, then I am providing EXACTLY THE SAME EVIDENCE as if I said, “all pros cheat.” If I say “Mori cheats” with no facts, that’s EXACTLY THE SAME as saying, “Kai Budde cheats” with that same lack of facts.
    Many players, as witnessed online and as I’ve seen in person, make the natural assessment that any cheating claim is as good as any other – after all, why would we say Mori cheats if it weren’t true? This drives people away from playing, and supports weird ideas like an entire ethnicity or nationality sharing one behavior.
    Your straw man argument isn’t even quite a straw man – it’s just a weak sauce declaration backed by a claim that I should be ashamed. I think you can safely stow that claim, because we’ve seen illustrated time and again that making vague, unsupported assertions about players just leads to people distrusting the game as a whole.
    And then people don’t come and play at tournaments, and that sucks, because tournaments are great fun.
    (And really, what’s the downside here? Are you arguing that you want the right to make unsupported allegations against people? That it’s good? I have no idea, but it doesn’t seem particularly tenable.)

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