Following the Competition Ruleset: A Player’s Responsibility
In light of recent events, I felt it was important to stress to newer players, as well as even veterans who may not understand, the importance of adhering to the rulesets ordained by competition organizers. The most important reason you are doing this is not to appease those in charge, but in the interest of facilitating fair competition for all your fellow competitors.
For a significant number of smashers, competitive Smash may be the first/only experience with serious organized competition, and with the community being a close knit grassroots one, the friendships and general sense of camaraderie within the community may distract players from seeing the larger effect disregarding rules may have.
The rulesets used in Smash, specifically the older games with many years of tournament play, have been decided upon thanks to the wisdom and experience gained from the countless tournaments that have been run, both successfully and miserably.
Using a very recent example of bending/breaking the rules to one’s preference, playing a best of 5 set instead of best of 3, while technically a preferable scenario for more balanced results, is not allowed due to the limited time conditions tournaments are run under. “But it’s just this one game, and we did a gentleman’s shake on it, it’s fairer anyway”. While it’s easy not to feel like it’s a big deal when it’s “just one set”, the problem arises that EVERYONE in a tournament should be allowed to invoke the same clause for extending match time if you can, and this, of course, just can’t happen. While the gentleman’s clause exists for stage selection, the reason why it is allowed is that if every single match in the tournament invoked the clause, it would cause no disruption to the running of the tournament, whereas frequent match time extension would. So, due to the fact that match extension is not a legal option for players in the early stages of a tournament, not only is it disruptive to the tournament because time considerations are ignored, but it creates a disparity between the playing conditions of the players who shake on an extended set and those who play within the rules.
“When comparing game x to y, you find x is more like chess” – Smashers’ favorite weird apples to oranges analogy since 2008
Let’s look at players in a local chess tournament for example, and assume that the tournament is being run under rapidplay rules, where each player has 30 minutes on their clock for a theoretical maximum 60 minutes of game time. International clock rules offer 2 hours to complete forty moves per player, and then another hour of sudden death if the game hasn’t ended in 40 moves within the time limit. So, in essence, you have 6 hours total theoretical game time, which offers vastly superior conditions for both players, but if some of these local tournaments were run under international rules, there simply wouldn’t be enough time for the tournament to actually finish. For this reason, rapidplay is enforced, even if ideally, we would have no timer on matches at all. Now suppose two players shake on not starting the timer until they’ve made 20 moves each, because hey it would definitely benefit them both, but not only is that going to disrupt the tournament, it also gives them the unfair advantage of playing chess in a less pressurized environment, giving them leeway to think more, and be less affected by nerves that may be compounded by shorter time limits. This is a similar situation with extending to Bo5 over Bo3. Ignoring or deliberately manipulating timing restrictions in a chess competition is at least an immediate disqualification, if anything, smashers tend to get off pretty easy when it comes to dancing around the rules due to the more personal relationships between the players and TOs. However, with Smash growing into a much bigger tournament game, the importance of ruleset adherence now needs to be stressed more than ever.
As Smash tournaments get bigger and more official in nature, there will be less room for disruptive behaviour, and no doubt the consequences for lack of adherence to rules will be more dire, so now is a better time than any to start being more considerate of rules. With tournaments like EVO and the MLG Circuit in effect, it would reflect very badly on the community if players were to disregard rules in large tournaments not run by immediate members of the Smash community. Remember the whole bracket fixing/manipulation fiasco for MLG back in Brawl days? Didn’t end well. Speaking of which…
Bracket manipulation has a history of occurrence in Smash, and competition in general. A lot of players think it might not be a big deal in the realm of Smash, but bracket manipulation and match fixing is one of the most heavily punished practices in all of competition, because of the way it causes unfair and unrepresentative results. Fixing the bracket to have a co conspirator eliminate certain players for you, or just working the bracket to make advancing easier for the conspirators in general is an exceptionally damaging thing to do, and is something which will get you disqualified, fined, and banned from major competitive events, as well as being stripped of your winnings. Look up the Chinese badminton teams in the 2012 Olympics for reference. So, remember, be fair to other players and respect the rules of tournament play. Go there, compete, and follow the rules.
If you take issue with the rules, our TOs are pretty accessible on Smashboards and Twitter, we don’t have closed governing bodies like other organisations. Rulesets are always open to discussion and debate, bad seeding can be challenged before tournaments start, but if you decide to enter a tournament, it’s your responsibility to follow the rules of the tournament. If you take issue to the point where you’re willing to disregard those rules in tournament, just don’t enter.
After the debacle of Apex’s planning falling through and causing all sorts of issues, people took the chance to highlight the responsibility of event organizers with regards to the community. Likewise, the players also have a responsibility, to conduct themselves properly and adhere to the rules of the event they attend. Smash is a young competitive scene if you compare it to all competitive events out there, so the transition from grassroots events run by groups of friends to frequent large scale official tournaments is still fresh. For this reason, it’s understandable that there are bumps like this on the road, and it’s vital that at this sensitive stage, we don’t go looking to nail individuals to crosses because of mistakes they make. This is the time to help each other grow together, into the larger scale that Smash has reached. Professional, considerate, efficient TOing coupled with professional player conduct, respecting the rulesets and respecting the fairness of competition for all entrants, this is ultimately the key to a healthy competitive community.
It’s up to each one of us to play our part, not just expect the other guy to make everything go smoothly, nobody likes having competition tainted by scandals and drama. The friendships formed over the years are part of what makes the community so special, but now it’s also time to consider respect for the game itself. Let’s play fair, do right by our fellow competitors, and keep the spirit of true competition strong in the community.
Until next time, keep up the good work!