This is a bit of a wall of text, but the following piece was posted to reddit today in defense of disgraced World Champs competitor, Marcio Carvalho.
Dear Wizards of the Coast,
My name is Hugo Diniz and I recently participated in the World Magic Cup alongside Márcio Carvalho, João Andrade and Bernardo Torres as team Portugal. This was my first premier level event. Since I have a full time job as a Junior Doctor at “Hospital de São João” in Oporto, I see Magic the Gathering as a hobby, one that I returned to in February after several years without playing.
I never had the opportunity to spend time and get to know Márcio before the World Magic Cup. I had played him once, in my first Nationals tournament, and at that time my impression about him was that he was a fierce competitor and a charismatic guy. In every “big” tournament I attended this year, I saw lots of people watching his matches and pretty much everybody talking about him. Most people, not only regard him as the best Portuguese player to ever play the game and the face of the Portuguese Magic in the Circuit but also as a galvanizer of the Lisbon community, the biggest in the country.
Unfortunately for us, Márcio was disqualified from the World Magic Cup because of an incident on Round 5 against Israel. A lot has been said on the social media about that said incident but I would like to shed some light on that matter, report how things were handled by the Head Judge Kevin Desprez and finally present my opinion and my feelings during this whole situation.
For the Standard portion of the World Magic Cup I was the alternate and Márcio was in seat C. I was sitting slightly behind and between him and Bernardo Torres, who I was couching. While he was sideboarding, we asked for his help, at least a couple of times, because there was a tough board state on Bernardo’s match against Shahar Shenhar. Because of this, his sideboarding took longer than expected and his opponent asked him to hurry, which Márcio obliged, quickly pile shuflling and presenting his deck. After Márcio’s turn 1, his opponents pointed out to a Hornet Queen that was in the right side of the table next to his deck, face up, which was visible to his opponents but dificult for Márcio to spot because it was in front of a slightly folded sheet of paper (and not under the lifepad as I read elsewhere) that I myself ripped from my own lifepad and that Márcio was using to track life totals. Márcio called a judge, and after confirming that it was not a sideboard card, he got a game loss for presenting an illegal deck. This Hornet Queen had been exiled from the Whip of Erebos in game 1. After this, Shahar stood up and went to talk to the Head Judge but quickly came back and we kept playing.
During the next round against Switzerland, the Head Judge came and watched a bit of Márcio’s match, and then after game 2, with his match tied 1-1, the Head Judge called him apart and they talked for about ten minutes. After that, he kept his cool and was able to win his match and the round for Portugal. Márcio then informed us that he was under investigation because of the Hornet Queen incident and that Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl had seeked the Head Judge to tell him that Márcio had allegedly cheated on Pro Tour Amsterdam in 2010.
Me, João and Bernardo went to talk to the Head Judge to express discontent with how the situation was being handled, since we felt intimidated and damaged by having our captain removed during our matches. Head Judge Kevin Desprez was kind enough to listen to us and understood our point of view. Ultimately, he could not help us with his justification being that he had the World Magic Cup to manage, while this investigation was in progress and had to fulfill his obligations whenever he managed to find time for it, and it was better to ensure it happened, instead of taking hasty decisions that would affect us all. We accepted his reasoning and waited for the last round of the day.
After we ID with Russia and cling top 32, Márcio was called again by the Head Judge. He was informed that he and the rest of the Portuguese team were disqualified from the World Magic Cup. I was in shock. Yet again, João, Bernardo and myself went to seek justification on what had just happened with Head Judge Kevin Desprez. He told us that after deliberation and to keep the integrity of the World Magic Cup in check he had to DQ us after the incident of Round 5. The rationality Kevin presented us to justify why he believed that Márcio intentionally left the Hornet Queen outside his deck was the following: • Márcio and his opponents could not agree in the number of cards exiled in game 1. The Israelis said that several cards were exiled in Márcio’s side and Márcio was not sure it was the case but also was not sure that Hornet Queen was the only card exiled in game 1. • In round 6, Márcio pile shuffled his deck in 6 piles, so he probably did it on round 5 and should be able to spot if a card is missing. • In round 6, Márcio put his exiled cards behind his graveyard, in a horizontal position. • Márcio’s previous suspension and bad reputation.
Kevin then admitted it was a harsh situation for the three of us and that he believed we had no connection to this incident, but he had to follow the rules and DQ the whole team. At this point, Brazilian Pro Player Willy Edel joins the conversation and appeals to let us three keep playing, since it was the first premier level event for me and Bernardo. Kevin suggested we should talk to the Tournament Organizer, Scott Larabee. Scott Larabee was already informed of the situation and quickly told us that we would be able to continue playing in the tournament.
In that night, when things were calmer, Márcio was able to reconstruct his game 1 of round 5 and woke me up at 6 am after realizing that Hornet Queen was the only card that had been exiled. On Saturday morning, he accompanied the rest of the Portuguese team to the event, to support us and watch our matches. When he had the opportunity, he approached the Head Judge to provide every detail of the first game of round 5, which Kevin took notes.
This description of the whole incident summarizes the situation as I saw it but I made an effort to remain the most neutral as possible. Now I shall present my opinion on this subject.
First, I do not understand why Head Judge Kevin Desprez did not ask any questions to me, João or Bernardo, regarding the incident or about Márcio himself, not even when we went to talk to him and show our discontent. If he trully believes that me and the other teammates had nothing to do with the incident, why does he only seek to know the opinion of our opponents and other witnesses? This makes me think that his opinion about Márcio was unconsciously biased and got himself looking for proof to justify a disqualification instead of focusing on whether there was intent in presenting an illegal deck.
Which leads me to the second point. I do not understand either why a Hall of Famer, an ambassador of the game, that was not even playing in the World Magic Cup, actively seeks the Head Judge to try to negatively influence his decisions with allegations of a “cheat” that happened four years ago. I can understand that Hall of Famers do their best to keep the game nice and clean, but they should not let their feelings overcome rationale. This attitude by Paul Rietzl not only makes judge’s job even harder to do correctly but also shows hate, intolerance and hasty condemnation, things I am certain that Wizards of the Coast does not want to be part of the Magic community.
Another thing that also went wrong regarding Hall of Famers was Patrick Chapin tweeting this: “I know I don’t have the best reputation, but if I was going to cheat, I would hid the card better” (https://twitter.com/thepchapin/status/540928444465709056). People are free to tweet wherever they want, but this “quote” was something that Márcio only told the Head Judge (and after that, to his teammates, in portuguese). So, how something that is told to the Head Judge during an investigation, which I think should be kept in secrecy, is know by a Hall of Famer?
Regarding the rationale for DQ’ing Márcio, I understand that it is really hard to “prove” intention, but it also falls short in my opinion. Is it that hard to believe that you can fail to notice your deck is missing a card, when you are pile shuffling and helping your teammates? And when your opponent asks you to speed up and you do it more quickly? Is it really possible to infer intention because you saw Márcio pile shuffling with 6 piles and put his exiled cards behind his graveyard, in a horizontal position, in the next round? For me, it seems more like an adaptation in his game routine to ensure that he does not commit another error of this kind again.
The only parameter I can tend to agree which does not bode well for Márcio is his previous suspension. Márcio was disqualified from Grand Prix Rotterdam in 2009 by the same Head Judge Kevin Desprez during the second draft on Sunday and ultimately was suspended for 6 months for suspicious behavior during the draft (http://archive.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/eventcoverage/gprot09/welcome#11). I understand that one has to take into account Márcio’s past behavior, but should remain neutral and focused in the truth, which becomes harder when you were the one DQ’ing Márcio in the first place (in a sense you have a predefined idea about him).
Regarding Márcio’s bad reputation, I stumbled across Matt Sperling blog (http://sperlinggrove.blogspot.pt/2014/12/on-marcio-carvalho-dq.html#comment-form), claiming that he and Tom Martell (On twitter Kevin Grove also claims to have suffered from the same cheat) were cheated by Márcio after he topdecked off the sideboard or hidden zone. Several pro players also claim on twitter that Márcio is a cheater and players that did not saw the whole incident tweeted like they knew what was going on. I do not know if Márcio has cheated in the past, but without any kind of proof, that seems a bold statement for anyone to make. Also, other great players were called cheaters during their meteoric ascension like Paulo Vitor, Willy Edel and some of the japanese players during 2004/2005. I know that anyone can tweet whatever they want but defaming Márcio, without knowing what really happened at the World Magic Cup does not seem a healthy attitude for the ambassadors of the game.
As a Medical Doctor with a strict deontological code, I would never pact with cheating. I firmly believe that Márcio made a honest mistake and has been wronged and a victim of intolerance and pressures. Even with his prior suspension, everyone deserves a second chance and the right to the presumption of innocence (which he did not). Unfortunately for us all, Head Judge Kevin Desprez, with a questionable rationale, decides do DQ a whole team in the World Magic Cup with less than 2 hours of an investigation that, in my opinion, was also not managed in the very best way. While I am glad that me, João and Bernardo were able to play on day 2 and collect our prize, I cannot help but feel that Portugal was also wronged and injured. After the feature match against Brazil, I had mixed feelings about my experience but mostly I was feeling sad and disappointed with the way everything was conducted and with the attitude of some of the players that represent this game at the highest level.
At last, I would like to publicly thank not only Scott Larabee and Hélène Bergeot for letting us keep playing in the World Magic Cup, Willy Edel, who was really supportive and actively pursued so we could keep playing, but also Shahar Shenhar and his father who also showed their concerns to the Premier Play Team about the DQ of the rest of the Portuguese team.
I can only hope that justice will prevail and that Márcio Carvalho will get to keep playing and help the Portuguese competitive scene to grow.
Best regards, Hugo Diniz
Hugo is obviously a friend of Marcio’s, but I’m not sure that means we need to automatically discount what he says. So what happened? Was it a simple case of shuffling too fast due to the constraints of a team format? Was the card slyly hidden underneath the life pad for later retrieval or to thin the deck? Was it a cheat? No one knows for sure except Carvalho himself, but we do know that a DCI investigation by judges at the event concluded that he be disqualified from the event. I don’t know how much more the situation can develop, but what we have seen among the pro community is a lot of infighting and dredging up old transgressions by everyone. I saw the earlier cheat bannings last month as a cleansing fire that rid the community of a few bad apples, including serial cheater Alex Bertoncini and pretender to the Rookie of the Year throne, Jared Boettcher. Now the fire appears to have ignited a few tempers and the pro community is getting burned. Here’s hoping the holiday season calms everyone down and even a more-vigilant DCI catches fewer cheaters and it’s because fewer people are trying. Keep it clean out there.