Penalty Systems for RPS Tournaments

By Julian O'Shea

 In the perfect world of Rock-Paper-Scissors tournaments, there would be no need to have a system in place to deter foul and unfair play. Unfortunately, this is not the case and tournaments are ripe with incidents, both accidental and deliberate, that require tournament officals to step in and deal with such behaviour. In my opinion, there is not currently a system in place to best deal with offending competitors, and I also feel that there should be grass roots changes in the Penalty System used in rps tournaments.

  I personally am a strong proponant for the introduction of the Card Penalty System to be introduced in tournament Rock-Paper-Scissors. At tournament level, competitors are expected to be at a higher level of skill and experience than in your usual 'friendly' games of rps. Due to this one could expect there to be a lesser occurance of incidents requiring penalties. However, the emotion, pressure and adrenaline of tournament level competition can cause even the most experienced and hardy rps players to make accidental penalty-worthy mistakes. Far more ugly in tournament play are the deliberate moves made by competitors that must be penalized harshly in an attempt to remove them completely from tournaments.

  In the Card System of penalties, a player is given a Yellow Card for minor displays of rule infringements, and a Red Card for the much more serious offences. If a player receives three Yellow Cards in a single rps match then they are forced to concede the remainder of the match. A Red Card ends the match at that point, and the offending player forfiets the remainder of the match. Different tournaments differ greatly on other treatment of penalised players. Some tournament rules state that a player that loses more than one match due to penalties over the course of the tournament is ineligible to play out the remainder of the matches, this is quite an important ruling in rps tournaments that span a few days, forcing many players to be more reserved in their technique in fear of play infringments. Most tournaments treat penalized players on a case by case basis, with decisions being made by the tournament officials.

  The most common rps errors that warrants a Yellow card, predominantly made by rookie players, is the early shoot. More rounds than I could care to remember, starts with one of the competitors displaying their opening while their opponent is still on their prime. The most commonly way to deal with this is problem is both players to stop, pause and recompose themselves, and continue with no penalty to either side. In a friendly game of rps this is how I recommend players deal with this, the most common of rule errors. In tournament play, when the stakes are so much higher this should be dealt with in a different manner.  In future I feel the judge or adjudicator should give the infringing player a Yellow Card, as a penalty for interupting the flow of the game and causing their opponent to lose concentration and game rhythm. If the judge feels that the player causing the infringement is of such an inexperienced standard, then they may, as their judgement dictates, simply offer a warning. Using this penalty system I have seen some expert players request that their far less experienced opponents not receive the Yellow Card in some truly uplifting and quite emotional displays of good sportsmanship.

  The other major cause of Yellow Cards being issued is the mixed throw. This occurs when one player decides at the very last second (in actual fact, too late) to change from their decided throw to another. This ends up with a hybrid throw that cannot easily be determined what the intention of the player was supposed to be. The most common of these is when a player goes to throw paper and at the last second changes to a scissors throw. The 'scrunched hand', often with all fingers pointing in different directions is a far too common and unpleasant sight for rps tournament officials who get called in to make a decision in reference to the throw. Usually they will call for an undecided verdict and get the players to replay. The reason why a penalty must be enforced is their opposition has just shown exactly what they had intended to throw.
This is not a fact that I am proud of, but in the past I have been guitly of the 'scrunched hand' throw. The scenario was: I was about to throw what I thought was a match-winning Rock, and realized (at the very last second) I had incorrectly worked out the gambit my opponent was playing. Trying desperately to correct my throw to a Paper I ended up with a hybrid mess. These were in the days well before penalties, but as an rps player who believes in ethics, I chose to forfeit the round, and had to fight back to win the match in a later round. This would have been the perfect place for me to receive a Yellow Card and accompanying warning.

   Events that justify the handing out of Red Cards are some of the worst things one can see at rps tournaments. There is no need to go into much detail and there are almost no reasons when the following events can be justified as legitimate actions.
* Contact while playing rps, especially with a strong-handed rock, is unacceptable behaviour and warrants a Red Card outright. If the contact is seen to be accidental then a Yellow Card should still be given to the player who was playing recklously to allow such contact to occur.
* Mental Disintigration that goes above and beyond what is reasonably expected in the sport, including racial and other derogitary slurs. This is something that must be stamped out of the game to ensure a clean future for the game.
* Deliberate distraction of the opponent. The severity of this as judged by the referee determines whether it is a Yellow or Red Card offence.


  This system of penalties for use in tournament play I feel is a way of making the tournament game a much more equitable system and is tough on the aspects of the game that the world rps community is strongly against. In the same way steroid testing and hard drug rules, introduced earlier this decade, have lead to an almost complete erradication of tainted tournaments, I feel that this penalty system could do the same for other aspects of the game. Having seen this system implemented, the only negative comments I have heard, are from the players who use an undesirable style of play are forced to re-learn the sport in the correct and honest way that it was designed to be played. The future of rps tournaments looks good, if the governing body of tournaments continues to review the rules and penalties to ensure they are keeping with the mood and style of the current Rock Paper Scissors community.
this "Chain Gang" to work for us."

Copyright World RPS Society 2002