Competition instruction - how to be a good judge

You've been asked to help out judging a Rubik's cube competition. Don't be afraid. It's a very simple process. The official regulations can be found at the WCA website, but you don't need to memorize all of those. Here are a few hints:

1. Be familiar with the WCA regulations

The WCA (World Cube Association) is the governing body of competitive speedcubing, similarly to how the NBA is the governing body of basketball. The WCA regulations are the rules that are followed by the competitors during a whole competition. It's not necessary to know all the rules by heart, but reading through them is helpful. The most important ones will be emphasized in the text below.

2. You can judge and compete

People worry about judging because they believe that it means they won't be able to compete. This is not true. If you're judging, you simply have to do all of your solves for the round before you can judge. If the round is divided into groups, then you might be judging right away, and competing later when the groups change.

3. Ask what you should be doing

A "runner" (a guy who is running between the competitor with judge and scrambling table) may be present at some competitions with many volunteers, while at other competitions the judge himself/herself is a runner.

4. Don't distract the competitors

Make sure you have your cell phone turned off. Don't try to make small talk with the competitors when they're trying to prepare to solve.

5. Announce the competitors' names

Announce the competitors' names and wait for them to come up. They should be rather close in the competitor's area.

6. Keep the puzzle covered

You'll have some cover for the puzzle available. It may be a piece of paper or another type of cover. Keep the puzzle covered up while preparing for the competitor to solve.

7. Make sure you as well as competitor are ready

There's a few things you should make clear about:

  1. Only the puzzle (and cover) are on the mat. All other things (pens, etc.) are off to the side.
  2. The Stackmat timer shows "0.00". If it doesn't, hit the "reset" button.
  3. Your stopwatch is reset and ready to go.
  4. The competitor is ready (has a chair if requested, etc.).

8. Ask the competitor "Ready"?

Grab the cover so that you're ready to remove it quickly, and then ask the competitor if he/she is ready. Once he/she confirms it, remove the cover and start your stopwatch.

9. Call out "8 seconds"

When the stopwatch reaches 8 seconds, say "8 seconds".

10. Call out "Go"

When the stopwatch reaches 12 seconds, say "Go".

11. Stop stopwatch when the competitor starts the timer

Once the competitor takes his/her hands off the timer, stop the stopwatch. The actual time doesn't matter, just which one of three intervals it falls into.

  1. Time is less than 15 seconds. All right, there is nothing to be done.
  2. Time is greater than 15 seconds but less than 17 seconds. The competitor will receive a penalty of 2 seconds.
  3. Time is greater than 17 seconds. The competitor will receive a "Did Not Finished" kind of penalty (DNF, in short).

12. During the solve

You should watch for a few things during the solve (of a competitor). Make sure the timer doesn't stop. If the competitor started incorrectly or hits the timer with his/her hands, the timer may by accidentally stopped early. Be aware of this so you don't give the competitor unjustly low time. Consult with the head judge what to do in such a situation. Also during the solve, make sure you don't bump into other competitors who can be at a neighboring area.

13. Finishing the solve

The competitor will put down his/her puzzle and then stop the timer. Timer has to be stopped with hands flat down, not with the wrists. No moves on the puzzle are allowed after stopping the timer. Look at the puzzle to make sure it is completely solved. If there's evident a slight misalignment, take into account Article 10 (in the WCA regulations) in order to figure out what's a penalty and what isn't. If you're not sure, you can always consult it with the head judge. If you decide to discuss with the head judge, let him/her come over to you. Don't pick up the puzzle, don't take the puzzle anywhere.

14. Write down the time

If the competitor has no penalty, write down the time on the score sheet. Then sign/initial the judge box and have the competitor sign/initial the competitor box. If the competitor does have a penalty, write it down by adding it to the time on the timer in the form e.g. 17.65 + 2 = 19.65, assuming the timer showed 17.65 and the competitor received a penalty of 2 seconds. Once the competitor finished all the solves in a given round, give him/her back the puzzle and hand over complete score sheet in the place designated by the head judge. Otherwise, bring the puzzle and score sheet back to the scrambling table.

15. When in doubt, ask WCA delegate

If you have any questions regarding the regulations, always ask the WCA delegate for clarification. Most solving attempts will go flawlessly, however, there might be a few cases which fall outside this mini-training.

Taken and edited from (Original) link valid as of January 19, 2013.
Related instructions: how to be a competitor and how to complete your solving attempt.