Answered: <SG5> Definition of Match-Affecting violation in regards to knocking over stacks

Two weeks from now, I am going to be refereeing a tournament at my old high school. I have a question about <SG5>.

A DQ can only be issued for violations that are egregious or match-affecting, or for repeated minor violations receiving Warnings. <SG5> warrants a DQ if a <SG5> violation is considered Match Affecting.

Imagine the following scenario:

What if for example, a Red robot knocks over a Blue stack that has 12 cones (for a total of 24 points), violating <SG5>, but at the end of the match, the Blue alliance still leads the Red alliance in terms of points without the stack being counted. This is assuming that the Blue stack in question, immediately before being tipped over, was not in a state where it would generate any additional points by virtue of being a Highest Stack or being in a scoring zone.

If the Blue alliance lost because of that tipped over stack, then yes, it would have been Match Affecting and a DQ would have been issued to the Red alliance or team. But what if the Blue alliance would have won anyway?

These are my questions:

  1. Even though the Blue alliance would still have won without this stack in question, would this tip-over still be considered a Match Affecting violation? My interpretation of the rules would say that it is not because it did not change the outcome of the match per the definition of Match Affecting, thus not warranting a DQ.
  2. Would the ruling change if the tip-over violation was considered egregious, but not Match Affecting? I do not see the word “egregious” mentioned in the game manual, yet Chapter 5 of the referee training videos mentions it in the guidelines for debating whether to issue a DQ or not. Based on the game manual alone, I would interpret such an egregious. but non-Match Affecting violation to not result in a DQ.
  3. Let’s say a Blue team that was on this alliance had been playing a consistent strategy all day long prior to this match and clearly used this strategy in this match. The said strategy would most likely have won the match for the team’s alliance if it was played consistently throughout the entire match. However, when this knocking over of the stack occurs, the robot’s driver panics and deviates from the strategy, and the Blue alliance loses the match. Because the Red alliance committed a violation that caused the Blue alliance (which was on a roll in terms of winning) to deviate from their strategy and lose the match, could this be considered to have affected the outcome of the match, thus resulting in a Match Affecting violation and consequent DQ? What I’m essentially asking here is, can a violation be deemed Match Affecting based on just deviations from planned strategy?

This interpretation is correct. Match Affecting is defined as “A situation that results in a change of the winner and loser of a Match.” This act, though hostile and mean-spirited, did not change the winner/loser of the match.

The referee training video uses the phrase “egregious or match affecting” to refer to the fact that both qualities are possible criteria for a Disqualification, depending on the rule in question. Most rules, including <SG5>, only include the following “Match Affecting” verbiage to determine when a violation should result in a DQ.

However, rule <G12>, which refers to tipping over Robots (not stacks) includes the following line (bolded for emphasis):

It does not include the “Match Affecting” verbiage quoted previously. Thus, a <G12> violation can still be called if the Robot tip/damage is egregious, but not Match Affecting. However, this is not a blanket statement for all rules. In the case of <SG5>, the stack tip must be Match Affecting - so yes, your interpretation is correct.

Of course, as a non-Match-Affecting but still clear violation of <SG5>, this action would definitely result in a warning, and multiple warnings can lead to a Disqualification at the referee’s discretion (even if none of the warnings are Match Affecting).

This is a good question, and one that is difficult to issue a blanket ruling for. Match Affecting is defined as “A situation that results in a change of the winner and loser of a Match”. Every match is different - so what results in the change of a winner is different in every match, too.

With the exception of formal warnings that are recorded over the course of an event, a referee can only be expected to make judgment calls based off of the actions seen on the field in a given match. The only way to rule consistently is to look at objective outcomes, like “5 cones fell”, “5 cones fell into the 20 Point Zone”, “the pin prevented them from getting to the parking bonus”, etc. Referees cannot (and should not) predict what “would have happened” or take a team at their word for what their strategy “would have been”.

Similarly, past performance is not always an accurate indicator of what will happen in a given match - many teams have made it to the finals “on a roll” only to have a fluke mechanical failure, critical strategic error, or some other unforeseen issue that prevents them from winning.