The reason things regularly distribute over a bell curve rather than a simple arrow pointing up is that some things like to average out. One of those things is judge preferences.
If you were able to chart preferences on an X-Y axis, you would certainly see the majority of the prefs in the middle, the high curve of the bell. But there are also prefs over at the edges. No matter who a judge is—with perhaps the exception of recently paroled axe murderers, but perhaps not—there are teams who want them in the back of the room. Go figure. Which inevitably leads to pairings where you can find little or no mutuality between two schools, not just with this judge, or this tournament, but with every judge and every tournament. There are schools that, when they hit each other, the judge assignment is a blot on the page of otherwise wonderful assignments, and when we in tab look at it, we say, “Oh, it’s them again,” and although we do try to fix it, we know that it’s a mug’s game. School X has never preffed the same as School Y in the history of preffing. Go figure.
Now, it could be (and should be) simply a matter of seeking out different paradigms. If you have a more traditional style, you want more traditional judges, and if you have a more edgy style, you want more edgy judges. But it’s probably not that simple. I’ll look at the schools and see that they’re both traditionists or both edgies, so why are they preffing so differently?
I have heard tell of people doing things like reverse preffing or otherwise attempting to game the system, but that doesn’t make sense to me. If tab is always going to be working toward giving you the best possible matchup, not preffing your favorites as your bests means simply that you’ll not be getting your best possible matchups. Is the goal to get a judge you like, one of your 1s, hidden among your 4s and 5s? Good luck with that, if the tab staff is paying even marginal attention. Clever preffing to outwit your opponents at the preffing level would require that you know who you’re going to hit, and when you’re going to hit them, and how they rated all the judges. 1s and 2s are thick on the ground in random presets because everybody’s clean. Then, it’s all eyes on the bubble, so that affects placement. Do you really want a 2-3 or a 4-4 rather than a 1-1? If one of your 4s is really a 1, what is the likelihood that it’s one of your opponent’s 4s?
I knew a guy who, when he drove at night around blind curves on back roads, would flip off his lights to see if a car was coming from the other direction. This would work really well, until the other car was doing the same thing. It made more sense to slow down on the curves. I realize that this analogy doesn’t in the least true up to doing odd prefs, but you get my point.
It is a puzzlement.