Walter: I think it is remarkable how judging is done. In this case a sheet which clearly was made with the RULES in mind was taken and there was not much leeway for the judges. A naturalistic tree must fail under these circumstances.
I am fully on the same line as you Walter, regarding how bonsai are judged. I fight a little fight here in Denmark too, being part of the judges committee in the national association.
It is extremely difficult to move people away from being strict by the rules, and observe instead.
I admit that the schemes used for judging is a good learning tool for beginners, helping to put focus on details of a tree, but it does not qualify when selecting the best bonsai.
Selecting the best bonsai is also a matter of personal taste and aesthetic views, and therefore I think it often is better to let a demonstrator or selected individual known for her or his achievements, personally select the bonsai.
It will make it that person's choice that year. Like Mr. Iwasaki choosing for Gingko last time. It will not always fall in every ones taste, but it will at least not try to set the selection upon a pedestal as being fairly and evenly judged.
How will you select the best three and pot combination, with the use of a scheme? The winner might be the most spectacular combination, but this will not be judged based on a scheme. It is a matter of aesthetic appreciation and the feeling of the interaction of the elements, not always possible or necessary to put into words or a score.
Personal selections from a respected artist is therefore often more preferable.
Walter would properly select other trees than me, and so on. We all appreciate different aesthetics and so it should be.
This year at our 25th jubilee, we change it a bit after my constant pressure (they got tired of me I think), and the best tree is selected by the visiting demonstrators. The local judges, including me, will make the selection of some other prizes, but this time without the scheme. Progress I believe.