Types of tournament format: Part two

September 27, 2010

Continue from my last post, part 2 on types of tournament format.

First, recap on the factors to consider when you organise a tournament which I’ve stated in part 1.

Critical factors
– Number of participants
– Time
– Venue

Secondary factors
– Participation friendliness
– Luck importance


Double elimination

It is like single elimination, except you go into the ‘loser bracket’ when you lose for the first time. So after each round, those who lost in the normal bracket will play their next match against an opponent in the loser bracket. And players who lose in the loser bracket will be eliminated, whereby you lost twice. Below is an example.

After the first round of normal bracket, B lost to A so B goes into loser bracket with D, F & H. After second round, D & H lost their matches in loser bracket, so they’re eliminated. As for C & G who lost in normal bracket, will then join the loser bracket and face the winners of the loser bracket from the last round. This goes on.

The tricky part comes after B becomes the winner of the loser bracket. B will then face the winner of the normal bracket, A. However, A has not lost before and therefore has ‘two life’, and B needs to win A twice in order to win the tournament. Whereas, A has just need to win B once, since B has lost once before. In conclusion, a player will be eliminated from the tournament after two  defeats.

Number of participants:
Same theory as single elimination, but preferably even number of participants.

One to two round(s) more than single elimination to decide the winner.

Same as single elimination. But the number of players will not get halved after every round, so you may want to switch to single elimination if you need to separate several waves for each round.

Participation friendliness:
More friendly than single elimination since you get eliminated after the second defeats.

Luck importance:
Same as above, slightly less important than single elimination.


Round robin (league)

I can explain this in one line: every player takes turn to play against every player.

Above is an example of a round robin table, a tournament with 4 players. Look horizontally, A wins C, and mark with a O. The ‘dash’ is there because a player can’t play against himself. Commonly use in football, whereby they don’t just count the number of wins but award 3 points for win, 1 point for draw and 0 for lose.

Number of participants:
It is tricky to ask, because it depends on whether you use round robin alone or combine it with other formats. Because it depends mainly on the time available, but preferably small number.

As every player plays against every player, it will take up a lot of time. Let say 20 players, that will be 19 rounds. And imagine 1 hour per round with 100 participants.

There is no decrease in the number of players after every round, so the time required will multiply if you need several waves for each round.

Participation friendliness:
Arguably friendly since you play the maximum number of rounds, but it will be boring and ‘meaningless’ if you know you’ve already lost too many rounds to win it.

Luck importance:
Minimum, since all against all. Best player will win.


I will explain swiss format in part 3 since it’s more complicated, and also to use combination of formats.


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