Types of tournament format: Part three

October 28, 2010

After not posting for close to a month, I’m back. (VERY busy with school work)

I shall continue from my last post, regarding the swiss format.

Warning: You are about to read a wall of text!

It is a format which most if not all players had some experienced it one way or another.

Swiss-system tournament is a commonly used type of tournament where players or teams need to be paired to face each other for several rounds of competition. This type of tournament was first used in a Zurich chess tournament in 1895, hence the name “Swiss system”.”

(Source: Wikipedia)

Firstly, the number of rounds has to be decided, according to the number of participants. The number of rounds is decided mathematically to ensure that after that number of rounds, there will only be one player with a full win. It can be calculated with the formula below.

2n > x

n = number of rounds required (smallest possible number)
x = number of participants

For e.g., 100 participants.
2n > 100 —> 27 >100
Therefore, the number of rounds needed for 100 participants is 7.

The ultimate aim of this format is to decide a winner within the format itself, and therefore after the required number of rounds, there will only be one full score player. If the number of rounds falls below that, it may result in more than one winner.

You may argue that, in YuGiOh a single elimination is used to determine the winner. My answer to that is, it is an extension of swiss format but it does not mean you should conduct less than the required number of rounds. One simple reason, fairness. One example is Asian Championship Qualifier 2010 in Singapore. There were more than 100 players, and only 4 swiss rounds were played before the top 8 players were cut-off to play in a single elimination. After 4 swiss rounds, there were more than 8 players who had a full win result. Another word, there were players who won every match and yet did not qualify for the next round. Fair? I doubt so.

Another key concept of swiss pairing is that each player will be paired with another player of the ‘same strength’. To prevent confusion, ‘strength’ is referred to the result in the tournament.

The principle of a Swiss tournament is that each player will be pitted against another player who has done as well (or poorly) as him or herself. For the first round, players are paired either according to some pattern or randomly (according to common practice in that type of game or sport). For subsequent rounds, players are sorted according to their cumulative scores and players are assigned opponents that have the same or similar score to that point. One proviso is that the same players never oppose each other twice. There may be adjustments made to the natural order.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The pairing in the first round is random, because all players are considered to be of the same ‘strength’ since no match has been played. However, players are paired according to their ‘strength’ in subsequent rounds. Whereby, players with the same number of wins will be paired together, e.g. 2 wins vs 2 wins, 1 win vs 1 win, 0 win vs 0 win. Now you may ask, how do you determine the exact pairing when there are obviously many players who have the same number of wins? Like I’ve said earlier on, it’s determined by their ‘strength’, which takes into the consideration of the opponents the players played against. Another word, a player will be paired against another player whose opponents’ score that player played against in earlier rounds are similar (if not as close as possible). Sound complicated, isn’t it? look at the example below.

After 3 rounds, player A won 3. His past opponents have the following scores respectively: 2 wins, 2 wins, 2 wins.
Player B won 3 as well. And his past opponents’ scores are: 2 wins, 2 wins, 1 win.

Player A will be considered to be better than Player B. This is to serve as a ‘tie-breaker’ since there will be many players who will have the same number of wins after each round. It is based on the logic that if you’ve the same number of wins as another player, but you’ve played against stronger opponents. Then relatively, it’s logical to determine that you’re stronger than the other player who has the same number of wins. This is consistent to the fundamental concept of swiss theory: a player will be paired against another of the same ‘strength’.

The players will be paired accordingly starting from the strongest to the weakest. It will be the same if you do it the other way round if there are even number of players. However, when the number of players is an odd number. There will be a ‘bye’. Whereby a win is awarded to the player without actually playing it. Then the next question you may ask is, why can’t the player at the top be awarded a ‘bye’ then? This relates back to the earlier point, whereby the opponents you played will determine your ranking too. By rewarded a ‘bye’, the ‘opponent’ you played is considered to have “won none”, hence affect the ‘fairness’ of the system. However, in comparison if the lowest ranked player is awarded a ‘bye’, technically it is least disruptive to the overall result to determine the winner eventually.

Recall Asian Championship Qualifier 2010, there were 3 ‘bye’ in a round which is systematically impossible.

Next point is that no players will be paired together again. Again recall Asian Championship Qualifier 2010 and World Championship Qualifier 2010, players were paired up again somehow. Just in case, you think that I’ve something personal against the organizers, I just want to highlight that there were systematical mistakes in national tournaments. I must also mention, there had been improvement.

Number of participants:
Any. But this format is mainly used for huge number of participants whereby round robin is not practical, while elimination hurts the participation friendliness.

Depend on number of rounds, which means depend on number of participants.

Same as round robin. 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:
Friendly. Players can play a certain number of matches due to a fixed number of rounds without elimination.

Luck importance:
If swiss system is used alone, then it is the same as single elimination whereby you can’t afford to lose a single match. If it is played for a top 8 or 16 cut-off, which is common in YuGiOh, then the luck of the opponent you’ve played against is fairly important for tie-breaker in ranking.

Written by Maxilicious



  1. Thnks for the Article ^^

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