This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of GammOnLine.|
Thank you to Kit Woolsey for his kind permission to reproduce it here.
A club tournament held over one evening has three main aims:
In addition it is sociable to play a fair number of different opponents during the evening.
A knock-out tournament satisfies the first and third aims but only works well with a power of two entrants, whereas a Swiss Tournament is difficult to run, especially with some matches taking much longer than others and may necessitate some messy tie breaks to produce a winner.
After years of trying various formats the Liverpool club has come up with a good system. I will describe their format, then discuss various problems and possible solutions. i.e. an odd number of players, tie breaks and shortening the tournament.
At the Liverpool club the attendance is generally between eight and sixteen players. The players are each allocated a number randomly (a pack of playing cards is useful for this) and then play six 3-point matches against a set of opponents determined by a schedule for the appropriate number of players. At the end of this phase either the leading two or four players then play a knock out competition of 3-point matches for the prize fund and trophy. This means that everyone gets to play at least six matches. Those who have been unlucky can go home or play chouettes, while those who have played well finish the tournament.
Working out the schedule for the first phase is fairly simple, but unnecessary since I have a complete set of schedules for seven to twenty players which are available by e-mail. (see end of article)
The Liverpool club plays its tournament on a Friday evening and it often doesn’t finish until 1 a.m. Obviously this is unsuitable for most clubs, especially if they run on a mid-week evening. The length of matches tends to depend on the level of expertise of the players. Inexperienced players take a lot longer to finish a match than experienced players in general (mainly because they don’t use the cube). The number of qualifying rounds can be shortened to four (or possibly five). Given that a 3-point match should take a maximum of 30 minutes, four qualifying rounds followed by one or two rounds of knockout should fit into a typical club evening of 8 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. This is the system used at the Manchester club. If more than sixteen players attend, then the tournament is split into two sections and there are two winners and two runners up, so that people who have lost one match still have a fair chance of qualifying for the final of their section with a good points score.
The rules for deciding who has qualified for the knock out phase are
If an odd number of players turns up then there are some problems. Liverpool plays a seventh round, which pairs up all the players who have sat out during a previous round. This is the best solution for a four round tournament, but doesn’t work for a five round qualifying. For a five round qualifying the simplest method is to award a player who has sat out half a match and a 1-0 score for that match. (see note 1)
Below is an example of a schedule for a ten player, four round tournament and part of the score sheet for entering the results of a qualifying tournament (partially filled in as an example. Note that it is advisable to always draw the first round as player 1 v player 2, player 3 v player 4 etc. This means that if another player turns up just after the tournament has started it is easy to change to the next higher number of players, without restarting games.
Five Round Tournament – Qualifier’s Table
I have a set of schedules available in word format by e-mail on request for anyone who is interested. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Acknowledgements – thanks to the members of the Liverpool Club who devised this format, before I started playing tournament backgammon.
(1) It is possible to devise a schedule where 3 players play a round robin of 1 point matches between them, but this isn’t practical for a short tournament.
Using this 3-player format could be suitable for a 9-point (or 11-point) Swiss tournament with an odd number of entrants where the three players currently with the lowest score (who haven’t already played in a three way tie) would play two 3-point matches for ½ a match point each.