Tournament Structures

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Alex Holowczak
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:44 pm

Reg Clucas wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 4:38 pm
Michael Farthing wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 11:39 am
There are congresses that do this: I believe Leek is one (apologies if my memory is inaccurate)
Your memory is accurate, though I'm not sure that congress is still running(?)
It stopped running, but I was sent a draft entry form to proof-read for a proposed 2018 edition yesterday. It contained three sections with defined grading limits.

Alison Bexfield
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Alison Bexfield » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:01 pm

I have an interest in tournament systems as a player and as an organiser of junior chess. Our current system of tournaments is not helpful to encouraging more amateur players to enter events.

I also play Go and I do like the go system of tournaments which has already been mentioned by a previous contributer. Go tournaments use the McMahon system which is very welcoming to players of all levels and also enables those who are improving to play up against strong players. I'll explain it for those not familiar.

In go tournaments everyone plays in the same tournament. The top group is set 'above the bar' and deemed equal in terms of the draw. This is equivalent to an open section with anyone in this group being able to win the tournament overall. Let's say for ease of illustration that the bar is set at 1kyu. These players are given a 0 McMahon starting score. Players at next grade down (2 kyu) would be given -1 in the draw system. Players at 3kyu would be set at -2 etc right down to the lowest grade of 20 kyu.

The draw is done by pairing people of the same McMahon score against each other. So those at the lowest entry grade of 20 kyu would play another 20 kyu in the first round. Those above the bar start by playing someone above the bar. Note is it not a swiss so that the draw at this point is a random one with everyone on the same Mcmahon being treated the same.
Those that win see their starting McMahon go up by 1 point. For those that lose it stays the same. So in the second round winners above the bar play other winners. But those who lose may play either someone else who started similarly to them and also lost or someone who started below them but who has won. Hence if you keep winning in a multi round tournament you have the chance to prove yourself against stronger players. If you lose lots of games your opponents may become easier as people on lower grades who have won some games come into your range. The numbers of players above the bar is set according to the number of tournaments rounds. A three round tournament would have 8 above the bar, a six round tournament much more.

The reason I like this system better than the swiss system used in chess, with the artificial section cut offs, is that it pits players at the bottom with players their own level from round 1. If I send new juniors to some six round tournaments the first three rounds are a total waste of time for those at the top (who play people they can easily beat) and those at the bottom who play people they will lose to) before they meet people their own level in the last few rounds. And it is possible in a bottom group of six players for them to only play one or two of each other. Fare better is the McMahon system when they would be likely to play six good games with the others their strength and enjoy the experience and keep coming back as they get stronger.

Of course the other thing about Go tournaments where chess is behind the times is that the European Go Grading system updates within days of the tournament results being submitted. So players grades change every time they enter a tournament so that if you are improving rapidly you can keep playing stronger players. This is motivating for young players. At least FIDE updates monthly for chess. But six monthly is far too slow to my mind for ECF grades to have any meaning for junior players.

My suggestion for an inclusive chess tournament would be to adopt the McMahon system by setting grade bands of 20 ECF rating points. This means that all players have competitive games right from the first round and those that keep winning get the chance to play up and meet stronger players.

By the way, on the subject of prizes, if everyone has entered at the 'correct' grade' then results should tend towards 50%. Go tournaments give the biggest prizes in the open section above the bar and reward those lower down who finish with a high % of wins with a smaller prize. Of course if someone wins 6/6 lower down in the grading system then their grade will certainly rise by the next tournament so they will start a band higher which curtails sandbagging.

I run a junior tournament each year and have abandoned rigid swiss draws in favour of the hybird swiss / McMahon system so that I pair players of equal strength right from round 1.
Last edited by Alison Bexfield on Sun Apr 08, 2018 10:31 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Alison Bexfield
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Alison Bexfield » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:06 pm

A final point in explaining the McMahon system - I forgot to say that the final tournament ranking at the end of the event is by final McMahon score. So a 20 kyu winning all their games could only equal a 14 kyu who had lost all their games.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:36 pm

My own thoughts on this;

This whole thread assumes that the main priority for any player entering an event is the prize fund and their chances of winning it. While some players invariably consider this before entering events; others might choose the event for its location or because they enter events whenever and wherever they can anyway. In all tournaments, particularly larger ones, you will also see players in the Open who have opted to `play up` for a bit of hard practice. Doing away with section bandings would deny them that privilege.

It's a buyers market. You pay your money and you take your choice. As I've said before grades aren't a measure of your playing strength, they measure your performance against other players.
Alison Bexfield wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:01 pm

The reason I like this system better than the swiss system used in chess, with the artificial section cut offs, is that it pits players at the bottom with players their own level from round 1. If I send new juniors to some six round tournaments the first three rounds are a total waste of time for those at the top (who pay people they can easily beat) and those at the bottom who play people they will lose to) before they meet people their own level in the last few rounds. And it is possible in a bottom group of six players for them to only play one or two of each other. Fare better is the McMahon system when they would be likely to play six good games with the others their strength and enjoy the experience and keep coming back as they get stronger.
As somebody with an interest in junior chess myself I find this suggesting interesting. The flaw I can see is that in an open junior tournament (open as in to everybody rather than a local competition where you know your players) is you can't know for certain the strength of each player. Junior chess has its sharks as well; players who claim to be beginners (although this claim is of course made on their behalf) when they have a bit more experience than that. Age is also a factor (a fourteen year old beginner might be put off by having to play eight year olds all day) and that in junior chess you will always have a few outliers.
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Alison Bexfield
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Alison Bexfield » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:42 pm

Andrew - the flaw is there because of the very slow movement of the grading system in chess. Six months to update grades makes novice grades pretty meaningless on any scale. That is why I am always pushing for, at a minimum, a monthly issue of grades.

Eric Gardiner
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Eric Gardiner » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:49 pm

Thanks for the information about Go Alison. I looked quickly at the Britgo site and couldn't see any mention of cash prizes. Do players generally just play for trophies? Also, do players of widely differing standards mix much or do they tend to stick with others of similar ability?

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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Alex Holowczak » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:56 pm

The other question I'd have is - how would you suggest a chess-based McMahon system handle draws? Given you can't draw in Go due to the komi, this isn't currently catered for by the McMahon system.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:59 pm

Alison Bexfield wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:42 pm
Andrew - the flaw is there because of the very slow movement of the grading system in chess. Six months to update grades makes novice grades pretty meaningless on any scale. That is why I am always pushing for, at a minimum, a monthly issue of grades.
I understand the ECF does want to move towards monthly grades although there is some work to be done before this can be achieved (and resistance from dinosaurs).

How many junior tournaments are graded though and would the closed pool create a problem? I'm not trying to be awkward here btw, I'm genuinely interested.
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Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:01 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:56 pm
The other question I'd have is - how would you suggest a chess-based McMahon system handle draws? Given you can't draw in Go due to the komi, this isn't currently catered for by the McMahon system.
I suppose in junior chess draws are less frequent than they are at adult level. It's still a problem but not to the same extent.

Alison - have you run junior tournaments on a McHahon system and how did they compare? Junior tournaments don't have to be swiss systems (it's just the convention that most of them are) and many parents would need the format explaining to them.
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NickFaulks
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by NickFaulks » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:04 pm

Alison Bexfield wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:06 pm
A final point in explaining the McMahon system - I forgot to say that the final tournament ranking at the end of the event is by final McMahon score. So a 20 kyu winning all their games could only equal a 14 kyu who had lost all their games.
Thanks Alison, this is very interesting. You haven't mentioned handicaps - are they an integral part of the game?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:11 pm

Alex Holowczak wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 7:56 pm
The other question I'd have is - how would you suggest a chess-based McMahon system handle draws?
There are long established chess pairing systems on similar themes, namely club ladders. You can challenge people within a certain number of ladder positions of yourself.

BH Wood used to promote what he called the "Tharp" system, named after its originator.

I couldn't find any details in a quick Google search, but I did find this in one of the local archives.

http://buckschess.org.uk/WH/tharp-rules.html

I don't believe anyone has ever tried conducting a tournament on a ladder basis where all the games are played simultaneously, but it would presumably be possible if the start ranking is reasonably reliable.

Alison Bexfield
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Alison Bexfield » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:14 pm

Nick
Handicaps are a way of evening up a game of go which is played between two players of different strengths. If a 5 kyu played an 8 kyu the five kyu would give three handicap stones to the weaker player to make an even game. (One grade difference is one handicap stone) In tournaments if there is a good spread of players there is no need for handicaps - they are used more at clubs. And generally speaking if it was a very small tournament it would be handicap minus one if they were needed. And they tend to only be required at the bottom end of the draw where there may not be many players in some grade bands.

Alison Bexfield
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Alison Bexfield » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:20 pm

Andrew wrote:
Alison - have you run junior tournaments on a McHahon system and how did they compare? Junior tournaments don't have to be swiss systems (it's just the convention that most of them are) and many parents would need the format explaining to them.


I have run a local ungraded chess tournament in this way. We had about 36 players in total across two age groups. I split those in the top group (the bigger one) into three pools equivalent to three Mcmahon bands based on what I knew of their playing history. I paired them in the pools for the first round and followed McMahon principles loosely thereafter. If thought I had it wrong (from observation of round 1) I adjusted opponents so that as far as was possible the weakest players were playing each other. When I run a junior tournament I have several aims. One is to find a winner fairly. Another is to try and ensure that all players enjoy the event. So players below the top group can be paired in a way that makes the event fun for all, as they are not in with a chance of winning the title.

NickFaulks
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by NickFaulks » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:22 pm

So would open tornaments with players of all strengths and no handicap work? The point is that handicaps do not translate easily to chess

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Tournament Structures

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:23 pm

Alison Bexfield wrote:
Sun Apr 08, 2018 8:14 pm
If a 5 kyu played an 8 kyu the five kyu would give three handicap stones to the weaker player to make an even game.
Chess is somewhat more random, in that even at grade extremities there's still a predicted chance for the lower rated player to get a result, even if just a draw. If you have a reliable ranking system and the right number of players, it's always possible to run a five round event as multiple sections of 6 players. On paper at least, that eliminates disparities in strength.

If you don't have reliable rankings, it may be fairer to use random Swiss pairings. A method of doing this is to assign ranking order by lot but then pair according to the usual rules of top half v bottom half etc.

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