Big Brackets

I”ve added a few brackets to the printable brackets page, including some for 64- and 128-team tourneys. I’ve also added guides in the notation from the last post identifying the structure for the brackets that were already there, and adopted a naming convention for new printable brackets whereby the name of the file itself is a variant of the notation.

The lowers for these big tournaments are provided mostly as a curiosity, as it’s uncommon for a double-elimination or consolation format to be used on a field so large. But there are, from time to time, practical uses for big brackets.

128-player single elimination is the format for the major tennis championships. In the printable bracket, I’ve included a full set of seedings, though tennis sensibly seeds only a quarter of a 128-player field. But seeding lines are also useful for distributing byes, so I include them for all upper brackets. Analyzed brackets, however, will included seedings only for the positions that were actually seeded in the simulation.

Putting the whole 128-player draw on a single sheet requires a big sheet of paper to have enough room for names. I’ve sized those sheets at 24 x 36 inches, but it’s entirely sensible to use multiple sheets of smaller paper instead. This would be a bit more difficult for the lower bracket, but then I expect there will be precious few tourneys that large that are run as double elimination. There are double-elimination backgammon tournaments that size, however, and I wanted one to provide a baseline against which to judge the big, peculiar bracket.

The most famous brackets in American sport are those for the NCAA basketball tourneys. These are usually represented as a 64 bracket with four “fish-tail” play-in games to being the number of entrants up to 68. Conceptually, this is really a 128 bracket with 60 byes, and at one point the NCAA seemed to acknowledge this by referring to the first round played by almost all the teams as “round 2”. Getting a 64 bracket to fit on a page is a challenge, and many of the bracket sheets that appear in March try to spread things out by cramming two 32 brackets on a page in mirror image so that the two winners meet in the center of the sheet.

The largest elimination tournament I’m aware of is the Football Association Challenge Cup (FA Cup) for English football, which has been contested by as many as 763 teams. This could, in theory, be run in a bracket with 4096 lines to accommodate its twelve rounds – there are more rounds that otherwise required because teams from the higher-ranking divisions are given byes into the late rounds. But the tournament isn’t (and can’t) be bracketed, except in retrospect, because there is a new blind draw for pairings in each round.

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