A recharge round is a feature of many double-elimination tournaments. It is the possible second match between the winner of the upper bracket and the winner of the lower bracket. Whether or not there should be such a thing seems to generate strong feelings.
Heretofore, I’ve generally omitted a recharge round. In part, this reflected my general preference in the matter, but I also did it because my tournament simulator didn’t allow for such things. The new simulator is now up and running, and I was careful to structure it so that it could include recharge rounds. So now seems a good time to address the recharge issue.
Let’s begin by considering the desirability of a recharge round using the FEPS framework: fairness, efficiency, participation, and spectacle. I’ll tackle three of these factors in this post, deferring the discussion of fairness until the next post.
Let’s start with efficiency. Playing a recharge round is obviously less efficient than not playing one, but the weight of this factor depends in large part on what kind of tourney you’re running.
Consider a 16-team double elimination tourney. If shifted (A.B.C.D.|.X [.R]), you’ll play 30 matches in seven rounds without a recharge round. If unshifted (A.B.|.C.|.D.X [.R]), you’ll play the same number of matches, but will need one more round. With the recharge round, you will (about half the time) play one more match, and need one more round.
If you’re running a tourney where the limited resource is the number of rounds, then, the recharge round is pretty darned inefficient–you play another whole round, but you get only one match for it. But if the limiting factor is the absolute number of matches, you’re much less concerned about the loss of efficiency.
Thus, as might be expected, recharge rounds are relatively uncommon for chess, backgammon, and other round-intensive competitions, but relatively common in, say, an intramural basketball league, where all of the games are played on the same court.
Participation is slightly enhanced by the recharge round – there’s one more match that’s played. Of course, if that match occupies time that might otherwise be given to some other competition, participation may decrease. In either event, however, participation is not a particularly salient factor.
Spectacle is an somewhat ambiguous factor, but in most cases should probably weigh against the use of a recharge round.
Spectators may enjoy the possibility of one additional round between two of the best players, but it’s a round that will be hard to profit from. You don’t know until the last moment whether or not it’s going to take place, so it’s an iffy fixture for both ticket sales and broadcast time. And the recharge round decreases interest in round that precedes it. The “X” round is no longer a real final, as it may not determine the ultimate winner. And it may be less interesting in itself because it seems lopsided. The undefeated team is probably already a favorite for the championship, so adding a recharge round makes it look even more unlikely that anyone else will win.
Recharge rounds are rarely seen in competitions that are driven by spectator interest. I’m not aware of any professional sports league that uses one. They’re found mostly, in my experience, in tournaments that see themselves primarily as amateur events. I find the case of the Little League World Series instructive. It once used a recharge round, but now that it has become an important television fixture, the recharge round has been dropped.
On these three issues, the case for the recharge round does not appear very strong. Those who argue for the recharge round generally make an argument based on fairness, and I’ll consider that aspect of the analysis in the next post.