Last Chance for Some

There was one eye-catching feature of the small backgammon tourney we discussed yesterday. That was that it included only a partial last chance. Why would anyone run a partial last chance? Presumably, it’s because there isn’t enough time to run a full one. Let’s take a closer look at that issue.

The structure for the consolation was a standard shift for tourneys of that size: AB.C.D.|.|. What was odd was that the last chance was structured H.I.|. Now, the E round doesn’t drop because the loser of the main final gets paid. But what happened to the eight F and six G drops? They just didn’t happen, which means that 14 of the 20 players ordinarily eligible for a last chance didn’t get one.

I ran this structure through my simulator, looking particularly for flow. My simulation timings are only approximate, but they’re still pretty suggestive of the way the tourney flows. Here are the average start times for the last match to start in each round.

The main bracket is rounds A, B, C, D, and E, which start at noon, 1:47, 3:38, 5:24, and 6:58, respectively. The consolation bracket consists of rounds F, G, H, I, and J, which start at 3:23, 5:12, 6:58, 8:07, and 9:21. The last chance has only three rounds, K, L, and M, which begin at 8:07, 9:16, and 10:04.

Note that the rounds in the consolation and last chance are a bit closer together. That’s because they’re played to fewer points: seven points in the consolation, and only five in the last chance. But the time savings is modest because the consolation and last chance still have to wait on the longer matches in the main bracket to begin. The last chance doesn’t even begin until the main bracket final is well under way.

What would happen with a full last chance? Let’s construct one, using the method described elsewhere. It could be structured FG.GH.I.|.|.  And its five rounds, K, L, M, N, and O, would begin about 6:22, 8:09, 9:19, 10:02, and 10:51. So, though the last chance is two rounds longer, it only plays one round longer.

Even one more hour or so of play may be one too many for a format that’s already taxing the patience of those who do play the last chance. But the limited last chance seems a poor choice. It offers additional play to only 6 of the 18 players who could use a last chance, and those are six players who have already gotten a lot of play. If you want to offer more play to the people who actually want it, better to drop those F’s and G’s too.

Or, better yet, play a Swiss – an idea I’ll return to in the next post.


5 thoughts on “Last Chance for Some”

  1. Personally, I would think it sufficient to have a 3-round Swiss among the 12 F & G drops (at least those that want to stay) for just points: no cash prizes, just the benefit of playing more tourney rounds. I would offer the H drops their own 2-round Swiss for positioning, as well as a “last chance” game between the I round losers. All except for maybe the “I Last Chance” would be “points only”.

    On a related note, we’re coming up on the season of the “Basketball Invitational”. And while the format has been going out of style due to oversaturation (i.e. too many sites, not enough schools,) there are still a few sites still hold 8-team basketball tourneys… that are effectively Swiss tourneys by a different name. (e.g. the Maui Invitational) Each of the 8 teams play 3 games. Those that lose in the 1st round are placed in a “consolation 2nd round”. The losers of that are placed in the “7th Place Game” while the winners are placed in the “5th Place Game”. Meanwhile, the Semifinal losers are placed in the “3rd Place Game”. Plus, all 3 games count in the Season standings (probably why all of the games are played.) Granted, it is rather facetious to call someone who went 2-1 5th vs someone who went 1-2 4th, but that’s our “nation of winners” for you.


    1. I wouldn’t call that a Swiss. It’s a single-elimination with a consolation.

      On another note, from a quick runthrough on my mock-up simulator, partial consolations such as this one work better if the bracket is seeded. (Not that this would come as any surprise.) In a way, a third-place game in a single-elimination bracket is just a super-abbreviated version of this.


      1. Don’t you mean Double-Consolation, since the 2 0-2 teams also play a 3rd round?

        And is there a minimum number of rounds required for a tournament to be considered a Swiss?


      2. Yes, it makes more sense if it’s seeded, but still not a lot of sense as far as I’m concerned. I think the logic (to the extent that there is any) in the partial last chance is that the G and H drops are players who are very unlikely to cash, so their absence is not likely to affect fairness calculations that are based on prize allocations. Seeding the bracket makes this even more true. But the point of a last chance, as I see it, is not so much to send a little bit of money (or points, or whatever) to some worthy but unlucky player as it is to give the unworthy and unlucky players more play for their money. So I like Donald’s idea of whipping up something for them to get some extra games. But there is, unfortunately, another factor characteristic of backgammon tourneys that needs to be dealt with, and I’ll discuss that when I get back to describing my proposed Swiss.


  2. The basketball invitational is very much like a Swiss, but perhaps it’s not quite right to call it one because it uses a different sort of pairing rule for later rounds – one that can be specified in a bracket. So the set of pairings you get is one that might result from a Swiss system, but it isn’t specified by any of the rules of Swiss pairings.

    Three-round Swiss tourneys are fairly common in Chess. I’d be reluctant to call any two-round tourney a Swiss.


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