Into Darkest Switzerland

It is time, finally, to venture with gun and camera into the heart of darkness – making Swiss pairings. As our trusty native guide, we’ll use Bwana USCF – Chapter 2 of the USCF Official Rules of Chess (7th edition). Chess players have been running Swiss tournaments for years, so darkest Switzerland holds no terror for Bwana USCF. Still, we must be alert to the possibility the Bwana USCF will try to lead us into occult rituals peculiar to the needs of Chess.

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Why Switzerland?

The Official Rules of Chess discus only two tournament types: the round robin, and the Swiss system. Why is it that the round robin is so popular, and why is it used so rarely for other kinds of tourney?

The Swiss is sort of an elimination tourney in which no one ever gets eliminated. For the second round, first-round winners play other first-round winners and losers play losers. In subsequent rounds, players are grouped by won/loss record, with, for example, players with two wins and two losses facing each other in the fifth round.

The Swiss system makes sense whenever the limiting factor is the number of rounds to be played. With a bit enough room and lots of chess sets, there’s no reason why some players should have to drop out of the tourney early, or to wait around for a match to become available. It would seem a natural choice not just for chess, but for other games like backgammon. Why shouldn’t backgammon players enjoy the same maximum participation that chess players do?

[apologies to Jonathan Steinberg, author of Why Switzerland?, which is the best book I know for understanding Switzerland, the country.]

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Playing Tournament Chess for Money

The United States Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess (7th Edition, 2019) contains unusually detailed and precise rules governing how chess tourneys are to be run. And there is tournament software available that implements these rules.

I’ve been experimenting with one of these software packages to see if it can be adapted to run a backgammon tourney that I’m going to be directing early next year. In doing this, I’ve run across a rule about the distribution of prize funds that I find, frankly, bizarre. Continue reading “Playing Tournament Chess for Money”

A Modest Proposal

The previous post discussed a way in which the game of tennis is broken. The advantage accruing to the server has become so great that it is no longer sensible to play and score tennis in the traditional way.

The response of the tennis establishment has been the invention of a new type of game, the tiebreak, in which the advantages of serving are shared more equally because in a tiebreak both players get a chance to serve. And this solution is probably, now, a permanent part of tennis – it’s hard to imagine going back to the days before the tiebreaker.

There is still a need, however, to address the underlying problem lest the imbalance between serve and return grow so large that all games except the tiebreaks become meaningless. And this should probably be done in a way that requires the smallest possible alteration of the existing rules of tennis.

I have a modest proposal.

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The Broken Serve

Tourneygeek is enjoying its annual pilgrimage to Mason, Ohio, for the Western and Southern Open, one of the leading tennis tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open.

In past years, I’ve used the opportunity to explore such things as the effect of the draw on the expectations of individual players, and the effect that tennis’s distinctive tiered seeding system has on the way a tournament plays out.

This year, I’ve mostly just sat in my implausibly comfortable seats and enjoyed the tennis. But on the second day of the tourney I watched a match between John Isner and Dusan Lajovic, and this put me in mind, again, of the fact that one element of tennis, the serve, is broken.

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