Quantum Golf

One of the ways to keep games interesting for both players and spectators is to have quantum effects in the criteria for success.

A quantum effect is created when success or failure in a game is made to depend on a sharply delineated result according to a strict category criterion. The game of golf provides a useful example of this. No golf shot is definitively good except the ones that end with the ball in the hole rather than somewhere else.

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The Summer of ’81

As promised, a notorious example of using the fresh start technique to add interest to a professional sports problem. In the Major League Baseball season of 1981, the need to maintain interest in the season with a fresh start tempted tournament organizers to compromise all three of the maxims of tournament design.

A strike by the players resulted in the cancellation of about a third of the 1981 season. In order to recoup some of the revenue lost during the strike, when play resumed it was announced that there would be an additional round to the post-season playoffs, pitting the winner of the first half of the season against the winner of the second half. This arrangement threatened to compromise all three of the maxims.

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Hope Springs Eternal, at Least in Tennis

To win a match in a high-level professional tennis tournament, you need to win about 100 points (unless the match is in the men’s draw at one of the majors, in which case you’ll need about 150). So it should be possible to simplify the famously elaborate scoring system for tennis, and possible make the game more fair. Why fuss with love-15-30-40, with deuce and advantage, with games, tiebreakers, and sets? Why not just tally up the number of points won – first to 100 is the winner?

That’s a really bad idea, a recipe for truly boring tennis.

The scoring system for tennis is of the best examples of two related techniques for keeping it interesting: the fresh start, and the quantum effect. I’ll write more about the quantum effect in a future post, but for now let’s focus on the fresh start.

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Backgammon Content on Tourneygeek

I’m running for the Board of Directors of the United States Backgammon Federation, or USBGF. In connection with this, I’m hoping for a small influx of readers interested specifically in what this blog has to say about backgammon. This page provides a starting point.

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Remaking the NBA Playoffs

National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver has floated the idea of changing the way that teams qualify and are seeded in the NBA playoffs. Instead of qualifying eight of the fifteen teams in each conference, and seeding those eight into separate knock-out bracket, with the winners of those two brackets playing in the finals for the championship, perhaps the league should qualify the 16 teams with the best record, regardless of conference, into a single 16 bracket.

The reason that alternatives are sought is that the two conferences of the NBA are widely regarded as being badly our of balance. According to the gnomes at fivethirtyeight.com, eight of the nine best teams in the league, including the top three, are in the Western conference.

One of the possible objections, anticipated by Mr. Silver himself, is that the regular season schedule is not balanced between the two conferences. In the 82-game season, each team plays each other team in the league at least twice, but each team plays ten of the teams in its own conference four times, and the other four in-conference teams thrice. Is this a problem?

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