Super Overs and Duckworth-Lewis-Stern

The short forms of cricket have been formulated with the fan in mind. Eliminating draws from the short form has been one of the features of the new formats.

To some extent, this has been done in much the same way as it is done in other sports – by creating a separate mini-game that can be used as a tie breaker. But cricket has also gone beyond any other sport I’m aware of by using some fairly complicated statistics to infer a winner from the circumstances of an incomplete match.

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Cricket for the Masses

Draws in First-Class Cricket discussed two respects in which long-form cricket is a tough sell for many sports fans – it takes too long to play a match, and those matches often end in draws. Since the middle of the twentieth century, cricket have been evolving to address these issues, slowly at first, but rapidly more recently. The invention of short-form cricket is an interesting case study in how a competition can be reshaped to improve its value as spectacle.

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Draws in First-Class Cricket

Kissing Your Sister discussed the growing aversion to the draw as an ambiguous result – originally, perhaps, an American phenomenon, but now apparently spreading.

But perhaps that discussion overlooked the one factor that’s particularly relevant to tournament design: Elimination tournaments cannot tolerate draws. And, since the elimination tournament is generally considered the most spectator-friendly, many games themselves have evolved to escape this limitation.

A number of games that once could, and frequently did, end in draws have been changed, at least in part so that they can accommodate the elimination format. They have been altered so that they now always produce a winner. Both this tendency, and some resistance to it, are illustrated by a single game: cricket.

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A Big, Peculiar Bracket

With my co-conspirator Butch Meese (the dean of bracket constructors for backgammon in the midwest), I’ve been working on something rather unusual for possible use in an upcoming tournament. It bend the rules of bracket-building in a number of ways, and illustrates innovative approaches to a few awkward problems.

It’s a 96-team double elimination with full progressive consolation.

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Hello World!

Regular readers may have noticed that tourneygeek has, of late, been rather long on background concepts and philosophizing, and short on the empirical analysis of tournament designs. There’s a backlog of empirical work that I’ve promised, but not delivered, including fairness (D) and the analysis of partially-seeded brackets.

The reason for this is that I’m in the process of overhauling my tourney simulator – this time, rewriting it from scratch on a new platform. My past efforts have been coded in an admirable little language called Chipmunk Basic. Chipmunk is endearingly similar to some of the simpler languages that were in use some 35 years ago when I first learned to program. But my simulator has grown to well over 200 lines, and had accumulated a lot of the sludge that’s the real dirt in quick-and-dirty coding. I’d begun to dread wading into it to add new features. So it was time to overhaul it anyway, and I figured that this time I’d take the trouble to use a real integrated development environment. And this has meant finally learning the basic tidiness expected of real programmers.

So, I’ve been in programming boot camp for the last few days, starting, as tradition demands, by writing a “Hello World!” application. It will be a few days more before I know enough to recreate my simulator. But soon I’ll catch up on the empirical work I’ve promised, and forge ahead with more.

So, sorry for the delay, but watch this space for new and better tournament analyses soon.

Cheating at Solitaire

Yesterday’s post discussed why backgammon bots are widely suspected of cheating. It assumed that we know what cheating is. In that context, perhaps we do. But the concept of cheating can be a difficult one, not least because there no issue in the world of games and tournaments that’s so emotionally charged as cheating.

The word “cheating” has a special valence for games players. It is so strongly negative that most people avoid using it, at least until it’s clear that there will be no more games to play that day. People bend over backwards to find some other way to characterize the behavior they object to, and they’re usually wise to do so.

It is especially dangerous, then, that the word’s meaning is unclear. For some, cheating includes any willful breach of a game’s rules, or even of the background rules that constitute sportsmanship. At the other extreme, some hold that nothing is cheating if you don’t get caught.

One of the substantial divisions of opinion with respect to what constitutes cheating is whether the verb “to cheat” can be used intransitively. The test for this is whether it makes any sense to you to talk of cheating at solitaire.

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