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SURVEY - Backgammon Needs you!

Posted By: Henrik Bukkjaer
Date: Thursday, 7 June 2012, at 2:35 p.m.

In Response To: SURVEY - Backgammon Needs you! (Christian Munk-Christensen)

You're close to being correct, but then there are a few things that are not exactly true as stated. But even more so important, you miss out on "the history" of the tournament (eg. this format being more fair than the previous one).

And what's "fair" anyway? I guess it depends on the objectives for the tournament!

Anyway, let me state this - I'm in the same committee (just got in after the first year with this format was announced). I'm not a big fan of it, but I don't think it is so terrible as it sounds from you and Storms posts. However, I think the biggest problem is the complexity of everything about this tour in total - it's simply too many ideas and thoughts altogether. Even the local TDs made mistakes, because they didn't have the full understanding last year. How could we then expect the players to understand the format?

----

To begin with, let me correct or elaborate a bit on your facts:

1) The player(s) coming up with this HAD a seat at the TC - and one of them at the board. You make it sound like the idea was pushed through because of that, I think it's more the other way around: The (needed) change of the format of the championships, quite naturally was put forward by a member of the tournment committee :-)

2) There were more than 2 regional qualifiers. Actually the format should be so open, that any number of qualifiers could be run. Local clubs could apply to the TC for running a qualifier. The objective, of course, were to enable all members to participate in a qualifier, in all parts of the country. And in the Copenhagen area, have more than one date to chose from. This is the first complexity introduced that limits your freedom in designing the tour: You have a different number of participants in each qualifier, and the are held at different dates. Previously that meant, that one could qualify from city A with a score of 3-3 (one win being a bye), whereas another could play at city B win 4 loose 2 and get knocked out.

3) It's not true that the high rated players only play low rated players. Each round in the swiss was layed, so that all players with the same score played each other, and at that level, people was seeded by rating. However, they could not play the same player twice. You had 6 rounds, and as the tournament progressed you quickly started playing players of mixed strength. It's true that the number 1 and 2 seed wouldn't play each other anytime soon in the tournament, but that was sort of an objective from the beginning (in the old cup-format, they didn't meet until the finals).

What's skewed in this setup, compared to cup-seedings, is that the seeding was re-done for each round. If seedings hold up, it makes for the same (easiest path for the number 1 seed, etc.), but when you start get surprises, re-seeding was done, so a lower rated player gets swapped in. Here the problem is, that in (Danish) backgammon your rating says more about your strength than your current score in the tournament!

4) The distribution of byes carried over from day to day, so if you had received a bye on day one, you wouldn't be offered one on day 2. The 9 players going into the final 8 (!) also got their position from results, meaning that a player coming in with a score of 4-0 and 4-1, would receive a bye before a player coming in with 4-2 4-1! Again, the concept here was, that the first days of competition were swiss formats to bring the field down to a size where a final cup was played. Byes being handled fair in the swiss, then the cup put together based on the results of the swiss.

5) It was not 2 losses and you're out, but 3 losses.

6) In your example, 9 players went on to the cups. Players 8 and 9 (the two players with the "worst" performance of all final players) had to play "the first round" - effectively they played a match for the 8th seat in the cup. Is that fair or unfair? And to whom of them? The alternative would have been, to have 8 seats in the final cup (fixed), and pick out the best 8 players from the two days of Swiss play. Now, players 8 and 9 had the approx. same performance (at least they had the same number of wins) - should you differentiate them even more based on number of losses or strength of opponents? Or give both of them a chance in the cup, playing each other to see who advances (in effect - a tie break match for the 8th spot)? It doesn't matter at all for the 7 other players. It's a big minus for number 8 and a big plus for number 9. So, your complaint about the 7 players getting a bye in the final cup compared to the unfortunate players 8 and 9, actually turns out to be a matter of player number 9 getting the big advantage by even reaching the finals (on the expense of player number 8)!

7) Players speculating in saving their byes, made room for lower rated playes to get those byes. Byes were NOT offered to the highest rated player in each round, but rather to the highest rated player IN THE GROUP OF PLAYERS WITH THE LOWEST SCORE). That is, if you were the number one seed, you got offered the bye in the first round (all players with a 0-0 stat). You could accept it (and then never get offered another bye in the swiss stages of the tour), or you could play your match (vs. the lowest ranked player). If you won, you had a 1-0 stat, and wouldn't get offered the bye for at least the next three rounds, since it would be offered to players with 0 wins. If you lost, you would, as the highest rated player with 0 wins, get the offer again in round 2. It was far from clear, when you wanted to accept an offered bye. Maybe easy for the number 1 or 2 seeded players to turn down the offer in the early couple of rounds, but for the 10th seeded player, you never knew if you would ever get the offer for a bye later on. Keep in mind, that as players drops out, the byes might also disappear if an even number of players is left in the field!

Looking at the same from a low rated players perspective: You are in a tour where the top 40% advances from day one. Of course you'd love to get the bye yourself, but you don't. Then, who would you prefer got the bye? The strongest player of course! Leaving a field of competition that gives you the best possible chance of reaching the top 40% of the field.

Thus: Bottom line: low rated players will receive no byes and only play high rated players. ...is NOT true to the extend put forward here. But the trend is clear - as in any other seeded tournament. Here the lowest rated player would of course never get a bye. The highest rated player would be certain to get one (if one is available when he is trailing the tournament).

8) For a low rated player to win this event would be a miracle. As in any other seeded tournament. And by low rated, you mean the lowest rated I suppose. If you were in the 3rd quarter of the deck, the miracle wouldn't have to be that big :-)

----

And to continue on from the last point, you would have to look at the tournament format from the years before - which I think were even more unfair (from a point of view, where all entrants should have the same chance of winning - a very debatable point of view by the way).

In the old days, we had a cup final over two days, with 128 players.

One spot reserved for the defending champion. 63 spots reserved for the highest ranked players. 64 spots open for qualifiers.

Keep in mind, that there we a lot of players playing in the qualifiers, way more than two players per spot!

That meant, that the low rated players (even the players ranked dead in the middle of the field), had to play an additional full day, and they had to perform better than what relates to not getting a bye (they had to beat more than 50% of the field on day one). Then IF they qualified, they moved on to a seeded cup, facing off with the best of the best each round. For the low rated players to win back then would have to be an even bigger miracle. And the 64 best ranked players didn't even have to play day one, they were directly put in the finals playing for 3-5 times the number of entries compared to the number of players in the final cup. More fair? I don't know.

So what happened with the new format, was a step in the "right" direction - especially for the players ranked in the middle of the field. And it seemed more fair to the field as a whole, that all players entering should play the same amount of backgammon to win, and that they should "invest" the same time in the tournament.

Best regards, Henrik

PS: Please keep in mind, that I'm not a big fan of the current format - I'm just looking at it a little more objective I think. My best guess is that it will be changed to some degree going forward.

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