tournament

tournament

[toor-nuh-muhnt, tur-]
tournament or tourney, in the Middle Ages, public contest between armed horsemen in simulation of real battle. In this military game, which flourished from the 12th to the 16th cent., combatants were frequently divided into opposing factions, each led by a champion. It differed from the joust, a single combat bout fought with weapons of war. Tournaments perhaps originated in trials by battle (see ordeal) or in the earlier gladiatorial combats. The tournament, a typical feature of the Middle Ages, was based on the ideals of chivalry. Thought to have originated in France in the 11th cent., tourneys spread to Germany, England, and S Europe; laws governing them became more or less universal. Such affairs, usually held at the invitation of kings or nobles, were the occasion of much pageantry. Knights with their entourages camped near the field of combat, and their qualifications were examined by judges of the day. The typical tournament field, or lists, was an oval or rectangular area enclosed by barriers and flanked by pavilions for important personages, the ladies who sponsored the combatants, and the judges. Heralds announced the participants, and then, with a fanfare of trumpets, the warriors made their entrance, clad in armor and astride richly caparisoned horses. Their weapons were usually blunted lances or swords. The events of the day normally began with combat between individuals and ended with a collective contest. Prizes were awarded the victors by the queen of beauty, chosen to preside over the tournament. Knights were often killed or gravely injured at tournaments, and to lessen that danger a barrier, or tilt, was sometimes stretched along the length of the lists. The combatants fought across it, and this version of the sport was known as tilting. Although attempts were made to suppress or regulate tournaments, the practice continued until changed social conditions caused a decline in its popularity.

See studies by F. H. Cripps-Day (1918) and R. W. Barber and J. Barker (1989, repr. 2000).

A tournament (IPA [tərnəmənt]) is a competition involving a relatively large number of competitors, all participating in a sport or game. More specifically, the term may be used in either of two overlapping senses:

  1. One or more competitions held at a single venue and concentrated into a relatively short time interval. Some game clubs focus on preparing members for such tournaments. Chess clubs, for instance, frequently employ similar ranking systems, chess clocks, and etiquette to those used in chess tournaments.
  2. A competition involving multiple matches, each involving a subset of the competitors, with the overall tournament winner determined based on the combined results of these individual matches. These are common in those sports and games where each match must involve a small number of competitors: often precisely two, as in most team sports, racket sports and combat sports, many card games and board games, and many forms of competitive debating. Such tournaments allow large numbers to compete against each other in spite of the restriction on numbers in a single match.

These two senses are distinct. All golf tournaments meet the first definition, but while match play tournaments meet the second, stroke play tournaments do not, since there are no distinct matches within the tournament. In contrast, football (soccer) leagues like the Premier League are tournaments in the second sense, but not the first, having matches spread across many stadia over a period of up to a year. Many tournaments meet both definitions; for example, the Wimbledon tennis championship.

A tournament-match (or tie or fixture or heat) may involve multiple game-matches (or rubbers or legs) between the competitors. For example, in the Davis Cup tennis tournament, a tie between two nations involves five rubbers between the nations' players. The team that wins the most rubbers wins the tie. In the later rounds of UEFA Champions League of football (soccer), each fixture is played over two legs. The scores of each leg are added, and the team with the higher aggregate score wins the fixture, with away goals used as a tiebreaker and a penalty shootout if away goals cannot determine a winner.

Knockout tournaments

A knockout tournament is divided into successive rounds; each competitor plays in at most one fixture per round. The top-ranked competitors in each fixture progress to the next round. As rounds progress, the number of competitors and fixtures decreases, and the final round consists of just one fixture, the winner of which is the overall champion.

In a single-elimination tournament, only the top-ranked competitors in a fixture progress; in 2-competitor games, only the winner progresses. All other competitors are eliminated. This ensures a winner is decided with the minimum number of fixtures. However, most competitors will be eliminated after relatively few matches; a single bad or unlucky performance can nullify many preceding excellent ones. Some single-elimination tournaments such as NBA use a multiple-game format, in which teams would play each other more than one game (e.g. best-of-seven series in NBA) in order to determine who is the winner of this round. Other knockout formats provide a "second chance" for some or all losers.

A double-elimination tournament may be used in 2-competitor games to allow each competitor a single loss without being eliminated from the tournament. All losers from the main bracket enter a losers' bracket, the winner of which plays off against the main bracket's winner.

Some formats allow losers to play extra rounds before re-entering the main competition in a later round. Rowing regattas often have repechage rounds for the "fastest losers" from the heats. The winners of these progress, but are at a disadvantage in later rounds owing to the extra effort expended during the repechage.

In the playoffs of the Australian Football League, the teams with the best record before the playoffs are allowed to lose a game without being eliminated, whereas the lesser qualifiers are not. In athletics meetings, fastest losers may progress in a running event held over several rounds; e.g. the qualifiers for a later round might be the first 4 from each of 6 heats, plus the 8 fastest losers from among the remaining runners.

An extreme form of the knockout tournament is the step-ladder format where the strongest team is assured of a berth at the final round while the next strongest teams are given byes according to their strength/seeds; for example, in a four team tournament, the fourth and third seed figure in the first round, then the winner goes to the semifinals against the second seed, while the survivor faces the first seed at the final.

Group tournaments

For details of ranking systems in group tournament, see: Group tournament ranking system
A group tournament, league, division or conference involves all competitors playing a number of fixtures. Points are awarded for each fixture, with competitors ranked based either on total number of points or average points per fixture. Usually each competitor plays an equal number of fixtures, in which case rankings by total points and by average points are equivalent.

In a round-robin tournament, each competitor plays all the others an equal number of times, once in a single round-robin tournament and twice in a double round-robin tournament. This is often seen as producing the most reliable rankings. However, for large numbers of competitors it may require an unfeasibly large number of rounds. A Swiss system tournament attempts to determine a winner reliably, based on a smaller number of fixtures. Fixtures are scheduled one round at a time; a competitor will play another who has a similar record in previous rounds of the tournament. This allows the top (and bottom) competitors to be determined with fewer rounds than a round-robin, though the middle rankings are unreliable.

There may be other considerations besides reliability of rankings. In some professional team sports, weaker teams are given an easier slate of fixtures as a form of handicapping. This occurs in the National Football League in the USA. Sometimes schedules are weighted in favour of local derbies or other traditional rivalries. For example, NFL teams play two games against each of the other three teams in their division, one game against half of the other twelve teams in their conference, and one game against a quarter of the sixteen teams in the other conference. American sports are also unusual in providing fixtures between competitors who are, for ranking purposes, in different groups.

In 2-competitor games where ties are rare or impossible, competitors are typically ranked by number of wins, with ties counting half; each competitors' listings are usually ordered Wins-Losses(-Ties). Where draws are more common, this may be 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw, which is mathematically equivalent but avoids having too many half-points in the listings. These are usually ordered Wins-Draws-Losses. If there are more than 2 competitors per fixture, points may be ordinal (for example, 3 for first, 2 for second, 1 for third).

Multi-stage tournaments

Many tournaments are held in multiple stages, with the top teams in one stage progressing to the next. American professional team sports have a "regular season" (group tournament) acting as qualification for the "post season" or "playoffs" (single-elimination tournament). In the FIFA World Cup, each continent has one or more qualifying tournaments, some of which are themselves multi-stage. The top teams in each qualify for the finals tournament. There, the 32 teams are divided into eight round-robin groups of four, with the top two in each progressing to the knockout phase, which involves four single-elimination rounds including the final.

Sometimes, results from an earlier phase are carried over into a later phase. In the Cricket World Cup, the second stage, known as the Super Eight since 2007 and before that the Super Six, features two teams from each of four preliminary groups (previously three teams from two preliminary groups), who do not replay the teams they have already played, but instead reuse the original results in the new league table. Formerly in the Swiss Football League, teams played a double round-robin, at which point they were split into a top "championship" group and a bottom "relegation" group; each played a separate double round-robin, with results of all 32 matches counting for ranking each group. A similar system is also used in the Scottish Premier League since 2000. After 33 games, when every club has played every other club three times, the division is split into two halves. Clubs play a further 5 matches, against the teams in their half of the division. This can (and often does) result in the team placed 7th having a higher points total than the team placed 6th, because their final 5 games are considerably easier.

The top Slovenian basketball league has a unique system. In its first phase, 12 of the league's 13 clubs compete in a full home-and-away season, with the country's representative in the Euroleague (an elite pan-European club competition) exempt. The league then splits. The top seven teams are joined by the Euroleague representative for a second home-and-away season, with no results carrying over from the first phase. These eight teams compete for four spots in a final playoff. The bottom five teams play their own home-and-away league, but their previous results do carry over. These teams are competing to avoid relegation, with the bottom team automatically relegated and the second-from-bottom team forced to play a mini-league with the second- and third-place teams from the second level for a place in the top league.

Promotion and relegation

Where the number of competitors is larger than a tournament format permits, there may be multiple tournaments held in parallel, with competitors assigned to a particular tournament based on their ranking. In chess, scrabble, and many other individual games, many tournaments over one or more years contribute to a player's ranking. However, many team sports involve teams in only one major tournament per year. In European sport, including football, this constitutes the sole ranking for the following season; the top teams from each division of the league are promoted to a higher division, while the bottom teams from a higher division are relegated to a lower one. This promotion and relegation occurs mainly in league tournaments, but also features in Davis Cup tennis, where each group is a single-elimination tournament: while the team which wins each round is the champion, the one which loses each round will be relegated. The hierarchy of divisions may be linear, or tree-like, as with the English football league pyramid.

Bridge tournaments

In contract bridge a "tournament" is a tournament in the first sense above, composed of multiple "events", which are tournaments in the second sense. Some events may be single-elimination, double-elimination, or Swiss style. However, "Pair events" are the most widespread. In these events, an identical deal (or board) is played in multiple rubbers. The North-South (NS) pair in one such rubber is measured not against the East-West (EW) pair in that same rubber, but rather against all the other NS pairs playing the same board in other rubbers. Thus pairs are rewarded for playing the same cards better than others have played them. Several systems provide a predetermined schedule of fixtures based on the number of pairs and boards to be played, to ensure a good mix of opponents, and that no pair plays the same board twice.

Poker tournaments

In poker tournaments, as players are eliminated, the number of tables is gradually reduced, with the remaining players redistributed among the remaining tables. Play continues until one player has won all of the chips in play. Finishing order is determined by the order in which players are eliminated: last player remaining gets 1st place, last player eliminated gets 2nd, previous player eliminated gets 3rd, etc.

In a "shootout" tournament, players do not change tables until every table has been reduced to one player.

Alternatives to tournament systems

While tournament structures attempt to provide an objective format for determining the best competitor in a game or sport, other methods exist.Challenge: In this format, champions retain their title until they are defeated by an opponent, known as the challenger. This system is used in professional boxing. Prior to 1993, it was also used in the World Chess Championship. The right to become a contender may be awarded through a tournament, as in chess, or through a ranking system: the ranking systems used by boxing's governing bodies are controversial and opaque. If the champion retires or dies, then the current top challenger may be declared champion or the title may be vacant until a match between two challengers is held. Prior to 1920, the reigning Wimbledon champion received a bye to the final; the official name of the FA Challenge Cup reflects a similar arrangement which applied only in that tournament's very early years. The America's Cup is decided between the winners of separate champion and challenger tournaments, respectively for yachts from the country of the reigning champion, and of all other countries. The Ranfurly Shield in New Zealand rugby union is a challenge trophy between provincial teams, in which the holders of the Shield retain it until they are beaten by a challenging province.Ladder: An extension of the challenge system. All competitors are ranked on a "ladder". New contestants join the bottom of the ladder. Any contestant can challenge a competitor ranked slightly higher; if the challenger wins the match (or the challenge is refused) they swap places on the ladder. Ladders are common in internal club competitions in individual sports, like squash and pool. Another ladder system is to give competitors a certain number of ranking points at the start. If two competitors play each other, then the winner will gain a percentage of the loser's ranking points. In this way competitors that join later will generally start in the middle, since top competitors already have won ranking points and bottom competitors have lost them.Selection: A champion may be selected by an authorised or self-appointed group, often after a vote. While common in non-competitive activities, ranging from science fairs to cinema's Oscars, this is rarely significant in sports and games. Though unofficial, the polls run by the Associated Press and others were prestigious titles in American college football prior to the creation in 1998 of an official national championship. The polls remain as factors included in determining the two teams qualifying for the championship game.

See also

References

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