The Swiss Pairing System: A Smart Way to Run Tournaments

The Swiss pairing system is a non-eliminating tournament format that features a fixed number of rounds of competition, but considerably fewer than a round-robin tournament. In a Swiss system, each competitor (team or individual) does not play all the other competitors but only those with a similar running score. The winner is the competitor with the highest aggregate points earned in all rounds. Some examples of sports that use the Swiss system are chess, go, bridge, and Scrabble.

But what makes the Swiss system a smart way to run tournaments? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this format.


Flexible and adaptable. The Swiss system can accommodate any number of competitors, even if it is not a power of two. It can also handle late entries or withdrawals without affecting the rest of the tournament. The number of rounds can be adjusted according to the time available or the desired accuracy of the final standings.

Fair and balanced. The Swiss system tries to pair competitors with similar scores in each round so that they face opponents of comparable strength. This reduces the impact of luck or randomness on the outcome of the tournament and ensures that the best competitors rise to the top. It also avoids repetitive or boring matches, as no two competitors play each other more than once.

Engaging and exciting. The Swiss system keeps all competitors in the tournament until the end so that they have a chance to improve their performance and ranking. It also creates a lot of suspense and drama, as every round can change the standings and affect the final outcome. It often produces close and tense matches, as well as surprising results and upsets.


Complex and confusing. The Swiss system can be difficult to understand and follow, both for competitors and spectators. There is no clear bracket or schedule to show who plays whom and when. The pairing rules are quite complicated and may vary depending on the sport or the organizer. The final standings may not be clear until the last round or may depend on tie-breakers.

Unpredictable and inconsistent. The Swiss system can result in unpredictable and inconsistent pairings as they depend on the results of previous rounds. A competitor may face very strong or very weak opponents in different rounds or may have an easier or harder path to the top. A competitor may also benefit from or suffer from other competitors’ results, which are out of their control.

Less rewarding and satisfying. The Swiss system may not reward or satisfy some competitors, especially those who lose early or finish in the middle. They may feel that they have no chance to win the tournament or to play against the best competitors. They may also feel that their performance is not accurately reflected in their final ranking.


The Swiss system is a smart way to run tournaments for many sports and games, especially when there are too many competitors for a round-robin or knockout format. It is flexible, fair, and engaging, but also complex, unpredictable, and less rewarding. It requires a lot of skill and strategy, as well as luck and patience.

2023-08-05 by ML

Other articles

Single Elimination Tournaments

Single elimination tournaments are a popular format for many sports and games, where the loser of each match is immediately e…

Double Elimination Tournaments

Double elimination bracket tournaments are a common format for many sports and games where the loser of each match is not imm…

Swiss Pairing System

The Swiss pairing system is a non-eliminating tournament format that features a fixed number of rounds of competition, but co…

Organisations / Clubs

Important aspect of organising multiple tournaments is a possibility to link all the tournaments together. Create the organi…

Tie breaks

Tournaments are played according to different tournament systems. However, almost in every system happens, that some of the p…

Best chess players

The selection of the best chess players of all time is not entirely objective and it is not possible to compare players from …

Curiosities in chess

The game of chess can be funny, sad, serious and joyful. There are stories told between chess players about how to score a dr…

Most famous chess tournaments

Chess tournaments are played around the world. For example, the first official tournament took place in London in 1851, other…

Organisation of chess tournament

The game of chess is quite undemanding. Organizing a chess tournament does not have to be too hard. The difficulty of organiz…

Swiss system in chess

The Swiss system has been used for a long time in chess and it is widespread in tournaments with more players (such as the Ch…