Tie breaks – helpful decisive criteria

Tournaments are played according to different tournament systems. However, almost in every system happens, that some of the players have the same amount of points at the end of the tournament. In the past, the players were placed on shared places or they played an additional game to decide their ranking. A majority of tournaments played today have some additional criteria to decide the final ranking of players. Tie breaks are not unified – there is a whole range of them and every single tournament has clearly stated what happens if there is an equality of points among players. The most common system is that one criterion is used to evaluate the players. If the value is the same for both players, the another criterion is used, etc. Sometimes, an additional game between players is required to determine the final ranking.

Buchholz system (Solkoff in US)

According to this system, the tie break is counted by the total amount of points that the player's opponents won. This system can only be used when a player does not play with every other player (round robin system). It is mainly used for swiss-system tournaments and is one of the most popular tiebreaks, because it minimizes seeding aspect of the tournaments and evaluates real strength of the opponents based on their performance. For the first time it was used in 1932 on the tournament in Bitterfeld.

Even this system has its opponents and later, some other systems were established on its basis. For example, the Median – Buchholz (Median in US) system which does not count the player with highest and lowest points. Better - Buchholz does not count only the player with the lowest points. This aims to minimize seeding aspect of the best and worst player as they can drag a player too many points down or up.

Progress (Cumulative in US)

The system prefers players that won earlier games. It is second most popular system and it accumulates points from each round. That means the if a player wins 1st and 2nd round and loses 3rd round, the player has 1 + 2 + 2 = 5 points. Another player that loses 1st round but wins 2nd and 3rd round has 0 + 1 + 2 = 3 points. The logic behind this is that it is usually easier to lose in first rounds and finish from behind, because players that win in the first rounds stay in the strong bracket till the end of the tournament.

Sonneborn – Berger system (or SB system)

This system prefers players, that won in games against stronger opponents. It is used only in tournaments where player has to play with every other player in the tournament (round robin system). A player gains the total amount of tournament points of the player he had defeated. For every tied game, the player gains half of the tournament points of his opponent. For every lost game, the player gains 0 points.

It is interesting that this system was not established by gentlemen Sonneborn and Berger – in a fact, they were loudly protesting against this system. The system was invented by Hermann Neustadtl in 1882 which is why it is called more properly “Neustadtls score” in Britain.

Score

This tiebreak prefers a player with higher score for sports that accommodate score aspects (e.g. scrabble). It sums the score of each game and player with higher score is placed better.

Negative score

This tiebreak prefers a player with lower negative score for sports that accommodate score aspects (e.g. scrabble). It sums the opponent's score of each game and player with lower negative score is placed better.

Positive - Negative score

This tiebreak prefers a player with higher difference between positive score and negative score for sports that accommodate score aspects (e.g. scrabble). It sums the difference between player's score and opponent's score of each game and player with higher difference is placed better.

Average rating

The tiebreak prefers a player that player players with higher rating. It sums rating of each opponent and divides it by the number of games that were player.

Winning games count

The tiebreak prefers a player that won more games. It penalizes draws and counts only wins.

Head to head result

This tiebreak looks at the mutual game between all players with the same amount of points. If only 2 players have the same amount of points then it looks only on their mutual game. The player that won is placed better. However, it is more complicated if more than 2 players have the same amount of points. It looks at the mutual games between all of the players and the player that won the most is placed better. However, if there are players that have no mutual game, the tiebreak considers that all of them won that not played game.

For example, 3 players have the same amount of points. Player 1 won a game with player 2. Player 3 did not play any game with wither of the players. This means that player 1 has 1 real win but theoretically he has 2 wins (with player 3). Player 2 has no real win, but theoretically he has 1 win (with player 3). Player 3 has no real win, but theoretically he has 2 wins (with player 1 and player 2). Now the tiebreak looks at the real points and compares them to theoretical points. Only if the player has more real points than other player has theoretically he is placed higher. In this example no player is placed above other player as no player has more real points than other player has theoretical points.

Other decisive criteria

Outside tournaments, for example in the world championship match there are different tiebreaks in the case of draw – additional shortened chess games such as previous match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergei Karajakin.

2021-04-20 by Lubomir


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