Ideas for Improving Tournaments

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Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby John Acker on Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:45 pm

Some professional standards promote safety (e.g. wearing hard hats on construction sites), others promote civility (e.g. shaking hands before and after a match), and still others promote fair play (e.g. holding the Scrabble bag above eye level when you draw tiles). These are all admirable goals, but when it comes to tournaments I think the main benefit of using professional standards is consistency. The more players know what to expect in terms of policies and procedures, the fewer problems we’ll have and the more easily we’ll be able to defuse potential conflicts. Despite the great turnout at the 2016 Nationals, our 2016 state/district tournaments are averaging about 13 players each, and I know of several players who have quit attending local tournaments because they didn’t like how an issue was handled. I’m not saying that we can please everyone, or that every tournament should be identical, but I think we can do a lot to improve consistency at ACF tournaments. Not only will this help our tournaments run more smoothly, but it will go a long way toward distinguishing professional checkers events from casual games.

With that in mind, I’ve prepared a list of several improvements, roughly in order of complexity. I’d love to hear what you’d add to (or subtract from) this list, as well as any ideas you have about improving professionalism at checkers tournaments.

1. Require all players to record their games. Tournament directors can decide which games to collect and/or publish, but having a record is necessary for future study AND for claiming draws by repetition or by the 40-move rule. Use numbered boards or a reference diagram if you aren’t too sure of the square numbers. There are several good scoresheet templates available, but all you really need is some blank notebook paper. I like the steno books with a line down the center, as one book ($2 at Walmart) can easily hold a couple years’ worth of tournament games.
2. Use clocks for all divisions, preferably digital chess clocks that can handle increments. This is one area where the ACF lags FAR behind other board game organizations. Basic clocks start at around $25, and for an extra $10 you can add plenty of bells and whistles. It’s a good investment: using clocks conscientiously keeps rounds running on time, and more importantly it eliminates the need for absurd referee adjudication. At the 2016 Nationals, one such adjudication handed the Minors Champion title to a player who could not even win three kings vs. two kings!
3. Process tournament registrations in advance, by mail and/or online. Having specific attendance estimates will help immensely in planning tournament venues and timing, and adding prepaid registration fees would allow directors to budget better as well. It’s easy enough to add walk-in registration at higher rates, and to offer partial or full refunds for players who have to cancel registrations due to emergencies.
4. Use official ratings to establish divisions and handle pairings/byes. Integrating ratings is simple since the data is easily accessible online, but there will be lots of resistance to this idea among players who prefer easy matchups. The fact is that EVERY division will have some overrated players and some underrated players, and sooner or later most of us will end up on the wrong end of a mismatch. The ratings system isn’t perfect, but it’s a far sight better than relying solely on players’ opinions.
5. Get rid of manual pairing and scoring systems, and replace them with computer-based systems. There are several good software options, including some free ones, and all of them are much more efficient than humans. Besides, you can’t accuse a computer program of stacking the deck so you get the hardest opponent!
6. Promote—and demand—opportunities for member input and discussion on rules, procedures, policies, and marketing. This should be a no-brainer, but I consider it the most difficult task to integrate because the ACF is so entrenched in boys’ club elitism. Year after year, a “business meeting” is scheduled at the Nationals, and year after year it dissipates into a five-minute review of the rules and a concerted effort to avoid debate or discussion. In the entire time I served as ACF Treasurer, there was not a single meeting of the ACF Executive Committee, let alone any meetings (or indeed, communication) with District Managers. Even on the ACF website, the last real update to the “President’s Corner” was in June 2009, while the “Player’s Rep Corner” was last updated in December 2012. This lack of communication would be appalling in any nonprofit, and is doubly so in one that supposedly values democracy and free speech.

There you have it. As I said before, your feedback is most welcome: it is our responsibility, as members and as players, to improve checkers for future generations.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby bazkitcase5 on Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:31 pm

I agree with all of these ideas. I feel like if we want our game to move forward and look more professional, then these are things that need to be implemented.

The biggest debates in the past have been the use of clocks and writing down games, but if our own players are unwilling (or in some cases, don't even know how to do these simple things), then I don't see how outsiders can take us seriously. Playing the game of checkers is much harder than these simple tasks, so if we have players willing to travel to tournaments, then I don't think it too much to expect them to know how or learn how to do these things.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby George Hay on Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:37 am

Good ideas! The use of ratings is especially good, as good pairings give everyone a chance to compete at their level. Well, I guess I won't agonize over the "corners" not being updated, but it would be nice!...OK, I better get started on Composing Contest #29.

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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby jimloy on Sun Aug 07, 2016 3:30 pm

I have concerns of my own:

1. Using chess pairings programs may result in a problem in that the programs assign colors (as each round of a chess tournament is one game, and colors are very important in chess pairings). If we humans merely ignore the assigned colors, the program still thinks that player A should not play against player B because they both had White more often than other players. Pairings will often be based upon colors unless the computer can ignore the colors, too. For fair pairings, we must use a program that can be instructed to ignore the assigned colors (or not assign colors). I am informed that not all pairing programs can ignore assigned colors. I do not know if ANY program can ignore assigned colors.

2. Re-pairing the same two players a second time in one tournament violates the first principle of Swiss pairings. Now, I'm not completely against violating rules, but there are reasons for most rules. Let's say that players A and B are tied for first with one round to go, but have played against each other in an earlier round. A pairings program will not pair them against each other. A human director will very likely pair them against each other. Perhaps the reasoning is that first place is the main reason we are having a tournament, and we want to guarantee that they fight it out. Instead, we are guaranteeing that they will agree to two quick draws. Quick draws may happen anyway, for a variety of reasons (mainly, I can't afford to drop very far in the standings and take a big cut in pay). Let's say that A and B (again tied for first), have not played all the same opponents. Maybe A has played tougher opponents, because he/she has won in the early rounds. Then, B's last round opponent should be tougher than A's last round opponent, which is what happens with a normal Swiss pairing. My main objection to re-pairing is that, pairing A with B (top two) and C with D (next two) often gives C an easy tie for first if C is much better than D, when (for example) A should be playing C and B should be playing D, mostly because A has never played C and B has never played D. In other words, Swiss tends to make fair pairings throughout the tournament, re-pairing does not tend to do that. Neither guarantees fair pairings (which is subjective and maybe fictional), but Swiss tends toward fairness.

3. Let me quote part of one sentence of John's: "Use official ratings to ... handle pairings ..." I assume that means (as all pairings programs do this) that in any group of players with the same score, the players are listed in order of decreasing order of ratings (this is called seeding), and the top half play against the bottom half. The ultimate example is in the first round, where everyone is tied for first with zero points. Lets say there are 50 players, then player 1 plays player 26, 2 plays 27, etc. The use of random first rounds is one of the main reasons I will not play in an ACF tournament (besides the fact that I am a bad player and losing is expensive and no fun). The chance of two top players playing in the first round is unfair, for several reasons.

4. There are other possible variations to standard pairings, as players from the same family or town may have to play each other early on to minimize collusion (throwing of games) near the end of the tournament, when collusion has a much bigger impact on the prizes. If we don't adopt a rule like this, we should maybe make a statement that throwing games is considered cheating.

5. If there is a poor turnout, we should consider merging divisions. We can still award prizes by divisions, even when two divisions played as one super-division. This has been done in chess and other games for almost a hundred years. Consider it.

6. In some local or regional tournaments, tied players do not always share prize money equally (in other words, prize money may be based upon tie-break). Does the ACF support that idea? The probable reasoning behind not breaking ties when the prize is money is that tie-break is not always fair, while splitting the prize money equally among tied players is very close to always being fair.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby liam stephens on Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:53 pm

Some years ago I wrote an article on A Guide to the Lottery, but never got around to publishing it.
Times have moved on and today, for example, there are only 2 game rounds where previously there were
4 games played, and also today the "tough" deck is no longer used.

However I think the article may still be of some relevance and it is reproduced hereunder.


A GUIDE TO THE LOTTERY

The 2 points per game system is the one that operates in Britain and Ireland and most other countries.
In the USA in the masters section a points per round system is used.
( They have 4 game rounds in the 3 move tys. The first 3 move opening is drawn from the full list of 156 openings,
and the 2nd Opening from the reduced 86 in number hard deck)

The points per game system is the most popular with the players especially the weaker players, as it gives them credit for drawing the strong side of a critical 3 move opening against a stronger player. Even a duffer can draw the strong side of the Skullcracker by continually running off the piece!!!!
In scoring by rounds that anomaly is eliminated. The points per round (or ballot) is a much superior system and was in fact the system adopted in the UK when the Swiss Style tournaments were first introduced.
It was only some years later that the change to points per game was adopted.
As stated above, the points per game system is popular with the majority of players and is unlikely to be replaced.
However, it allows many undesirable features to proliferate.

Lottery element

With the advent of 2 and 3 move restriction and the introduction of the ballot card, enter the lottery element. This can be seen in several ways.

Luck of the opening drawn.

Luck of the draw of opponent
This becomes a major factor, where there is no repairing.
How many tournaments does one see where the winner is decided on the outcome of the last round or 2 rounds where the leading players have already met each other and also the other top players and are left to play the stragglers. A lot depends on the opening drawn, and the relative strength of the weaker players.

Leapfrogging effect (hold back, then score 8 points in last 2 rounds, to get into prizes)


Of course no system is perfect and scoring by rounds would not entirely eliminate the lottery element, but would significantly
reduce it to a more acceptable level.
The only other alternative would be to go back to knockout competitions which I believe nobody wants.

Effect on the Ratings

Incidentally, the points per game system has very deleterious effects on the calculation of the ratings.
In the points per game system when a weaker player, for example, draws the strong side of a critical 3 move opening against a master player he gets awarded a point for the draw. That point will gain him significant rating points especially if the rating difference from his opponent was large.
The cumulative effect of all this in a Tournament scored by ‘points per game’ is to compress the Range of the rating field.
In contrast a Tournament scored by rounds will have a much wider rating range between the top and bottom player.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby kim willis 57 on Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:38 pm

I do have to say these are good points. I hadn't attended Nationals for 3 years because of certain things I thought needed too be changed.

1) if your going to post results please make sure you have it right. I did not have 15pts I had 17pts.
2) Needed computer pairings reasons
a. if you have 4 players with 11pts.you should play 1 of them. Not one with a beginner player and then the other with a higher rated player. Plus pair 2 from same country and in 7-10mins say we had draws.
b. repairing should not have had happened in the 8th rd, And I never had the chance to play the challenging women it was like keep me away.
c.Plus this is a US National not a World Qualifier so if a woman wins a division ok but if he/she is not a US citizen cannot hold that US title.

There was a lot of small problems and heard a lot of them, I even had a few. I believe that the directors should be a ACF referee. And if you don't know the rules then you should not ref.

1) cell phones I heard going off (nothing said)
2) noise while playing was going on (nothing done)
3) asked about pairings (was told my name didn't come up) go figure same pts should have played the one I hadn't played
4).2 players tied for 1st place,,,, 1 doesn't know how to beat a 3x2 but still got the win (terrible)

last but not least if they want the US Womans Title Challenge Me period

kim
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby John Acker on Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:55 pm

kim willis 57 wrote:
1) if your going to post results please make sure you have it right. I did not have 15pts I had 17pts.


Sorry, that one was my fault: I forgot to enter your Round 6 result on my spreadsheet, but it was entered in the official score (and thus affected prize payouts).
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby John Acker on Sun Aug 07, 2016 10:06 pm

jimloy wrote:I have concerns of my own:

1. Using chess pairings programs may result in a problem in that the programs assign colors (as each round of a chess tournament is one game, and colors are very important in chess pairings). If we humans merely ignore the assigned colors, the program still thinks that player A should not play against player B because they both had White more often than other players. Pairings will often be based upon colors unless the computer can ignore the colors, too. For fair pairings, we must use a program that can be instructed to ignore the assigned colors (or not assign colors). I am informed that not all pairing programs can ignore assigned colors. I do not know if ANY program can ignore assigned colors.


I think ChessArbiter Pro can do this, and there is also a version supposedly designed for draughts tournaments.

3. Let me quote part of one sentence of John's: "Use official ratings to ... handle pairings ..." I assume that means (as all pairings programs do this) that in any group of players with the same score, the players are listed in order of decreasing order of ratings (this is called seeding), and the top half play against the bottom half. The ultimate example is in the first round, where everyone is tied for first with zero points. Lets say there are 50 players, then player 1 plays player 26, 2 plays 27, etc.


Yes, I was mainly thinking about first-round seeding. It's easy enough to do manually, as long as the ratings are recorded.

4. There are other possible variations to standard pairings, as players from the same family or town may have to play each other early on to minimize collusion (throwing of games) near the end of the tournament, when collusion has a much bigger impact on the prizes. If we don't adopt a rule like this, we should maybe make a statement that throwing games is considered cheating.


I believe the WCDF uses a similar rule in WQTs, for players from the same federation. The difficulty is that most players are friends, especially top players, so it would be difficult to eliminate "agreed draws" or other forms of collusion. To my knowledge, the only time a player was accused of throwing a tournament game was in the Illinois tournament several years ago, and those accusations were completely debunked.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Alex_Moiseyev on Mon Aug 08, 2016 7:39 am

jimloy wrote:3. Let me quote part of one sentence of John's: "Use official ratings to ... handle pairings ..." I assume that means (as all pairings programs do this) that in any group of players with the same score, the players are listed in order of decreasing order of ratings (this is called seeding), and the top half play against the bottom half. The ultimate example is in the first round, where everyone is tied for first with zero points. Lets say there are 50 players, then player 1 plays player 26, 2 plays 27, etc.
Let me make it clear ... there are two players: #25 and #26, fairly even in strength with few points difference in rating. First player should play with opponent having #50 rating and second player meets the best player with #1 rating ... correct ?

I also am interesting: with all these ideas and improvements - are you talking about Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois and Kentucky states checkers tourneys or something else ? ... Or all your ideas affect only Nationals ?

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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby John Acker on Mon Aug 08, 2016 12:18 pm

Alex_Moiseyev wrote:I also am interesting: with all these ideas and improvements - are you talking about Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois and Kentucky states checkers tourneys or something else ? ... Or all your ideas affect only Nationals ?


Most of these improvements are not dependent on an ACF affiliation, though non-affiliated events may be less likely to use ACF ratings. Personally, I think the Nationals should be the gold standard of professionalism and consistency, so if the ACF wants to lead these reforms it would make sense to start there. However, state tournaments would also benefit from adopting these standards, not least because doing so would help prepare players for larger events.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Alex_Moiseyev on Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:07 pm

From all these ideas I see a good improvement of process, but not professionalism.

If we need more professionalism, we have to encourage people to play checkers better and improve their levels, study checkers on regular base, read books, attend more events, analyze games etc

It really doesn't matter we play with green pieces, black, white or brown, it is important what kind of moves we make by these pieces.

In the past 10 years we lost masters and grandmasters: Leo Levitt, Elbert Lowder, Ed Bruch, Gene Lindsay, Les Balderson (those are best, but many others also were lost). Did we get an equal or reasonable replacement ? Not at all. What should we expect after other 10 years (I don't mention names) ?

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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby bazkitcase5 on Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:13 pm

The ACF is not in the current position to force state tournaments to do these things, but I would hope we can make our National tournament more professional as John has mentioned, so that those tournament directors who run state tournaments would want to go by the same standard of excellence. I am also in completely agreement that prize money should be awarded after the tie break system. This is especially true if we are using a computer system for pairings and the tie break system can calculated immediately. Also, I feel like we need a better tie break system than just the honor points. The WCDF uses the Sonneborn-Berger tie break system, which seems much more detailed and takes into account how you actually did against your opponents.

Also, I personally am coming around to the idea of no repairs, so I am glad Jim brought it up and what he said about it makes perfect sense. I've always been a fan of repair rounds, but I can understand the logic of why it might not always be best, so I certainly would like to see more discussion on the merits of both sides of this debate.

Alex, using the example of 50 players and pairing the 1st round by seeding, #1 would play #50, #2 plays #49, etc. to #25 plays #26 and as John mentioned, this is for the first round only. I am not sure if this is the best way to go, but wanted to clarify. This also brings up the issue with byes. What if there is an odd number of the players and the top rated player doesn't want to start with a bye? Also this is a slightly different topic and worthy of its own discussion, but how many points should a bye be worth? I think most people now agree that 4 points is too many, but even with game scoring, is giving away 3 free points also too much? Are there cases where it would be unfair to only give 2 points for a bye (in all formats, including game scoring)?

On Alex's last comment, unfortunately, we can't make players do things we want them to do. I'd love to make my friends play checkers, study, etc., but that is not likely going to happen. I can encourage them, but they would still need extra incentive. Players who already enjoy playing the game and going to tournaments do need to take it upon themselves to take pride in their play and want to do better, but it is still not that easy. So as far as the ACF is concerned, they have to control what they can by at least making the tournaments more professional first, then maybe the players will follow suit.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Alex_Moiseyev on Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:19 pm

bazkitcase5 wrote: #1 would play #50, #2 plays #49, etc. to #25 plays #26
This is much better from what I read before (1-26, 2-27 etc) But how you handle people w/o rating, lets say players like Fredo in their 1st real event ?
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby jimloy on Mon Aug 08, 2016 1:29 pm

Seeding by rating applies to any group of players that are tied, in any round. That is the way the pairings programs do it, if they know the ratings. Why should it apply only to the first round?
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby liam stephens on Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:21 pm

Yes, that is the system used in other sports such as Chess.
However the proposal above that - 1 plays 50, 2 plays 49 etc seems inequitable.
That would mean that in every round (subject to no repairing) the highest rated player would play the lowest rated player in the group concerned.
The right and fairest way is that originally proposed - 1 plays 26, 2 plays 27, etc.
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