Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Talk about upcoming tournaments or your experience at tournaments.

Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Alex_Moiseyev on Mon Aug 08, 2016 8:03 pm

bazkitcase5 wrote:at least making the tournaments more professional first, then maybe the players will follow suit.
Please, don't use word "professional", it's insult me. The tournaments are professional only if professional players play here. Say - "improvements", I am OK with this.

Recording games, using clocks and ratings are just "normal" things, not professional.
I am playing checkers, not chess.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby nboatman on Mon Aug 08, 2016 11:43 pm

I like the discussion; thanks for getting the ball rolling here, John. There are a lot of good ideas here. I'd like to comment on a few of them, but I'll split this up into several posts to avoid a ridiculously long post. I'll start with the issue where the solution seems most clear-cut to me: the rating behavior that Liam described.

In Liam's comments on ratings, he pointed out that scoring by game produces very different results from scoring by round. He is absolutely right, but I think this is relatively easy to remedy. Our rating system is an Elo rating system. Elo rating systems work by forming an expected outcome for a contest based on the ratings (oftentimes based on just the difference in competitors' ratings, as in our system - I think) and then adjusting ratings afterward based on the difference between the outcome and the expected outcome: if a player does better than expected, his rating will rise, and his rating will fall if he does worse than expected. The expected outcome should be the average outcome if the players (or, rather, players with the given ratings) were to play many times. Since the Elo rating system corrects itself, ratings will tend to move toward a sort of equilibrium where the expected outcome from the rating formula is (roughly) equal to the hypothetical average outcome (of course, the ratings will always bounce around somewhat, rather than ever really reaching an equilibrium). Since the hypothetical average outcome is different for different scoring methods, our rating formula should compute a different expected outcome depending on the particular scoring method.

Here's an entirely made-up example, and I hope Alex doesn't mind that I'm using him in my example. Let's say that when I play against Alex M. I have a 25% chance of getting 1 draw and 1 loss, while I have a 75% chance of losing both games. If the event is scored by game, this means I have a 25% chance of getting 1 point (yay!). My hypothetical average outcome would be 0.25 pts for each round that I played against Alex. If we were to play many, many times with game scoring, I would expect the difference in our ratings to end up close to the amount that would yield an expected outcome (for me) of 0.25 pts per round. On the other hand, assuming the same outcome probabilities as before, I would always end up with zero points in contests that were scored by round ( :( ). My hypothetical average outcome would be zero, and, if we played many times, our ratings would diverge until the ratings formula gave me an expected outcome of zero.

If we ignore the scoring system when computing the expected outcome in our rating formula, we will see the behavior that Liam described: the range of ratings will be compressed by events that are scored by game and expanded by events that are scored by round.

The solution to this undesirable behavior of ratings is to consider the scoring system when computing the expected outcome. In fact, there are other things that could be considered as well. For instance, whether the event is GAYP, 3-move, or 11-man ballot, whether the "tough deck" is used, etc.

We have round-by-round tournament results going back ages (yes?), so I think we have plenty of data to come up with a reasonable estimate of the impact of game scoring vs. round scoring in 3-move, as well as the impact of GAYP vs. 3-move. I'm sure the 11-man ballot data set is much smaller, so we may not be able to meaningfully estimate how the expected outcome for 11-man ballot should differ from the expected outcome for 3-move.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby nboatman on Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:36 am

This time, I'll throw in my two cents on computer pairings (and tournament structures). There isn't a clear-cut solution for handling pairings, because there are surely many different viewpoints on what should be emphasized.

The one thing I can say confidently is that it would be relatively easy to build a program (an Excel macro, for instance) for generating pairings, so the features of currently available programs need not be a limitation. We could (in theory, at least) agree on a basic suite of pairing methodologies which the software could support, and the tournament director could easily use one of those by selecting a few choices from drop-down menus. This assumes, of course, that players are amenable to using computer pairing in the first place. My impression is that a lot of players are more comfortable with manual pairing than they would be with computer pairing and would need some time to warm up to the idea of computer pairing before it could be implemented. I think there would be some tournaments with manual pairings where players would be interested to see the pairings the computer would have generated so they could get comfortable with the outcome, but I think many would come around to the idea.

There are a lot of perfectly reasonable opinions about how a tournament should progress, and these will impact the features used in pairing opponents. Here are just a handful of opinions that I think are reasonable, along with some of the pairing/structure methodologies that might be justified based on each opinion.

1) The tournament should end with #1 vs. #2.
This sets up a climactic ending (assuming they actually play in the last round) and is the main justification for repairing.

2) The tournament should involve no repairing, but an effort should be made to ensure good matchups in the later rounds.
This opinion can be used as a basis for wanting to use ratings to pair in the Swiss system when players are tied. Assuming that the highest rated players will end up on top in the end, seeding by rating among tied players in each round (and matching high-seeded players against low-seeded players), as several people have already suggested in this thread, can help delay a matchup between the players who will end up on top. I think checkers typically has too few players (for the number of rounds in the tournament) for this to work really well.

3) The tournament shouldn't be decided by which top player gets to play against a really bad player.
This opinion supports a round-robin tournament, and I think a number of ACF players like round-robin tournaments for this reason. I will point out that seeding by rating among tied players in a Swiss-style tournament can also be supported by this viewpoint. Assuming that top rated players will be the ones who end up on top, this starts the top players out against players who are similarly bad. Assuming that the really bad players never surge in the standings after the first round and that the top players stay near the top throughout, seeding by rating among tied players may achieve this goal throughout the tournament.

4) Top-seeded players should have some sort of advantage to reward them for their high ratings.
Most single elimination tournaments are set up like this, giving higher-seeded entrants (theoretically) easier roads deep into the tournament. Of course, this also helps set up better matchups late in tournaments as well. Seeding by rating among tied players is consistent with this opinion.

5) The winner should be determined by how top players perform against each other, not by differences in how top players perform against weak, oftentimes inconsistent players.
This has similarities with concerns that stem from the "Lottery element" mentioned by Liam. In the form given here, it provides an argument against round-robin tournaments, especially if the alternative to a round-robin is a tournament with fewer players in each division (or at least in the top division) where players play longer rounds. For instance, the old format for 3-move nationals (4 game rounds, use "tough deck" if first two games are both drawn) is likely popular among players with opinion #5.


I don't know of any tournaments that use a format besides Swiss (or modified Swiss, with repairing) or round-robin, but there are other interesting possibilities. For instance, I think a hybrid round robin + Swiss could be interesting. Begin by dividing the field into pools based on rating (with players spread across the field, e.g. one player from each quartile of the field), and each pool plays a round-robin. Then assign the players to a Swiss-style tournament based on the outcome of the pools (e.g. top 2 players from each pool move on to the tournament that determines the champion, next two players from each pool are put in a different Swiss style tournament, etc.). This setup is consistent with opinions 2, 3, 4, and gives you a shot at satisfying 1. If you throw in the stipulation that points from the pools don't carry over, then you could satisfy someone with opinion #5, too.

Similarly, you could do a round robin + round robin, or any number of different things.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Alex_Moiseyev on Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:39 am

nboatman wrote:Here's an entirely made-up example, and I hope Alex doesn't mind that I'm using him in my example.
I don't mind, but I don't think it's a perfect example. You know why ? I am not saying I am best of the best, but how many players of my level you can meet ? So - this system works against you! haha. I might be ahead of you, but 5-10-15 players are behind you. How about this ? :D

What is the main goal of any system ? Proper ranking players. Think about this, think which system does this better and why we had this system "winner take all" for 60 years and no one complained. Did we had any strangers on top ?

Don't try to fix things which are not broken!

Anyway, in 2018 we have scoring per game for 3-moves Master Division, that's all. It was necessary to wait when several people die to get voting done in this direction. We'll learn more about it's advantage and disadvantage in the next 6-10 years.

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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby nboatman on Tue Aug 09, 2016 12:19 pm

Maybe I was unclear in making my point. I'm not advocating for one scoring system (by game or by round) over the other. Each system has its merits, and I hope both remain in use. I think it's nice for different events to have their own rules; it adds some variety and gives events a unique character. My point was that different scoring systems will have different effects on ratings, unless we consider the scoring system in the rating calculation.

While ranking players is an important use of ratings, it's not the only use. Ratings convey much more information than a simple ordering of players. Ratings give an indication of how much better one player is than another. If people weren't interested in such comparisons, rating systems wouldn't use aesthetically pleasing numbers that give sizable spreads. If ratings were only useful to generate rankings, we might as well choose a rating system in which all ratings are between 0 and 1. Of course, that's not what people want, because comparing ratings of 0.633 and 0.672 just doesn't feel the same as comparing 1670 to 1750, even if the ratings really suggest the same comparison between playing strengths.

If we don't account for different scoring systems in our rating methodology, the strongest players will see rating spikes following tournaments scored by round, and these gains will be eaten away by 3 point rounds in tournaments scored by game. In this regard, the rating system does need improvement, because it degrades the ability of ratings to convey how much better one player is than another.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby John Acker on Tue Aug 09, 2016 12:22 pm

Alex, I think we have different concepts of professionalism. In my view, running a tournament in a professional manner has nothing to do with the scientific quality of the games played, since that's up to the players. Instead, it's about using certain structures and practices consistently to gain the players' respect and confidence, and to demonstrate the officials' and the organization's competence. Let me give you a non-checkers example. On my way to Branson a couple weeks ago my car broke down, so I had to pull over at a gas station and call AAA. The AAA operator, the tow truck driver, and the mechanic I spoke with that afternoon all acted professionally: they were polite and friendly, they clearly explained my options and the affiliated costs, and they did their best to meet my needs. Theoretically, they could do all these things and still be really bad at other aspects of their jobs, but their competence in one area made me confident that they would be competent in other areas as well. Even if there were some problem with the transaction, e.g. if I were charged more than the amount on my receipt, I would still think that we could resolve the problem because they had treated me well. By analogy, if we use professional standards in planning and running our tournaments, we can reassure players that we can deal with potential conflicts fairly and appropriately. In fact, as I suggested in my initial post, certain professional practices are designed to avoid common problems, such as using clocks to avoid referee or computer adjudication.

As Clayton suggests, though, professional conduct by tournament officials can also encourage players to take their games more seriously. Part of this has to do with the change in environment. In casual OTB games, most players move relatively quickly, don't use clocks, and don't record their games for future study. If our tournaments more or less replicate that environment, I think we're a lot more likely to see imprecise play (what you define as "amateur" or "average") since it's easy to associate the casual setting with a non-serious attitude toward the games. Conversely, if we make the tournament experience qualitatively different, we communicate to players that they should think and act differently in their games. Even the physical routine of considering the position quietly (!), writing down your move, making your move, and hitting the clock promotes slower and more careful play. But more importantly, as current and potential players see the ACF take professional conduct more seriously, they will come to respect the game itself more, whether they win every round or struggle for every draw.

In short, we can't all be grandmasters, but we can all be serious players, and that will go a long way toward improving our community and how we represent checkers to the rest of the world.
Last edited by John Acker on Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Alex_Moiseyev on Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:10 pm

John, 10-12 (maybe 15) years ago when I tried to do in ACF exactly the same thing you are doing now, and using the same arguments and rhetoric, I was named as arrogant person and my opponents explained me very well that average players don't need so-called "professionalism". So ... what should I think now when other people tell me today that average players badly need professional environment ? :D

I should probably say - GOOD LUCK!

There are players who always record games, and there are players who never record games. And we know their names very well. But I don't know any single case when referee try to enforce rule to record all games by all players in Master Division.

I do certainly believe, if one time we award someone with zero points for not recording game, we would never ever have this problem again!

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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby bazkitcase5 on Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:45 pm

It sounds like we just need more people to make the push - I am completely on board with what John is saying

I think most players want more professionally run tournaments, whether they realize it or not... I just think that many of them are scared of change or they are satisfied with the way things are. Not all of them have had the chance to play tournaments in other sports/games or travel to other countries to see how much better things could be done. We have to propose improvements and ideas in an open minded, non arrogant way, so that average players would be open to these changes.

and yes, we absolutely have to enforce our own rules if we are going to bother making rules in the first place, like recording games, otherwise there is no point
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Alex_Moiseyev on Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:07 pm

bazkitcase5 wrote:I just think that many of them are scared of change or they are satisfied with the way things are.
BINGO!!

I am with you guys, indeed. If we don't do this today, tomorrow could be too late.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby John Acker on Tue Aug 09, 2016 3:39 pm

Well, Alex, your job as Player Representative is to act as a liaison between ACF members and ACF officers. It seems pretty clear that several members want specific and immediate reform to tournament procedures, so what is the ACF going to do about it? There is only one way to prove the pudding!
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby ae_ted on Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:58 pm

The unprofessional tourns is exactly why i no longer got to tourns or have any respect for the acf or its officers.

The ONLY way the ACF can gain respect is to have a PROFESSIONAL run national tourn in whatever form (3-move or GAP)

ACF does not have the authority over state and other local tourns but it DOES at the nationals. establish professional
guidelines BEFORE the next tourn and ENFORCE them (as AM said..award 0 pts for noncompliance)


BUT the current ACF officers do not have the stomach for such improvement and we will continue to die.

many good ideas have been and continue to be presented....but problem is deaf and uncaring ACF offercers
Sportsmanship is more important than a win any day Better to be known for word and honor than a win
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby jimloy on Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:28 pm

About recording games. I spend a lot of time every year typing games. I enjoy it, but I waste plenty of time, too, because I usually receive only one scoresheet per game. When there is an illegal or missing move (everyone makes errors), it sometimes is a great time-saver to have the other player's scoresheet to compare (even if it is mostly unreadable). Both players should be required to record games and turn in copies of the scoresheets. How can you prove you won the game or made the time-control? Maybe we really are playing a children's game. And how can players improve without ever recording their games? Surely we want to go over our games and find the mistakes so we can avoid them in the future. I have been told that recording games is distracting. Well, once you get used to it, it is no longer distracting.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby jimloy on Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:33 pm

Do we still pray at our player meetings? That is another reason that I don't go to tournaments. We shouldn't be pushing any brand of religion.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby Chexhero on Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:12 pm

jimloy wrote:Do we still pray at our player meetings? That is another reason that I don't go to tournaments. We shouldn't be pushing any brand of religion.


No one is pushing any brand of religion. Many ACF players that go to the tournaments are Christian people and so normally a quick Christian type prayer is conducted. No one is forced to participate or listen. If there happen to be Muslims, Buddists, or people of other religions, there is no one stopping them to conduct a prayer service with those that share their faith. If there are any atheists/agnostics that are offended by such vile actions, they are free to leave the room, or to close their eyes and cover their ears for all about 1 minute. I applaud the ACF for allowing prayer before matches.
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Re: Ideas for Improving Tournaments

Postby John Acker on Sat Aug 13, 2016 10:12 pm

Sometimes tournaments which include play on Sunday will have an informal church service before the morning round, but participation is strictly voluntary. Besides, it's not like the ACF is using any federal grant money to fund its tournaments!
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