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Changing the massive discrepancy between team and pair events

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When players complain about masterpoints being too easy to win, they usually focus on winning gold points in bracketed knockout events (KOs) at regionals. I think there are three reasons why KOs award more gold points than other events. First of course is that KOs are a team event, and team events award approximately twice as many masterpoints in overalls.

I compared a KO to a Swiss Team. For the listed overalls, the KO awarded 4.39 gold points per person, while the Swiss Team awarded only 2.39 gold points per person. That's an 84% discrepancy, which is huge. (I am not positive that all of the overall awards were listed for the KOs -- usually only the top 4 teams were listed, but two teams were listed for being 5/8.)

So just being a team game is not the end of the story. The second factor is that the KOs divide the field into small sections. For tournaments, small sections award more masterpoints per person (discussion). This advantage is mostly the regular player who just hopes to win some masterpoints.

I cannot figure out the formula for awarding masterpoints in knockouts, but as near as I can tell, the third advantage to KOs is taking stratifying and stratiflighting to the extreme. (See stratiflighting.) A Swiss Teams can divide the field into three parts -- A/x, B/C, and Senior Pairs. But the KO I was looking at divided the field into 9 brackets.

Finally, I would guess that the bracketing strongly increases the chances of winning gold points for the weak players. Essentially, the worst 16 teams are unlikely to win gold points in a Swiss Event, but a good percentage of them are going to win gold points in a bracketed knockout. Essentially, the ACBL instituted the policy of gold points to give more status to the rank of Life Master, which slowly was losing status because of masterpoint inflation. Then then undercut themselves by making it easy to win gold points in a bracketed knockout.

The Problem of Multiple Days with Elimination

The KO was a two-day event. From the perspective of Eric Rodwell, it took him two days to win his 46.77 gold points, whereas he won 31.46 gold points in just one day in the Swiss Teams. So he might think the Swiss Teams is the better deal. (In fact, the standard complaint is the ease of winning gold in the knockouts for regular players.)

But not everyone plays two days in the knockouts. On average, everyone plays 15/16 of a day in the KOs. (This assumes 4-person teams, violation of which is another problem for team games.) So in terms of overall time, and in terms of entry fees that the ACBL collects, the KO actually is slightly smaller than the Swiss Team, not twice as long.

It is not easy to say what should be the overall awards for a longer event with elimination. I do not know how the ACBL handles this. My opinion is this.

First, imagine a futuristic regional that is all KOs. If you are eliminated from the Wednesday afternoon KO, you enter another KO starting Wednesday night; when you are eliminated from that, you start a new KO. In this situation, to hold masterpoints per person constant, what counts is average number of sessions per participant. In other words, the KO awards should be 15/16 of the Swiss Team awards.

The other extreme, if it existed, would be this. A KO is running. When you are eliminated from a KO, you can enter another event, but that other event does not award as many masterpoints (per person). Imagine that you are entering a consolation (or a side game). Especially if people had already paid for the consolation (or always entered it), the awards for the consolation could be reduced and the awards for the two-day event could be correspondingly increased, to keep masterpoints per person constant.

Reality fits between these two. There is probably no major event starting at night. There would be a side game or consolation, but not everyone enters the side game. And all regionals will have a major event starting the next day for KO participants who were eliminated the first day. So there should be some premium given for the second day of participation in KOs, but not as much as it would be if there was a mandatory consolation bracket for the losers.

What Should be Done

The bracketed knockouts are much more practical than an open knockout. But open knockouts were not that common at regionals. I suspect that bracketed knockouts are popular because they award so many masterpoints per person. Anyway, bracketed knockouts should not award more masterpoints per person than other events. Ideally, expected masterpoints would be the same (as other events) for both elite and regular players. If they are still popular with the masterpoint differential erased, fine.