Michigan Movement
Bob Ciaffone, 1980
Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine, December 1980
Bob Ciaffone
Bob Ciaffone
The player movement used at a tournament has a lot to do with the enjoyment and satisfaction of the participants. For example, the single elimination movement is very unpopular; no one wants to enter a tournament and be permanently eliminated from the competition in the first round. Therefore, many tournaments have consolation flights that the early losers can play in. A more popular system is the double elimination format, where a player must lose two matches before being knocked out of the tournament. In my 3-day Michigan Summer Championship Tournament, we even use a double elimination main tournament combined with a consolation flight.

However, all these alternatives to the undesirable single elimination system have one very serious drawback for club tournaments; they lengthen the tournament by several rounds. For example, a 32-player single elimination format only takes five rounds to establish a winner; but the double elimination method takes eight or nine rounds. People who play in a tournament where they are not staying away from home overnight do not like 2-day tournaments; they want everything to be over in one day. The only way to run a double elimination tournament in one day is to have extremely short matches, and this also, quite rightly, does not sit well with the players.

How can we use the basic idea of the double elimination system for a one-day tournament? This problem led to the establishment of the Michigan Movement, which takes the double elimination concept and adapts it to a movement that has no more rounds that the single elimination system. I shall describe this system to you and recommend it for your 1-day tournaments.

The Michigan Movement, which has some of its underlying concepts borrowed from movements used by the Texas Backgammon Association and the Louisville Backgammon Club, is based on the following idea; all the competitors who lose in the same round form one flight where they play off for one of the runner-up prizes. Here is how the movement would work for 32 people:

Thus, you are only eliminated from first place by a loss; all the remaining prize winners will have identical records with one loss, and only the calibre of the competition separates the runner-up performances. Therefore, we use a payoff scale which does not distinguish sharply between the various runner-up places.

For 32 people, we divide the prize money from the entry pool as follows: 30% for 1st, 18% for 2nd, 16% for 3rd, 14% for 4th, 12% for 5th, and 10% for 6th. In the Calcutta pool, we use a different scale, since players active in the auction usually want a larger payoff for first place. The Calcutta pool is divided 35% for 1st, 20% for 2nd, 15% for 3rd, 12% for 4th, 8% for 5th, and 5% for 6th.

Though the purpose of the Michigan Movement is to telescope the single and double elimination movements, we have found some desirable byproducts. In many tournaments, most of the people go home before the championship finals, leaving the winners to play their match with only a handful of supporters for a gallery. With the Michigan Movement, all the prize matches are played at approximately the same time, making for a more emotionally satisfying victory and giving spectators a variety of matches to watch until the very end of the tournament.

Another nice benefit of the Michigan Movement is the tendency of each prize flight to be made up of people fairly close in ability competing against one another. For this reason, we prefer to have all the matches in the tournament of the same length. There will be fewer upsets in the early rounds; this helps the weaker players also, as their remaining matches will be more fairly competitive if the top players are not knocked off to compete with them in the runner-up flights.

I highly recommend that you start using the Michigan Movement at your club for one-day tournaments; your players will show their appreciation by increased attendance.

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