Modified Swiss Movement
And Tie Breaker
Butch Meese, 1980
Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine, December 1980
Butch Meese
Butch Meese
A backgammon survey was conducted with a large number of backgammon clubs during the summer of 1980. So far the response has been very good; and thanks go to those who have taken the time to fill out and return the surveys.

Backgammon is growing, with new ideas popping up all over the country. One of the purposes of the survey was to gather some of those ideas and make them available to all. The two articles below were information gathered from the survey.

Modified Swiss Movement (MSM)

Finding a backgammon format for your weekly tournament, that can be played in reasonable time and satisfy both the players and the tournament director, may be well at an end. The most common format used is elimination with low point matches, usually 5 points. The major problems are limited time and the number of players it can accommodate comfortably. With 32 players, 5 rounds are needed for single elimination and 6 rounds for double elimination, which can easily run over the limit of 5 hours available during a week night.

The number of players, also, has a large effect on an elimination tournament. Without the nice bracket numbers of 8, 16, or 32, assigning byes is always a problem. And with odd numbers, some players have an advantage of playing less matches than other players. One way around this is to limit the number of players to the even bracket numbers and possibly leaving some people out. Accommodating late players is quite difficult since the first round matches are supposed to process at the same rate. From the players point of view, one or two matches and they are eliminated.

So with these problems, is there a better format? Maybe — you be the judge. The Hoosier Backgammon Club in Indianapolis has been using the Modified Swiss Movement on its weekly tournament — with much success. Club president, Ralph R. Roberts, says, "It's a director's dream."

The rules are as follows:

  1. General. No elimination. Everybody plays the same number of matches, usually 4. Unlimited doubles. Crawford rule. No byes. No defaults. No automatic doubles.

  2. Matches. Four rounds of 5-point matches unless otherwise announced.

  3. Movement. First match opponents are determined by blind draw. Subsequent opponents determined by availability. Usually winners play winners, losers play losers, but not the same player twice.

  4. Scoring. Losers score actual points. Winners score 5 points plus the spread. Examples: 5–0 = 10, 5–1 = 9, 5–4 = 6.

  5. Posting. After each match, scores are posted on the master score sheet. Next, enter name or number in the appropriate "Next Match" columns. Play the next available player. Opponents are not necessarily in the same round.

  6. Timing. Slow matches will be called by the director. Delayed or late starting matches can be started with the cube at 2. Director will settle conflicts.

The Modified Swiss Movement format has a number of advantages over the elimination format as a weekly tournament. The MSM format has no elimination, so all players play 4 matches, no matter how they do in the matches. Inexperienced players, trying to gain experience, would benefit from this.

The MSM format will accommodate any number of players with no byes. Even the occasional late player can be accommodated as long as all other players have not finished their first matches. The average time needed to complete the MSM format is 3 hours. Waiting time between matches is minimal, because players play the next available opponent.

The number of places to be paid is determined by the number of players. The order of finish is determined first by the number of matches won then by the total number of points won.

For the benefit of the readers who would like to give it a try, Hoosier Backgammon Club (MSM) rules and score sheets are available by sending a self-addressed postage paid envelope to Backgammon Survey 1980, 1942 N. Moreland, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46222.

Tie Breaker — Opre's Option

Some clubs have a time limit on matches during their weekly tournament, which sometimes results in a tie. A tie-breaker mechanism, known as Opre's Option, was erected by Jim Opre when he was a member of the Flint Backgammon Club in Flint, Michigan.

The board is set up in a simple bear-in, bear-off situation shown in the diagram.

It does involve a high luck factor, but it also demands enough skill to make it a challenge and a learning device. The players roll for the first move and simply play it out as an end game. This mechanism is far more satisfying than rolling the dice.

If your club uses the MSM tournament format or the tie breaker, I would like to hear from you on how you feel about using them.

More articles by Butch Meese

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