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Competition and Tournament Systems of Play

What types of competition and tournament systems of play are there?
Which is best? Find out here...

Many table tennis clubs organise competitions or tournaments for their members, but what playing system should you use?

Which system of play is best?

Well, it depends on a number of factors including whether you want to hold an individual tournament or competition or a team tournament or competition.

So let's take a look at some different competition and tournament systems of play and look at their advantages and disadvantages.

Competition and Tournament Systems of Play by courtesy of the ITTF

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Basic systems for individual events

There are two basic competition and tournament systems of play that you can use for individual events.

They are the simple knock-out system and the group / round-robin system.

So let's take a quick look at each of these and discover the advantages and disdavantages of each one.

 

1. Simple Knock-out

Simple Knock-out - Winner by courtesy of the ITTF

This system is used for all the major tournaments including the Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cup and ITTF World Tour.

How it works:

  • Players are allocated or drawn in pairs
  • Winners continue to play in successive rounds until only one player remains unbeaten
  • Losers are knocked-out

Advantages:

  • Simple to understand
  • Needs the fewest number of matches and therefore can be completed in the shortest time

Disadvantages:

  • Half of the players are eliminated in the first round
  • Does not produce a final ranking order

 


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2. Group / Round-robin

How it works:

  • Players are allocated or drawn into groups containing 3, 4 or 5 players
  • Each player plays every other player in their group
  • The results of matches determine the final ranking order for the group

    then...

  • A pre-determined number of players (usually the top one or two) progress from each group into a knock-out competition, whilst the others are eliminated
  • Winners continue to play in successive rounds until only one player remains unbeaten
  • Losers are knocked-out

Advantages:

  • Guarantees that all players will have more than one match
  • Provides a final ranking order for each group

Disadvantages:

  • No 'final' within each group
  • No certainty that the last group match played will decide the group winner
  • The number of matches rises rapidly as the size of the group increases. Therefore you usually need to limit the number of players in each group to a maximum of 5.
  • Takes longer to play all matches

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Variations to the Simple Knock-out system

In order to provide losing players with more matches when using the simple knock-out system, there are two variations which can be used.

Variation 1 - Double Knock-out

How it works:

  • Losers are entered into another knock-out competition (sometimes called a consolation or plate competition) instead of being eliminated
  • This secondary knock-out competition is then played in the same way as the original knock-out competition

Advantages:

  • Gives first round losers a second chance
  • This system can also be further extended to allow for two or more losses

Disadvantages:

  • Doubles the number of matches to be played, so takes longer
  • Does not determine ranking

 

And...

 

Variation 2 - Progressive Knock-out

How it works:

  • Winners continue to play other winners until only one player remains unbeaten
  • Losers continue to play other losers
  • Players losing in the first round cannot finish in the top half of the final order
  • Players losing in the first and second rounds can only compete for places in the lowest quarter

Advantages:

  • Provides a full ranking order
  • Provides a decisive final
  • Gives all participants the same number of matches

Disadvantages:

  • Takes longer to play all matches

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Team competitions

If you're playing team competitions there are many different systems you can choose from. But let's take a look at some popular systems of play for team competitions where there are 2-5 players per team.

Team Match Procedure

Before the match starts, the right to choose whether your team will be A,B,C or X,Y,Z should be decided by lot (for example, by tossing a coin).

The captains will then assign a letter to each player.

The pairs for a doubles match need not be decided until the end of the immediately preceding singles match.

For any of the following systems of play there is the option for the match to finish when one team has an unbeatable lead.

So for example, when playing best of 5 matches, the match may stop when a team has won 3 matches. Or when playing best of 9 matches, the match may stop when a team has won 5 matches. Alternatively, you can play all the matches.

 


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Team Match Systems of Play

System 1.   5 Singles

This system is used for the World Championships Team Events.

Team competition - Winners by courtesy of the ITTF

How it works:

  • A team consists of 3 players
  • Best of 5 Matches (5 singles)
  • The order of play is A v X, B v Y, C v Z, A v Y, B v X

Advantages:

  • All of the players must have played at least one match for their team to reach a winning score
  • Needs the fewest number of matches and therefore can be completed in the shortest time

Disadvantages:

  • One player from each team only gets one match

 


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System 2.   4 Singles and 1 Doubles

How it works:

  • A team may consist of 2, 3 or 4 players
  • Best of 5 Matches (4 singles and 1 doubles)
  • The order of play is A v X, B v Y, doubles, A v Y, B v X

Advantages:

  • It's possible to form a team with only 2 players
  • Up to 4 players can all play in one team
  • Either or both of the doubles players may be different from the singles players
  • It's possible to vary the last two singles to allow players 3 and 4 to play, so that all players will play at least 1 singles each

Disadvantages:

  • One strong player can dominate a match by winning two singles and playing a decisive part in the doubles

 


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System 3.   4 Singles and 1 Doubles

How it works:

  • A team consists of 3 players but each player can only play in a maximum of 2 individual matches
  • Best of 5 Matches (4 singles and 1 doubles)
  • The order of play is A v X, B v Y, doubles C&A or B v Z&X or Y, B or A v Z, C v Y or X

Advantages:

  • All of the players must have played at least once for their team to reach a winning score
  • Less chance of one strong player dominating a match
  • All players have 2 matches

Disadvantages:

  • It's not possible to form a team with only 2 players

 


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System 4.   6 Singles and 1 Doubles

How it works:

  • A team may consist of 3, 4 or 5 players.
  • Best of 7 Matches (6 singles and 1 doubles)
  • The order of play shall be A v Y, B v X, C v Z, doubles, A v X, C v Y, B v Z

Advantages:

  • 3 players must have played at least one individual match for their team to reach a winning score
  • It's possible to vary the last three singles to allow players 4 and 5 to play, so that all players will play at least 1 singles each

Disadvantages:

  • The 4th and/or 5th player might only play in the doubles
  • May take a long time to complete all 7 matches

 


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System 5.   9 Singles

How it works:

  • A team consists of 3 players.
  • Best of 9 Matches (9 singles)
  • The order of play shall be A v X, B v Y, C v Z, B v X, A v Z, C v Y, B v Z, C v X, A v Y

Advantages:

  • Less chance of one strong player dominating a match

Disadvantages:

  • Unpredictable length of time required. The match may be completed quickly if the score is 5-0, or last more than 4 hours if all 9 matches are played

 

Remember, there are also many other possible variations for playing team events. You just have to decide which system of play works best for you.

 


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