Monday, August 15, 2011

Movements and Seeding

I take a significant interest in the ins and outs of things a director has to do, or should do, that many people are unaware of, and that leads me to think that sometime in the future, I’ll be a tournament director, at least part-time. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of the past NABC appeal case books but also the issues of movements for pair games and seeding of pair games is of interest to me.


Thirteen is the optimal number of tables when players do not have to duplicate boards. That way you get to play all the boards that are in play and you get to play every pair sitting the opposite direction in your section. That is why big events that have a cut always cut down to a multiple of 13 tables. But when player duplication is needed, 13 tables is an awkward number. One option is to curtail the game at 24 boards, another option is to play 3 board rounds (having 39 boards in play), and another option is to have a blackpool (2 byestands so a total of 30 boards in play, of which you play 26). Saturday afternoon at the Macon sectional, we were blessed three 13 table sections. The novice group duplicated their own boards and played 12 rounds of 2. One section in the open double-duplicated and had a blackpool. The other open section had a perfect movement with no duplication (the other section did it for them). Maybe no one else finds it interesting that the 3 sections of the same size at the same time had different movements, but I do, and I think the directors arranged this very appropriately.


Seeding, however, is something that is often lacking, especially at sectionals when you don’t have a good idea of what good players will show up. This resulted in the Saturday evening game (16 tables) having 2 A pairs sitting NS and 6 sitting EW. That’s a big advantage to anyone sitting NS. (Also, there were 7 C pairs NS and 3 EW) Sure enough, 1st and 2nd overall were NS pairs, way ahead of a slew of EW pairs who were bunched up around 58%. When directors sell entries, they typically have tables 1, 4, 7 set aside for B players; tables 2, 5, 8 for C players; tables 3, 6, 9 for A players.  Therefore, the game should naturally be fairly balanced – having equal numbers of strong players (and weak players) in each section and each direction.


In NABC events and some regional open pair games, the director has someone assigned to seed the top players. Typically, the top seeds start at table 3, the second seeds start at table 9, and the third seeds start at table 13. That way, you know that you’re playing the best players at those tables. I don’t know why they picked these particular numbers to be the seeds (and can’t find any site that explains it) but the difference in number is such that the seeded pairs will never skip other seeded pairs. In movements where there is a skip, pairs exactly 6 or 4 tables apart will never skip each other. Sometimes a skip is called after 5 rounds or 7 rounds, and sometimes with large sections, being any closer than 4 tables, the game may end before you get all the way around.


  1. interesting post - that's great that they did a blackpool, not sure other directors would have done that.

  2. Andre, great post. I feel your pain regarding the seeding. Interestingly enough, the top seeds have not always been at Tables 3. Way back when, the top seeds were at Table 1 and the next at Table 7 with secondary seeds at Tables 4 and 10. This seems to make a little more sense to me as Table 1 feels like a top seed.

    Sectionals (unless they are really big) are exceedingly difficult to seed. The only solution I know of is to hold back the table assignments of seeded pairs until all entries are sold. Then, at least the allocation of the top pairs will be balanced. Or, they will be so long as whoever is doing the seeding is aware of who the top pairs are.

    In a 2-session event, you can often get around this problem by playing Mitchell movements in the afternoon and either Web or Interwoven Howell movements in the second session.

    It is amazing though, that in a Sectional pairs game, you can have N/S and E/W that unbalanced. I guess that's one more reason I sit at home.

  3. The appeal casebooks are awesome. I could read those for hours. It's really amazing to see the venal, blatantly false things that people will say to justify their unethical behavior. (And, more troublingly, the tendency that committees have to rule in favor of big-name players.)

  4. I too remember when 1 and 7 were the seeded pairs. I was in that Saturday night game, but did not know that the seeding was lopsided. I have always liked having a partner who understood the movement and the rules, because i am often confused by the complicated ones. Interesting blog.