EBU Knockout competitions

We didn't touch on these at all at the Eastbourne meeting, but numbers, as with other competitions, have been in gradual decline for some time.

The feedback I get as the organiser of these competitions is that reasons for the decline specific to knockout competitions include:
(a) increasing difficulty in arranging matches; and
(b) increasing difficulty in travelling, exacerbated by the fact that the decline in numbers means that it is more likely that teams have to travel further in early rounds.

There may be other reasons: at Eastbourne the point was made that in general the top players are still coming, so that whilst numbers have declined, the average strength of the field has gone up significantly, and it is the middle-ranking players that we used to see in droves at Brighton who have stopped coming, possibly because they don't want just to be cannon-fodder. The same may apply to knockouts.

We would be very glad to hear from people who have played in knockouts in the past and either no longer do so, or are contemplating no longer doing so, as to why this is.

We would also be glad to know if there are any aspects of the way in which the competitions are organised which makes players less likely to enter, or any changes which would make them more likely to do so..

Nick Doe
EBU Competitions Administrator / Laws & Ethics Secretary


  • Personally I don't choose to play in all the knock-outs for several reasons:
    1) There are now more competitions than there used to be - Seniors and NICKO being the most recent additions - so fitting them all in and finding dates to play becomes an increasing problem. Two potential solutions I can think of - spreading the first round play-by dates equally through the whole year so that there is less of a build-up in the autumn, or having fixed dates for one or more rounds, such that if you couldn't play on that date you wouldn't enter.
    2) If you progress further in these competitions the travel distances get longer and in some cases the number of boards played also. As I get older the stamina required to play in a match two hours away from home ending at around midnight diminishes. So the decline may in part be attributed to the increasing average age of our membership. I wonder whether requiring teams to be willing to play in the daytime would make competitions such as the Seniors KO more attractive to some whilst ruling out others - would this give rise to a net gain perhaps?
    3) These used to be one of the main ways to build one's green points, but now there are so many other ways if one is so minded and I have become significantly less concerned about earning green points (the next promotion being very distant for me!). As time goes by the change of emphasis from green point accumulation to NGS as a measure of playing ability will further render this reason for playing in KOs defunct. Gold points were introduced at the top end to establish a more current measure than accumulated green points. Perhaps lower down there could be awards for the most green points earned in a year for players at each NGS level. That might make winning a round in a couple of KOs an important target for someone at say grade 9 on the NGS.

  • When I first played in the Gold Cup back in the 1970's when there were 500+ entries and so nine rounds, Rounds 1 & 2 were played over a weekend and then the Quarters, Semis and Final were played over a 3 day weekend, so the dates for five of the nine rounds were fixed. If this was extended to the whole competition, so set aside 3 or 4 weekends for the competition, match arranging would become a thing of the past. It wouldn't necessarily prevent teams from playing, since teams of six are allowed. Teams would just need to ensure that at least four of them could make each of the dates. Perhaps some additional flexibility could be built into the COC's to exceptionally allow teams to either rearrange a date by mutual agreement or if not possible bring in a substitute in the case of real difficulty, provided the sub is not stronger than the player being subbed for.

  • edited August 2019

    Of all the EBU Knock-Out events (So excluding the Gold Cup which is a BGB event) the event that by far gets the largest entry is the NICKO. Why is this? Matches are shorter, 24 boards, generally fairly local in the early rounds so easier to arrange on a mdweek evening, but I suspect the biggest reason is that because it is an Inter-Club event, the clubs do a lot of the promoting of the event on behalf of the EBU. Players are doubly invited to enter, firstly by the EBU, and then again by their clubs. On another thread there was a suggestion for a mixed congress, would there be scope for perhaps, dare I say it, a MICKO .. Mixed Inter Club Knock-Out?!!!!!! [Note:Mixed being strictly two mixed parnerships, different from the Hubert Phillips]

  • Robert P @ 11.08 a.m. made the same point in his third paragraph as I did earlier in the week, and put it better than I did. When I ask members of my club why they no longer play in congresses, one of the reasons is that master points are no longer relevant to them. I'm not suggesting a solution, except that to say that Green pointing or not Green pointing a particular event would not improve the attendance in my view. I think this is an unintended consequence of NGS. Many players now consider improving their NGS grade to be the important aim in playing bridge rather than gaining masterpoint promotions.

  • edited August 2019

    My first two points relate specifically to knockouts, the second two to EBU competitions generally:
    1. Distances - not normally a problem with supposedly local matches in early rounds, but NICKO this year was awful. Two 24 board away matches over 100 miles away in Rounds 4&5, when matches should be "local" until Round 5 was appalling planning and clearly deters one from entering again.
    2. Difficulty in arranging matches - not normally a big problem but there are serial offenders. Maybe introduce a rating feedback system for captains? Or tighten up the regs?
    3. Variable Standards - one of the two main deterrents I think to entering EBU competitions. Generally good players want to play against other good players and improvers want to get there. Many years ago a new local format based on divisions of 8 pairs in each with imp scoring was introduced. It has become the most popular club competition and has spread to other clubs both in and outside the county. I think its success is based on the fact you are playing against players of similar standard and there is always something to play for in terms of promotion/relegation twice a year. On a national basis this premise is successfully applied in another country I regularly play in, which has three national tiers with 7x16 squads in each segment playing for promotion (1 top, 2 North/South, 4 regions). In comparison the Premier League is tiny, just national, and squad sizes are too limited to give flexibility to players.
    4. Alerting/System Rules - the other deterrent to playing in EBU competitions. Unfortunately some of those who understand the complexities take advantage leaving a sour taste for people who get tripped up, who do not return for another dose. The L&E committee seem to aim for a theoretically perfect world rather than a practically best one. It is so much more enjoyable and relaxed playing abroad with simpler regulations.

  • I used to enjoy knock-out competitions, but it is just too inconvenient for me given my job and other commitments (for example, midweek evening matches are extremely difficult), so I do not enter them (and just occasionally allow my arm to be twisted to be recruited as a substitute). Possibly when I eventually retire I might restart, but that is likely to be many years in the future. In the meantime, I can get all the bridge I want to play from weekend tournaments / competitions.

  • Forgive me if I misunderstand but if we are talking about participating in knock-outs during a congress then I am all for it. Perhaps the way knock-outs are orchestrated during a congress needs to change. Case in point, for instance, participation in knock-out events, in the US, has overtaken all other events. The once very popular board-a-match has just about been pushed into obscurity.

    **Considering Bashgrove’s concerns: **
    1. All matches are held at the congress venue starting and finishing during the congress; just like the Gold Cup. This way it would not impact the other knock-out matches such as NICKO.
    2. Individuals not wanting to be cannon fodder, the method used is via stratification. This could easily be rectified using the NGS and or ranking. Teams wanting to ‘play up’ are free to do so during registration.
    3. A maximum of four rounds played over two days; 2 sessions per day maximum per match. per match determine a winner. Yes, each match is made up of 8 teams playing 24-32 boards played per session.
    4. The losing team(s) of each round are then able to join any other competition during the next session.
    5. There can be many simultaneous knock-out matches at one time handled by a single director easily handling 10-15 matches.
    6. For those individuals wanting masterpoints, the higher stratifications are rewarded the most points per match win and likewise, session wins.

    If there happens to be an odd number of teams say 7 then two teams play head to head while the other three play a round-robin affording everyone a chance to play.

    Just my 2 cents worth.

  • There seems to be a common theme of dislike to long journeys, long matches and late finishes.
    As we all get older this is a major problem with evening matches. So why not promote daytime matches for those of us that are retired and would much prefer them. Currently it is the accepted norm that matches MUST be played in the evening. We need a change in culture to promote daytime matches.

  • @mickg said:
    There seems to be a common theme of dislike to long journeys, long matches and late finishes.
    As we all get older this is a major problem with evening matches. So why not promote daytime matches for those of us that are retired and would much prefer them. Currently it is the accepted norm that matches MUST be played in the evening. We need a change in culture to promote daytime matches.

    No, there is no requirement that matches have to be played in the evening and many matches are played in the daytime by agreement between the teams. However, the default does need to be the evening (or weekends) for those who do work in the daytime.

  • We played in the Online Knockout this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Would it be heresy to build into the Major Knockouts a mandatory online option for all matches where teams are, say, >60 miles apart.
    Maybe up until the quarter finals and make quarter, semis and final on one long weekend?

    Peter Bushby Suffolk

  • Another radical idea (just a suggestion) could you offer a Major Knock-Out fast track during the Summer Meeting midweek? This could be in parallel to the main event so teams that couldn't play then wouldn't be excluded.

    Peter Bushby Suffolk

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