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Should the place of VPs in KO events be reconsidered?

This topic is an aside from “A GNT Debacle: Too Many Winners” (https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/a-gnt-debacle-too-many-winners/?cj=811952#c811952).

I mentioned a VP scale adjustment to the 20 point scale suggested by a director roughly 30 years ago. The suggested adjustment was mentioned in the context of Swiss teams, but I think it is more valid for KO’s.

That director has long since passed, so I am reconstructing his argument.

  • Premise 1: The purpose of a match is to win.
  • Premise 2: The purpose of an event is to determine the team was most successful achieving Premise 1.
  • Therefore, why would you ever declare as the winner, a team that was not the most successful at winning their matches compared to all other teams in the event?

His solution was (using the 20 VP scale) to award 20 VPs to a win, 10 VPs to a tie, and, using the existing scale, assign descending values to losses from 9 through 0.   Here are two cases in point:  

Case 1 (from the GNT Debacle): A three team final. Team A wins both matches with the opposing teams, but by narrow margins. Team B wins against Team C by a wide margin. Because the event is scored by VPs, the VPs earned by Team B’s win and loss exceed the VPs earned in Team A’s two wins.   Maximizing the potential (A beats B by 1 IMP, A beats C by 1 IMP, B beats C by a blitz): Under the current VP scale B = 29, A = 22, C= 9; under the revised scale A = 40 B = 29, C =9.  

Case 2 (from my own experience): A seven-team qualifying round robin to proceed into an eight-team KO, with two teams qualifying out of the round robin based on VP totals. My team won 5 of 6 matches, no other team in the round robin won more than 4 matches. Because all of our wins were by narrow margins, two teams with several big wins qualified ahead of us.   Maximizing the potential (A has 5 wins by 1 IMP and 1 loss by a blitz, B has 4 wins by blitzes and 2 losses by 1 IMP and C has 3 wins by blitzes and 3 losses by 1 IMP): under the current VP scale B = 98, C = 87, A = 55; Under the revised scale A = 100 B = 98, C =87.  

When introduced to this idea, the director was using Swiss Teams as his example. He thought it was a shame that a team that went 8-0 could finish below teams with lesser match results. I understand that there are good reasons why VP scales are good for Swiss movements. Essentially, it keeps more teams in the hunt for the event and helps reduce the number of tied matchups.  

Those arguments should be of lesser importance in a KO event. Since the ultimate winner will typically be the one that bests another on a head-to-head basis, then the emphasis for qualifiers to the KO phase should also be the ones with the most wins in a round robin or Swiss phase. This type of adjustment (regardless of the VP scale used) ensures the more losses a team experiences, the harder it becomes for them to supplant a team with fewer losses. For example, an 8-0 team will always qualify higher than a 7-1 team, a 7-1 team will always qualify higher than a 6-2 team, but a 6-2 team with bad losses can possibly qualify lower than a 5-3 team with close losses (using the 20 VP variant).  

Although I am not trying to upend the world of bridge, this is not the first time that something developed for one purpose has ended up being imperfectly used for a different purpose. Perhaps it is time for a healthy discussion of the place of VPs in KO events.

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