Chess Tournament Tie
the hardest parts of a chess tournament to understand is the tie breaking system
used for assigning trophies. I put together this document to help explain the
process, using fictitious names and results as an example.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The
United States Chess Federation (USCF) rules state that whenever there is a
tie, any tied player is considered to have finished in the tied position. For
example, if there is a three-way tie for second, all three players may state
that they finished in second place. Any prizes must be split equally between
the tied players. Since there is typically only one trophy for each position,
however, some sort of objective system must be used to assign trophies.
Interestingly, the USCF rules also state that those who receive a trophy for a
tied position may change the plate (at their own expense) to indicate the
position they tied.
being said, let’s look at the tie breaking systems used.
Tie Breaking Systems
USCF specifies the following tie breaking systems be used for scholastic
tournaments, in this order:
5. Games between tied
6. Most times playing Black
7. Coin Toss
first tie-breaking system is unable to break the tie, the second is used for the
players that are still tied, and so on, until the order is decided. Tie
breakers are only used between players that have the same score, not all
this explanation easier, I'm going to use the following results for a fictitious
tournament, where 16 people finished more or less in alphabetical order...
Example Tournament, Final
As you can see, we have a four-way tie
for 2nd place that needs to be resolved.
Modified Median system works by comparing the scores of the opponents that the
tied players faced during the tournament. The theory is to award the person who
played the stronger opponents.
system works by adding the scores of each player’s opponents, disregarding the
Using the example tournament results,
it works out this way for the four players tied for second place with 3 points:
Bill: Chip: Dan:
Ed 3 Bill
3 Ann 4 Faye 2˝
Hal 2 Faye 2˝ Hal 2 Gus 2˝
Ivan 2 Hal
2 Lucy 1 Judy 2
Mark 1 Lucy 1 Mark 1
Total 7˝ Total 7 Total 7
the Modified Median tie breaker, Chip is awarded the 2nd place
trophy, and Bill, Dan and Ed are now tied for 3rd.
Modified Median, like most tie breakers, only works between players who have all
earned the same tournament score.
there is still a tie after calculating the Modified Median, the Solkoff system
is used for the players that are still tied
Solkoff system is similar to the Modified Median except that no opponent scores
are disregarded. By the Solkoff system, the next step in the tournament example
would look like this:
Bill: Dan: Ed:
Ed 3 Ann
4 Faye 2˝
2 Hal 2 Gus 2˝
Lucy 1 Judy 2
1 Mark 1 Kirk 1˝
Total 8 Total 8˝
using the Solkoff tie breaker, the 3rd place award goes to Ed, and
Bill and Dan are tied for 4th.
after calculating the Solkoff score there is still a tie, the Cumulative system
Cumulative system works by adding together the players’ score after each round
to get a cumulative total. The system rewards players who win early rounds, but
lose in later rounds against stronger opponents.
Let’s say that Bill won his first, third and fourth games, and Dan won
his first, second, and fourth games. The cumulative scores would be:
Round 1 1
Round 2 1
Round 3 2
Continuing with our example, Dan would receive the 4th place trophy,
and Bill would get the 5th place award.
rare case that there is still a tie, the Kashdan system is used. In the Kashdan
system, a player receives 4 tie breaker points for a win, 2 points for a draw, 1
point for a loss and 0 for bye. The highest total wins the tie breaker.
there is still a tie, the results are checked to see if the tied players played
each other during the tournament. If so, whoever won that game wins the
game between tied players was a draw, the results are checked to see if one
player played black more often than the other. If so, that player wins the tie.
Finally, if there is still a tie, a coin toss determines the order of finish.
the time, the various tie breaking systems result in the same placing. Since
that is not always the case, however, the order in which they are used is
strictly specified by the USCF.
you found this explanation helpful for explaining the often-confusing results of
chess tournaments. Keep in mind, of course, that the most important aspects of
scholastic chess tournaments are to learn, make friends, be a good sport, and
The Modified Median rule is actually slightly more involved. The lowest
scoring opponent is disregarded only for ties between players with more wins
than losses. For players tied with more losses than wins, the highest scoring
opponent is disregarded. For players tied with an even number of wins and
losses, both the highest and lowest scoring opponents are dropped. Since the
system is normally used to award trophies to top finishers, the generalization
on page one is good enough for most cases.