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Swiss System for Chess Tournaments
Players with the same scores meet each round and no one is ever eliminated.

A tournament open to all players usually has far more players than the number of rounds scheduled for the event. The Swiss system for pairings allows to determine the strongest players and the eventual winner as fast and as fair as possible.

In tournaments where most players start the event with known ratings, the players are ranked for the first round by rating. The list of all players is split into two halves. The top player from the first half of the list is paired against the top player from the second half, the no.2 player from the first half is paired against the no.2 player from the second half, and so on through the last players in each half. The color of the top players from each half is assigned at random and alternates for each subsequent board.

When the first round results are known, a similar method is used for the second round. Players who won in the first round are ranked by rating, the list is split into two halves, the top player in the first half is paired against the top player in the second half, and the other players are paired accordingly. The same method is used for players who drew in the first round, and for players who lost.

In subsequent rounds, the same method is used for all players who have identical scores. Pairings for the third round are made for the groups of players who have 2.0, 1.5, 1.0, 0.5, and 0.0 points. In this way the best players tend to meet each other in the last rounds, when prizes and titles are on the line. The other players have the opportunity to play the complete tournament; no one is ever eliminated.

A few other rules are followed throughout the pairing process:

  • No player may meet another player twice;

  • Color balance is respected for each round, so that each player has approximately the same number of games with the White and Black pieces;

  • Where there are an odd number of players to be paired in a group, the highest ranked players can be moved up one group and the lowest ranked moved down to maintain balance; and

  • If there are an odd number of players, the lowest ranked player gets a BYE. This means that player has no opponent and earns one point for the round. Each player may receive only one BYE per tournament.

It is the TD's job to see that all players are treated fairly and equally. The rules for special situations should be available to all players before the tournament starts.

The Swiss system was proposed by Julius Müller and first used in a chess tournament at Zurich, Switzerland, in 1895. The higher the ratio of rounds to players, the more accurate the results.

 Related Resources (offsite)
• Terms of Competition
 Elsewhere on the Web
• FIDE Regulations