5. Club Competitions
A club ladder provides a format for playing relatively serious handicap games with automatically adjusting grades. It also enables a go club to establish the relative grades of its members and to monitor their progress.
The rungs of the ladder form a scale which represents the grading system. Every member of the group has a marker between a pair of adjacent rungs. Every time a player wins a game he goes up one rung and every time he loses a game he goes down one. The handicap for a game is determined by the difference between the current grades of the players, giving, say, 5 points komi for each grade over.
Levels are closer together at the top of the ladder than at the bottom: at the top end of the ladder, there are several rungs per grade, and at the bottom end, there is one rung per grade. This allows weaker players to change grade faster than stronger ones. There are various ways of dividing up the grades. One suggestion is as follows:
- 1 dan+
- 10 rungs per grade
- 1-6 kyu
- 5 rungs per grade
- 7-16 kyu
- 2 rungs per grade
- 17-30 kyu
- 1 rung per grade
The element of competition may be enhanced by giving various prizes for results over some set period. For example, in a university club, the obvious thing to do is to award termly prizes. Otherwise, a good period is around three months. Some examples of prizes you could award are:
- The player who has climbed the most rungs of the club ladder over the period wins the "Most Improved Player" prize. This type of prize has the advantage that it is easier for weaker players to win than for stronger ones.
- The player who has played the most games during the period wins the "Most Persistent Player" prize.
The main problem with any sort of ladder is that, while it is very good at describing the relative strengths of the players involved, there is a tendency for the whole club to get stronger simultaneously and the ladder cannot reflect this. Some ways of introducing inflation automatically are:
- Fix the bottom of the ladder, so that no player goes below (say) 25 kyu.
- Fix other positions in the ladder. If a player is a regular tournament goer, he will have an established EGF rating controlled by the European Go Federation and his ladder position can be anchored accordingly.
- A player winning his third successive game can go up two rungs, instead of the usual one.
- Promotion after winning several games in a tournament.
- If the grade difference between two players is large and the weaker player wins, he can go up two rungs while the winer only goes down one.
However the only reliable way to incorporate inflation into a ladder is to play games against members of other clubs and to keep a check on the result, shifting the whole club up a few notches if the members seem to be doing too well outside.
Probably the easiest way to represent the ladder is on a club website. This has the advantage that people can monitor their progress and that of other members outside meetings. You should consider, however, that some people may not want to have their names on the web, so it is a good idea to check first. One such example is the Durham Go Club Ladder.
A physical ladder can also be constructed – for example, some sort of wall chart may be used. The players' names are put on small markers which can be moved up and down the ladder. The rungs should be made wide enough to take several players' names at once.
In practice a snake is better than a ladder: ladders are generally straight, whereas a snake can be curved about so as to fit better on a piece of paper.
A different way of representing the ladder is to use a sheet of paper divided into columns. The left hand column contains the names of the players and the second column gives their nominal grades. The remaining columns contain new ladder grades updated after each game. This sort of ladder has the advantage of portability, but it will need frequent replacement.
The great advantage of running tournaments in clubs is that they don't have to finish in one day. A simple idea is to have an all-play-all tournament spread over two months or more. You may choose to play with or without handicaps, or with reduced handicaps, and all games should be played with clocks and have time limits of at least an hour per player.
If the club is a large one, such a tournament will last too long, and it may be better to divide the players into several divisions.
A club championship can be split into several stages. One format is for all but the strongest players in the club to participate in a short knockout tournament, the winners of which qualify for places in a league where they are joined by the strongest players. This idea can be stretched further by having a 3 or 5 game playoff between the top two finishers in the league, and by allowing players who do well in one year to start in a privileged position in the next tournament; but having a protracted tournament will make it difficult for beginners to be catered for adequately.
A club can organise a small tournament for club members.
In order to finish a tournament in one night, it is necessary to use small boards, or quick games, or both. 10 minutes of clock time for a double elimination knockout tournament on 13×13 boards is about right. Exact details will depend on the number of players and the range of strengths. Small boards allow a much wider range of handicaps; 9 stones on a 13×13 board is about right for 25 grades difference. Some of the other systems discussed in the Tournament Organisers Handbook may also be found useful.
If the tournament can be spread over several meetings, using full-sized boards and slower time limits, the results can be accepted for EGF rating purposes, by sending full details to the Tournament Co-ordinator. If you plan to send in the results for rating, check the criteria for acceptability first, before deciding the time limits. You should also make it clear to your club members whether you plan to send the results in for rating.
There are several other possibilities:
- The BGA League
- This is a league in which club teams of from three to six players compete in divisions, with end-of-season promotions and demotions to ensure that each division is fairly uniform in standard. There are two "seasons" in a year, each involving five games per player, played on KGS.
- One-off internet matches against other clubs
- If you don't want to compete in the BGA League, you might still consider arranging a match to be played on a Go server against another club (even a club in another country).
- Over-the-board matches against other local clubs
- If you have another club nearby, it may be possible to arrange matches against them (e.g. Oxford and Cambridge hold an annual Varsity Match). The usual format is for players from each club to play approximately evenly matched players from the other club, and the winner to be the club with the most games won. This is a good opportunity to play against new opponents without having to travel too far.
- An informal weekend tournament
- Some clubs have run McMahon style tournaments, more or less along the lines of a typical BGA tournament as described in Part II. This can be fairly informal (e.g., in a pub or coffee shop, or even someone's front room), with the club and players supplying equipment. The entry fee can be a contibution to the club's funds. This is a particularly good idea if you are planning to hold a BGA Tournament at some stage, but have no experience, and is a good way to introduce beginners to the fun of tournament Go in a friendly environment. Such events can also have their results submitted for rfating purposes, as described above.
Other things are possible. If you have any further ideas or hold any other kind of competition, please let us know so that it can be included in this document.