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Kaps Pairing System - 2003 Canadian Open
THIS IS A DRAFT DOCUMENT,
SUBJECT TO MINOR CHANGE.
This document is as it was before the tournament; for an annotated
version, taking advantage of my experience at Kapuskasing, see
BerryKap Pairing System
Kaps Pairing System
Canadian Open Chess Championship,
Kapuskasing, Ontario, July
by Jonathan Berry, International Arbiter
Skip the verbiage and cut to the chase! What are
the exact pairing procedures for the 2003 Canadian Open? See synopsis. You might want to return here
Introduction to Pairing Systems
Chess is a game between two players. Who plays whom and when is
The quintessential pairing system is the Match. If there
are more than two players, you can have the Elimination or
Wimbledon system, where only the winner of each match advances to the
next round. Or you can have the Round-Robin or All-Play-All.
The first relies on a careful tailoring of the field so that the
number of players is 2 to the power R, where R is the number of
rounds. The latter requires the number of players, if even, to be
one greater than the number of playing sessions.
The Swiss System
If the number of players is flexible, and much greater than the
number of playing sessions, you need a different approach. Enter the
Swiss System. The systems discussed here all rely on the traditional
scoring system of chess, where a draw is worth half of what a win is
worth, and a loss is worth nothing. If you can live without that
stricture, I recommend the Haida Pairing
In the Swiss System, pairings are made before each round. In
general, a player meets another player with the same number of
points. At the end, the standings are determined by who has the most
points. Nobody is eliminated.
Sounds simple, but the devil is in the details.
How to Pair the Group - various approaches
A score group comprises the players who have the same number of
points. Ideally, a group consists of an even number n
players, numbered, not surprisingly 1, 2, 3, ..., n-1, n in order of
rank, with 1 being the highest rank. Ignoring the special procedures
which deal with colour allocation, here are the various approaches to
pairing the group
- Top-versus-Top TvT 1.2, 3.4, ..., n-1.n This
has never had much following. On the plus side, players meet equals.
On the minus, it does not sort the players by strength.
- Top-versus-Bottom TvB 1.n, 2.n-1, ...,
n/2.n/2+1 Used for a while in British Championships (1970s?) and
recommended by me to FIDE in 1988 for elimination events. After
using other methods which produced a lot of upsets (and thus marquee
players missing from the later stages), FIDE did adopt it for their
world championship. It gives the top players an easier ride and
avoids the discontinuity at the middle in TvM pairings. It is
perhaps best suited to play within a narrow range of strength where,
for example, most of the field is separated by less than 200 points.
- Top-versus-Middle TvM 1.n/2+1, 2.n/2+2, ...,
n/2.n The method used in TSP, in FIDE and CFC pairings; most people
consider this synonymous with
The Swiss System.
- Random A popular method in the old days when players did
not have ratings, or when comparison of various systems was thought
to be unreliable, or when the use of ratings was thought to favour
certain players. Lots of World Juniors used
- Dubov The Dubov system attempts to equalize the strength
of opposition of players within the group. It pairs those with the
highest rating due Black against those with the lowest average rating
of opponents due White. So the effect works for players who have
just had White. For those who were Black, their day will come.
- Olympic FIDE has a different pairing system for the World
Team Championships, also known as the Chess Olympics. See
for details. In brief, teams are ranked by sum of opponents'
scores, then paired TvB.
- Look-ahead Near the end of an event, the leading groups
can be sparse, players have already met each other, colours no longer
alternating. Sometimes, you can see ahead to the next round that a
certain pairing will be required, and change the colours, or even the
pairings, in the current round. When you hear about players having
to get three of the same colour, or other inequities, sometimes it
was because look-ahead was not done, or because the system did not
- Suttles. In the 1970s, Grandmaster Duncan Suttles
suggested that in many tournaments--especially ones where there is a
wide variation in strength of the players and the number of rounds is
much greater than 2^n--the leaders meet too early and the
logical final-round climax of the tournament is thwarted. He
suggested decelerating the middle and perhaps later rounds,
but definitely not the last round, so that the top two did not meet
- Phantom. Accelerated systems, including SAD, rely
on Phantom Points being given to higher-rated players in early
rounds, and later taken away.
- Class. A class is a range of 200 rating points, usually
broken at 1400, 1600, 1800, 2000, 2200. In the class method, players
rated 1600-1799 (called Class B in North America) would play
only amongst themselves. It is used in Class tournaments, and also
in the Kerr System.
The Approaches become Systems
As background to the discussion which follows, here are some
variations to the standard Swiss pairings.
- Traditional Swiss Pairings use the TvM method. I'm going
to call these TSP (nothing to do with a cleaning chemical) to
distinguish what is different in the following variations.
- FIDE. The World Chess Federation
(FIDE) main system. See
details. A flavour of TSP.
- CFC. The Chess Federation
of Canada pairing system is TSP and almost identical to the FIDE
- Dubov. See
details. The 1997 version, which on June 1, 2003 is the same as
the FIDE version, is here.
- Class. Each class is separate and has a separate prize
fund. This allows players to meet an even field of about their own
strength. Drawbacks include that only players in the
Open section can win the tournament per se, and what
to do with unrated players, or peer group prizes such as Junior and
- Kerr. Expert and organizer Ray Kerr invented a hybrid of
TSP and Class events. Players could declare to play in their
own class. Once declared, a player would be eligible for Class
prizes but not for top prizes, and would generally play opponents of
the same class. Kerr usually made use of Accelerated Pairings, see
- Haley Accelerated Pairings. Canada's Philip G. Haley was
(and is) a codifier of Swiss System pairings. To say
Pairings would be the same as saying
Swiss Pairings. He
Haley Accelerated Pairings, which we are going
Accelerated Pairings. In TSP, the early rounds can be
wasted mismatches. It is not uncommon for the rating difference on
each board to be 600-800 points in the first round. This in effect
wastes a round for the top players, who meet opponents with an
infinitesimal chance of winning the tournament. In Accelerated
Pairings, the top half of the tournament is assumed to have won a
fictitious round 0. So in round 1, players from the top quarter meet
opponents from the second quarter. In round 2, losers from the top
half meet winners from the bottom half. After round 2, the
fictitious round 0 is forgotten. The result is quicker sorting out
of the top players and more equitable pairings. Haley introduced
Accelerated Pairings into the international arena at the 1970
Canadian Open in St. John's, Newfoundland. I'm calling it
- Système Suisse Accéléré
Degréssif. The French SAD I will translate as
Stepped Accelerated Directive. The last word isn't very good,
but I have a long list of D-words that are equally bad. This way the
acronym is the same in both official languages. Jean-Claude Templeur
directs the tournament at Cappelle-la-Grande. It typically comprises
over 600 players in a single-section 9-round Swiss. If you do the
math, a standard Swiss is only good for 512 players. It is
SAD. En français ici on peut lire les
descriptions des systèmes SAD y Haley. In SAD, the field is
divided into three groups, given 2, 1, or zero phantom points before
pairing the first round. Phantom half-points are added when a player
achieves 1.5, 3, 4.5 and 5 points (in a 10-round event), but no
player may have more than 2 phantom points. The phantom points are
discarded before pairing the last round.
2003 Canadian Open - Kapuskasing
- The 2003
Canadian Open takes place in Kapuskasing, Ontario, as a 10-round
one-section event from July 12-20. There is one game per day, except
two games on Sunday July 13th.
- This is an open tournament. Anybody may enter and win the
- There are significant prizes for
the top six finishers, plus Class prizes and prizes for the top
female players (Women's prizes).
- The tournament organizers have many goals, including the
possibility of Canadians earning title norms. In the past, Canadian
Opens have sometimes advertised that title norms were available, but
the use of TSP or even HAP left slim chances for a player having a
good tournament to achieve that. In addition, I had my own goal,
which was to give players the opporunity to meet opponents of roughly
equal strength. Typically under TSP or HAP, a player meets an
opponent a couple of hundred points weaker, wins, then plays another
opponent a couple of hundred points stronger. The swings, or yo-yo
effect, reduce as the tournament ages, but are still significant even
in the final round.
- The Kaps Pairing System has in mind a tournament with 200 to 400
players and upwards of 3 grandmasters.
Generalities of the Kaps Pairing System
Goals of the pairing system, in order of importance:
- any entrant may win the tournament;
- to produce a fair winner;
- to produce fair prize winners and Class prize winners;
- to produce fair winners of the female prizes;
- to provide opportunity to IMs to make GM norms;
- to provide opportunity to players over 2200 to make IM norms;
- to provide the opportunity for those who are doing well against
FIDE-rated opposition to achieve a FIDE-ratable performance (based
thus on 4 or more games against FIDE-rated opponents).
The following pairings will be avoided, in order of
- playing the same opponent a second time (absolute);
- for a player who has received a point without playing, receiving
a full-point bye (absolute);
- receiving three more of one colour than of the other;
- receiving four of the same colour in five rounds;
- receiving the same colour three times in succession;
- playing a family member;
- equalizing colours;
- playing an opponent from the same small city;
- playing an opponent from the same country (other than Canada or
USA) in the last two rounds;
- alternating colours (in an odd-numbered round);
- playing an opponent from the same country (other than Canada or
- playing an opponent from the same large city.
Although it is not a stated priority, the yo-yo effect will be
Introduction to Kaps Pairing Techniques
A player may declare to be eligible only for Class
(including female) prizes. Such a player is then not eligible for
top prizes. When the declaration comes into effect, the player will
thenceforward meet only opponents in the same class or lower.
- Players rated 2200 or above may not declare.
- Declaration will not affect the pairing in the first few rounds.
- Declaration must be made in writing on the form provided.
- Once the games for a round are finished, Declaration for the next
round will normally close at once, without warning.
- * To be eligible for class prizes, a player must declare before
the 10th round. This does not apply to 2200-2399 players, who may
not declare in any case.
We want to provide norm opportunities for those who have a
reasonable chance of success. A little arbitrarily, but also
conveniently for the tournament structure, we have chosen 2200 as the
lower limit for an IM norm candidate CIM, and 2350 with an IM
title as the lower limit for a GM norm candidate CGM.
A candidate will meet only other opponents rated 2200+ FIDE, and will
get first dibs on opponents with the necessary titles and national
affiliations. These considerations will override the Dubov or TvM
pairings in rounds 1-8, but not in rounds 9-10 if prize
considerations are involved.
CIM or CGM players may, in writing, choose to opt out of Norm
Pairings (so far as their own potential norms are concerned), but
they should not assume that this will necessarily give them an easier
As the tournament develops, candidates might ruin their norm
chances (by losing), so we will keep track of the performance
ratings, and remove candidates who fall below standard. The standard
for an IM norm is 1850 plus 50 points per round played. For a GM
norm, it is 150 points higher. Standards will be checked before
rounds 3 and following.
FIDE rules state that more than one bye makes a player ineligible
for a norm.
The normal considerations will apply. Colour allocation may even
be important enough to override some of the other considerations
Note that while colour equalization (e.g., wbbw instead of wbww)
can be important enough to have a player put in a different group,
colour alternation (e.g., wbwb instead of wbbw) will not cause
pairing panic. A moderate number (say 20%) of pairings that don't
alternate can even make later pairings easier.
In each class there is a tournament within a tournament for
the top women's prize. The winning score is difficult to predict, so
it is important that players, even in the middle of the pack, receive
equitable pairings. So Dubov is favoured over TvM.
If near the end of the tournament, the top women in a particular
class are near the same score (but not likely winners of a class
prize), they will be paired against each other.
In the Exact Procedure below, Female (4) means that if four or
more leading female players are 1 point or more from the lead in
the tournament or in their class, and also within 1 point of each
other, they will be paired as a group.
Unlike some of the other elements of the Kaps Pairing system, the
Women's Pairings provisions are not likely to affect many
Divisions need to be made at a level which does not make us go
through too many hoops to make Norm Pairings.
The divisions will be at 2200 and at 1800.
- Undeclared Class Players Because of SAD, these players
will tend to play higher-rated opponents with lower scores. To
preserve Norm Pairings, we may pair them against Class opponents with
less points but higher ratings. Finally, if they run out of prize
contention, they could be paired against anybody.
- Dubov To provide equitable strength of opposition, the
Dubov system will be used in the middle rounds.
- TvM The TSP standard Top-versus-Middle will be used at the
beginning and end of the tournament.
- Suttles If the leading group is smallish and the next
group is the same size or larger, the two groups will be joined. In
the Exact Procedure, below, Suttles (4) means that if the
leading group consists of 2 3 or 4 players, and the next group is at
least that big, join them. Does not apply to Class groupings.
For the entire tournament: Norm Pairings
Here are the pairing methods, round by round:
- Round 1 : SAD, divisions at 2200 and 1800. TvM.
- Round 2 : SAD (continued) TvM.
- Round 3 : SAD (continued) TvM.
- Round 4 : Declarations recognized. SAD. Dubov
- Round 5 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (4)
- Round 6 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (4)
- Round 7 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (3) Women (4)
- Round 8 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (3) Women (3)
- Round 9 : Declarations. TvM. Suttles (2) Women (2).
- Round 10 : Declarations. TvM. Women (2). Look-ahead.
Byes - Up to two (2) half-point byes are available in rounds 1-7
if requested before the first rounds starts.
Each pairing card will contain the following information:
- Surname, Given Name
- City (Canada/USA) / Country
- Pairing rating
- FIDE rating
- FIDE title
- For each round (numbered 1-10):
- Total points
- Average Rating of Opponents
Ratings used for pairing and prizes
(Added June 20, 2003). Please refer to:
prize page at
the tournament official website, which is reproduced below:
Ratings, for pairings and prizes
Summary: CFC, FQE, and USCF accpeted at
par. Add 40 to FIDE ratings above 2200
Details: For Quebec players who are unrated or
inactive CFC, the FQE rating will be used. Otherwise,
(Established) CFC rating will be used for Canadians. For US
players rated below 2200 FIDE, use USCF ratings. All other
foreign players, use adjusted FIDE ratings. Foreign players
without a FIDE rating will have their national ratings converted to
FIDE and then 40 points will be added for CFC equivalence. For
other systems, the
organizers will add points generously.
Adjusted FIDE ratings are:
Below 2200: FIDE rating
2200 and up FIDE rating + 40 points
The organizers reserve the right to assign a higher rating
to any player whose rating has taken an abnormal drop of 200 or more
FIDE Title Regulations (added Jun 20 2003)
FIDE has recently published the new title regulations, effective 1
July 2003 as a
zipped Acrobat file.
Here are the norm levels for a 10-round tournament. The figures
are the minimum required average of FIDE ratings of the 10 opponents.
|Titles||----3 GM----||-2 GM or 3 IM-||2 GM or 3
G/WG/I/F-M||3 WIM or 2 G/WG/I/F-M
FIDE rounds up .5 averages. So sum of opponents' ratings of 26005
is a 5-point GM norm, but 26004 is a 5.5-point norm.
Other requirements about opponents regarding norm eligibility:
- Unrated (entered at 1800) may not exceed 2.
- At least 5 must have the (W)GM, (W)IM, or (W)FM title.
- At least 4 must be from other federations than the player's.
- Foreigners may not play more than 7 Canadians.
- There may be a requirement (1.43) for two federations other than
the player's, but we will probably nullify that by exceeding 1.43e.
Among the changes in the new rules:
http://members.shaw.ca/berry5868/xt.htm for the Crosstable.
- the player's own rating no longer counts: every norm is a
- 27 games required, not 24.
Send email to:
Jonathan Berry, web-butler
URL: This web page is:
Last modified August 20, 2004