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  Commented Kaps Pairing System - 2003 Canadian Open

Comments on Kaps Pairing System

Canadian Open Chess Championship,
Kapuskasing, Ontario, July 12-20 2003

by Jonathan Berry, International Arbiter

This is a necessarily biased evaluation of the Kaps Pairing System, which I am now calling the BerryKap Pairing System to avoid confusion with the pairings of the 2004 Canadian Open, also in Kapuskasing. Text in this evaluation is clear from its colour (green) and/or typestyle (serif) (depending upon your output device). The original document appears in the comic face and sans serif. It is also accessible directly at: kap.htm.
Pairings were done by hand, using old-fashioned pairing cards. I thank my fellow arbiters Ellen Nadeau and Leon Muys for helping with this task. The criteria are complex, and the last round needed 4 hours to be paired. That is 25 times longer than our team needed to pair the World Blitz qualifiers at Saint John 1988. The World Blitz was a double-round Swiss, so colours were not a factor, and they were typically about 100 players rather than the 141 of Kapuskasing, but that accounts for only a bit of the difference.

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 afterwards.

Introduction to Pairing Systems

Chess is a game between two players. Who plays whom and when is called Pairing.

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 System.

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

The Approaches become Systems

As background to the discussion which follows, here are some variations to the standard Swiss pairings.

2003 Canadian Open - Kapuskasing

Generalities of the Kaps Pairing System

Goals of the pairing system, in order of importance:

The following pairings will be avoided, in order of importance:

Although it is not a stated priority, the yo-yo effect will be avoided.

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.

This last sentence turned out to be a logical inconsistency, if all the players in a certain class (or below) have Declared. I had thought there would always be some unDeclared players in each class, but after Round 9 we ended up with no unDeclared players under 1800 still on the lists.

So, let's say that the C and D classes each had an odd number, with no unDeclared players in those classes available to float down. Then to comply with the last sentence above, we'd have to give two byes, one each of the classes.

Instead, we posted the following rule with the Round 8 pairings:

We have discovered a logical inconsistency in the Kaps Pairing System as announced. To avoid the possibility of having to give more than one bye in a round, we may give Declared players a pairing in a higher class, under the following strict conditions:

So far we have not had to give such a bye, in fact (ignoring forfeited games), we have not had to give a forced bye at all in this tournament. However, we are covering our circumstances!

We did make such pairings (see crosstable), in round 10, 100 vs 112 and 120 vs 128.

Norm Pairings

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.

First, I did not always give candidates opponents rated 2200+ FIDE.

Second, the idea that I needed to do so was incorrect. See below for detail.

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 ride, pairings-wise.

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.

Colour Allocation

The normal considerations will apply. Colour allocation may even be important enough to override some of the other considerations here.

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.

Women's Pairings

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 pairings.

SAD Groupings

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.


Exact procedure

For the entire tournament: Norm Pairings
    Here are the pairing methods, round by round:
  1. Round 1 : SAD, divisions at 2200 and 1800. TvM.
  2. Round 2 : SAD (continued) TvM.
  3. Round 3 : SAD (continued) TvM.
  4. Round 4 : Declarations recognized. SAD. Dubov

    Declarations were not recognized until round 5. This stemmed from the low turnout (smaller classes would become difficult to pair in later rounds) and the request of a few player. No players wanted Declaration earlier.

  5. Round 5 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (4)
  6. Round 6 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (4)
  7. Round 7 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (3) Women (4)
  8. Round 8 : Declarations. SAD. Dubov. Suttles (3) Women (3)
  9. Round 9 : Declarations. TvM. Suttles (2) Women (2). Look-ahead.
  10. 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.

Pairing Cards

Each pairing card will contain the following information:

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 points.

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-M3 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:

Among the changes in the new rules: for the Crosstable.
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Last modified March 5, 2005