Much ado has been made recently over FFG allowing for intention draws in X-Wing. And, while there’s definitely a lot of good criticism out there, I want to start this post by a brief defense of the rule. (Ultimately I think there’s a better rule, but let’s start with what this rule gets right.)
Let’s set the scene: It’s a regional championship with 40 players under the Basic Structure. We’ll have 5 rounds of Swiss and a cut to top 4. The expected results after 5 rounds is 1 5-0 player and 4 4-1 players. This means 1 of the 4-1 players will not make the cut.
So, it’s round 5, and two players with 4-0 records meet at the top table. In 75 minutes, one of them will be 5-0 and guaranteed a spot in the top 4. The other will be 4-1, with a chance (roughly 25%) of not making the cut. If they instead draw and both have 4-0-1 records, they will both make the cut. It’s in their interests to draw.
What This Gets Right(?)
The ultimate effect of the intentional draw rule is that it favors Strength of Schedule of Margin of Victory.
There’s some common sense to this. If your 1 loss was at the top table in round 5, you necessarily only lost to a player who went undefeated. Not only that, but you played nothing but undefeated players all day. Compare that to someone who loses in round 1 and then wins the next 4 games. This player’s next 4 games are all against people who’ve lost games, and his one loss may have been to someone who ultimately went 1-4.
Granted, some people will get an unlucky draw and have a tough opponent in round 1, and then end up playing against very good opponents the rest of the day. It happens. But, the rule is trying to get at what works most of the time, and most of the time W-W-W-W-L is a better record than L-W-W-W-W.
There’s Gotta Be a Better Way!
And there is! Let’s call it the Intermezzo Bracket.
Have everyone with only 1 loss (or 0 losses) make the cut. In our scenario here, this would mean a cut to Top 5.
The matheletes out there will notice it’s very hard to run a single elimination tournament with an odd number of players, or any number that’s not a power of 2. But, fret not, there’s a solution.
#4 and #5 play each other, while #1-3 take a break. After this “intermission round,” we’ll be down to 4 players and can proceed to normal single elimination.
This tournament structure stops caring about MoV or SoS, and says that all that really matters is your Win-Loss record. MoV will determine if you have to play that extra round to make it from Top 5 to Top 4, but all that extra game comes down to is Win or Loss.
What’s more, the players at that top table in round 5 of Swiss no longer want to take an intentional draw.
Doing so would mean that one of them may have to play in the extra intermission round. Better to go 5-0 and avoid the extra game. Correction: They’d still be the top 2 players and avoid the Intermezzo round.
If someone did intentionally draw, it wouldn’t immediately knock another player out of the cut anyways. And, making MoV less important should encourage more diversity in squads.
Only downside is that we’ve now got an extra round, which makes the day go longer. But if you’re the type to say that “more x-wing” is a real downside, then maybe premier tournaments aren’t for you.
[And just as a bit of clarity, if for instance you have 12 players with 5-0/4-1 and wanted to cut to top 8, you’d take all 12, and then the bottom 8 all play an extra round. 4 players are eliminated during the intermission, and you’ve got a top 8.]