Chapter 8 Running a Tournament

Chapter 8
Running a Tournament

This chapter covers the running of a tournament on the day itself. Much of the work happens on the day, and it is therefore useful to find some local players who are willing to help with various tasks such as putting up signs directing people to the playing room, registration, laying out tables and carrying boards into the playing room.

8.1 Before the Tournament

On the morning of the tournament, you should make sure that visitors can find the venue easily, perhaps by placing signs directing them to the venue. It is also helpful if you can find volunteers to arrive early to lay out tables and boards (and, if applicable, the BGA Bookshop). Each board should be labelled with a number. If there is more than one playing room, label the doors clearly with the numbers to be found in that room There are various other useful bits of preparation you can do:

  • When people have entered in advance, enter their names into the draw computer before opening registration. This can take a surprisingly long time when you are in a hurry!
  • If you are doing a draw by hand, prepare the cards in advance, as described in section 8.3.2.
  • Set aside an area for a noticeboard, where you can place the draw, results sheets, a summary of the rules (i.e. time limits, komi, etc).
  • Bring a cash float; you will need to have a some change, as people will pay with £20 notes.
  • Bring a good supply of scrap paper, blu-tak, marker pens and other stationery equipment.
  • Put the kettle on and open the biscuits!

Set up a table for registration. You should have a list of the people you are expecting to register, including details such as name, grade, club and whether they have paid in advance (or how much their entry fee will be). You should confirm these details when they register, particularly their grade, as this could easily have changed between their entry and the tournament.

8.2 General Points

It is important to find a non-playing organiser for your go tournament, since the work involved in running a tournament is not confined to the time between rounds. A non-playing organiser is better able to deal with problems which might occur during games, such as broken clocks or running out of coffee or biscuits.

You may find that you have an odd number of entries. It is strongly recommended not to give any player a bye, and so you should have one player willing to act as a ghost, who will only play if required to make an even number. Note that for various reasons, some players may not wish to play in all rounds.

If a player is late for a round, you should instruct their opponents to start the clock. You may find that some people are reluctant to do this out of politeness, but if they do not, you risk running late! (If it is white who has not turned up, black should start the clock, make his move, then start white's clock).

8.3 Organising The Draw

If the organiser has not run a tournament before, he should receive assistance when he makes the draw. This can be given by one of the participants in the tournament; several BGA officers are willing to help if asked. Chapter 9 gives a more detailed overview of the McMahon system used by many British tournaments.

8.3.1 Using a Computer

Most tournaments nowadays use a computer to produce the draw. Most tournaments in Britain use Geoff Kaniuk's GoDraw program. Using this is recommended by the BGA in particular because there will almost certainly be people at the tournament who can help with its operation, and also because it is used to process tournament results. If you do choose to use GoDraw, a donation to the Castledine-Barnes trust, a charitable trust providing financial support to young Go players in Britain, is requested.

Other programs are available, including Gotha, written by Luc Vannier, and MacMahon [sic], written by Christophe Gerlach, both of which are popular in Europe. These programs all handle McMahon, Swiss and Round-robin style tournaments.

Chapter 10 provides further details of good practice for using a computer to do the draw.

8.3.2 Producing a Draw by Hand

Although most tournaments use a computer, smaller events, or events with unusual pairing systems, may still prefer to do the draw by hand.

Each player is given an identifying number and has a card (e.g. a postcard) made out as depicted in figure 8.1. The card is used to keep track of the player's current McMahon score, and other relevant details such as who they have played, which colour they took, and whether they were drawn up or down. The draw is performed by shuffling these cards around a suitable table top. It will be found useful to have a large table out of range of the "helpful" comments of the players for this purpose. Do not use paper as it blows away; small pieces, however, can be used stuck to a glass sheet with Blutak.

The card illustrated in figure 8.1 is appropriate for a six round tournament. Each box gives details of one round of the tournament. This player has played four rounds, losing in rounds one and three, and winning in rounds two and four, with a current MMS of -2. It is important for purposes of presentation of results that the players' identifying numbers should be in order of entry strength. This means that the numbers should not be allocated until the last possible moment (it can even be done as late as during the first round).


Figure 8.1: Draw Card

No two players should meet more than once, and, if possible, players from the same club should not meet (except where either could win the tournament). It is also a good idea to ensure that players from the same family do not meet (even if they play in different clubs).

8.4 Presenting The Results

Results should be recorded on a wall chart as the tournament progresses, and a final set of results in similar format should be compiled for circulation afterwards. An example of the recommended format is shown in figure 8.2, but in any case it should be easy to see at a glance how many games each player has won, and who his opponents have been. Here, player number 42 lost in round 1, won in rounds 2,3 and 4, and scored a jigo in round 5.

Name Grade Club 1 2 3 4 5 Total

41F. Baggins4 kyu The Shire 142239338340344 3
42F. Prefect 4 kyu Betelgeuse041144243339337 3
43. . .

Figure 8.2: Results Chart

Players should be ordered according to their starting grades, and numbers should correspond with those on the cards used in making the draw.

In addition to this display (and even more important than it) a list of players' opponents and table numbers for each round should be displayed, indicating clearly which player takes Black. This list can conveniently be used for the players to record their results on (by underlining or circling the winner's name). For larger tournaments, or for those who prefer a more streamlined system, a separate result slip can be provided for each game for each round, to be filled in and returned by the winner. If these slips are put on the boards at the start of the round, the scrummage caused by large numbers of players trying to read the draw can be reduced, although this process could slow down the draw considerably unless a computer print-out is used.

If you are using a computer program to do the draw, it is very likely that the program can produce all of the necessary displays, including the score table and the draw, automatically.

8.5 Side Events

8.5.1 Novices Tournament

Some events run a tournament for novices alongside the main event. This is particularly worth considering if there are a lot of local players (especially from local schools) who are new to the game and would otherwise be reluctant to enter a tournament. There does not have to be a large turnout for this to be worthwhile; even as few as four makes it viable.

It is advisable to call it a "novices" tournament rather than a "beginners" tournament, as this makes it easier to get people who have been playing for a while to take part. In particular, juniors who have been playing for a few years and are in the 20-30 kyu range seem unhappy at the idea of being called a beginner ("novices" seems to be tolerated better).

Tournament Format

It is good to be flexible about the format until you see who turns up. The general form is to hold a teaching session in the morning, covering the rules and some basic tactics such as capturing races and life and death, followed by a tournament in the afternoon.

For the tournament itself, things like board size, clocks etc. will depend on the players. In general most people at these grades do not need clocks. People who have hardly played before might find 13x13 to be quite big whereas someone near 20 kyu is likely to much prefer 13x13 to 9x9. Past events, e.g. the Novices Tournament at the 2005 Cambridge Trigantius, have had a wide range of players - the strongest had been playing online a bit and were probably slightly stronger than 20 kyu, the weakest weren't very sure of the basic rules. The games were a mixture of 9x9 and 13x13. There are usually some handicap games and it is good to try to arrange things so that nobody loses all their games if possible.


The best form of advertising for such an event is word of mouth - if people (especially at the local club) can encourage novice players that they know to come along it makes a big difference, especially as these players are often nervous about taking part. Any groups of juniors who are not too far away are also worth targetting. The sooner the event can be confirmed the better (and also it helps to have an explicit box on the entry form to say whether people want to enter the main or novices' event).

8.5.2 Self Pairing Tournaments

It is common to hold self pairing tournaments as side events. The idea is that players who finish their main tournament games early can play further games between rounds. These side events are usually played on smaller boards, or on a full size board with fast time limits. Usually there is a restriction that a player can play each opponent at most twice. The simplest method of choosing the winner is by number of wins, although other more complex formulae are possible.

All you need to do to hold such an event is make a wall chart, where participating players enter their names and fill in a running total of points (and opponent number) for each game they play, as illustrated in Figure 8.3.

1 Gandalf 132223. . .

2 A. Dumbledore0113

3 A. Dent 020111
. . .

Figure 8.3: Chart for Self Pairing Tournament

8.6 After the Tournament

You should send the results to the BGA Tournament Results coordinator (email results at britgo dot org) as soon as possible after the tournament. His preferred format is the output file from GoDraw but if you have done the draw by hand, a copy of the draw sheets with results will suffice. Even if you have done the draw by hand, it is possible to use GoDraw to recreate the tournament and send in the file.

You should also send a short report to the Tournament Coordinator (email tournament-coordinator at for the BGA news web page, listing prize winners and any other notable features.

The BGA Levy should be sent to the Treasurer using the form provided. Arrangements should be made for the BGA sets to reach the next tournament. Letters of thanks should be sent to any sponsors, including the owners of premises used.

The results of your tournament may also have an effect on other BGA events, as follows:

Candidates' Tournament Qualification

Your tournament may be eligible for qualifying places for the Candidates' Tournament, which is the first stage of the British Championship. The BGA web site includes the current championship rules, including all of the qualification criteria.

Stacey Grand Prix

Each game won above the McMahon bar in a BGA recognised tournament counts one point towards the Grand Prix. The winner becomes the holder of Terry Stacey Memorial Trophy for a year, so it is important that the McMahon bar is set sensibly.

Youth Grand Prix

Players who are under-18 earn points by attending BGA tournaments and winning at them. Forty percent of the points for an event are for just turning up, the rest are for winning games. The British Youth Go Championships counts double. Players of 1 kyu and 23 kyu are just as likely to win the trophies for first, second and third. Other prizes are often awarded too. Currently the year is the calendar year and the prizes are presented at the British Youth Go Championships.

Last updated Fri Aug 30 2013. If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.