The Swiss Ladder system of play has been used for several years now during our University (of Twente) Badminton Tournament and International Student Badminton Tournament. I have heard it originates from chess tournaments. It does indeed guarantee a certain number of matches, so you don't have to go home after one lousy match, and the resulting ranking is believed to reflect the actual strength of the players more than the traditional knock out system. A bad draw does not play a role any more in this system and one bad played match does not have such a dramatic effect.

Here is how it works.

First, a list of players is generated in random order (there are no seeds in this system). Then player number 1 on the list plays a match against player 2, player 3 against player 4, etc. You have the option of playing 2 or the normal 3 games per match, so in the former case a draw is possible. A player gets 2 points for a match wun, 1 point in case of a draw and 0 points for loosing. Based on the results of these matches a new ranking list is generated. The player with the most points PER MATCH PLAYED is placed on top, the player with the least at the bottom. If players have the same number of points, they are ranked according to the points wun and lost in the games they have played.

In the second round the new player number 1 plays against player 2, player 3 against player 4, etc. There is however an exception to this sceme. If, for instance, player 1 has already played a match against player 2, he will not play against him again, but will have player 3 as his opponent. Player 2 will then play against the next player he has not met before, being player number 4 or 5, etc. Thus you never play another participant twice and a player will encounter as many opponents as there are rounds. The abovementioned process will be repeated during each round. The number of rounds that has to be played in order to achieve a fair ranking is (in most cases) equal to the number of round that would have been played in a knock out system. In case of an odd number of participants, the player at the bottom of the ranking list is free that round. Because of the ranking method (number of points per match played) this will actually not affect the ranking. A player never has two rounds in which he does not play.

The advantages of this system are obvious. There is no need to seed players, a certain number of matches can be guaranteed and the final result is more representative than with the knock out system. Furthermore we experienced that it is quite easy to take someone off the list (or add someone to the list) without affecting the ranking. There is no walk-over because of injuries and such! All one has to do is take the player who drops out off the list and write new matches according to the new list.

One of the "disadvantages" of the system is that the total number of matches increases compared to the knock-out system, so one must have the time to do this. Another, perhaps the biggest, disadvantage is that there is no real final match played. However, it is of course possible to have the numbers 1 and 2 of the final ranking list play a final, or, as we have done several times, to divide the players in two groups, play the tournament according to the Swiss Ladder system, and finally take the numbers 1 of group 1 and 2 to play a final. The advantage of the latter solution is that also the total number of matches decrease, because a smaller group requires less rounds to be played. The last disadvantage I can think of is that there is quite a lot of calculating involved. One of our former members has tackled this problem by writing a program which takes care of this. It generates a random list of players and the matches that will be played during the first round and calculates and generates the new ranking lists (and prints them if wanted) and the new matches for the following rounds. You only have to type in the names of the players and of course the results of the matches, the program does everything else. The program is only available in the Dutch language, but there are plans to develop an English version. Let me know if you are interested.

We (we=our badminton club) think this is a very good alternative for the knock-out system, especially for tournaments among club members and other where it is more important to play than to win. But also for the "winning is all" tournaments this is a valid alternative, providing there is enough time to play all the matches needed to reach a fair ranking.

One other thing. Did you know what the name of our club, DIOK, stands for? Believe it or not, it is something like "Booze Is Our Strength". Well, looking at the results of our 20 badmintonteams that is not our only strength.

I hope my description of the Swiss Ladder system is clear enough. If people are maybe interested in the program (English or Dutch version) let me know. Then I will ask how long it will take to develop an English version and for how much it sells.

Thijs van Toor 
MESA Research Institute University of Twente
Dept. of Electrical Engineering 
P.O. Box 217 
7500 AE Enschede The Netherlands 
Phone X-31-53-894435 
Secr. X-31-53-892751 
Fax X-31-53-309547 

NOTE: the software described above is available from

Sportcentrum UT
Postbus 217
7500 AE Enschede
The Netherlands

Page maintained by Stan Bischof . Last updated: 04 July 2000 08:24