Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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Chris Dickson not up for the cup

About the only yacht racing competition that anybody knows is the America's Cup. Technically, the America's Cup is the final match race between the defending champion and the challenger; the Louis Vuitton Cup is the competition which finds the challenger. The Louis Vuitton Cup is in progress at the moment. There is a British team (er, "syndicate") which naturally I support.

However, the rare "Chris Dickson" loyalty exception applies. When there is a participant in any competition called Chris Dickson, I naturally shout for Chris Dickson's team and forget all national loyalties. There is a yachtsman from New Zealand called Chris Dickson who is moderately famous for having achieved a 37-1 record in his country's first America's Cup entry in 1987 before losing in the semifinals. Unfortunately, he's not sailing this year so his team, Oracle BMW Racing, gets little Chris Dickson love from me. Anyway, Google reckons I'm the most famous Chris Dickson in the world. (Hurrah! I used not to be. Next challenge: becoming the most famous jiggery pokery in the world.) Perhaps Chris M. Dickson will have to send Chris "Yachtsman" Dickson a book as compensation.

All the Chris Dicksons in the world would be of only tangential interest if the competition were dull, though. Happily, the Louis Vuitton Cup is not dull; it is, instead, clever. About "Australian Rules Football finals" levels of clever.

There are nine syndicates which start the competition. The first stage is an all-play-all double round robin guaranteeing each syndicate two races against each of the other eight competitors. The ninth placed syndicate is eliminated, with the top eight going through to the quarter-finals. More to the point, it gives the top eight syndicates their seeding positions for the rest of the competition.

The main competition operates on the principles that the top four qualifiers need to lose twice to be eliminated from the competition, but the fifth to eighth qualifiers are eliminated after only one loss. This is similar to the aforementioned Aussie Rules finals structure, but more consistently applied - in Aussie Rules, even the top-rated team will be eliminated if it wins its first game and loses its second one. The way that the format achieves this is very clever.

Are you familiar with the concept of a "double elimination" competition? Everyone knows knockout tournaments, which are sometimes referred to as "single elimination" - one loss and you're eliminated from the competition. "Double elimination" is far less frequent but operates on the principle of two losses are required to eliminate you from the competition. I understand it is used in Beach Volleyball under the name "1, 2, Barbeque".

Specifically, all the competitiors first participate in a "main bracket" in exactly the same fashion as a standard single-elimination contest. However, when you get eliminated in the "main bracket", you are moved into the "losers' bracket", which is also a single-elimination contest. Losing in the "losers' bracket" is enough to eliminate you from the competition altogether. The clever part is that the later in the "main bracket" you lose, the later you are introduced into the "losers' bracket" and the fewer matches you have to win in the "losers' bracket". At the end, you will have a "main bracket" champion who hasn't lost a game, a "losers' bracket" champion who has only lost one game and everyone else who has lost two games.

The two bracket champions then face each other in the grand final. (It's quite possible that they may have faced each other in the final of the main bracket already.) If the "main bracket" champion wins, then this gives the "losers' bracket" champion their second defeat, which is enough to eliminate them. However, if the "losers' bracket" champion defeats the "main bracket" champion, both teams have lost one game and so there's a final game between the two to decide who wins overall.

The precise operation is effectively a series of phases. Each phase consists of one round of the "main bracket", plus as many rounds of the "losers' bracket" as are required so that there only as many teams remaining as the number of losers that the next round of the "main bracket" will produce.

So, for an eight-team competition, you have:
8 teams on 0 losses   0 teams on 1 loss   0 teams on 2 losses
* Play four games in the "main bracket"
4 teams on 0 losses   4 teams on 1 loss   0 teams on 2 losses
* Play two games in the "losers' bracket"
4 teams on 0 losses   2 teams on 1 loss   2 teams on 2 losses, who are eliminated
* Play four games in the "main bracket"
2 teams on 0 losses   4 teams on 1 loss   2 teams on 2 losses, who are eliminated
* Play two games in the "losers' bracket"
2 teams on 0 losses   2 teams on 1 loss   4 teams on 2 losses, who are eliminated
* NB Only one team will come down from the "main bracket" next time, 
  so play another game in the "losers' bracket"
2 teams on 0 losses   1 team on 1 loss    5 teams on 2 losses, who are eliminated
* Play one game in the "main bracket"
1 team on 0 losses    2 teams on 1 loss   5 teams on 2 losses, who are eliminated
* Play one game in the "losers' bracket"
1 team on 0 losses    1 team on 1 loss    6 teams on 2 losses, who are eliminated
* Grand final between "main bracket" and "loser's bracket" champions

Easy, really. Would a diagram help?

Incidentally, it's possible to extend this to any number of teams, but it's much less neat if the number of participants isn't an exact power of two. Triple, quadruple or further eliminations are possible; each phase starts with the "main bracket" and treats the subsidiary brackets in increasing order of losses, performing appropriate numbers of rounds in each bracket so that the bracket above will "send down" the correct number of losers next time.

Now the clever thing about the Louis Vuitton Cup is that this is effectively what happens, with one change. The top four seeds are given their advantage, and the bottom four seeds their penalty, by assuming that the first round happens and that the top four seeds beat the bottom four seeds. Then the teams are in their proper place for the rest of a double elimination tournament.

That's exactly how the official tournament graphic works, except that it slightly shifts the phase definitions to end, rather than start, with a round in the "main bracket" and then back-extends the lines so that the "main bracket" matches appear to take place at the start, rather than the end, of each phase. The happy consequence of this is that losers in the "main bracket" appear to be immediately used in the "losers' bracket".

Very, very clever.

At some point I will examine what might have happened had this system been in place for the Australian Rules Finals instead of their bizarre matrix. Technically I would argue that this Louis Vuitton style double elimination is superior because it permits the top seeds their double elimination advantage for longer. Practically, it might involve too many matches to be practical for Aussie Rules, particularly for the lower-seeded teams.

One day I want to write a hopefully-definitive treatise on sports tournament organisation. (Add this to my ambitions list as #101. #102 is "Fly from Teesside Airport".) Multiple elimination tournaments aren't universally appropriate, but they're both clever and fascinating.

Ahem. After, effectively, the first half of the double round-robin, team "GBR Challenge" are in fourth equal place with a record of 4-4. I dread to think what the tie-breakers are should the double round-robin complete with ties for that crucial fourth place...

It is amazing - but not in a good way - how little I can get done in a day and yet still feel it was productive. :-/

I attended the second meeting of the Cleveland Speakers' Club's 2002-03 season this evening, two weeks after my trip to the first meeting. Eleven attendees, one fewer than the first meeting. At that first meeting, there were eight returning from the previous season and four newcomers. This time, there were eight from last season (seven from last week and another returner), two of the four newcomers and another newcomer. The newcomer brought the average age down and was the second lady at the meeting, but it turns out that her older daughter was a friend of someone three or four years ahead of me in school. (Her younger daughter is doing her A2-levels at the moment and is thinking of applying to Durham University. Might I nudge any questions from said younger daughter in your direction, please, athena_arena?)

The evening was themed around the environment. In the first half of the evening, two of the returners gave six-minute speeches. I am in two minds as to how good they were; they didn't contain as much content as I would like to have heard and weren't particularly emotive or convincing in a session based around the exercise "Mean what you say", but they were certainly very well delivered. Then the club descended into freeform debate of the issues, which was apparently not normal procedure.

The second half of the evening saw the remaining members assigned a topic, with some weak connection to the over-riding theme, and given perhaps 10-15 seconds' brief discussion of what this topic concerned. You then had to get up, take the lectern and deliver an impromptu two-minute speech on that subject. I got "police car chases and the effect of modern technology", whereas other speakers got topics like "restrictions concerning the newly-controlled access to Durham Cathedral", "the apparent increase of bad language on television and in society" and "whether insurers should be able to refuse to insure houses at high risk of flooding".

It was a pretty easy speech to make. All I had to do was describe stinger devices, "Police Camera Action" and related shows, GPS units, helicopter views and a bit of general emotion-laden waffle. I felt that I went a little over my proscribed two minutes, but when the red light for "two minutes" came on I wrapped things up fairly quickly. Unfortunately, the timekeeper read out my actual time: 2'58". (Not all my fault. The timekeeper admitted that he was in error with the light system because he was so distracted by my speech.) The speech felt nervy, but not too bad. Apparently I had good posture and managed to avoid umming and erring, both of which were just about correct. On the other hand, I failed to make good eye contact with the group as a whole, preferring to only gaze at the ladies. :-/ (It was something that I was trying to think about, but does need some practice.) My back leg felt extremely shivery through nerves and I did feel that I was spitting out sentences with little fluency, one unconnected word at a time. Still, it wasn't the disaster I had feared it might be and I know I will improve with practice.

It remains in the balance whether I will attend regularly or not; after two meetings as a visitor, we're starting to approach "make your mind up" time and I need to decide whether to commit to the whole season. The impromptu speech-making is interesting and fun, though I could happily live without it. I'm not sure whether I'm keen enough on speech-making to seriously prepare, say, two or three semi-extended six-minute speeches over the course of the year, though. While the people are extremely polite and friendly, not least because I am in a different generation to them, I do find it hard to connect with them on an emotional level. I'm sure that they'll turn out to be extremely useful contacts, but I'm not sure I could really make friends there.

The conclusion is that this feels like something that I feel I ought to do rather than something I feel I want to do. I shall think on.
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