Team Tournaments

A Different Approach

By Edi Birsan

The current vogue in Team Tournaments is to have a group of players play a round either by mail or face to face and to collectively pool their individual results for a team score. The dynamics in an email tournament allows for some discussions amongst team members as to what they know of the opposition and of what possible tactical alternatives one might consider. It also has the capacity to allow for some team on team negotiations to, in effect, make cross game alliances or more likely cross game attacks on enemy teams. The reality is those team tournaments are rarely seen to bring out a lot of team functioning in the play of the game and in fact the games and the players behave almost oblivious of the team.

The true effect of a team round in a Face to Face (FTF) or an Email Tournament, is a marketing function. By coming in with teams, the organizers turn the team captains into recruiters for the event. Further drop out rates are lower since the psychological effect of not wanting to let down your buddies often spurs people who would otherwise drop a hopeless position. The marketing effect is also apparent at FTF convention when you reflect that the Team Round is nearly always on the second day of a convention so as to use the group support mentality to get people to show up for that second day even if they have been blown away on the first day.

What I would like to see is a shift away from the individual games as a sum for the Team and to move the game to a more true Team function in the play of a game. It has been tried at least once in France and once in America to have a team play a single country with ambassadors to the other countries and a central leader who sits away from the board to write the orders. This is generally done once, and it is so boring for the bulk of the players that they get it out of their system and never want to try it again. Think about it, imagine you are the designated English ambassador to Austria and the Austrians get jumped right away.

The idea I have for a true Team Tournament is one in which a team of three or more play as a team and what they do is to rotate through the game(s) at various times taking over the game. Each game result is then truly the product of a team effort and not just the sum of a bunch of individual games.

There can be several structures of a true team tournament:

1. The Phased Team Game
The game is divided into three parts: The early game 1901-3, the mid game 1904-6, the end game 1907-9 (For European C-Dip people who play to 1907 then it can be divided into 01-02, 03-05, 06-07) The teams are broken down into three player teams with each player responsible for one of the phases. The game is then played and at the appropriate times the players are rotated out.

This may be very attractive in a FTF tournament with a year time limit, as it also allows the players to double up an individual round with a team round since only for a short time will they be in two games at once.

2. The Multiple Game Shift
Each game is divided into three phases as above. However, everyone on the team is assigned to a different game. At the phase shift time, the team members rotate to a different game, the rotation decided on in advance or preset in advance by the tournament director.

This allows a maximum amount of team play on multiple games. Also, works well with small Team sizes.

3. The Magic Seven Teams
When there are teams of seven, there are tables set up where the team plays in each of the countries. The team members are then shifted at the agreed phase times along preset paths assigned by the team captains and recorded with the TD. Everyone gets to play three different countries in three phases.

This gives a team score for all countries and as such has a certain esthetic appeal. It is harder to do because it needs a multiple of seven teams to pull off.

Some issues to consider:

Either way, I think there is room and interest to rethink what we as a hobby are doing with our Team Tournaments.

Edi Birsan

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