A tournament is a series of competitions held over a number of days, often at a single venue, in a particular sport or game. It may be played by teams, individual competitors or a combination of both. In some sports, such as tennis and football, tournaments are used to determine national and international rankings.
During the Middle Ages, a tournament was an organised event designed to prepare knights for war. It included several fighting events, including a joust (Modern French tournoiement).
In a tournament, each competitor is assigned to a group that competes in a series of games over a set number of days. The top two competitors in a group advance to the next round, usually called the knockout stage, and the rest are eliminated.
The winner of a tournament is typically the competitor with the best record, as determined by the total number of games won and lost. In some sports, such as poker, a tournament may be conducted using a “shootout” format in which the remaining players play until one player wins all of the chips in play.
These structures are intended to provide an objective format for determining the best competitor in a particular game or sport, and are considered to be better than traditional methods of ranking competitors. However, some systems have significant structural problems that violate fair play and lead to irritants for participants and spectators.
Many international team events, such as World Cups and Olympic tournaments, have a single-elimination and round-robin format. Some of these formats have serious structural problems that violate fair play, particularly when the group stages have a large number of participants and the third match day is later in the calendar.
Among the most common are variants that involve two groups of four teams, with the top two qualifying for the knockout stage. These are common in team sports such as soccer and rugby league, and also at major international events such as the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League.
Some of these systems also allow a team to win one game and lose another without being eliminated, which is considered to be a form of double-elimination. This family of tournament structures originated in the Victorian Football League, the historic predecessor to the Australian Football League, and is still used by some major leagues, such as the AFL and the National Rugby League.
Other systems, such as those in some European football leagues, have a more balanced group structure and use a pure single-elimination tournament to determine the final champion. The best third-place teams in these teams are not eliminated, and the first and second-placed teams are promoted to higher divisions.
In some European sports, such as chess and Scrabble, the results of tournaments over a period of years contribute to a competitor’s overall ranking. In many other team sports, such as baseball and basketball, a single major tournament is held each year and the results of that event determine the teams’ ranking for the following season.