Various Systems in Chess Tournaments

Vishvanathan Anand has won the titles five times in four different formats, an achievement likely to remain unsurpassed. They are as follows:

  • Fide KO: beat Shirov in final
  • Tournament format: Won in Mexico 2007
  • Matchplay: beat Kramnik and Topalov in stipulated number of games.
  • Triumph through tiebreak: Recently against Gelfand

Here is a meaning of various systems used in Chess Tournaments.


In a Swiss-system tournament, no one is eliminated. Normally, as the players continue to win games, they face progressively stronger opposition, with the result that those participants who are no so successful end up playing against each other. In Swiss-system events, players are paired with each other according to the following general principles such as:

  • A player is not paired with any other player more than once.
  • Players with the same score are paired whenever possible.
  • Colors are assigned to players by the director as fairly as possible. Alternating colors is the ideal.

Round-Robin System:

In round-robin tournaments, a player plays one game with every other player in the tournament. The person with the highest score at the end of the tournament is the winner. Please note that each participant plays every other participant an equal number of times. Round-robin tournaments involving four participants are known as quads.

Double Round-Robin

Double round-robin is the same as round-robin except that a player plays each of the other players twice; one game as white and one as black.

Scheveningen system

Scheveningen system is similar to the Round-robin style. The Scheveningen system is often used to face two chess teams against each other, where each player on one team plays each player on the other team.

Match Play

Match play occurs when two players are playing a series of games against one another in a match. This is not a very popular format except on the world class level. Match play was often used in the past for the World Chess Championship where the challenger plays a match against the World Champion for the title.


KO refers to Knockout. This is not a very popular match play tournament format in chess. A knockout tournament is a single-elimination tournament where the loser of each match is immediately eliminated from the tournament. This means that the tournament is conducted as a series of matches in which the winner of each match advances to the next round and the loser is eliminated. Well known chess tournaments held in the knockout format include London 1851 and the 2007 Chess World Cup.

Tie Breaker

This refers to a number of different systems that are used to break ties, and thus designate a single winner, where multiple players or teams tie for the same place in a Swiss system chess tournament. Most of the methods are numerical methods based on the games that have already been played or other objective factors, while some methods require additional games to be played, etc. The idea behind the methods based on the games already played is that the player that played the harder competition to achieve the same number of points should be ranked higher.


A game which White must win to win the match, but which Black only needs to draw to win the match. White has more time than Black: the discrepancy can vary; usually in FIDE World Championships, White has six minutes, while Black only has five, but in World Chess Championship 2012 the following time control is used: 5 minutes for White, 4 minutes for Black, plus 3 seconds increment from move 6. Typically used in playoff tie-breakers where shorter blitz games have not resolved the tie.

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