The Swiss system has been used for a long time in chess and it is widespread in tournaments with more players (such as the Chess Olympics). It was first used in 1895 at the chess tournament in Switzerland, which is how it earned its name. It is a system of pairing opponents during the tournament with a clear goal - to get together opponents with the same number of points in each round, so the matches are balanced (theoretically).

Let´s have look at how the Swiss system works

The first round is usually decided according to ELO rating so that players with similar performance will face each other from the beginning. I a player is victorious in the first round, he gains a point, draw is for half a point. In the second round, the winners play against winners, the defeated players against defeated and players who draw against other players who draw. In the third roudn, players with the same number of points start playing against each other. It goes on like that for the rest of the tournament.

Pairing in the Swiss system, especially in later rounds, can be quite complicated, therefore the pairs are usually determined by a computer program. The Swiss system in chess has its own specifics and rules that need to be followed:

  • no player shall play the same opponent twice
  • no player can play three times in a row with the same colour of pieces, it is recommended to alternate the whites and blacks
  • the tournament has a predetermined number of rounds
  • at the end of the tournament, the number of points decides the order of the players. In the case of equality, the Buchholz rating is used, which deals with the sum of the points of the player´s opponents.

The Swiss system is commonly used in other games and sports, where two players face each other. It is most frequent at badminton tournaments, bridge, but also at petangue or squash tournaments.

The accelerated Swiss system

In addition to the classic Swiss system, the so-called accelerated Swiss system is also used. This system is used mainly for large tournaments where are too many players. The first half of the players (according to ELO rating) gets first imaginary point, which is reclaimed after the second round. The aim of this system is to accelerate the tournament in a way that the best players are paired faster than in the classical Swiss system.