What Tournament Format Should You Use for Your Event?

What Tournament Format Is Best for Your Event?

Written by Brian B.


Thinking about running an event on smash.gg but aren’t sure what kind of tournament format to use? Each type of tournament format has its own strengths and weaknesses that make it a crucial decision when running your event. Today, let’s go over some of the standard tournament formats and discuss why each may or may not be the right choice for your next event.

2.Single Elimination

Single elimination brackets are the easiest to run and understand, but they aren’t used very often for most types of events. In a single elimination bracket, each player only needs to lose once before they’re out of the tournament. This makes it very quick and easy to run if you’re limited on time, but isn’t favorable for most events where players want more chances to keep playing.

Single elimination is usually only used for games with very long matches like League of Legends, Fortnite, or in more casual events where you just want to get through a lot of players in a short amount of time.

3.Double Elimination

Double elimination brackets are similar to single elimination brackets in concept, but with one key difference: players have to lose twice before they’re knocked out of the tournament. This makes them favorable for most events as players prefer having more chances to compete before being done. Double elimination is often considered the gold standard of bracket types as it offers a good balance between giving attendees a good tournament experience and not being difficult for organizers to run.

You can find double elimination brackets for any type of esports game, but they’re most frequently used in large, open-entry tournaments like those for most fighting game events.

4.Round Robin

If you’ve got a bit more time and double elimination isn’t enough for you, you might want to consider round robin for your tournament. Round robins are different from traditional brackets as every player is simply matched up against each other until everyone has played. This can take a long time to run if you’ve got a lot of players in each group, but gives lower level players significantly more matches before being eliminated. Smash.gg also lets you choose how you score your round robin between Total Sets Won, Game Win Percentage, and Head-to-Head.

Round robins are typically used for events with less time constraints or with only a few players competing, such as with large team games or closed-entry tournaments.


Swiss-system tournaments are similar to round robins, except players get matched up based on their performance in each round instead of playing everybody. Players who perform similarly get selected to play each other in the following round, with each round helping determine the relative skill level of every player. When setting up a Swiss tournament, you can choose how many rounds you’d like to play before the final ordering is determined, which is often used for seeding rather than eliminating players.

Swiss tournaments are most common in card games like Hearthstone or in smaller, team-based events similar to round robins.


Matchmaking or “ladder” events are a unique tournament type where players can continuously queue up against opponents, similar to open matchmaking in most online games. Smash.gg’s matchmaking system assigns players based on relative skill level and allows them to keep playing new opponents until organizers close the event. The matchmaking system creates rankings based on each player’s performance throughout the event.

Matchmaking is often used for side events after players are eliminated from the main events, giving attendees extra value to the tournament. You can learn more about setting up a ladder event via our Help Center.


As you can see, most tournament formats are a trade-off between time, complexity, and experience for the players. Your choice of format should be one that maximizes the player experience while still being feasible for you to run. Single elimination, double elimination, and round robin are more beginner-friendly options that can be easily run by first-time organizers, while Swiss and matchmaking are relatively more difficult to manage.

Of course, brackets don’t need to exist in isolation, as you can easily set up progressions between phases on your Bracket Setup page. For example, you can divide players into multiple groups or “pools”, with the top placing players from each group moving onto the next phase. You can even mix and match tournament formats, such as using round robin for pools and double elimination for your final bracket.

Ultimately, the best thing as an organizer is to get experience and try it for yourself. Don’t be afraid to experiment, try new things, and ask for help along the way. You can even join the smash.gg Discord server to talk to other organizers and smash.gg staff about planning your event and anything else tournament-related. We’ll see you there!

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