For many years Swiss Teams has been the most popular form of team event, but in recent years it has been overtaken by Knockout Teams. A Swiss Teams event is a partial Round-robin setup in such a way that winners play winners and losers play losers. It is based on the Swiss concept that governs play in most chess tournaments.
After each round, the game directors sort the team records and set up new matches between teams of approximately equal records. In general, teams are not permitted to play against each other more than once.
The length of matches is determined by the size of the field and the number of sessions. The most common match length is seven boards, but five, six, eight and nine are not uncommon.
At the end of a match, the East-West pair returns to their home table where they compare their scores with their teammates. The event is scored on International Matchpoints (IMPs). This is a special conversion system designed to translate totals into a scoring system that gives fairer comparisons. The IMP scale is printed on the ACBL convention card.
To figure the score, the algebraic difference is taken on each board and then translated into IMPs. When all the boards have been scored, the pluses and minuses are added. If the total is a plus, that team is the winner. If the total is a minus, that team is a loser.
There are three different ways to compute the final score of a match. These scoring methods will be covered in Board-A-Match Swiss Teams, Victory Point Swiss Teams and Win-Loss Swiss Teams.
Sometimes the field for a Swiss Teams is very small. Quite often in such a situation the game is changed into a full Round-robin. Each team plays every other team in a short match. The winner is determined in the same manner as in a Swiss Teams. The same types of scoring used in Swiss Teams are used in a Round-robin event.
The name of this event is most apropos—the winners advance to the next round and the losers are knocked out of the competition. There are many kinds of Knockout events, but basically they come down to this—two teams face each other in head-to-head competition, and only one survives. There are variations on this theme, but the above explanation fits the vast majority of Knockout situations.
The setup is similar to Swiss Teams in that two members of your team sit North-South at one table, and two others are East-West at a different table. The team against which you are playing fills the other four seats at the two tables.
Knockout matches usually are much longer than Swiss matches—24 boards are common but sometimes it is as many as 64. After the match is finished, the East-West pairs return to their home tables to compare scores. Once again the IMP scale is used, just as in Swiss Teams. The team with the greater number of IMPs is the winner and advances to play in the next round. The losers are no longer in the event.
Specific conditions of contest may vary. Each team has a responsibility to be aware of the conditions and to conform accordingly.
Board-a-Match Teams is the toughest type of event in tournament bridge, which may account for its lack of popularity. A team plays a small number of boards—usually two, three or four—against one opponent then moves on to take on another opponent. The movement is set up in such a way that your team always plays any given board against two opposition pairs of the same team. Often the movement is similar to the Mitchell movement used in pair games, but with some major differences that are always explained by the tournament director.
At the end of a session, the members of a team gather to compare scores. Each board is scored separately as a win, a tie or a loss.
The reason why the game is so tough is that every board is equally important. Some boards in Swiss and Knockout events are not all that important—very little may be at stake. But every board in a Board-a-Match game is worth one full matchpoint, and a high degree of concentration is necessary throughout every board of a session.
All special team games are forms of one of the three basic types discussed above. Click here for definitions of the special games.