Designing fair 8-and 16-team knockout tournaments Academic Article uri icon


  • In an eight-team single-elimination tournament without reseeding, teams are seeded from best (1) to worst (8). Teams 1/8, 4/5, 2/7 and 3/6 are paired in the first round, with the 1/8 winner facing the 4/5 winner in the second round and so on. However, such tournaments are potentially unfair in the sense that inferior teams can be more likely to advance to certain stages of the tournament than better teams. For instance, if the top five teams are comparable in strength and are markedly better than the bottom three teams, then seeds 2 and 3 may be more likely to advance to the finals than team 1. We assign each team a unique power value and assume that the victory probability in a match-up is proportional to the teams' powers.We investigate properties of fair tournaments and formulate a non-linear optimization model that prescribes a fair tournament given the relative strengths of the teams involved. Although the problem is highly non-convex, we demonstrate how to consistently obtain all fair tournaments for 8- and 16-team problems. 2012 The authors 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Prince, M., Smith, J. C., & Geunes, J.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Prince, Mike||Smith, J Cole||Geunes, Joseph

publication date

  • July 2013