EPC group matchplay qualification format discussion

Hi everyone!

Any thoughts about this interesting piece of rules in EPC 2022 tournament information? (link: EPC 2022)

Head to head, Round Robin. The lower IFPA ranked player always starts (i.e. best ranked player as player #2). 256 players / 16 groups with 16 players / best 4 per group advances.

Is it reasonable to favor higher ranked players this heavily? I think this is way too powerful benefit in a format like this. The qualification will be very different for the highest ranked players going player two all 15 matches compared to the lowest ranked players starting each and every game.

The effects of current WPPR farming culture have been quite limited so far, since your rank only decides your IFPA WC spot and maybe you’ll receive some benefits of being in a country exemption spot for certain tournaments. If we start favoring higher ranked players in tournament formats like this, things are going to very alarming direction in my opinion.

I’ll continue the discussion with my other concerns about the tournament format later, but want to start only with this most concerning bit first.

PS. Many thanks for INK and his crew for stepping up to organize EPC 2022. I understand that compromises had to be made to even make the tournament possible this year and without you there wouldn’t be EPC 2022. This is not critique about the tournament organizers, but my more general concerns about rules like this.

Edit Jul 21 2022: The original title of this post was “Benefits for higher ranked players in tournaments, case EPC 2022”, but since the posts have been more about my general concerns about the group matchplay format used in many EPC tournamets, not only in EPC 2022, I changed the subject for a more suitable one in my opinion. Please feel free to moderate me if this was not a correct way to handle this. :slight_smile:

Kind of odd, but if you approach it from the perspective that it’s a “championship” and everything leading up to it was “qualification”, then it kind of makes sense. Would be better to give order choice to the higher seed, as sometimes it is advantageous to play as P1.

btw, I analyzed some head-to-head data recently, and basically found no hard evidence of a P2 advantage. That said, the advantage is situational so in aggregate you may not see it.

1 Like

frankly, my initial impression was that it could improve the pace of play, more games may be 5 ball vs all 6 balls played.


It is the same rule as at the EPC 2017 in Boras and I expected it that way. When I wrote the rules for the ECS Finals it was inspired by this one, but I changed it to order choice.

1 Like

Was it really like this already in EPC 2017? I’m remembering the order being random but you probably remember better.

I think for ECS it’s a little different situation and there the rule works perfectly. It has all the ECS qualifying tournaments as the qualifying metric and it’s a convenient way to reward better qualified players by giving them advantage to the final tournament that way. For EPC, an open event for everyone, not such advantage should be given in my opinion.

Edit: hmm, am I doing something wrong. Tried to reply to MET but can’t not sure if this is a reply to that or not. :open_mouth:

Oh yeah, great point. Careful though, saving time is a good way to get IFPA’s attention :wink:


i guess it is better than Tennis tournaments where lower ranked players have to play qualifying round just to play with the “seeded” players :slight_smile:

Man, I remember those cut lines in qualifying are harsh

256 → 64 → 16


yes, another thing I changed for ECS Finals. Top 6 with a bye for top 2 instead of only 4 out of 16 will advance. The second round on sunday morning with 2 out of 8 players advancing was really harsh facing mostly strong opponents. Just to conclude the last thing I changed was to install real tiebreakers.
@marble I think it only quotes if it isn’t the very next response in the thread.

1 Like

Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the info @MET.

This only four per group advancing from qualifications to the second round was one of my other concerns. It’s not only super hard to make your way to top 4 in 16-player matchplay group played on random machines, but especially the matchplay element causes some issues and interesting situations:

To get to top 4, I’d guess you have to go at least 10-5 in your group. Quite many players in the group will know to be eliminated already before the last matches, making their last matches meaningless. What happens when you meet your best friend in the last match, where you know you will be eliminated but your friend needs that last win to get through? Collusion is quite likely to happen.

Especially interesting situation is when you play your first games that bad that you are in 0-7 or 1-6 situation after your first seven games. You already know that you can’t advance, so why even keep playing anymore? Getting out at this point of the tournament means that you haven’t completed 50% of your qualifications, also meaning that you won’t even be included in the final results. Good, now you don’t have this humiliating major result in your WPPR resume to worsen your precious IFPA stats!

If you drop out in 1-6 situation, the one player having lost against you probably isn’t too happy that he has -1 compared to all others in the group, many of his opponents getting a free win of already forfeited player.

One way to resolve these issues would be to change the qualification and second round formats to limited best game formats within the planned matchplay groups. Change the 15 matchplay matches to 15 attempts on 15 machines in best game qualifying, or make it two attempts on eight games if the number of machines is limited. This should probably take about the same time as the matchplay qualifications, but requires a little more scorekeeping and technician resources to make sure that any of the games don’t break down during the qualifications.

A direct play element in finals for at least 10% of the players would be required, so the finals would need to be expanded from 16 players to 32. This adds a little more time, but then you could also make the previous rounds a little more forgiving by for example making 6/16 per group (96 total) to advance from the first round and then 32/96 to the finals.


I don’t see higher seed as player two in the qualifying round being a big deal. This saves time as there is no deciding or waffling about a decision based on which game. It simply is what it is. Then, potentially at least, not playing the third ball for one player will save time.

As for what it takes to qualify, that will vary greatly with the group and how the points spread out.

Conceding or collusion could be an issue, but could be an issue with most formats. With best-game qualifying, some people give up after a few bad games, or play half-heartedly, or stay under a certain score to help a friend, etc. because they know they are out. These decisions affect everyone else’s qualifying too.

I certainly would fight for every win as I would rather place 65th than 200+ (and beat out 190 people) or 17th rather than 64th in the second round. Of course, I also want every possible WPPR point for the Swedish Championship Series. Based on the Open (also a certified Major), 65th would yield about 10+ WPPRs and 17th would yield 40+ WPPRs.

Best game introduces many other issues too where games are freshly waxed for the first group but tired for the last group. In addition, best game introduces many, many issues for organizers and players where the game has to hold up the entire weekend, etc. This has certainly been an issue with previous EPC tournaments where games go down during qualifying or severely tire out. Classics machines could be restarted, etc. (Classics is round-robin this time too!)

With round-robin, if a game has any kind of issue, it can just be swapped out for something else and that doesn’t affect the rest of the tournament as with best-game.

INK only took on EPC on short notice because Belgium bowed out. I doubt he would have taken on the tournament with a best-game system, even though that could have allowed for many more players competing. With best-game, there also wouldn’t have been a bonus pre-tournament at the location on Friday.

Aside, next year, the EPC format will have to grade out to 38 played games for 150% TGP and that sweet major bonus for 300%. This format does grade out to 38 played games (15+7+16). I don’t know if Denmark or Finland would have, with byes, etc.

Many thanks @DDH for your input!

I would argue that collusion is much bigger problem in matchplay formats where only winning or losing matters and there clearly are many non-meaningful matches towards the end. In best-game formats a couple of bad games don’t yet screw you up totally and you can compensate them with couple of really good scores. Giving up after a few bad games makes much less sense. Also collusion isn’t that effective in best-game formats where you can only have impact of one spot up or down for your friend in the list of all scores.

How about using best game formats within these planned 16-player matchplay groups like I suggested? How the games play between the groups doesn’t matter and the games need to hold up only until the end of that group’s session. The game could then be removed if it’s deemed too unreliable for next round.

Even if this format would grade out to 300% major tournament with WPPR v5.8 changes, I’d like to hear more general feedback whether this sounds like a good format for one of the few major tournaments left in the yearly calendar? Would someone outside of Europe fly in to a tournament like this, or would you prefer something else?

I don’t like it. The ranking may be used as seed into a tournament, fine. But in my view, from then on it should not be used for anything at all. It is simply wrong. The result of a competition should be the strength of play in set competition. Not previous ones.

If coin toss is disfavoured, have starting order or first choice selected at random and marked on the vs and game to play listing. By an algorithm making it 50/50 for each player.

If using the ranking so-far in the tournament (round by round), I say have the lower ranked choose first. To even the battlefield.

And yes, starting order makes a difference in match play going cold into a game. No practise, no warm up, one game.


Collusion does have a greater impact in a format like this, but these are seeded groups of 16 out of 256 players, so odds are slim that opportunities to help or hinder someone would come up. Not that they won’t, they will. However, I also don’t think that a vast majority of players are that calculated or conniving, AND end up in a position where a loss or win could make a difference AND they are in a position to actually orchestrate that outcome.

Best-game is simply not an option. As I mentioned, I don’t think INK would have taken on the tournament at all in that case.

My aside about the format grading out to 38 games was not a comment on quality, good or bad, or an endorsement of this format as the EPC format going forward. It was simply a statement that EPC will have to be adjusted to reach 38 games played next year, regardless of the format.

FYI, I think the best organized EPC so far has been the Finland one.

For travel from outside of Europe (or within Europe), a pump and dump tournament with a huge prize pool would be the option that would draw players from outside Europe, but I don’t think that should even be an option. However, there isn’t a codified format for EPC because different locations that take on the tournament have different parameters in terms of space, number of machines, variety of machines, etc.

With highest-ranked being player two, I thought that was only the first round, not the second round as well, as I see now. That I think is less great and should probably be based on finishing position in the first round, or something like that.

I dont see it as a big issue, one plays the game as it lies to your best extent, and if the opponent plays it better, it doesnt matter if you were second. Sure, you would know what score to beat but flipped around; put up a great score on your player 1 game and that will add pressure on player 2, especially ball 3.

That said! , a double round robin on the same game right after eachother would be better with each player starting once. Just… make more time for it in schedule.

Best game is a horrible choice for tournament format here, when there is matchplay as an alternative =)

Thanks again for all the comments!

I think you are underestimating the effect of many players playing meaningless games in the end knowing they can’t advance. I think there’s also a great chance of collusion happening due to players who have already been eliminated playing their last games just for fun doing silly things, or not playing at all giving the opponent a free win. Not sure if this should be called collusion or something else, but the problem is the same anyway and would easily be resolved by changing the qualifying format to one with smaller probability of meaningless matches and collusion. But overall we probably just need to agree to disagree on this subject.

Got it. I respect the tournament organizer’s decisions and will be there no matter what the format is. Again many thanks to @INK and the entire crew for making EPC 2022 possible!

As far as I know, EPC format doesn’t have to be adjusted to reach 38 games. Meaningful games can be anything from 1 to 38 and that will then be multiplied by the 200% major event value.

To continue on this subject, in my opinion EPC shouldn’t even be designed based on the idea of how to reach 38 meaningful games as fast and conveniently possible for the tournament organizer. Instead start by evaluating your resources (venue, machines, time, staff, etc) and expected number of participants. Then try to come up with as high-quality, fair and open tourmanent format as possible based on your resources. Only then maybe make adjustments to the format to increase the TGP if the original format was not maxed out yet and your resources allow adding more matches.

Thank you so much! I’m really proud of the entire Finnish EPC organization team what we were able to do. This is also one of the reasons why I’m voicing my concerns so loudly at the moment. I want EPCs to get even better, more international and more high quality in the future. Especially now when the new major tournament ranking boost is coming and when EPC is one of the few majors left in the calendar.

From the experiences of Finnish EPC, I would say that many of our non-European friends already understand the tournament cultural differences between the continents and what other limitations there are for EPC format due to massive player base etc. I think they don’t expect us to change EPC format to unlimited pump and dump with massive payouts, they just want a high quality major tournament with as profound and fair format as possible to go for the major title, even without zero money in the line. This 2022 format with best of one matchplay matches on random machines, cutting the field to 25% twice during the tournament doesn’t probably meet the quality requirements for many to justify the long and costly trip.

This I have to disagree you with. Matchplay is amazing format for many cases, but using it this way as EPC qualifying format, cutting your original player base to 25% in small sub-groups, is in my opinion not one of these cases.

Using the IFPA ranks as seeds to the groupings you get 16 even groups of 16 players, but IFPA rank doesn’t tell everything. Especially now with players having 1,5 years of covid void in their resume. At least seeding by IFPA rank is much better than random drawn groups.

The seeding is not that much an issue itself, but a group’s strength will change quite dramatically if for example the top seeded player makes a no-show. At this point there’s most likely no time to change all the seedings accordingly, since this affects all 16 groups. So most likely the solution is to take a player from waitlist to replace this player or just play this group with 15 players. Whichever happens, lower seeded players in this group are quite happy about the situation, there’s now practically one more spot available to advance.

In my opinion the qualifying round of EPC should be about all players facing a subset of tournament machines, either by choosing your favourite machines or being forced to a certain set, and then doing your absolute best on these machines and comparing your scores to other players having played those machines. This is a good and equal field for everyone to use their game knowledge skills, skills how quickly you learn all the quirks of a new game and all other general pinball skills.

With forced machine bank for everyone (the format of Finnish EPC 2018), it’s possible to balance all the machine draws in such a way that no player has identical set of machines to any other. So you don’t have to worry not scoring the best points in your games since certain Mr. Acciari is also playing all the same games.

Of course this doesn’t have to be the one and only format for EPC qualifications. Matchplay would also be awesome qualifying format if you have the resources to organize EPC with Pinburgh style huge matchplay format, where you originally make the groups based on the IFPA ranks, but form groups for later rounds based on the previous round performance.

The current way of making small sub-groups and playing a matchplay tournament inside this group adds too many variables to the qualifying format in my opinion. You can be really lucky or unlucky in the group seedings, you can play amazingly against your opponents throughout the qualifying but keep losing to even better scores, or you might end up getting free wins in the end since many of your opponents have already given up. You also may end up playing your matches in a machine group that you either totally hate or love. Then you need to survive to top 4 in your group, which in some groups may mean 10 wins and some tiebreaks and in others maybe like 12.

Everything is just so much more straight-forward in limited best game type man vs. machine qualifying battle. After the qualifying it’s perfect time to move to a huge playoffs bracket played out of as many games as possible, seedings based on your qualifying performance.

1 Like

How will the games be chosen for each of the Round Robin portions, what will be the # of possible machines used for each Round Robin group, and will there be dramatic differences in the era of the bank of machines used for each group?

This, along with only 25% progressing from each Round Robin round are the elements that would be the biggest turn-offs for me.

If there’s any concern about player order, then just use Balanced feature from MatchPlay software.

Each group will have a bank of eight machines with a couple of extra machines as well. I am not sure if the spare machines are shared between some banks or how that works. The machines are moderns for the main tournament (Earthshaker to Rush Pro) and classics for the classics tournament (Captain Fantastic to Eight Ball Deluxe). The groups for the modern should be more or less balanced with the System 11 games, the modern Sterns, and the 90s DMD games spread out. Not sure if machines are randomly assigned or balanced.

I actually don’t think that 25% is bad. In Denmark, with 356 players, didn’t 80 go through from the first round? Or was it 96? Either way, that is also around 25%. Indisc/The Open had 245 players and 40 went through, that is like 16%.

I don’t understand why the order can’t just be assigned in a balanced way.

Here’s something simple: players are ranked 1-16 in their group. In a match like 4 v 9, if the sum is odd, better seed plays last. If the sum is even, better seed plays first.

This gives everyone 8 of one position and 7 of the other and could just be drawn in advance on the round robin sheet.

Getting to play last in every 2p game is a huge advantage.