CS:GO Major: is the Swiss system really a solution?
PGL Major Stockholm is right around the corner and soon it is going to be the time to find out the best team in the world. 24 squads from all across the globe will clash for the lion share of the 2 million dollars prize pool, the chance to hoist the coveted trophy and elevate their home region to the apex of the mountain.
Considering the level of magnitude Major possesses among the teams, community and casters, it is only fair to ask for the best possible conditions for each of the participants. And that’s exactly where you take a look at the format.
Tournament formats are the cornerstone of every event. Classic GSL-type groups, used since the very beginning of esports two decades ago, massive brackets, single and double elimination - world has seen it all. CS:GO, however, remains as the only major esports title hellbent on utilizing a Swiss system - format, which is used in chess since the middle of 20th century to reduce the amount of games and balance the brackets. But is it really fair to the squads?
The positives are clear. The reduced schedule allows the broadcast to show nearly everything, teams do not repeatedly face each other, different regions have a shot at everyone plus you essentially have three lives to build yourself back up even after a bad start.
But what about the negatives?
PGL Major Stockholm is the first Major in two years and eight out of 24 teams are put into the second round without even testing themselves in the first. How about Evil Geniuses, the team with four won maps after players break, obtaining the Legends spot and instead of being eliminated with like one win to their name in the beginning, already placed in top-16?
PGL has apparently seeded the teams through the brackets. Sure, that favours the Valve RMR standings system, but are we really supposed to believe that FaZe Clan are the worst team in the tournament? What do Team Spirit, who are seeded as the number one in the first round, think about facing a “karrigan”’s unit, while their CIS friends from Entropiq, seeded 14th, are opening the event against paiN Gaming, who somehow got a #3?
Remember, how few years back, during the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta, OpTic Gaming, the reigning ELEAGUE winners and a top-3 team in the world, opened their Major campaign against Astralis and Virtus.pro, two teams ranked above them and who made it to the finals? The North American mix could not overcome those odds back then and was eliminated and those draw problems still exist.
The Swiss system allows the tournament organizers to reduce the cost of the event. But with only playoffs being scheduled to be played on stage in Stockholm, do the teams really deserve to play a pair of best of ones during the first day, when everyone knows how volatile it is? 24 teams grinded for nearly two years to qualify for the event and somehow we end up with a situation, where a bad day paired with a terrible draw is going to drop someone to a brink of elimination?
Imagine the situation, where FaZe Clan lose to Team Spirit, which is entirely possible. Due to receiving the lowest seed from the organizers, the international mix might face someone like BIG in the second round, drop a close match and then be sent to a “0-2” bracket. In addition to that, there is no guarantee that it is going to be a freebie either, since the likes of VP, Copenhagen Flames and GODSENT are barely seeded higher!
Major is supposed to be the time when we all are celebrating the game of CS:GO. It is always fun to watch a plucky underdog rise up and pile up upsets, cheer for the fairytale run and support them through the course of competition, since most of the time it is the lightning in the bottle.
It is not fun, when the tournament format, which is controlled by the organizers, bases its teams rankings on the event, which ended two years ago, assigns wrong seeds to the teams and ruins the entire goal of building the bracket, which is making sure that the best squads advance.
Riot Games’s Worlds are heavily scrutinized for using a single elimination bracket. Valve’s The International is constantly peppered for best of ones in the first round of elimination games. Valve’s Majors try being fancy but instead turn the events into an episode of “Hunger Games”, where the lucky teams are given a free pass, while those who do not get hit by a stroke of unexpected luck, get eliminated a week earlier than they should.
There will never be a perfect format which is going to instill confidence in every team, every player and every fan across the planet, but as far as the Major goes, there are few things that we’d like to see coming forward.
Every team should be put in the same conditions. There is no such thing as getting a free pass during the other events, why are certain squads at the Major given that luxury? Strong performing regions already reap the benefits by sending more teams to the tournament, there is no need for even more reward, pushing the inferior regions to the absolute bottom.
If Valve insists on staying with 24 participants, maybe it is the time to utilize the world rankings and split the teams in the three groups with eight teams in each of them. Eliminate the best of ones, rework the seeding pattern, give teams the ability to perform against a bigger sample of teams than the Swiss system allows them to. Two teams from each group move straight into the single elimination bracket, six more advance into the play-in stage to find out the playoffs participants.
Overall, that gives you a seven day group stage, 2-3 more for the play-in and then a 4-day playoff - a tournament, where the teams control their destiny by not only playing well at the event itself, but being high in the rankings to be seeded properly. The event overall will not take more than three weeks with all the breaks, which is in line with the previous Majors, but there will be no downtime or no lack of involvement, as simultaneous broadcasts have been implemented long ago.
It is not easy to organize an event during the pandemic but we all hope that it is going to be the very last Major to be played in such conditions. The fans are returning and it is only going to be fitting, if they could be fed with an enormous amount of high quality CS:GO. A more stable group stage allows the media to build a storyline, more chances with the play-in give teams something to play for even if the first 3-4 days have not gone their way, while the playoff is the culmination of everything.
Make it happen, tournament organizers, as the possibilities are limitless, as is the potential of a CS:GO scene, when it puts all the international teams on the grandest of stages.