A Round-Robin Chess Tournament Guide

What's a round-robin event in chess? What's the ideal number of players you need for hosting this event? Find out more about it in this article...

A Round-Robin Chess Tournament Guide
Written by
Ranveer Mohite
Published on
Nov 17, 2022
Read time
4 min

The round-robin tournament is one of the fairest ways to determine the best player in a group. Some of the world's strongest tournaments follow this format.

So what exactly is this tournament? What are its benefits and potential downsides? For up to how many players does this tournament format work the best?

Keep reading to find out.

What's a round-robin tournament in chess?

A round-robin tournament is one where all the players face off against each other at least once. And the one who has the best performance is declared the winner.

Some of the strongest events in the world are round-robin tournaments. These include the FIDE Candidates, the Sinquefield Cup, and the Tata Steel Masters, among others. You'll see almost all the top chess players participate in these events.

This tournament format can be further classified into their 2 most common types:

  • Single round-robin
  • Double round-robin

As the name suggests, in a single round-robin, all players face each other once. Example - The Sinquefield Cup, Tata Steel Masters.

Double round robins are tournaments where the players can face each other twice. Here, players get a chance to play a game against every opponent with White and Black pieces. Example - FIDE Candidates.

The benefits of a Round-robin tournament

Now that you know what this event type is about, let's take a look at some of its advantages.

Every player gets a fair chance

This is the biggest advantage. The direct result of the players against each other decides who's the best amongst the lot rather than a tiebreak based on some data.

Exciting match-ups

Often in strong open tournaments where the Swiss pairing system is used, there's a chance that the top players might not get paired against each other. This often happens when one of the top players makes an early draw and drops down from the pairing bracket.

As a result, the spectators might miss out on exciting matches.

But in round-robin events, everyone is forced to play with each other. Because of this, you will see some matchups whenever good players clash.

Everybody can play all rounds

Unlike the knockout format, each player gets an opportunity to play all rounds in the round robin.

So even if a player loses one game, they can always make a comeback in the coming rounds.

This tournament format also has its disadvantages.

The downside of hosting a Round-robin tournament

Let's look at the other side of the coin.

The more players, the less practical it becomes

With 10 players, holding a single round-robin means a total of 9 rounds.

Now when there are 20 players, holding a round-robin gets harder, though it's still manageable to make players play 19 rounds!

Now increase the number to 50 players, and suddenly you must conduct 49 rounds to find the best player.

And for 100 players, there needs to be a total of 99 rounds! In contrast, with a Swiss pairing, you'll need just 7-8 rounds to find the best player out of 100.

The point is - more players make it harder to host round-robin events.

Not as cost-efficient compared to a Swiss tournament

There's a reason why Swiss-style tournaments are more popular than round robins. And their cost-effectiveness is one reason why.

Let's compare the two.

To find the best player amongst 20 players, even 5 rounds can be more than enough under a Swiss system. But in round-robin events, you'll need up to 19 rounds!

Less exciting than knockouts

Despite their downsides, knockouts make tournaments more interesting. It adds more drama and spice! So if a player performs poorly, they could run the risk of getting knocked out!

In that regard, round-robin tournaments are less exciting. In fact, they're quite the opposite as you'll see below.

Predictable for players to prepare

Since everybody knows whom they're facing, a player can predict and prepare against their opponents. That's why many Closed IM/GM norm events are held in such a format.

The players who aspire to score norms know the opposition beforehand and can prepare accordingly, giving them a higher chance to succeed.

While this can be good for the players, it kills the element of surprise.

When a player withdraws or is expelled from a tournament

Each player has entered into a contract to play throughout the tournament.

If a player has completed less than 50 % of his games, the results shall remain in the tournament table (for rating and historical purposes), but they shall not be counted in the final standings.

If a player has completed at least 50 % of his games, the results shall remain in the tournament table.

The unplayed games of the player are indicated by - in the tournament table and those of his opponents by +

Our recommendation for hosting round-robin tournaments

Practically speaking, hosting a round-robin event depends on 2 factors:

  • Number of players
  • Time and resources available

The ideal situation to conduct a round-robin chess tournament is when there are a lesser number of players, and you've ample resources and time available.

In general, if the number of total players is less than 10, it's a good idea to host a single round-robin. Everybody plays against each other, and it becomes easier and fairer to decide the winner.

If there are more than 10 players, you'll need more resources and time.

And if there are more than 25 players, you should switch to the Swiss pairing system than a round-robin.

How to create a round-robin tournament?

You can use ChessManager to create a round-robin tournament.

Here are the steps to follow.

  1. Create a New Tournament from the Admin Dashboard
  2. Input basic details, and click Continue
  3. Set your tournament to a round-robin, put the correct Replays value, and click Continue
  4. Add your players.
  5. Pair them under the Matches tab.

For a more detailed walkthrough, check out the article on creating a round-robin tournament using ChessManager.


With a limited number of players, the round-robin is a great format. We hope this article gives you a clear insight into organizing such an event! And if you're looking to organize one, our chess pairing software will ease many of your tasks.

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