5

There is a series of USCF scholastic tournaments run by a certain group of schools that accepts outside players as well. I've suspected for some time that they intentionally manipulate their swiss pairings to favor students in their schools either for tie break, or other purposes (such as increasing rating for their members). I recognize that Swiss pairings are tricky and have some complications (such as B vs W, avoiding teammates playing etc) but in one tournament in particular:

  1. They did not seed by rating. One of their "stars" who was lower rated than the highest rated started getting higher pairings.
  2. In a fourth round pairing, there were 4 players with 3 points. Rating 1 & 2 were team mates and their "star" was #3. #1 should play #3 and #2 should play #4. Instead #1 played #4 and #2 played #3.
  3. In the final round, rating #1 had 4 points (having lost in round 4) and there were 13 players with three points. The TD had #1 play #12 (in the 3.0 group). The TD claimed that in the final round ONLY they pair so that #1 would have the "best chance to win". The same TD claimed that earlier rounds are paired by looking at tie break score rather than rating (i.e., looking at the cumulative score of opponents) -- even though their own organization's documents claim they pair by using rating seeded methods.

The effect of these pairing oddities is that #1 gets a hard time on tie break whereas lower rated players got better tie breaks, even though my understanding is that the opposite should be true in general.

Question A: How much latitude do TD's have in pairings? Question B: Do these circumstances rise to the level of "pairing manipulation"? Question C: If the answer to B is "yes", what penalities/sanctions (if any) are available? Question D: If the answer to B is "yes", are there known/similar examples of such manipulation that have been exposed?

Added: In response to an answer below (thanks!), here is the cross table. I've removed names and IDs and slightly adjusted rating numbers to try to keep the tournament confidential. (None of the rating changes affect the order of initial rating).

 Pair | Player Name                     |Total|Round|Round|Round|Round|Round| 
 Num  | USCF ID / Rtg (Pre->Post)       | Pts |  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    1 |                                 |5.0  |W   7|W  16|W  30|W   4|W   5|
   ZZZ|          / R:  877   -> 1032    |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2 |                                 |5.0  |W  10|W  19|W  20|W  24|W   9|
   ZZZ|          / R:  802   -> 931     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    3 |                                 |4.0  |W  32|W  21|W  13|L   5|W  17|
   ZZZ|          / R:  945   -> 940     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    4 |                                 |4.0  |W  46|W  18|W  14|L   1|W  12|
   ZZZ|          / R:  913   -> 929     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5 |                                 |4.0  |W  33|W  12|W   6|W   3|L   1|
   ZZZ|          / R:  761   -> 917     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    6 |                                 |4.0  |W  37|W  17|L   5|W  22|W  15|
   ZZZ|          / R:  725   -> 797     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    7 |                                 |4.0  |L   1|W  39|W  21|W  20|W  16|
   ZZZ|          / R:  463   -> 695     |     |W    |B    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    8 |                                 |4.0  |W  41|L  30|W  34|W  13|W  18|
   ZZZ|          / R:  481   -> 642     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    9 |                                 |3.5  |W  31|D  24|W  44|W  11|L   2|
   ZZZ|          / R:  758   -> 756     |     |W    |B    |B    |W    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   10 |                                 |3.5  |L   2|D  52|W  35|W  26|W  28|
   ZZZ|          / R:  513   -> 523     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   11 |                                 |3.5  |H    |W  40|W  28|L   9|X    |
   ZZZ|          / R:  152P22-> 348     |     |     |B    |W    |B    |     |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   12 |                                 |3.0  |W  34|L   5|W  23|W  29|L   4|
   ZZZ|          / R:  811   -> 803     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   13 |                                 |3.0  |W  35|W  25|L   3|L   8|W  31|
   ZZZ|          / R:  680   -> 681     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   14 |                                 |3.0  |W  23|W  22|L   4|L  16|W  32|
   ZZZ|          / R:  668   -> 678     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   15 |                                 |3.0  |W  45|W  29|L  24|W  30|L   6|
   ZZZ|          / R:  657   -> 672     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   16 |                                 |3.0  |W  38|L   1|W  33|W  14|L   7|
   ZZZ|          / R:  637   -> 653     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   17 |                                 |3.0  |W  49|L   6|W  43|W  40|L   3|
   ZZZ|          / R:  629   -> 626     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   18 |                                 |3.0  |W  36|L   4|W  32|W  19|L   8|
   ZZZ|          / R:  598   -> 619     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   19 |                                 |3.0  |W  52|L   2|W  37|L  18|W  30|
   ZZZ|          / R:  602   -> 605     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   20 |                                 |3.0  |W  51|W  43|L   2|L   7|W  36|
   ZZZ|          / R:  616   -> 601     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   21 |                                 |3.0  |W  39|L   3|L   7|W  44|W  34|
   ZZZ|          / R:  583   -> 578     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   22 |                                 |3.0  |W  27|L  14|W  49|L   6|W  29|
   ZZZ|          / R:  548   -> 570     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   23 |                                 |3.0  |L  14|W  31|L  12|W  49|W  40|
   ZZZ|          / R:  481   -> 538     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   24 |                                 |2.5  |W  48|D   9|W  15|L   2|F    |
   ZZZ|          / R:  725   -> 741     |     |B    |W    |W    |B    |     |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   25 |                                 |2.5  |W  26|L  13|L  29|D  41|W  45|
   ZZZ|          / R:  719   -> 642     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   26 |                                 |2.5  |L  25|D  35|W  42|L  10|W  41|
   ZZZ|          / R:  295P5 -> 336P10  |     |W    |B    |W    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   27 |                                 |2.5  |L  22|L  36|D  48|W  50|W  42|
   ZZZ|          / R:  228P5 -> 252P10  |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   28 |                                 |2.5  |D  40|W  50|L  11|W  45|L  10|
   ZZZ|          / R:  125P17-> 236P22  |     |W    |B    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   29 |                                 |2.0  |W  42|L  15|W  25|L  12|L  22|
   ZZZ|          / R:  738   -> 668     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   30 |                                 |2.0  |W  47|W   8|L   1|L  15|L  19|
   ZZZ|          / R:  667   -> 629     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   31 |                                 |2.0  |L   9|L  23|W  52|W  47|L  13|
   ZZZ|          / R:  490   -> 456     |     |B    |W    |W    |B    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   32 |                                 |2.0  |L   3|W  51|L  18|W  43|L  14|
   ZZZ|          / R:  436   -> 423     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   33 |                                 |2.0  |L   5|W  41|L  16|L  34|W  44|
   ZZZ|          / R:  377P8-> 361P13   |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   34 |                                 |2.0  |L  12|W  47|L   8|W  33|L  21|
   ZZZ|          / R:  246P10 -> 330P15 |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   35 |                                 |2.0  |L  13|D  26|L  10|D  48|W  49|
   ZZZ|          / R:  280P9 -> 280P14  |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   36 |                                 |2.0  |L  18|W  27|L  40|W  46|L  20|
   ZZZ|          / R:  180   -> 266     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   37 |                                 |2.0  |L   6|W  38|L  19|L  42|W  48|
   ZZZ|          / R:  188   -> 231     |     |W    |B    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   38 |                                 |2.0  |L  16|L  37|L  47|W  51|W  46|
   ZZZ|          / R: Unrated-> 200P5   |     |B    |W    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   39 |                                 |2.0  |L  21|L   7|L  46|W  52|W  47|
   ZZZ|          / R:  111P14-> 174P19  |     |B    |W    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   40 |                                 |1.5  |D  28|L  11|W  36|L  17|L  23|
   ZZZ|          / R:  599   -> 483     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   41 |                                 |1.5  |L   8|L  33|W  51|D  25|L  26|
   ZZZ|          / R: Unrated-> 262P5   |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   42 |                                 |1.5  |L  29|D  45|L  26|W  37|L  27|
   ZZZ|          / R:  296   -> 245     |     |B    |W    |B    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   43 |                                 |1.5  |B    |L  20|L  17|L  32|D  50|
   ZZZ|          / R:  201P18-> 165P22  |     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   44 |                                 |1.5  |H    |W  46|L   9|L  21|L  33|
   ZZZ|          / R:  130P21-> 155P25  |     |     |B    |W    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   45 |                                 |1.5  |L  15|D  42|W  50|L  28|L  25|
   ZZZ|          / R:  105P5 -> 135P10  |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   46 |                                 |1.0  |L   4|L  44|W  39|L  36|L  38|
   ZZZ|          / R:  448P5 -> 266P10  |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   47 |                                 |1.0  |L  30|L  34|W  38|L  31|L  39|
   ZZZ|          / R:  271P5 -> 200P10  |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   48 |                                 |1.0  |L  24|L  49|D  27|D  35|L  37|
   ZZZ|          / R:  255   -> 185     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   49 |                                 |1.0  |L  17|W  48|L  22|L  23|L  35|
   ZZZ|          / R:  154P5 -> 173P10  |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   50 |                                 |1.0  |H    |L  28|L  45|L  27|D  43|
   ZZZ|          / R:  188   -> 150     |     |     |W    |B    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   51 |                                 |1.0  |L  20|L  32|L  41|L  38|W  52|
   ZZZ|          / R:  139   -> 144     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   52 |                                 |0.5  |L  19|D  10|L  31|L  39|L  51|
   ZZZ|          / R:  101P4 -> 104P9   |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------           
  • 1
    If you are a USCF member, you could ask this question on the USCF forums, specifically the Running Chess Tournaments subforum, and get an answer from experienced TDs. Pairing questions like this are pretty common there. – dfan Jan 26 '15 at 13:19
3

Generally there is a little latitude that TD's have in order to avoid pairing teammates, but almost always there is a computer program used to do the pairings and that removes any possibility of manipulation.

If you have links to the USCF crosstables post them here and we can take a better look. If the tournaments are rated by the USCF, the TD can receive sanctions if he is clearly manipulating pairings to favor certain players. If the tournament is unrated, there's really nothing that the USCF can or will do, in that case the only real option is to vote with your feet and avoid those tournaments.

From what you've described, there are definitely cases where example #2 would be the correct way to pair (depending on color history and the ratings of the players involved). It's possible that pairing players by tiebreaks is also allowed, so long as it's announced in advance (it would be a variation from standard pairing rules, so it has to be announced in all pre-tournament publicity). The last example is really never allowed, and if there are crosstables to that effect, the USCF would almost definitely be interested, especially if this is a common occurrence.

If you'd like to pursue this further with the USCF, the way to go about that would be to submit an ethics complaint. There are directions for that on the USCF web site. In short, submit all evidence that should be considered and a $25 "good faith" deposit and then the USCF Ethics Committee will review the complaint.

Edit:
Based on the crosstable, it's very unlikely that this event alone would be enough for an ethics complaint. All of the leaders were paired within the score group (or with someone a half point behind). That is definitely reasonable, especially when teammate pairings might have been avoided. It's possible that with several crosstables patterns of favoritism might emerge, but again, this one alone looks at least reasonable on its own.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Thank you. I've added the table to the original question. – Chessdad123 Jan 25 '15 at 20:36
  • I updated the answer based on the crosstable - long story short, the crosstable by itself passes the smell test. There might be other circumstances that aren't captured by just the crosstable, but there is nothing obviously unfair in the crosstable. – Andrew Jan 25 '15 at 21:38
  • Thanks for looking into this Andrew. I certainly agree that this is far from enough for an ethics complaint. I thought the pairings of (final rank) 1&5 (members) vs 3&4 (non-members) seemed odd in the first 3 or 4 rounds. I'm sorry if I'm just being overly suspicious. --Chessdad123 – user5755 Jan 26 '15 at 13:10
1

TDs have a wide latitude within some reasonable guidelines for a specific event.

Sounds more like sour grapes that your team/players did not do as well as you wished and you are trying to find an excuse to blame the director.

THAT SAID not all TDs are equally capable. Too many new ones make stupid mistakes that make pairings difficult later on. Even experienced TDs who try to avoid the problems may have them anyway based on the actual outcomes of games which do not always go strictly by ratings. Upsets happen and they can cause color assignment problems that might ripple into groups that should be paired getting moved to/from the adjacent group.

In general pairings should go first by actual results, and within ties then by rating, and how players from the same/team school are handled should be spelled out in the tournament announcement. TDs need to avoid pairing players twice, and to avoid unbalanced W/B assignments, and to some lesser extent 3B in a row even if it does not unbalance the W/B ratio by an extra game. I am unaware of tiebreaks in the future at the end of the tournament being a consideration but maybe recent rules changes added that. At some point any players may need to play to have a fair tournament result especially if they are individuals not teams being paired.

A - a fair amount but not carte blanche B - not to me C - n/a D - n/a but yes manipulation can happen and has happened but is not a real problem

There are far worse problems extant than TD pairing manipulation. Cheating by players is prevalent. It is worse now with more ways to do it. When I played the GM I played and who cheated had to go to the mens room to read the books and notes he hid in a stall. He got caught doing that a tournament later that year. I thought it was odd he took a dump after every move. I was naive and did not suspect cheating until after he got caught later.

Why are you so concerned? Was there a big money prize on the line? Did you all lose a big trophy that would help the schools prestige? It should not be ratings as that goes to the game results not tie break.

|improve this answer|||||

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