One of the more popular alternatives in CS:GO nowadays, the Swiss system CS:GO format pits players with the same overall score against each other throughout the event, allowing for a clear winner in a set amount of rounds without everyone having to play everyone else. The devil’s very much in the details with this one: while it makes sense to match people with similar accomplishments, a lack of seeding can seriously damage the competition’s integrity.
Originally used in chess tournaments – first in Zurich in 1895, hence the name –, the format is meant to create a fairly thorough test of skill even when the field is too large for a round-robin event. All players are paired in every round based on the amount of points (or wins) accumulated earlier on, organized in a way that their opponents have the same overall record as they do. Generally, you cannot play the same player more than once under these conditions.
Theoretically, no one gets eliminated from a Swiss tournament before the final round, but the teams with no chance to get a high enough overall score (usually trying to qualify for a knockout phase) often opt not to participate in the remaining rounds, and in the case of CS:GO tournaments, games like these are not played out at all – for instance, the 0-3 teams in a five-round Swiss bracket have no chance of making it to 3-2, giving them no real reason to keep going.
Unlike a pure knockout format, Swiss is meant to ensure that an early wobble doesn’t completely ruin your tournament. Still, the system is not without its faults: a lack of seeding can lead to a pretty serious butterfly effect spawned by a few upsets early on. The FACEIT London Major is pretty great example of this: after a close defeat to Astralis in the opening round, a bad luck of the draw meant that Na’Vi had to face FaZe Clan in the 0-1 bracket, potentially going down 0-2 even though there were many worse teams they could have reasonably faced.
The most egregious example came in the 0-2 bracket where the lack of seeding guaranteed that one of FaZe and mousesports would finish with an 0-3 record while one of Cloud9 and Winstrike was arbitrarily saved from such humiliation. (In fact, the same lack of seeding was the main reason why the latter even managed to make it to the top eight in Boston, being fortunate enough to be paired against fellow minnows AVANGAR at 2-2 in a bracket also featuring mousesports, Na’Vi, Team Liquid and Renegades.) Pre-determined seeding based on the competitors’ strength can ensure that strong teams don’t meet prohibitively early on while lesser opposition gets to coast on easy wins due to a preferable position in the bracket, making it an important element of Swiss.
Did you learn what you wanted to about the Swiss system CS:GO? If you want to read more, head over to our resources section where we've also broken down the Buccholz System & GSL!