British Esports Association

What are the different tournament formats in esports?

News - 12 Jan 2017

From round robins to single elimination brackets, esports tournaments use a variety of tournament types. There are some similarities with traditional sports, but key differences too. We look at which tournament formats are commonly used in esports…


Tournaments in esports will most commonly consist of two stages: A group stage and a bracket stage.

In many games, such as CSGO, one team may be significantly better on one map and the other team significantly better on another. Due to these reasons, esports matches are typically played over a series of games in order to determine a winner, as outlined below.


Match types

Best of 1 (BO1): A single game is played between teams in group stages only. It’s very rare that it will see use in a knockout stage.

Best of 2 (BO2):This game type is occasionally used in a group stage, where points for draws can be awarded.

Best of 3 (BO3):This is commonly used in knockout stages of tournaments and also sees use in group stages. They can take anywhere from around one to three hours depending on what game it is.

Best of 5 (BO5):This is the longest match type that is only seen in knockout stages of tournaments and sometimes in the grand finals. It typically takes around between two and five hours depending on the game.


Group stages


Round Robin

This is where every team or individual will play each other once in a league format. Teams will receive a different number of points depending on whether they win, draw or lose.

A round robin stage will usually use the following match types: BO1, BO2 or BO3.


Double Round Robin

This is where every team/individual will play each other twice. Teams will receive a different number of points depending on whether they win, draw or lose. This is the most commonly used group stage format in esports tournaments.

A double round robin stage will usually use the following match types: BO1, BO2, or BO3.


Swiss Seeding

This format is sometimes used when a large number of teams sign up and having a round robin is not possible due to time constraints. In the first round, opponents are drawn at random or via predetermined seeds. In the second round, teams that won in the first round will play each other and teams that lost will also play each other.

Teams will continue to play other teams with the same score record for a number of rounds set by the tournament organiser.

A Swiss seeding stage will usually use the following match types: BO1


Playoffs or knockout stages


Single Elimination Bracket

--IMAGE: “SingleBracket”--

This bracket is very straightforward. The teams that qualify for the bracket will be drawn into a place on the bracket, depending on their seed. The fixtures will then be played out and the winner will advance onto the next stage, while the loser will be eliminated from the tournament.

A single elimination bracket stage will usually use the following match types: BO3 or BO5.


Double Elimination Bracket

This is where two brackets are used to progress teams or players towards a grand final. Entrants first enter the upper bracket stage, which is the same as a single elimination bracket but with one key difference.

The winning team will still progress onto the next stage of the tournament. However, the losing team will drop down to a second bracket, known as the lower bracket, which will also lead right up to the grand final.

If you lose a game in the lower bracket, you are eliminated from the tournament.

Also, the team from the upper bracket will usually begin the grand final 1-0 up, as a reward for their performance in the upper bracket.

A double elimination bracket stage will usually use the following match types: BO1 (lower bracket only), BO3, or BO5.

Upper Bracket example

Lower Bracket example