Birth of brackets
Last Updated: 9:54 PM, March 24, 2012
Posted: 7:13 PM, March 24, 2012

If you’re wondering where the NCAA got its bracket format, look back at the world’s first international chess tournament.

London 1851, as it’s known, was organized by world champion Howard Staunton and drew the best European players to the British capital. Since no such an event had been held before, Staunton had to figure out how pairings would be made.

He chose a knockout format: The 16 invited masters drew from a box that contained eight numbered white tickets and eight yellow ones. The player who drew a white number 1 got the first bracket spot and played White in the first game against the player who drew the yellow number 1 and was assigned the second bracket slot.

The eight winners advanced, the eight losers were eliminated. The process was repeated until Adolf Anderssen won the final match — and was later acknowledged as Staunton’s successor as world champ.

The format had an obvious flaw compared with the NCAA: Since players were bracketed by chance, some strong masters were paired with one another and were knocked out early. The format fell out of fashion in chess for more than a century and was replaced by the round-robin, known as the “American system.”


Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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