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Dr Ian Plummer

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The 'Egyptian' system

By Paul Hands

(CROQUET, January 1990, Issue No. 207, pp26-27, The Croquet Association)

It is some ten years since I first introduced the method now known as 'Progressive Swiss' into Tournament Croquet at Cheltenham for the COLES Weekend (since renamed the Western Championship). Although there have been a few new variations in tournament organisation since then, most of the Calendar events (for weekends) are still either for American blocks; Swiss or Progressive Swiss.

Weekend tournaments are extremely popular - new ones appear in the Calendar each year - but I wonder if the American or Swiss methods really do satisfy everyone these days, even though most adverts guarantee 6 or 7 games over 3 days... plenty for many may be, but too much for some, and not enough for others. To some extent these existing methods not only limit the number of acceptable entries, but also rely on people being available for virtually the whole of the 3 days, and suffer badly if anyone drops out (usually resulting in a scramble for a substitute).

Croquet players (and therefore potential tournament entrants) hail from many walks of life and certainly range widely in age - let us not forget that for some people just one game per day would be ideal; for many 2 games is fine; but for others at least 3 or 4 games per day please! (especially when you consider the tremendous increase in young players over the last 10 years).

At present the one game per day people are virtually excluded from Weekend play tournament-wise, and very few Weekends can offer the chance of over 3 games per day to those who would relish it. An admirable exception is Robert Prichard's colourful format for the Oxford Advanced Play Weekend, where overall winners are decided on a wins to games percentage rather than each playing a fixed number of games.

Why not have a few more tournaments to suit all wishes, and at the same time provide formats which can be flexible enough to allow as much leave as required (play on 1 day only if that is all you can manage). A guaranteed number of games can still be advertised for those playing at least 2 days, but it would not matter if some played 3 games over the weekend while others played as many as 11 games.

One criticism I have of American blocks (especially in Level Play Weekends) is that all too often fast improving players in the lower blocks sweep through their games without the opportunity of pitting their wits against those in a higher (supposedly better) block - this is rather a shame. Also if the current American or Swiss formats are used you are often waiting for a particular opponent or for the result of a particular game - even if lawn space is available.

The method I am about to put forward here results in any waiting around being for lawn space rather than for opponents, and also caters for up to 6 times the number of lawns in terms of acceptable tournament entries (assuming minimum guarantee of 6 games over 3 days) - at Cheltenham (ten lawns) this could mean accepting up to 60 entries rather than (typically) 42 for a Weekend tournament.

I have always considered myself extremely lucky to be a member of a go-ahead club like, Cheltenham, and luckier still to have been able to learn from Edgar Jackson - undoubtedly the best and most innovative tournament manager I have encountered in the last 2 decades. The Cheltenham Committee have (goodness knows why) always allowed me to introduce experimental tournament formats, and at the 1987 and 1988 August Weekends (Level play) we have used a method I have called 'The Egyptian' (rumour has it that it is so-called because it took a 'pharoah time to think of it, but actually because my daughter kept asking 'wadi you doing daddy?')

Anyway, The Egyptian is very flexible providing the following features not regularly available to Weekend tournament players:-

1. There are no set blocks-which means that successful players get the chance to play opponents who would normally be in a higher block.

2. The format takes greater account of current form than does the American block method, but at the same time is not so result dependent as the Swiss.

3. The only hanging around should be for lawn space and not for a particular opponent or outcome of a particular game.

4. Any amount of leave can be granted (very handy for us family souls).

5. There is no set maximum number of games - some play 1 per day; others 2; others as many as possible... it also means visitors can play more on days 1 and 2 if they wish, so that they can leave for home earlier on the last day.

6. The Manager can arrange just the first games of the day if he so wishes, or all the games for the day - 'tis up to him!

7. The method works equally well for Handicap or Level Play Weekends.

I am sure further fine-tuning can be made to this Croquet Management system, but even as it is now it has proved very popular amongst those who have played in a Egyptian tournament. My thanks also go to Kevin Carter and Peter Leach who have both kindly managed tournaments using the Egyptian format - both providing their own 'touches'. Indeed Kevin let me take a day off at the seaside this August 3-day Weekend and I still played 9 games.

I should mention Steve Mulliner too, for although he had nothing to do with the Egyptian itself, he first introduced 'form ratings/gradings' to the unsuspecting Croquet World. My method is unashamedly based around the potential flexibility these offer tournament organisation.


This system can be used for both Advanced 'Level Play' and Handicap tournaments. It takes account of the fact that not everybody wants the same amount of croquet - some can manage just one or two games per day, while others want as many as four or five!



1. Each player is allocated an initial RATING based on current handicap as set out below:-










(Note that this table was prior to the automatic handicap system and some handicaps are no longer used. Also the automatic handicapping system adds a non-linearlity into the handicap scale which is not taken into account here - Ian Plummer July 1999)

2. For each tournament day the first round of games is organised by the Manager, so that all competitors know at what time they should arrive at the club. Thereafter games are arranged according to player availability. Quicker players can often play (say) 4 games per day rather than the likely guaranteed 2 games per day. There will probably be no need for time limits.

3. After each game players should add their names to an 'AVAILABLE TO PLAY' list, so that the Manager can quickly allocate new opponents. You may wish to set some 'cut off' time - for example 'NO GAMES TO BE PUT ON AFTER 6PM ON DAYS 1 and 2; NONE AFTER 4PM ON DAY 3'.

4. As soon as any game finishes, the Manager will adjust both players ratings according to the result and the difference in the players rating at the start of the game. The adjustments are shown in the table below; in each case the winners rating goes up, while the losers rating goes down:-

Rating Difference

Higher Rated Player

Lower Rated Player






0 - 5





6 - 16





17 - 27





28 - 38











Steve MULLINER (Hcap -2 so rating 220) beats Paul HANDS (Hcap -1 so rating 210) +26TP (an unlikely result of course!). Ratings Difference = 10; so Steve's rating goes up 4 to 224; Paul's rating goes down 4 to 206.

Steve MULLINER would begin his next game with a rating of 224; Paul HANDS his next game with a rating of 206.

It is a good idea to list all games/results for each competitor, and experiments have shown that a card for each player listing all results and rating adjustments is the best presentation, especially if a large board can be provided with nails neatly spaced to carry one card each - so that each player's personal card can be moved around the 'Leader Board' as his/ her rating improves/worsens. A sample card is shown below;

Name: PW Hands
Hcap: -1
SN Mulliner (220) -26TP 206
DK Oppenshaw (220) -17 202
AJ Symons (200) -15 197
BC Sykes (195) +12 202
DR Foulser (216) -8 198
BC Sykes (192) -4TP 192
RDC Prichard (191) -5 187

5. The winner/winners of the event are those improving their initial rating the most - and at the same time having played at least the minimum guaranteed games. (e.g. If 6 games guaranteed in the fixture book, then to qualify as a winner he/she must have played at least 6 games.) One good idea, strictly for prize money purposes, is to split the competitors into 'blocks' of roughly equal size as one might do for an American Weekend - the most improved rating within each 'block' would be a prize winner, even though having played several people from other' blocks'. I like the idea of having (for example).

BLUE block
-2 to +1½
RED block
2 to 5
YELLOW block
5/2 to 9
GREEN block
10 to 16
WHITE block
17 to 20

(Split into blocks dependent on entries of course), especially if you can colour-code the 'personal' result cards. It is interesting to see how results soon move the more successful REDS and YELLOWS into BLUE territory - and the less successful the other way. This method certainly takes greater account of current form than the American blocks, and is much more flexible than the Swiss.

6. If they so wish, there is nothing to stop the same 2 competitors from playing each other twice - especially if the second meeting will decide who wins the cup!


1. Each player is allocated an initial rating of 200, on the assumption that the C.A. handicap system gives all players an equal chance of success.

2. As per rule 2 of ADVANCED PLAY method.

3. As per rule 3 of ADVANCED PLAY method.

4. As per rule 4 of ADVANCED PLAY method.

5. As per rule 5 of ADVANCED PLAY method but with one additional idea for determining tournament winners (at manager's discretion). After 2 days play (of a 3-day weekend) take the 8 most improved players ratings-wise and draw them into a knock-out event (i.e. on day 3 a quarter-final, semi-final and final round) to decide the overall tournament winner. Those knocked out rejoin the rest of the competitors.

6. As per rule of ADVANCED PLAY method.

Author: Paul Hands
All rights reserved © 1990

Updated 28.i.16
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