Pick a badminton tournament format

September 23, 2019

When organizing a badminton tournament, one of the most important aspects is to pick a format that works with the size of the event and is pleasurable for your participant. In this post, we will go through the pros and cons of the different formats you can choose from. The proposed options are:

  • Round robin phase with single elimination bracket
  • Double elimination bracket
  • Winner / Loser bracket
  • Single elimination bracket

Many factors must be considered when choosing an option but, from experience, the biggest dilemma an organizer have is to balance time and number of match per players or teams. So we will focus on these 2 aspects as the main criteria when comparing the different options.

To estimate the duration, one must know the number of matches to be played, the numbers of court available and the duration of each match. The latter will vary and it’s not possible to make a perfect estimation of this parameter. But a rule of thumb we use with good success is to calculate 10 minutes per set to be played. So for example, if fifty 3 sets matches have to be played on 6 courts. We would estimate (50 matches 3 sets 10 minutes) / 6 = 4:10 h

The number of matches per player or teams depend on the format of the tournament. This is just a rule of thumbs that works for bigger events with lots of matches, cause the matches duration average out and the courts are full most of the time. It doesn’t take into account that at the end of a tournament, event il you have lots of court, quarter-final semis and finals must be played one after the others.

Let’s check the different options we have!

Single elimination bracket

Also called knockout or sudden death, the single-elimination bracket is the format seen at most international stage event. It’s the most straightforward as the loser of a match is eliminated and the winner goes on to play another winner. It’s the format that requires fewer matches but not necessarily the shortest if all rounds are best of 3 sets. The big disadvantage for lower-level tournaments is that it guarantees players only one match. Coming to a tournament to play only one match is not fun!

✔️Pros of this format ❌ Cons of this format
  • Least amount of matches
  • Guarantee only one match per player.

Round Robin phase with a single elimination bracket.

In order to guarantee each participant a certain amount of matches, One can plan a preliminary round-robin phase. Where players are put in different groups named pools and each player play on match against every other of the pool. The best performer of each pool is then sent to the elimination bracket. This format gives a lot of flexibility because you can play with many parameters to fit your needs:

The number of players in each pool

You usually want to make pools of 3, 4 or 5 players. More than 5 gets really long and is not recommended. See diagram below:

Number of players per pool Matches to be played in each pool Guarantee x matches per players
3 3 2
4 6 3
5 10 4
6 15 5

Format of a match

Since it’s a preliminary round you have more flexibility with the format. You can adjust depending on the amount of time you have in hand. Here is the format we typically use from the shortest to the longest.

  • 1 set of 21
  • 2 sets of 15
  • 2 sets of 21

You still have to take into consideration the number of players in each pool. Setting a 1 set of 21 for a pool of 3 wouldn’t guarantee a player more than 2 sets, than no better than a single-elimination bracket.

Number of players reaching the finals bracket

You can choose to let only the best player of the pool reach the finals bracket of let 2 or 3 reach the finals rounds. Again, it depends on the time you have in hand and the player's experience you are looking for. If you don’t have too many pools, letting 2 players of each go to the final bracket is a fair choice.

You can also pick some of the remaining players to fill the empty bracket spot when there are. For example, if we have 12 players divided into 3 pools of 4 players, we would usually send the best 2 players of each pool (6) into the quarterfinals and fill the 2 empty spots with the best 3rd place overall.

✔️ Pros of this format ❌ Cons of this format
  • Flexibility in adapting the tournament duration.
  • Ability to guarantee a certain number of matches to the players.
  • More decisions to make
  • Calculating pools winner manually can be a pain

Double elimination bracket

As the name implies, in a double-elimination bracket you must lose twice to be eliminated. This guarantees 2 games for each player. This also gives a second chance to win even if you lose a match. The loser of a match will go play in the same round in the lower half of the draw and he still can aspire to the big honors.

✔️Pros of this format ❌ Cons of this format
  • Guarantee 2 matches to every player
  • VERY long
  • Harder to plan than single elimination.

Winner / Loser bracket

Winner’s / looser’s bracket is similar to double elimination but you can only lose your first match. Winner of each match goes to the left of the draw or to the right in alternate so both sides of the bracket are of balanced force. This format guarantees 2 matches per player and doesn’t take as long as a double-elimination bracket.

✔️ Pros of this format ❌ Cons of this format
  • Guarantee 2 matches to every player
  • Still quite long

An example

To recapitulate, let’s use a concrete example and see how long would a tournament run with each type of . Our tournament will have 32 players and the event will be held on 6 courts.

Nbs of matches to be played Sets Guaranteed Sets to win the tournament. Duration (estimation for 6 courts)
Single Elimination (best of 3) 31 matches (3 sets) 2 10 2:35 hrs
Round robin Pool of 3 (2 sets of 21) 1 players of each pool reach the final bracket 36 (2 sets)

9 (3 sets)

Total =45 matches

4 12 2:45hrs
Round robin Pool of 4 (2 sets of 21) 2 players of each pool reach the final bracket 48 (2 sets)

15 (3 sets)


6 16 3:55hrs
Winner’s / Looser’s bracket 47 (3 sets) 4 12 3:55hrs
Round robin Pool of 5 (2 sets of 21) 2 players of each pool reach the final bracket 58 ( 1sets )

13 (3 sets)

8 for most except 3 pools 16 4:20hrs
Double Elimination 62 (3 sets) 4 12 5:10hrs

The previous table presented 3 types of round-robin bracket and 3 types of elimination bracket sorted by duration. Generally, a longer duration also means more playtime for everyone. It’s up to you to decide the amount of time you have available and how much you would like your participants to play.