Introducing the USBGF Online Tournament Series (OTS)

By Richard Munitz

The USBGF Online Circuit (OC), along with the website software that manages it and gives players access to their ratings, statistics, and master points, has been a top-tier benefit of USBGF membership since September 2012. During the system’s 8+ years of operation, 663 tournament events have been created, comprised of 879 brackets. We thank Tara Mendicino for having developed the Online Circuit system and for her years of tireless service creating and managing its many tournaments. I am pleased to introduce the USBGF Online Tournament Series (OTS), which begins in 2021. The OTS will fully replace the Online Circuit and all of its related software. It utilizes a new tournament management system that I have developed for the USBGF. It presents an entirely new set of web pages, offering a new and improved user experience, a richer offering of player stats and other features, and an extensible platform on which to build in the future.

 

The Online Tournament Series is a great USBGF member benefit.  Learn more about membership or visit the new Online Tournament Series

 

Improved Features and More

Online Tournament Series (OTS): Main view

Figure1

The OTS will be phased in over the first few months of 2021. All tournaments that were created as part of the legacy Online Circuit, along with the stats derived from them, will be visible within the OTS. However, any OC tournaments in progress will continue to be managed by the old system; this means that players in any tournament created in 2020 must continue to use the old system to register, schedule matches, and report results. Because those tournaments will not be completed for several months, the Online Circuit will remain accessible on the USBGF website during that transition. New tournaments in 2021 will be created within the new Online Tournament Series system; players must use the new OTS to participate in those tournaments, which will not be visible from within the Online Circuit.

As with any major new software product, the OTS system may have unforeseen problems. Thus we will proceed cautiously. The recurring monthly and divisional tournaments will be the first tournaments introduced in the OTS during January 2021. Other tournament types will follow later in the year.

Many features of the OTS are available now. Some of the planned features are almost fully developed, or need further testing before being introduced. These will be added over time. The major goals and features of the new system are as follows:

• Improved usability and organization – Tabbed views are used to organize different categories of information. – Tournament events are organized by status and are easier to find. – Events are listed rather than brackets; all brackets that comprise a single event are contained within that event, rather than listed separately. – Player information and actions are organized by type. – A player’s current events dashboard with easy-tounderstand status and required actions all in one place. – Mobile-friendly display.

• Richer player stats and reporting – Individual player and leaderboard stats are available back to the beginning of time, with the ability to easily view them based on periods of your choice – all-time; yearly; quarterly; monthly. – Real-time master points. Master points are awarded as match results are reported and when events are completed. – A report showing the history of every event entered, including final place in the event and rank master points awarded. – A report showing the history of every match played, including match master points awarded and Elo rating progress. – Elo ratings are calculated by event skill division. Who are the top players in the Advanced Division? You’ll be able to see what the Elo ratings would be if we only consider matches from events having the skill division of your choice – or if you prefer, only those events having no skill division (open to all players).

 Larger and multi-loss event formats – Support individual brackets of unlimited size (Online Circuit had a 128 player limit). – Support multi-loss event formats like double elimination or progressive consolation and last chance. – Support any custom bracket design such as those used on the American Backgammon Tour.

• Capability for fully automated tournament management – Recurring tournaments. Most OTS events will be regularly recurring, such as monthly, seasonally or annually. These tournaments will be automatically generated according to a schedule. – Automated entry management. Where possible, event registration will be opened and closed automatically. – Automated qualifier brackets. For events using a qualifier/playoff format, a new qualifier bracket is created and can begin accepting entries as soon as the previous qualifier bracket is filled. – Automated bracket and draw generation. Where applicable, brackets will be generated automatically based upon the number of players entered. Players will automatically be assigned to random positions in brackets once a bracket is ready to be started.

• Club support – Club tournaments. Any club will be able to create and run tournaments through this system, with most of the same features available as with the OTS. Every tournament has an owning club. – Club view. The web view will be on a per-club basis, so the tournaments and players that appear are filtered by the selected club. – The USBGF Online Tournament Series is just a single club within this larger framework. Initially, it is the only club. – Super-clubs. It will be possible to group multiple regular clubs, into a super-club with aggregated stats.

 Director / Administrative tools – Ability to manually design and manage an event. – Ability to register and report results on behalf of any player – Ability to undo incorrect reporting of results as far back as necessary. – Ability to grant staff individualized permissions to assist with tournament management. – Retroactive event entry. Old events can be entered as back-dated; all stats sensitive to chronological sequence (such as Elo) will properly adjust.

Events In Progress

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Let’s take a tour!

Tournaments

The OTS has two main navigation buttons: Tournaments and Players, which take you to the main views. As you might expect, Tournaments shows you information about tournaments and Players shows you information about players. In the upper right corner is the My Info button, which – you guessed it – takes you to your own player page. When first arriving at the OTS from usbgf.org, you’ll land on the Tournaments page, as shown on the first page of this article. Clicking Tournaments will always bring you back to this page. You’ll see a listing of tournament events that are currently accepting entries, as indicated by the highlighted Accepting Entries button/tab. If you click In Progress, you’ll see the very similar view shown below. These are the events for which play has started. As you can see, the events are organized according to their current status, making it easy to find events relevant to the action you might want to take. For example, if you’d like to enter an event, you’d look at the Accepting Entries tab, and would see only those events that are currently accepting entries; no other events clutter your view. Some events might continue to accept entries after play has started; these will appear in both places. Once an event has finished, it moves to the Completed tab.

Event Details

Each event has its own details page (see image below), which you can access by clicking that event, for example USBGF Advanced Divisional CVIII shown above in above image. Normally, you’ll wind up on the Actions tab, where you can do things like register for the event or report a match result. The actions you are allowed to take will be based on your current status in the event. Because these actions are disabled for events from the legacy Online Circuit, I cannot present an example of Actions content. If you click Players, you will see all of the players that are entered in the selected event, along with their current status.

Players (Circuit Monthly for December)

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Event Drawsheeet (Circuit Monthly for October)

Figure4

 

You can view the event’s drawsheets in the Drawsheet tab. An event can have a complex multi-flight format that includes qualifier brackets, main brackets, consolation brackets, etc. All of them will appear here in full. You’ll see the brackets, one after another, rendered in a fixed-width font (clear and functional enough for now, but eventually to be improved). They show details for each round, such as match length, deadline, and which rounds are considered to be “ranked.” Players reaching a ranked round have placed in the event and receive “rank master points.”

Players / Leaderboard

Clicking the main Players button (next to Tournaments) brings you to the fountain of player ratings, stats and status information. You see the Leaderboard for the current calendar year. The list is sorted by Master Points. Eventually, the ability to sort by other categories (columns) will be added.

Note the selector controls (labeled “Year” and “2020”) near the top right of the below image. These appear throughout the Players pages. Use them to change the time period for which player stats are displayed.

Leaderboard 2020

Figure5

The top control selects the period type: All-time, Year, Quarter, or Month. The bottom control selects the particular period (such as the year 2019) that you wish to display. Use the arrows to select the previous or the next time period.

A few clarifications about player stats:

• Dates – The official time zone used for all periods is UTC/GMT. This means that the year 2020 begins at 00:00 UTC on January 1, 2020, and ends at 24:00 UTC on December 31. UTC is 5(4) hours ahead of Eastern Standard(Daylight) Time.

• (Elo) Rating – This is the player’s Elo rating as it was on the last day of the selected period (unlike the OC, which always displays the current rating, even when reporting on previous years). Note: Elo ratings for the OTS have been recomputed from scratch, with each player starting at 1500. This differs from the OC where new players were allowed to choose their initial rating. Therefore, OTS Elo ratings will not match those from the Online Circuit!

• High (Elo Rating) – The player’s all-time high Elo rating as of the last day of the selected period. It is not the highest rating achieved during the period.

• # Events / Won / Placed / Rank Master Points – All event-level stats are considered to take effect on the event’s end date (i.e. the date when the last match in the event was finished). Therefore, all of these stats are reflected only for the single period containing the event’s completion date. This might be particularly confusing for the # Events count, where your participation in an event will likely be counted in a period months after you originally entered the event.

Individual Player / My Info

To view detailed information about a particular player, click their name in the Leaderboard. Alternatively, you can search for a particular player using the Find Player search box above the Leaderboard. You can view your own information by clicking the My Info button at the top right corner of the page. If we click Roberto Litzenberger’s name, this is what we see:

Player Info (Roberto Litzenberger)

Figure6

Introducing the USBGF Online Tournament Series USBGF PrimeTime Backgammon Magazine 109 The Info tab shows the All-time stats for the player as well as stats for all periods of the chosen period type. It shows yearly stats, but you can choose to view quarterly or monthly stats. Finally, it shows the player’s online nicknames. The Current Entries tab shows the player’s current entries in all events, grouped by status. The top group shows the entries that are currently awaiting a match result (which you could report from here, for your own My Info page). The next group shows the entries that require the next opponent to be determined. The last group shows the entries for which a bracket draw needs to be done.

Current Entries for a player

Figure7

Match History for a player

Figure8

Event History for a player

Figure9

Finally, the Match History and Event History tabs contain lists of past matches and events and their associated stats. These lists are selectable by period.

Parting Words

I am very excited to announce the imminent availability of this new system. I am enthusiastic about the possibilities it creates for tournament backgammon. This effort has been a monstrous and challenging undertaking with lofty goals. I have worked on it in my spare time for the past five years, and more recently in my not-so-spare time. I’ve learned a lot. I hope that everyone enjoys this new OTS system, as it comes online and continues to evolve. I appreciate your patience during this transition, and I would welcome your assistance in reporting and troubleshooting any issues that you may find. I’d also appreciate if you’d tell me what you like about OTS, what you don’t like, and what improvements you’d like to see. If you are a software developer and might be interested in contributing to this ongoing project, let me know that too. Contact apps.support@usbgf.org. There’s a long to-do list and work must necessarily be prioritized. But, ultimately you, our members, are our customer, and we want you to be a happy one! Here’s to 2020 hindsight. Happy New Year to all!

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