How to Setup a Round Robin Tournament

Written by michael keenan
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A round robin tournament requires each team to play each other one time over the course of the tournament. This format is ideal for smaller tournaments where you want every team to play several games. For example, if you have four teams and want each to play as many games as possible, a round robin tournament allows each team to play three games. A tournament that eliminates a team after a loss allows two teams to play two games and two teams to play just one. To set up a round robin tournament, you need to know the number of teams participating.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Determine how many teams will be participating. If the number is even, subtract one from the total number of teams, and that's how many rounds you will need. For example, if you have six teams, the tournament would have five rounds. If the number of teams is odd, that is the number of rounds. For example, a five-team round robin tournament would have five rounds because one team will have a bye each round.

  2. 2

    Make a grid with the number of teams lining the top and left side. For example, in a six-team tournament, you would write the numbers 1 through 6 across the top and down the left side. The numbers on the top and side represent the two teams and the number in the grid will represent what round they will play in.

  3. 3

    Write "1" in the first-column, first-row cell and continue to number down the first column. Stop when you reach the second to last row. For example, with a six-team tournament, in your first column you would have the numbers 1 through 5 with the sixth row cell blank.

  4. 4

    Repeat Step 3 going across the first row rather than down the first column. For example, with a six-team tournament, you would have the numbers 1 through 5 across the first row with the sixth column cell blank.

  5. 5

    Complete the grid except for the last row and column by numbering down the columns starting with the number in the first row. When you reach the number of rounds, start over at 1. For example, in the second column, your first number is "2" so you would write "3" in the second row, "4" in the third row, "5" in the fourth row and, because five is the number of rounds in a six-team tournament, you would write "1" in the fifth row. Then you would repeat this process for each column except the last column.

  6. 6

    Locate the main diagonal that runs from the upper left-hand corner to the lower right-hand corner. For a six-team tournament, this would be cell (1,1) to cell (5,5). This cell's number represent an impossible game. For example, the cell in the first row, first column represents the round that team 1 will play team 1, which obviously cannot happen.

  7. 7

    Copy the number in the cells on the main diagonal to the last cell in the row and column to complete the grid. For example, in the six-team tournament you would copy the "1" from cell (1,1) to the last-column, first-row cell and the first-column, last-row cell. Cell (1,6) would now have a "1" in it, as would cell (6,1).

  8. 8

    Use the grid to determine which round the teams play each other by looking at the number in the cell where the row of the team on the left and the column of the team on the top intersect. For example, to find when team 1 plays team 4, you would look at the first row, fourth column to find that these teams play in round 4. Similarly, you could find the same result by looking at the cell in the fourth row, first column, which is also "4."

Tips and warnings

  • Ties can occur often in round robin tournaments so be sure you have set in place the tiebreaking procedures before the tournament starts.

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