Running a Zendo Tournament

We’ve run several Zendo tournaments. They have been double elimination tournaments, now with a timer, and increasing difficultly of rules each round. Each table has either three or four students. We only use masters who do not also play.

Double Elimination

Everyone starts in the “winners” group. Randomly break players into sets of three or four, preferably three, and run a different rule at each table. If there are not enough masters, just have a set of students wait for the first available table. After each game is done, the losers are moved into the “losers” group and the winners stay in the winners group. Join the players in the winners group against each other, borrowing players from the losers group if needed so that there are three players in each game, and join players in the losers group against each other. After this second round, players who were in the losers group that lost are eliminated, and any that were in the winners group that lose are moved to the losers group. Continue such rounds until there is only one player left.

Rule Difficulty

We start with rules at about difficultly level 3 and then raise it by one level each round, stopping at about difficulty 7. Difficulty 8 and 9 rules just make the tournament last too long. We print out the rules ahead of time and stick them to Zendo blanks, which probably can be purchased from Looney Labs for Rabbit Points. Masters get to pick which rules they want to run.

You will need one rule per player. The math just works out that way.

Timed Games

Each table has a G8 Timer so that we can have 15 minutes of time per player. This means that each player has 15 minutes for thinking and building koans and taking guesses. Once Mondo is called, or a guess is official, the timer is paused. If a player runs out of time, they lose, which means that if nobody gets the rule, they could all lose. We have an unofficial timer for a Mondo of about 20 seconds, and failing to make a Mondo guess in that time means that you may not earn a stone for it.

Master Mistakes

As the official rules state, if the master makes a mistake by mismarking a koan that is not caught immediately, or the master misunderstands a guess and makes a koan to disprove it that does not disprove it, then any player can and probably should demand that the game be scraped and restarted with a new rule. It’s also embarrassing.

Feel free to ask me other questions about how to run a successful tournament, and make sure to tell us how yours went.