Tie breaks – a necessity or is there something better?

Tie breaks – a necessity or is there something better?

If you look back at our National Close now known as Malaysia Chess Championship, there has been many cases where there are joint National Champions (National Masters). However, organisers today prefer using tie-breaks to determine only one ultimate champion. In fact this year championships saw both the MEN and WOMEN section having 2 persons with the highest score and a tie break was used to determine the sole champion.



In chess, tie breaks are used to determine the winner in case of a tie at the end of a tournament or match. There are several tie break systems commonly used in different chess events. The specific tie break rules may vary depending on the tournament or match format, but I can provide you with an overview of some common tie break methods.

1) Direct Encounter: 

If two or more players are tied for first place, the tie can be broken by considering the results of their individual games against each other. The player with a better score in their direct encounters is declared the winner.


This tie break system takes into account the scores of the opponents a player has faced throughout the tournament. The players’ scores are weighted based on the performance of their opponents, giving more importance to wins against stronger opponents. The player with the highest Sonneborn-Berger score is declared the winner.

3) Buchholz: 

Similar to Sonneborn-Berger, the Buchholz system calculates the total score of a player’s opponents, but without considering the opponent’s performance. It simply sums up the scores of the opponents faced by each player. The player with the highest Buchholz score is declared the winner.

4) Performance Rating: 

This tie break method involves calculating the performance rating of each player based on their individual game results throughout the tournament. The performance rating is a measure of a player’s performance against their expected performance based on their opponents’ ratings. The player with the highest performance rating is declared the winner.

5) Rapid/Blitz Playoff: 

In some cases, when tie breaks are required, a rapid or blitz playoff may be conducted to determine the winner. The tied players play a mini-match or a series of games with faster time controls to determine the champion.

6) Shared champions:

It is possible for players to be declared co-champions if they finish with the same score at the end of a tournament. In such cases, there is no need for tie breaks, and both players are awarded the title or prize associated with the championship. Co-champions can occur in situations where multiple players have the same score and no clear tie break rules are in place or have failed to produce a decisive winner.

Of course, the specific tie break rules or the possibility of shared champions depend on the tournament or event regulations and the organizers’ decisions.

For me, I am partial to option no. 6. Tie-breaks seems unfair particularly when the players scored the same point and some technicality is given to the other fortunate player. Other than that, I prefer increasing the rounds to lessen the chances of players getting the same points at the top but of course this is rarely practical in a real tournament. Failing that, I want to have a play off between the two players who are tied.

So what about you? Which option do you prefer?

Back to top