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This article is about the competitive tournament scene. For the in-game mode, see Tourney (disambiguation).
Spectators at the Let's Make Big Moves Ultimate tournament hosted by Even Matchup Gaming in January 2020.

A tournament, or tourney for short, is a competition involving a group of players designed to produce an overall skill ranking of the involved players, typically by arranging them into a structured bracket where players engage in individual matches to raise or lower their ranking.

The Super Smash Bros. series has seen a large devoted competitive community since Matt Deezie established the fundamentals of competitive Smash with the Tournament Go series in April 2002 with Super Smash Bros. Melee. The game had an active tournament scene in the years following its release, being featured at both grassroots tournaments and events run by Major League Gaming and other large e-sports groups. After entering a recession following the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, the Melee scene eventually rebounded, and began an explosive growth in popularity in 2013, fueled by the success of EVO 2013 and the documentary, The Smash Brothers. Although it was released on the retired GameCube platform, Melee remains extremely popular among competitive players, with a large and thriving tournament presence far exceeding that of the pre-Brawl days; these players prefer the older iteration due to its faster and more combo-oriented gameplay compared to newer Smash titles.

Brawl also had a large tournament scene for its first five years, though most former Melee players disliked its slower gameplay, and even following its release, a sizeable number of players continued to stick with the faster-paced and combo-oriented gameplay of Melee. Although Brawl developed its own vibrant tournament scene after its release, beginning in 2013, the Brawl scene began a steady decline, following the explosion in popularity of Melee attributed to EVO 2013, the imminent release of Smash 4, and the rise of Project M; since the release of Super Smash Bros. 4, Brawl currently maintains a small tournament presence. While few players play the game at a serious level, several large Smash tournaments, such as Super Smash Con, have featured the game and attracted a sizeable amount of entrants, who generally enter the event in addition to or Melee or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (and formerly Smash 4).

When it was the newest Smash game, Smash 4 was overall more successful than Brawl was in competitive play, due in part to the game removing or modifying many of Brawl's criticized and unpopular gameplay mechanics such as its notably powerful hitstun cancelling, and having faster and more competitively-suited gameplay. Smash 4's tournament scene took off immediately upon its release, due to availability of well-developed streaming technology, social networking, and other tournament infrastructure, in addition to an already-existing Brawl fanbase that eagerly moved onto the newer game. Like Melee, the title has been featured prominently in large fighting game tournaments such as EVO; it has also attracted casual players into the competitive Smash scene to a much greater extent than any of the previous Smash games. However, the competitive scene for the game has all but disappeared as players moved onto Ultimate.

In a similar vein to Smash 4, Ultimate's competitive scene exploded in popularity, with many people, including Melee players, praising the game's mechanics, both returning and new. The speed and pacing has also been substantially increased, and changes to mechanics such as air dodging and perfect shielding allow Ultimate to be better-suited for competitive play in the eyes of many smashers. The growth in the scene was also unprecedented, and by the end of the first month, there were many tournaments that had a higher attendance than the highest-attended Smash 4 tournament in the same time period. Currently, the scene is still young and growing; however, its popularity has not decreased in the slightest.

Competitive Smash 64 has maintained a small following since the release of Melee. Despite being the oldest Smash game with the least character diversity, it still has an active and dedicated playerbase, with many players having played the game for many years. In addition to the traditional in-person tournaments, more recent play has also taken place over the Internet through services like Kaillera.

Project M, a Brawl mod featuring design and gameplay like that of Melee's, has also seen a number of tournaments dedicated to it. Beginning in 2013, the game saw a rapid rise in popularity and was increasingly featured at Smash tournaments, including supermajors such as Apex 2014. Initially restricted to a side-event at many tournaments, Project M later developed its own unique tournament scene, with some tournaments being devoted almost solely to the game. However, since Project M is not endorsed by Nintendo, many major e-sports organizations and large grassroots tournaments have refused to include the game in their lineups, and many streaming groups also refuse to stream PM tournaments altogether, due to fears of legal issues over the mod. Although these blows have caused the game to lose some ground to Melee, Ultimate, and formerly Smash 4, it is still supported by a vibrant and active community of players and tournaments, and it is still commonly featured at smaller majors and at side events at larger majors.

Locations and sizes[edit]

"Major tournament" redirects here. For a list of major tournaments, see List of major tournaments.

Tournaments are held regularly in many regions all over the world, with the largest community centered in the United States, which has not only the largest and generally most talented playerbase, but also the largest tournaments, such as GENESIS and EVO, which attract competition from all over the world (a feat other regions have yet to achieve). Canada, northern and western Europe (in particular the Scandinavian countries), Australia and Japan have large Smash communities as well. Smaller communities exist in Latin America and elsewhere. Major areas of tournament activity in the United States are centered around Northern California, Southern California, the Maryland/Virginia area, the Tristate Area, and Florida, though most states enjoy an active tournament calendar year round.

Various terms exist for describing the size, frequency, and intent of a tournament. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Smashfest: A smaller event, often without an entry fee, and more friendly than competitive in nature. Smashfests often feature several different games and allow players to compete with each other in a more casual manner.
  • STD: "Smash 'Til Dawn", An overnight tournament or smashfest where the goal is to keep playing until the sun rises (or later). Smash the Record is a very large example of this.
  • Weekly/Biweekly/Triweekly/Monthly: Repeating tournaments, usually in the same venue. Usually feature a regular group of players each iteration. Depending on size as well as player strength, certain monthly events can also be classified as Regional Tournaments if not larger (such as Mayhem in California and the monthly Smash 4 events at Xanadu)
  • Circuit event: Part of a regional circuit of tournaments, such as the 2GG Championship Series, Smash World Tour, or Panda Cup. Winners are usually given points based on their placings, and the top point earners on the leaderboards are invited to a finale tournament, or an overall points winner at the end of the season is given some sort of prize.
  • Invitational: A short list of players are invited to the tournament to compete, instead of registration being open to anyone. Players can be invited in a variety of ways: being directly invited by the tournament organizers, qualifying for the tournament by achieving a top placement in a predetermined tournament or a Last Chance Qualifier tournament, or voted in through crowdfunding. Invitationals will often have a large prize pool in place of being generated by entry fees. Smash Summit tournaments are the most prominent example of this.
  • Regional tournament: A large tournament that draws significant attendance from its hosting region, as well as attracts attendance from neighboring regions. On most global rankings, regional tournaments are tiered as C-tier. Especially stacked regionals that attract significant attendance from outside the hosting region, and have multiple top players in attendance, are referred to as "superregionals", and are often tiered as B-tiers on most global rankings.
  • Major tournament or national tournament: A larger tournament that draws an extraordinary amount of attendance from the broader region as a whole. In North America, these tournaments attract players from across the United States and Canada, while European majors feature smashers from across the continent. Majors can draw attendance from different continents; for example, European and Japanese players often fly in to large American tournaments. Most global rankings tier majors as A-tiers.
  • Supermajor: The most prestigious tournaments in the Smash scene, featuring a huge amount of the best players from around the world. Supermajors are considered to be the most important gatherings for players in the scene, and attract the most viewership and publicity, not only from within the Smash community, but also from the larger fighting game and esports communities. Examples of current Smash-centered supermajor series include GENESIS, Super Smash Con, The Big House, and Shine; many tournaments held by larger fighting game organizations, such as CEO, have also become supermajors in the Smash community. EVO, MLG, Apex, and Pound have previously been recognized as supermajor series. Tournaments can also be labeled as supermajors based on the extreme level of player talent; for example, in Melee, Get On My Level 2016, as well as Smash Summits and other invitationals, are often considered "supermajors" due to the fact that so many top 20 players attended, despite having fewer entrants than the other tournament series listed. Most global rankings tier supermajors as S-tiers, with some rankings tiering particularly large supermajors as P-tiers.

Prices and fees[edit]

Most tournaments require an entry fee from participants to play. These prices vary by region and tournament size, and differ for each type of event being entered; a typical entry fee amount for smaller tournaments is $5, while larger tournaments run $10, with it being uncommon even for the largest supermajors to have an entry fee over $10. Entry fees go into a "pot" for an event and are awarded to the winners of that event in pre-announced amounts, usually a percentage of the pot (for example a common payout split at small tournaments is 60% for first, 30% for second, and 10% for third, though the exact splits and how deep the payouts go vary greatly across tournaments). Tournament directors will usually charge an extra amount, commonly referred to as a venue fee, to help pay for the costs to use the venue, equipment, paying others for various tourney-related services, and for their own time. Venue fees usually cost between $5 to $10, though larger tournaments will frequently charge more, especially for nationals that last multiple days, where venue fees can run potentially up to the $100+ range. Often TOs will offer discounts on the venue fee for doing things that help run the tourney, such as supplying a setup and volunteering to help the TO, and larger tournaments will often charge a lower venue fee to players that pre-register early, while charging a higher venue fee to those who register late.

Legal issues involving the exchange of money[edit]

Some public venues like schools and places of worship consider gaming tournaments a form of gambling and ban it as such. All tournament directors are encouraged to check with potential venues to make sure they are tolerant of players paying to enter. Several well-known tournaments have had to cancel events when a public official discovered that money was changing hands between players at the event.

Smash Bros. tournaments are often thought to be illegal in Iowa under §725.7 of the Iowa Code, which states that it is unlawful for any one to "participate in a game for any sum of money or other property of any value" other than those outlined in subsection 2.[1] However, nobody is known to have been arrested due to participating in an esports tournament. There have been several attempts to pass legislation to explicitly legalize fantasy sports in the state, which may have implications for esports as well.[2][3] House Bill 165, introduced to the Iowa House of Representatives in January 2015 attempts to create a definition for "Bona Fide Contests", that among other additions, would legalize paying tournaments for games “by player-directed movement with a video or electronic gaming device”.[4] The current law allows for video machine golf tournament games, but not necessarily any other type of video game.

Tournament formats[edit]

There are four bracket formats commonly used by modern Smash tournaments today: Double elimination, Round Robin, Pools, and Single Elimination. The exact details may vary between tournaments, and some may use a different format entirely, but these tournaments are few and far between.

Double elimination bracket[edit]

The winners' bracket portion of a double elimination event.
The losers' bracket, where a player is placed after losing in winners' bracket.

The double elimination format is by far the most common bracket type at tournaments. A double elimination bracket is derived from the single elimination format but is split into two sections, the winners' and losers' brackets (W and L for short). The W bracket is almost identical to a single elimination bracket; however, losing in the W bracket does not eliminate a player from the tournament. They instead drop into the L bracket at a position that reflects how far they advanced into the W bracket. Anyone who loses in the L bracket (their second loss of the event) is eliminated.

The first round of the L bracket pairs two players who just lost in the first round of the W bracket. The winner of this set then plays a player who drops from the second round of W bracket due to a loss there; the player is placed in the bracket at the letter/number corresponding to the set in W bracket where they lost. (In the images at right, Champ lost at W-A and dropped into L-A.) Further L bracket rounds alternate between these two set setups: two players who survived earlier L bracket rounds play, and the winner of that faces someone dropping from W bracket.

There are three sets in a double-elimination bracket that are of special importance to participants:

  • Winners' Bracket Finals: occurs between two players who advance to the last set in W bracket without losing. The winner of this set is guaranteed at least a second place finish, while the loser will at worst finish third. The set in W bracket marked "C" is the winners finals set in the first image at right.
  • Losers' Bracket Finals: the loser of the winners' bracket finals plays against the one player to advance through all the L bracket rounds. The loser of this set is awarded third place overall. The set labeled "C" in the second image at right is the losers' bracket finals.
  • Championship Set (aka Grand Finals): the end-all set of the event. The winner of this set gets first place, the loser second. The wrinkle in this is that the player from the losers' bracket must win two consecutive sets to win the championship as opposed to the winners' bracket player only requiring one – this is due to the "players are eliminated upon losing two sets" philosophy and has the side effect of discouraging players from intentionally dropping a tough set to fall into the presumed-easier losers' bracket.

These three sets usually require a greater number of individual games to be played before determining a winner. Standard tournament rules have most sets being a set of "best two of three", while the three sets above are often sets of "best three of five".

Every player is guaranteed at least two sets in a double elimination bracket, making it a popular alternative to the single elimination format. The format also affords a player the chance to make a comeback after losing once in W bracket, as well as provide a greater difference in placing, to aid with ranking players' tournament performance.

The size of a double elimination bracket is determined in the same fashion as a single elimination bracket. Half the remaining players are eliminated every two rounds of the L bracket. The total number of sets for an n-size bracket is equal to 2(n−1); thus, a double elimination bracket takes exactly twice as long to complete as a single elimination bracket (assuming the bracket is not reset).

Placements guide[edit]

The following is the list of placements and which stage and round the player was eliminated. # refers to the maximum number of players who may share the placement. EVO uses a similar model for their events. This list is accurate for tournaments using double-elimination throughout, and lower placements would be inaccurate for tournaments using round robin pools or divisions, for example.

Place Eliminated in # Round of
1st N/A 1 N/A
2nd Grand finals 1 Top 2
3rd Losers finals 1 Top 3
4th Losers semi-finals 1 Top 4
5th Losers quarter-finals 2 Top 6
7th Losers eighths 2 Top 8
9th 5 rounds before Grand Finals 4 Top 12
13th 6 rounds before Grand Finals 4 Top 16
17th 7 rounds before Grand Finals 8 Top 24
25th 8 rounds before Grand Finals 8 Top 32
33rd 9 rounds before Grand Finals 16 Top 48
49th 10 rounds before Grand Finals 16 Top 64
65th 11 rounds before Grand Finals 32 Top 96
97th 12 rounds before Grand Finals 32 Top 128
129th 13 rounds before Grand Finals 64 Top 192
193rd 14 rounds before Grand Finals 64 Top 256
257th 15 rounds before Grand Finals 128 Top 384
385th 16 rounds before Grand Finals 128 Top 512
513th 17 rounds before Grand Finals 256 Top 768
769th 18 rounds before Grand Finals 256 Top 1,024
1,025th 19 rounds before Grand Finals 512 Top 1,536
1,537th 20 rounds before Grand Finals 512 Top 2,048
2,049th 21 rounds before Grand Finals 1,024 Top 3,072
3,073rd 22 rounds before Grand Finals 1,024 Top 4,096
4,097th 23 rounds before Grand Finals 2,048 Top 6,144
6,145th 24 rounds before Grand Finals 2,048 Top 8,192

Round Robin[edit]

Round Robin is a tournament format where every player in the tournament plays every single other player. There are no brackets and no eliminations; everyone keeps playing until every matchup has been played.


  • They are perfectly fair, as every player plays the same people, thus preventing players from having an easier or more difficult tournament progression than other players (which is highly probable in a bracket type tournament, due to issues such as faulty seeding or being placed against players who play characters that counter theirs).
  • Seeding does not matter, and as such, TOs do not have to spend time creating a bracket while making sure it's seeded properly and balanced, thus allowing the tournament to start sooner.
  • They are optimally accurate, as they give the maximum amount of information to base placings on.
  • They provide the most amount of games played, spread equally among all players.
  • Relating to the point above, they are especially useful in creating more matches and a longer tournament in the event of small turnout, thus allowing small tournaments to feel larger.


  • Round Robins take an infeasible amount of time to complete for more than a dozen or so players. The number of games that must be played increases quadratically as more players are added, meaning that Round Robins can only be used for small gatherings. For x players, the number of matches required is x(x−1)/2. To illustrate this problem, if a 256-person Round Robin was done, it would take approximately 6 days of consecutive around-the-clock smashing.
A 5-way tie in a 5-person round robin tournament.
  • One rare but potential danger to Round Robin tournaments is the possibility of a tie. Round Robins are not assured to have a clearly cut winner like brackets do. For example, let there be 3 players, A, B, and C. A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A. Then A, B, and C all beat everyone else in the tournament. A, B, and C are then each in a three-way tie for first place. This principle is not limited to 3 players, though; it is completely possible that everyone in the entire tournament ties for first and last simultaneously.
  • Bracket manipulation is much more probable in a Round Robin, as it's significantly more feasible for a higher level player to afford intentionally losing a match or two to friends to boost their placing, while not harming their own placing.
  • "Meaningless matches" will occur, when players are mathematically eliminated from a money placing, or in the case of Round Robin pools, mathematically eliminated from advancing to the next round of pools or bracket, before finishing all their matches. All remaining matches of theirs become "meaningless", as the match outcome will have no impact on their capability to win money or secure a spot to advance farther in the tournament. As a result, these players may not care about their remaining matches if they do not care enough about bolstering their final placing, and either drop out (thus automatically forfeiting all remaining matches), or play their remaining matches with half-hearted effort (thus lose matches they would win otherwise). This in turn will inflate the placings of other players they were set to play after being knocked out of contention by essentially giving them "free wins", potentially disrupting the tournament by allowing an undeserving player to win money or advance over a better player, and overall undermining the advantages a round robin brings. Even in the case where no player's placing gets unfairly inflated in a tournament by this, players are generally less enthusiastic about playing "meaningless matches" than bracket matches with clear progression on the line.
  • The lack of a clear Finals set can hurt spectatorship, as those sets are typically the mostly highly viewed sets during tournament streams, and lacking a clear Finals set can make the tournament feel less conclusive for both players and spectators, especially if one player wins enough to secure first place before all sets are played. To alleviate this issue however, tournaments may instead have the two highest ranking players in the Round Robin play one more set at the end against each other to determine the winner, and can even emulate a Grand Finals set by requiring the second place player to win two sets to win the tournament. Alternatively, the Round Robin may be split into two separate groups to begin with, where then the highest finishing player of the two groups face off in a Finals set at the end.


Pools contain a subset of an entrant field, also informally known as "groups". Using this mechanism, players are split into appropriately-sized pools and do a "mini-tournament" with other participants in their pool using the pre-announced pool format, with the most common format pre-2013 being round-robin to yield perfectly accurate results and to give less skilled players more tournament matches, while post-2013 bracket pools have become predominant, as the explosion in the size of Smash tournaments necessitated a format that was more practical for the much larger tournaments. In round-robin pools, after all matches have finished, players are either seeded or eliminated in their pool based on their performance. Pools are usually used to narrow a large entrant field into a smaller subset for double elimination bracket play or for another round of pools, though they are occasionally just used to seed players in bracket without elimination. Examples of this method are:

  • In a tournament with 160 participants, the Tournament Organizer might arrange it so that there are 32 pools of 5 players, and then the top 2 players of each pool would make the 64-man bracket.
  • In a tournament with 48 participants, the Tournament Organizer might arrange it so that there are 8 pools of 6 players, and then the top 4 players of each pool would make the 32-man bracket.
  • In a tournament with 224 participants, the Tournament Organizer might arrange it so that there are 32 pools of 7 players, and then the top 2 players of each pool would make the 64-man bracket.

In sufficiently large tournaments, 2 or more rounds of pools would be adequate to useful. Examples are:

  • Apex 2012 Brawl singles – 400 participants
    • 80 pools of 5, top 2 players of each pool advanced to a second round of pools, yielding 160 participants.
    • 32 pools of 5, top 2 players of each pool advanced to the 64-man bracket.
  • Zero Challenge 2 – 192 participants
    • 32 pools of 6, top 3 players of each pool advanced to a second round of pools, yielding 96 participants.
    • 16 pools of 6, top 4 players of each pool advanced to the 64-man bracket.

Pools are usually only employed at large tournaments. N number of entrants are split into P number of pools, and the top Y finishers in each pool are either placed into a second round of pools or seeded into a double elimination bracket, which proceeds normally. The number of entrants for the subsequent round or bracket is P × Y. Placing well in a pool gives a player a better position in a bracket or the next round of pools, giving extra incentive to strive for the top pool positions. Tournaments using round-robin pools will result in a significantly larger amount of games being played than without them. There are a total of B(B−1)/2 sets per pool, with B players per pool. Thus a round of round-robin pools with N participants total requires a grand total of N(B−1)/2 sets.

Bracket pools differ by employing the usual double-elimination format in pools, where pools essentially become mini-brackets where a certain amount of top placing players (typically between the top 2 to top 4) feed into a final bracket or farther bracket pools. Usually a player that enters the loser bracket in bracket pools will remain in losers for the rest of their tourney run, with advancing to the final bracket or next round of pools not resetting their position to the winner side, so everyone can still only lose twice before being eliminated at most tourneys that run bracket pools, though occasionally tourneys running bracket pools may have a players reset back onto the winner's side upon advancing, such as at Apex 2013. Compared to round-robin pools, bracket pools lose the advantage of guaranteeing weaker players more than two sets, but they take considerably less time and effort to run, making them considerably more practical for large tournaments. Additionally, while a tournament with bracket pools may not seem to differ functionally from a normal double-elimination bracket, employing bracket pools makes large tournaments far easier to organize and run than just running a large normal double-elimination bracket would be.

Swiss system[edit]

The Swiss System, as used heavily in the professional chess world, guarantees each player the same number of matches and attempts to match players against others of similar skill throughout the tournament. Swiss system tournaments are rare in the Smash community due to their complexity and the large number of matches they create.

Players are assigned matches in the first round either randomly or based on some method of seeding (an attempt to rank players in order of skill before the tournament starts). Winning this set gives a player 1 "point", and losing does not give any points. Each successive round involves pairing two players with the same number of points (attempting to avoid repeat matchups), playing out those matches, assigning points, and repeating for the next round. Swiss systems generally run until only a single person has no losses; this will occur after R rounds, where R is the base-2 logarithm of the total number of entrants, rounded upwards. Swiss brackets are sometimes run for a pre-determined number of rounds, with the winner being the person with the most points overall.

The Swiss format can also be run in pools instead of the traditional bracket and round-robin formats, such as was done at Smash 'N' Splash 5 and Ludwig Smash Invitational. Though like with running Swiss format tournaments, this format is rarely used in pools due to its complexity and large amount of matches created.

Single elimination bracket[edit]

An eight-player single elimination bracket. First-round matches are on the left.

Single elimination tournaments are the least common of the four formats for Super Smash Bros. and video games in general. Despite this, tournaments sometimes use them for side events like crew battles to save time. Despite single elimination's flaws, Japanese Smash 64 tournaments often use the single elimination format, even in large, national tournaments. Some early Melee tournaments used single elimination.

In a single elimination bracket, players are arranged into a hierarchical structure where matches are played between two entrants; the winner advances to play another player the next round, and the loser is eliminated from the tournament. The player who wins the very last match of the bracket, after all other entrants have been eliminated, is the winner of the event, and the person who loses the final match finishes in second place. Most sports tournaments (like the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship) use a single elimination format.

Single elimination brackets are often described in terms of the number of entrants playing in the bracket. Because half the remaining players are eliminated during each round of the bracket, the total number of rounds is based on the base-2 logarithm of the entrant count (rounded upwards). A three-round bracket is used for 8 players, four rounds for 9 to 16 players, five rounds for 17 to 32 players, and so on. A bracket's size is usually defined as the smallest power of two that is greater than or equal to the number of entrants. Thus, a bracket with 47 entrants is referred to as a 64-man bracket, because 64 is the smallest power of two which is greater than 47. The size of the bracket also reflects the total number of matches throughout the entire bracket: for an n-size bracket, n-1 matches must be played in total.

Byes are used to fill positions in the bracket when the number of entrants is not a power of two. Any player facing a bye automatically advances to the next round. Byes are usually given to the top seeds in the bracket.

Single elimination brackets are rarely used at Smash tournaments for multiple reasons. One such reason players dislike single elimination is that half the players are eliminated having only played a single match (and every player overall gets to play significantly fewer matches). Another reason is that just having one bad match or encountering one bad matchup can result in a premature elimination for a player that would have placed better otherwise, thus giving less room for error, and overall less accuracy in the results. Single elimination also offers much less difference in placing, making them less useful for ranking players' performance.

Arcadian format[edit]

An Arcadian is a tournament format where all the ranked players from a specific region are banned from participating, therefore only allowing the unranked players to participate, giving the unranked players a chance at winning money and the glory of winning a tournament that they would typically have no realistic chance at. Arcadians still feature the same rulesets as other tournaments, however. Most Arcadians also disallow players from outside the tourney's region from participating, however TOs may screen out-of-region players to determine if they're eligible instead of banning OoR players wholesale. Arcadians may additionally have a clause to allow TOs to bar entry to any technically unranked player that would be deemed too good to enter, such as a player who was only unranked for failing to reach a PR's attendance requirement rather than from a lack of ability. Arcadians are most common at local and regional tournaments, and most regions periodically run Arcadians, typically once per a ranking season. Notably, 2GG: Breakthrough 2019 holds the record for the largest Arcadian tournament within the Smash series.

In-game Tournament Mode[edit]

Although each game since Melee has included a Tournament Mode for local play and Smash Ultimate features an online tournament mode, the in-game mode is rarely, if ever, used in actual competitive play, even to simply track or manage the tournament, due to a variety of limitations of the mode relative to the rather complex structures that serious tournaments require:

  • Tournament matches are played in a best of 3 or 5 format, while Tournament Mode only allows single-game sets.
  • Tournament matches allow players to use any character for any game in any match, while Tournament Mode forces players to remain a single character for the entire tournament.
  • Tournaments almost never use a single-elimination bracket, which is the only bracket type available in Tournament Mode.
  • Tournaments require their brackets to be properly seeded for reasonably accurate results, while Tournament Mode gives no control over seeding and forces a randomized bracket (outside of Ultimate.)
  • Tournaments rarely enforce a limit to the maximum number of players and can contain hundreds of participants, while Tournament Mode cannot handle more than a limited 64 (in Melee) or 32 (in Brawl and Ultimate)
  • Tournaments require multiple setups to be run efficiently, while Tournament Mode can only exist on a single setup.

For this reason, external tournament management systems are the norm in competitive play. The in-game tournament modes are more frequently used for casual play, as these limitations are less impactful on lower-stakes games played quickly between casual players of varying skill levels, and because the in-game tournament modes offer a variety of quality-of-life features, such as in-game bracket management, in-game button-mapping, and dynamic controller assignment, that would otherwise be tedious or difficult to manage for the casual player.


Due to the competitive nature of tournaments and the stakes involved with winning and losing, parties attempting to cheat is an inevitability. Cheating is defined as one or more individuals conspiring to break the agreed upon rules or finding loopholes in said rules to gain an unfair advantage or some other illicit benefit.

Cheating can take many forms, each varying in severity, subtlety, and goal. An obvious form of cheating is outright breaking the rules. This can include attempting to play in an environment outside of the typical structure without the consent of all other involved parties, intentionally performing actions that are explicitly banned, or hacking the game to play differently.

More subtle forms of cheating that reach a realm of ambiguity include intentionally playing worse than expected or convincing an opponent to play worse, often referred to as "sandbagging," as well as intentionally losing games to avoid certain players and having an overall easier time in a tournament, sometimes referred to as "match fixing" or "bracketology." While these do not necessarily break the rules, they are generally frowned upon and will lead to disciplinary action if proven to have occurred.

Cheating is usually punished if discovered, though not every situation is black and white. Not all cases of cheating are created equal, and punishments are often more or less severe because of it. Less consequential instances like pausing during a match may result in forfeiting a stock at most, while something more severe like fixing matches may result in disqualification from the tournament and a ban from all future events. There are also cases of genuine mistakes or "act of God" situations where no one party is at fault, which is usually dealt with on a case by case basis by the tournament organizer.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]