Figuring out the math needed in order to Top 8 a Pro Tour, or any event, can be a tricky subject. As we enter the final rounds of Pro Tour-Amsterdam, I caught up with Patrick Chapin and Cedric Phillips to ask them about the types of records one can expect to have in order to play on Sunday at the Pro Tour. Here's how things broke down.
First, it's important to distinguish the fact that a 16 round Pro Tour, like Amsterdam, has different numbers than a 14 round tournament like many Pro Tours of yesteryear. As more players compete in the event, the likelihood a record hoping to squeak into the Top 8 on tiebreakers will make it decreases dramatically. That's important because with 457 participants, Amsterdam is the largest individual Pro Tour ever held.
For this weekend a 12-3-1 record (that's 12 wins, three losses, and one draw) should make it "every time" in Chapin's words. Occasionally a 12-4 record will make the cut, though that's more likely the fewer players there are in the event (Pro Tour-Austin had two such records play on Sunday while Pro Tour-Berlin had just one). With the Pro Tour featuring 16 rounds instead of 14, the Top 8 generally breaks now to seven players with clear cut records for the Top 8 and one lucky 8th place finisher who squeaks in ahead of a number of other players with the same record. This is a happier conclusion for more people compared to 14 round events which generally saw the 9th place finisher sitting on the same record as multiple members of the Top 8, but feeling badly about sitting out simply through a cruel twist of tiebreaker fate.
Of course, crazier records can make the cut to play on Sunday. A player who finishes with no losses will of course have a solid enough record to accomplish that though in the course of Pro Tour history only two players have ever finished the Swiss rounds with neither a draw nor a loss: Luis Scott-Vargas earlier this year at Pro Tour-San Diego and Ryan Fuller at Pro Tour-Tokyo. In fact, the maximum number of wins you need to make the Top 8 is 11, but in 16 rounds the remaining five matches you play would ALL need to be draws to get you there. Of course, an 11-0-5 record is pretty unheard of and memory doesn't serve up an incident in which such a record actually was accomplished and managed to Top 8.
One way to help visualize the records for making the Top 8 of the Pro Tour is to look at the tournaments as two 8-round events held back-to-back; simply take a record you'd need to Top 8 a single 8-round event, then double it and it SHOULD serve to get you into the Top 8 of the PT.
Finally, here is a numerical look at the records that could play on Sunday:
12-3-1 (may sometimes miss if the tournament has a high number of players)
12-4 (but only on tie breaks)
11-0-5 (again on tie breaks, numerically equivalent to 12-4)