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Optimal Seedings in Elimination Tournaments

  • Groh, Christian
  • Moldovanu, Benny
  • Sela, Aner
  • Sunde, Uwe

We study an elimination tournament with heterogenous contestants whose ability is common-knowledge. Each pair-wise match is modeled as an all-pay auction where the winner gets the right to compete at the next round. Equilibrium efforts are in mixed strategies, yielding rather complex play dynamics: the endogenous win probabilities in each match depend on the outcome of other matches through the identity of the expected opponent in the next round. The designer can seed the competitors according to their ranks. For tournaments with four players we find optimal seedings with respect to three different criteria: 1) maximization of total effort in the tournament; 2) maximization of the probability of a final among the two top ranked teams; 3) maximization of the win probability for the top player. In addition, we find the seedings ensuring that higher ranked players have a higher probability to win the tournament. Finally, we compare the theoretical predictions with data from NCAA basketball tournaments.

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Paper provided by Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich in its series Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems with number 140.

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Date of creation: Jul 2003
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Handle: RePEc:trf:wpaper:140
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  1. Rosen, Sherwin, 1986. "Prizes and Incentives in Elimination Tournaments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 701-15, September.
  2. Arye L. Hillman & John G. Riley, 1989. "Politically Contestable Rents And Transfers," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 17-39, 03.
  3. Baye, M.R. & Kovenock, D. & De Vries, C., 1992. "The All-Pay Auction with Complete Information," Papers 8-92-1, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  4. Gradstein, Mark & Konrad, Kai A, 1999. "Orchestrating Rent Seeking Contests," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(458), pages 536-45, October.
  5. Klaassen, Franc J. G. M. & Magnus, Jan R., 2003. "Forecasting the winner of a tennis match," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 148(2), pages 257-267, July.
  6. Warneryd, Karl, 1998. "Distributional conflict and jurisdictional organization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 435-450, September.
  7. Amegashie, J Atsu, 1999. " The Design of Rent-Seeking Competitions: Committees, Preliminary and Final Contests," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 99(1-2), pages 63-76, April.
  8. Konrad, Kai A., 2004. "Bidding in hierarchies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(6), pages 1301-1308, December.
  9. Clark, Derek J & Riis, Christian, 1998. "Competition over More Than One Prize," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 276-89, March.
  10. Klumpp, Tilman & Polborn, Mattias K., 2006. "Primaries and the New Hampshire Effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1073-1114, August.
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