NAQT places a specific requirement on the tournament formats used at Sectional Championship Tournaments (SCTs), Community College Sectional Championship Tournaments (CC SCTs), and its own national championships: the result of a single playoff game cannot be used to eliminate a team from achieving a higher final position if the losing team originally had a better win-loss record. The result of two games, however, can.
This policy does not apply to local tournaments other than SCTs, CC SCTs, and national championships.
By “single game,” and “two games,” NAQT refers to specific playoffs or finals matches whose participants are chosen by their overall records in a round-robin (or similar) phase of the tournament. This policy is not meant to state that if two teams finish a double round robin (for example) 12–2 that one may be declared the champion by being 2–0 against the other; that is in violation of the NAQT tiebreaker policy. In that case there would need to be a one-game playoff between the two.
This policy, in particular, forbids most versions of single-elimination formats, both for the tournament as a whole and for the playoffs.
The rule does not forbid the fact that, in retrospect, the tournament “hinged” on a single game. For instance, if 14 teams play a full round-robin and one finishes 13–0 and one finishes 12–1, the undefeated team may be awarded the title even though it’s true that flipping the result of a single game would alter the results. What would be prohibited would be having a one-game final between the two top teams since the 12–1 team could win the title in one game despite its opponent originally having a better record.
If a final playoff is desired, NAQT recommends an “advantaged final” (a best-of-three final with the undefeated team considered to have already won the first game). This would be allowed even if the second-place team were 11–3—it could win the tournament with a (worse) 13–3 record by defeating the 13–0 team twice (leaving it 13–2).
In situations with two teams competing for a single spot, NAQT recommends a single-game playoff if the teams have the same record, or a best two-of-three playoff if one team has a better record giving the superior team a one-game advantage (thus no more than two games would need to be played).
It is the hosts’ responsibility to consider whether or not potential tournament formats (and particularly playoff formats) could violate this precept. Formats may be submitted to NAQT for vetting at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If a tournament uses a format that is strongly dependent on strength-of-schedule factors (such as most power-matching formulas) so that rankings are not primarily determined by won-lost records, this policy applies in the amended form that one game cannot allow a team with a worse “power score” (as defined for the tournament) to eliminate a team from entering a higher bracket or achieving a higher final position, but the result of two games can.