On the Importance of the Backup Teams

General note: the reason this is in the General Forum instead of Rules/Strategy is greater exposure.

I’ve been noticing a few comments about backup teams simply packing up before the end of the eliminations, so I wanted to bring this up to the light. What the above rule says is that any of the top 8 unchosen teams could be called onto any of the alliances in the elimination tournament, at any time.

The importance of this cannot be underestimated. It’s the difference between going 2v3, or even 1v3, and an even match. It could mean the regional win or loss to the teams in the final round.

At the end of the qualification rounds, up to 8 teams are told not to pack up yet. I know; I’ve done some of that telling myself, as an inspector. (Team is packing up their robot, or starting to. I walk up. “Hey, guys, where are you going? The inspectors want to see you. There’s a chance you can still win this event.” [explanation of backup]) You see, we have to inspect the backup teams, too. Usually, about 4 teams are placed on standby; sometimes fewer (Arizona had 2 this year–one had already reinspected when we called the top 10 at about 10:30).

You get your robot reinspected, go to queue, and sit around and wait. And wait. If the folks running the event are smart, there should be no more than 4 teams kept waiting at the beginning of the semis, and 2 at the beginning of the finals. They know who’s next on the list–remember, highest-seeded backup available is picked if a backup is needed.

And you wait some more. It’s time for the finals, and you decide there’s no chance anybody’s going to be picked from the pool. You’re the highest team on the list, but you decide to pack up. When you get back out to watch the last couple of matches, you notice that the team next to you in the pool is out on the field. Ooops.

This actually happened in Arizona this year. Remember, 2 teams were held out. The higher seed took a nap–I remember them being there during the semis. The lower seed simply waited somewhere around the area. Between the finals matches, Alliance #2 (down by a match) opted to use their backup coupon. The higher seed was nowhere to be found. Practice field? Nope. Queue? Nope. Skip it, the #2 on the list is here, this OK with the alliance? Yep. Hey, guys, get ready to roll, you’re on in a couple of minutes! OK, so they didn’t get the win, but the difference between being an also-ran and a finalist is huge, even in the FRC competition.

Here’s another example, this one from 2007. 330 and 696 were in San Diego, paired with another team (1216, I think), in the finals. The other team was having some major issue that they couldn’t fix in a timeout. 330 called in the backup (835) for the final match. 835’s defense was a key component to the match–and regional–win. One match, and they went from mid-pack to winners. (Incidentally, TBA’s data on this is wrong. I was there, so I can say that.)

If you’re the backup, stick around a while. Stay close to your robot, and the field, until either it’s over, or you’re told that you’re too low on the list to go farther. If you even think you’ll be near that list, get reinspected early–the inspectors hate long lines too. Remember, there’s the chance of a trip to the BIG Dance in Atlanta waiting for you–if you don’t miss the call.

Excellent point.

Week 1 in Oregon, Team 1510 (seeded #12 after qualifications and highest on the backup list) was called upon for match 3 of QF3. They’re a veteran team and they were queued up, but that also says a lot about the field crew in Portland and Seattle… always very well organized. They consistently tell the backup teams to be at the ready.

This is also what happened in Troy last year. 3095 was picked by 67 and 217. After one QF match, their robot breaks down. In the heat of competition the super alliance uses the backup, which was team 3119. That alliance goes on to win Troy.

Just shows how important being ready as a backup is.

I am convinced that we won a regional due to the excellent play of our backup partner, Team 2265. They entered play when our third partner broke a wheel.
If 2265 had packed up, things would have been very different for our entire alliance.

I also noticed something that might be very important once a team gets to Einstein regarding backup robots.

if a robot is incapability of operating on Einstein, the Division Champion’s backup robot is… the alliance caption of the finalist alliance!

obviously, the alliance with he backup robot would be upgraded and have a advantage on the opposing alliance

222, 1218, 488
217, 68, 399
111, 67, 1717
1507, 121, 1918
That’s how the alliances would have looked with a backup robot instead of the third pick.

I just hope FIRST fixes this situation, that way Backup robots are just that, backup robots. Not Stragitical upgrades that can win a championship.

I thought Einstein backup robots were randomly drafted from the Finalist alliance. For example, 217 may have gotten 399, 188, or 329 to take 247’s spot.

Not every alliance you proposed there would be an upgrade. 2753 could outscore 488, while 399 didn’t play 247’s role as effectively (as it scored more points, but 247’s drivers played different d)

Backup teams are a great idea to keep things fair and moving along. FIRST brings extra awards and medals, just in case a backup is part of the Finalist or Winning alliance. I like that broken robots are not forgotten

Wisconsin this year had two backup coupons used. one in Semis, and one in Finals. In this particular case, both alliances with backups lost their matches, but they played hard and did well.

This hasn’t been the rule since 2006. We figured this out too late to take advantage of it. The rule was changed following that season to be the random draft of a finalist for the exact reason you mentioned.

Very well-said and I agree that backup teams need to take their responsibilities more seriously. When 134 experienced communication troubles in the VCU semis last week, the alliance captain tried to use the backup coupon, but him and the field team gave up when they were unable to locate the top five teams on the list.

I can almost understand the 7th and 8th teams packing up, but the top five?

Really? In 2007 we (the Alliance captian of the finalists on Curie) had to stay on the floor of the Georgia dome to the be the backup bot while our two alliance partners went to pack up.

You’re off by a year. 2006 still used the highest seed backup. 2007 used the division finalist alliance captain. 2008 and later used a randomly selected member of the division finalist alliance.

The backup we found for them was the 5th highest seed available, and they were in the process of packing up as well. The alliance captain from 339 chose to let 134 play after finding out who the available replacement was, but we can only imagine what would have happened if the correct backup teams were available.

Just to add further on this note: At Wisconsin the highest seeded backup (number left out) actually packed up and left, so we had to go to the number #2 and 3 seeded backup robot. Great post Eric!

It was the rule in 2006 but not widely known. After we (Gallileo Champs) were eliminated by the Newton alliance we were informed that Winnovation (#1 seed, finalist alliance captain) was our backup bot and was staged to join us if necessary. It was added to the rules the following year to make it clear after our discussions at the Championship of not knowing the rule.

That’s not what the rules said… (although I don’t doubt that is what actually happened).

8.4.4 Backup Teams - Championship Event Divisional Playoffs
For the purposes of illustration, assume that the three teams on any alliance going into Divisional
Playoffs are A, B, C. The Highest Seeded team in that division NOT on one of the 8 alliances is Team
If at any point during the Divisional Playoffs, one of alliance teams A, B or C can’t go on and the
alliance captain decides to bring up Team D to replace said robot (for this example, we’ll use team C),
Team C (the replaced robot) may not play in any subsequent Divisional Playoff matches. Einstein Playoffs
IF the above alliance wins their division and moves on to the Einstein Playoffs, at that point the
alliance can move Team C back into play in place of Team D, making Team D the backup again.
In this case, if this alliance wins the Einstein Playoffs, the Grand Champions would be teams A, B, C,
and D.
If Team C is not able to be repaired and teams A, B, and D play and win the Einstein Playoffs, the
Grand Champions would be teams A, B, C, and D.
If Team C is not able to get repaired and if one of team A, B or D gets damaged in the Einstein
Playoffs, thus creating a need for a third robot, then the alliance may bring up Team E (the highest
remaining seeded team from their division, which did not participate in the Divisional Playoffs) to
replace the damaged robot.
In this case, if the alliance with Team E wins the Einstein Playoffs, the Grand Champions will be
teams A, B, C, D, and E.
In any case, once a replacement robot is used in the Einstein Playoffs, none of the teams who sat out a
match can come back into play.

Like I said, we were surprised when we were told after the fact, because we thought we would get the robot described in your post. That team was told to pack up after the division finished.


Kyle the FTAA from the Virginia regional has already mentioned what happened with the back up teams at VCU. We at first had thought of packing up and were the last team to get re-inspected that I know of, but decided to keep the robot out and wait.We started out 7th on the list and by the time the final rounds came up so many of the other back ups had packed up we were told we were then 4th.We were never needed. Had we been called we would have gone. We did’nt start to pack until the next to last final match. We decided that by then if we were not needed we probably would’nt have been called anyway. (I can’t recall who the three teams were who were ahead of us.)We were also a back up in Atlanta in 2005 in the Curie finals and although robots went down and others were called we were still 3 away from being called when the finals were over.

Same thing, except we were the finalist alliance captain from Newton in 2007. Like Joe said, I believe this changed in 2008.

Wasn’t sure wether to make this a new topic or add it to this thread which discussed the issue a bit.

Potential Problem:

This was our teams first time being a division finalist. After losing in the division finals our team was asked to stick around as a potential backup for Einstein. I was a bit shocked when I realized how the rules for backup team selection on Einstein were so different from the division rules.

9.6.2 Championship Backup Teams
If an ALLIANCE has not previously brought in a BACKUP TEAM, and a ROBOT becomes disabled during the Championship Playoffs and can not continue, the ALLIANCE may request a BACKUP TEAM. The ALLIANCE CAPTAIN will be presented the option of having one of the three lead Division Finalist TEAMS, chosen randomly, from their division join the ALLIANCE as a BACKUP TEAM.

Does anyone else find this backup system a bit weird? In the division if a robot breaks you get a robot that everyone passed on. One that you could have picked but chose not to. On Einstein if a robot breaks you have a 2 out of 3 chance of having one of the best robots from your division, and assuming that you are the 1 alliance even the #23 robot could be better than the #24 robot selected with their 3rd pick.

Robot robustness is something that every championship alliance should strive for. It is a lot of matches in a very short amount of time. Having a robot fail is normally a bad thing. Why is their a potential benefit for having your worst robot on your alliance fail? Surely no one would intentionally damage a robot for a backup upgrade, but that potential exploit exists in this system.

I did find some discussion of this issue on a closed thread from 2007.

Here is a specific post that highlights the issue.

and “If an alliance decided it was in their best interest, they could make a robot very inoperable very quickly.”

Possible Solution:

This is one of several reasons why I would like to champion the idea suggested by Dustin “TheFro” Benedict.

“Also, I’d like to see FIRST institute 4 team alliances for the Championship. I don’t think adding an extra round of selections would be so detrimental to the schedule that it’d be impossible, and I believe it would bring an entirely new dimension to Eliminations if an Alliance can switch a team out at random. This also allows alliance members to fix their robots and miss a match, without being penalized with not being able to play for the rest of the tournament.”

Apparently a system like this has existed with FIRST in the past. Our team is too young to have any personal experience with it though.

I’ve got some ideas on how to validate the 4th member of the alliance earning their share of the Championship.

“I would add that the division winners cannot take their 4th robot to Einstein unless they played them in at least one game during the division elimination rounds… No other subs will be offered for failed robots.

Any team taking a 4th robot to Einstein must play them in at least 1 game to win the world championship. This would mean that in the Einstein finals the winner of the first match would have to sub in their 4th robot if they have not played them previously on Einstein. If that happens to make them lose then their opponents would be forced into a similar situation if they have not played their 4th robot earlier. This would include a robot that broke in division play.”

**So, anybody else up for a modification to how we do the championship? ** It already has different rules than a regular regional. I’m hoping this idea would make it even better.

I don’t know how many people knew about it, but the Hot alliance was having serious issues during the finals.

On Newton, in the second match of the finals against us, 294 stopped functioning and it was game over for the #1 alliance in that match.

DURING the finals, if you were watching carefully, you would have seen team members from our team (1718), 16, and 343 sprinting for bumpers, batteries, and other things behind the curtains. None of us had packed up and all of the 3 teams were told to be ready to go on the field because of continued red-alliance issues (I heard it was watchdog issues but I can’t say for sure because I didn’t see it with my own eyes).

I would have felt horrible had they had to run one of us. 343 had some mechanical issues in elims, 16 had kicker cable issues, and our motors were so hot after 7 consecutive matches that the robot was barely turning. I would have loved to be on einstein, but frankly I don’t think the red alliance would have won with one of us - we didn’t have the chemistry they had developed through the elims.

If we had been called on, they would have randomly selected one of the three teams from our alliance.