Winning a Match vs. Winning Strategically

I would post this in You Make the Call, but it’s less of a rules topic and more of a strategic/ethical topic.

Going into the last matches of SVR on Saturday, we were ranked 18th or so, and thought that we wouldn’t be in a picking position come alliance selection. However, we thought we had a very good chance of being picked, as we had been approached by three separate teams about alliance selections.

We had won all our matches since losing our 2nd, 3rd and 4th (due to our shooter wheel untreading itself), and knew that if we played as well as we had been playing before, we stood a very good chance of beating 233 in our last match of the day, match 95. At that time, Pink was ranked second, but we knew that if we beat them as we were projected to, they would drop to 5th or 6th seed. However, if we didn’t win, they would stay as 2nd seed.

If Pink was ranked 2nd in alliance selections, they would have been in a position to break up any potential alliances within the top few seeds, including any between 971 and 1662. Even if they didn’t break up any alliances, as a fairly inconsistent team, they would have significantly weakened the 2nd alliance, and potentially opened up the finals for any even alliance that could shut down their partner. My team could have been on such an alliance, and had the potential to go to CMP in a wildcard slot (254-118 would have presumably still won, and opened up 2 slots for 2 finalist teams).

As coach, I was approached by another team’s coach and begged to win the match. I was honest with him that I considered not playing to win. We later ended up beating Pink 80-58, to end the tournament 7-3-0 and Pink’s 8-2-0. You can watch the match here.

What should we have done? Should we have played to win, or should we have allowed 233 to win the match in order to break up and weaken alliances in eliminations?

Never throw a match. Always play to win.

That’s the cliché answer. Please expand.

I agree, teams should always play to win. But the question here is what are you trying to win, individual matches or regionals? Based on the short scenario laid out here, it appears that by losing the match they would have been playing to win the regional, even if it meant losing the match.

And to further complicate things, they would have been playing for finals, for the wildcard, not actually winning.

What if the ranking system says not to? 2010 Curie Match 100

Exactly. Was 6v0 playing to win the regional/division, or throwing a match?

It’s not about playing to win just for your team. It’s about your team, your sponsors, your pride, but most of all- it’s about your alliance partners. If you play half-heartedly or completely throw a match, you’re hurting your alliance partners who want to win to improve their position, seeding, and to prove their robot’s abilities.
In your story, your alliance partner wanted you to play to win- not doing so would be a disservice to them.

If both your partners agreed that losing the match was the best course of action for all three teams- then I suppose this might not apply.

I seem to remember some badminton drama in the Olympics this past summer along exactly the same lines… Go out and play to win every match - anything else is against the spirit of competition. If some loophole in the rules makes it advantageous to lose, then there is a fault in the rules that should be corrected for the following year…

what was the purpose of that match being thrown exactly?

In that match, you had three of the highest seeds in the division (111/469 vs. 1114). Had 1114 attempted to beat 111/469, they would have had an extremely hard time doing it and the close loss would have helped 111/469 a great deal in rankings, thereby hurting 1114’s chances of being one of the top seeds. By playing against themselves, 1114 only hurt themselves a small amount in the rankings, instead of a great deal.

This was all due to the fact that seeding was solely based on the points scored in the match, and had nothing to do with the number of wins/losses you had.

It was a very weird and complicated seeding system with losers getting some amount of qualification points based off of the winner’s score. I don’t remember the exact metric, but that was the basis of the idea.

At Razorback, our team was somewhat in the same predicament. We were, after 11 qualification matches, ranked 11th and would have had a good chance of being dropped into the 8th seed captain. As those who attended Razorback know, our ranking was sheer luck. Fielding a purely defensive robot, we would not have survived as the 8th seed captain. For our last qualification match, winning it would have solidified our ranking. Losing it would have dropped us just far enough that we would have to get drafted and not be advanced up into a captain slot. I briefly tossed the idea around of a strategic loss, but the idea did not go over so well with the team. We played our hardest in that match and ended up losing anyways.

Personal opinion? Gaming the system is indeed a legitimate strategy. There’s two way to look at the competition. You can look at it match by match and win win win or you can look at the whole picture and pick strategic losses to bolster your standing elsewhere.

Interesting ethical dilemma. Worthy of discussion. Given the structure of the competition & other teams on your alliance, playing less than your best is at the very least against GP.

Another (hypothetical) scenario. Say the undefeated #1 seed is on your alliance. Another team comes to you & asks you to lose the match. Say it would make them move up in seeding. Maybe offers you an guaranteed pick to do so. Ethical?

The ability to fight for a finalist slot and get a wildcard have drastically altered the way teams think about eliminations in regionals, especially their last regional. Some teams may decide its more important to go to worlds than try to win the regional as a picked team.

I can only imagine what would have happened last year with the co-op points and levying to be a captain in the 2/3/6/7 bracket.

Just FYI, in this particular case, it was moot, because the 2nd ranked team, 1868 (my team :smiley: ) was also a weaker robot, (not hard, with all the incredible teams there) and broke up the other robots similarly to what 233 might have done anyways.

My 2¢: In defense of Thunder910, FIRST is not just a competition. It was set up for inspiration and to change the world. So playing the most honest way you can is entirely within that spirit, and will make you an inspiration in terms of the kind of team to look up to, even if not a regional winner–I hesitate to say winning robot, because in my opinion a robot that competently plays the game has already won against the challenges of build season and the game.

I disagree. Purposely throwing matches hurts your partners who expect you to perform your best.
If for some reason everyone on your alliance wants to throw the match (like 1114’s Qual Match 100 2010), then go ahead.
But if I was on your alliance, and you purposely threw the match, I would be unhappy. Very unhappy.

That is a tough call to make. I agree with always play to win. It is your, and your competition’s, obligation to try and win the match to the best of your abilities. If you aren’t, why would you play the match? However, in this situation I believe that everyone should be trying to win the regional and the best way to do that is showcase the best abilities of your robot.

For example, if there is a robot that wants to showcase their defense before eliminations, they should play defense. If your shooter was your strength, you should shoot. At that stage in the competition, I believe that your focus shifts from being win qualifying matches to winning the regional.

Although Pink would have lost some seeding positions from the loss, that is honestly their fault (as heartless as it seems) for not putting themselves in a higher position or being a better robot. I think that you guys ultimately did the right thing by showcasing your shooter and hanger and winning the match.

This case is different. Everyone on the blue alliance was helped in rankings because of that 6 v 0 matchup. It’s very hard to throw away a match unless your alliance partners are also helped by the match being thrown away. If you throw away a match for your own benefit over your alliance’s benefit, then this becomes an issue.

You mean something like unbalancing the Coopertition Bridge last year? This affected the rankings of all 6 teams, not just the winners or losers.

Is it ethical to take a bribe? Because that’s essentially what they’re offering by offering to pick you, for sure, if you do lose the match.

Let me be quite honest: Whether it’s winning the match or winning strategically, there is nothing against it in FRC rules. However, if you go into a match where you have to make that sort of choice, you darn well better make sure that your alliance partners are on board with the choice you make. If they are not on board, don’t go that way. Broken trust takes years or longer to repair.