Would there be any reason, on your own volition, to intentionally fail to get an RP (or even throw a match)?

I’m not saying you should be thinking of how to get around this particular situation, but you should definitely consider ranking points and the way the ranking system works in your design process.

Sandbagging in any sport is frowned upon and I don’t think reflect the values of FIRST. There are even rules against it mentioned above but of course enforcement is tougher. When we win a match where the opposing alliance robot disconnects or something like that I always get a lot less excited. Sure we won, but why celebrate if you didn’t win against the alliance at their best?


There’s a stark difference between understanding how the ranking system works and thinking of underhanded ways to manipulate the rankings.

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I have seen highly esteemed teams appear to do this, as recently as last year and as long ago as 2009, but that does not mean it is not very wrong. I don’t subscribe to win at all costs; I have to sleep at night.

You could, but why? If I were Team B, I would accept the first alliance’s pick every time, especially if I snuck into 8th place and would otherwise have to face them in quarters.

I think the author of the OP is trying to understand the purpose of the rule, not strategizing about how he can use it. It’s a “Why would anyone ever want to do that?” sort of question.

The answer is generally that it is extremely rare that such a strategy would be a good idea for a team, but just in case it happens to be one of those rare situations, that tactic is outlawed, because it would be a kind of scummy thing to do. Here’s another situation where it could be to a team’s advantage to throw a ranking point.

Team 9746 is in first place, with a three point lead, going into the last qualifying match. Team 9234 is in second place. Team 9087 is in third place, one point behind team 9234. Team 9746 and team 9087 (the 1st and 3rd place teams), are “friends”. i.e. they’ve worked together before. Their coaches know each other. They have complementary robots…whatever. They have met and agreed that if team 9746 has the opportunity to pick team 9087, they will do so.

In the last match, team 9234 and team 9807 are on the same alliance. A glance at the score sheet indicates that if team 9234 scores three points, they will be tied with the first place team and the tiebreakers wil fall to 9234, making them the number 1 seed, dropping 9746 into second place. At that point, team 9234 could pick the third place team and those teams, who had agreed to ally with each other if possible, could not be on an alliance together. (Because a team who declines an invitation cannot accept a later invitation. They can only form their own alliance.) So, it is in the best interest of team 9087 (the current third place team), to score two points by winning the match, but to not score any bonus ranking points.

Such a tactic would be considered unethical, so it is prohibited.

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By the rules you are allowed to do whatever you want because you’re not letting a team convince you to lose. I agree it’s not professional but as I read the rules it is legal

Following up on this, here is a graph of each team’s win probability versus their end of quals rank:

Full post here.

Summary is that I don’t see good evidence of a “serpentine valley” using this methodology. Much deeper investigation would probably be needed to prove such a thing is real and large enough to be measurable.

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The short answer is that often times qualification matches do a poor job at seeding. If the 2 best robots in the regional are seeded 2nd and 14th and those two robots face each other in the final match, then the 14th seeded alliance has a huge incentive to let the 2nd seed alliance win. In that case the 2nd alliance may become the first alliance, pick the 14th seeded team, and the two best teams go on to win the regional.

If the 14th alliance wins their last match maybe they move up to 12th, but there are no outcomes where they get paired with the other “best” robot in the regional. Now neither team is the favorite to win it all.

This is very much against the rules and the spirit of the game. If you truly want to be paired up with the other “best robot” the correct strategy is to design a robot that seeds high enough to do so.

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All you need to do to get to pick your first alliance partner from a clear field is to have a strategy of getting the first seed? :sunglasses: I wonder why only one team per event uses this strategy? :thinking:

Seriously, if you throw the match on your own drive for strategic purposes that benefit your own team, it’s not against the rules. Doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself on some DNP lists for it.

Any game will create some incentive for some team to throw a match. Perhaps a team wants to fall farther in the serpentine draft by looking less reliable than they are. Perhaps they don’t want to give a loss to someone they want captaining an alliance with them. Maybe the RP they would earn would cause an alliance partner to seed higher than a team they would rather be picked by.

Intentionally sabotaging an alliance’s chances of winning is unethical. Everyone needs to work together to achieve the objectives of the alliance, which is usually to maximize seeding points in qualification matches. As quals go on and only a couple of teams are left in the hunt for the top seed, some alliance members may not care so much about the match results. But as long as somebody does, every team owes it to their alliance to try as hard as they can. Anything less is shortchanging your partners.


Not exactly what OP was about, but 2 RP > 1 RP. If you’re in a very close matchup and can score significantly faster on the cargo ship than on the rocket ship, by all means give up the rocket ship, and win the match instead. No need to get greedy and try and get the rocket RP along with the win.

The goal should always to do the best for this particular match. If you can get 3 RP for your current alliance, instead of just 2 you should do so. Sandbagging is evil and non GP. So is trying to fix the ranking for your benefit.

However, life is not so black and white. If getting said points or RP carries an significant risk of damaging your ROBOT, and you are likely factoring that into the decision making. In Elims we are all about “drive it like you stole it” as its win or be eliminated. The problem is that nursing a sick ROBOT through quals may look like sandbagging to an outside observer.

Let’s tone things down a notch please

I don’t see anything worth toning down in that specific quoted portion of his statement. The Chief Delphi community and FIRST community as a whole should make it loud and clear that sandbagging is not acceptable behavior.

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I entirely agree with keeping CD civil and not using any profanity, attacking or tearing down anybody. However, I will happily go on the record in stating both I personally and our team are firmly in the sandbagging is evil, inappropriate and non GP camp. While it is not exactly spelled out in C3 & C4, it is against the intent and we are not going to play that way. If you would prefer, replace “evil” with “cheating your alliance, dishonorable, unsportmanlike”.

A team sandbags to alter their ranking, manipulate the rankings of teams they are playing with, or to deceive others to their true potential. To be clear this is completely different than an alliance collectively deciding to “coast” after it is obvious they are going to win a match.

When in a picking position we choose not to work with teams we believe behave in such a manner. Without getting all preachy, we view FRC as being about much more than just winning, and require our students to make decisions accordingly. I believe that the vast majority of teams do the same.


“Unsportsmanlike” is how I would describe this behavior. I agree we should strongly discourage anyone from doing this.

However, my personal definition of “evil” is a solid 2 or 3 levels above “unsportsmanlike”, which makes it a little jarring for me to hear it used in this context. I just feel like it’s not particularly more beneficial to use “evil” over “unsportsmanlike” and it also unnecessarily dilutes the word.

Also keep in mind that it is often difficult to tell who is intentionally sandbagging and who just had a bad match or two. The teams who are best at sandbagging are also probably the ones who aren’t on other teams’ DNP lists.


Do we really need to? Is there anything controversial about that statement?

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I’m curious if many of the newer folks here (OP?) reviewed any of the past discussions of this topic lately? “Search” is your friend.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
After a certain point dropping more bombs only makes the rubble bounce.

If anyone new to this multi-year debate is interested, there are well organized, passionate arguments in those previous discussions. They will make good(ish) reading.

Spoiler alert: No one point of view carried the day here on CD, and FIRST HQ’s opinion is codified in the rules.


PS: The rules are the rules. Opinions about ethics, spirit, scum, evil, GP, dishonor, whatever, are opinions; and can become insults if they are wielded like facts, instead of as opinions.

I recommend devising and carrying out legal (obey the rules) strategies that maximize your chances to obtain your desired long- and short-term outcomes.