Tournament Rematches and the Decider's Match Curse
The Decider Match curse, something we hear uttered in most tournaments as the casters hype up the incoming series between two players who have already faced off in the group stage. This rematch has defined tournaments for a number of players. But I wanted to know if the curse was real, do players who meet in the decider's match really see a twist in fortunes as the loser of the first match wins the rematch?
To begin I decided to focus on just Premier tournaments since that gives us still a huge sample of series. Looking at this I put the data into three categories:
1. Rematches that happen in different phases. So think when two players meet in the group stage and then meet again in the bracket stage or when they meet in the winners bracket but then again in the losers braket.
2. Rematches that take place outside the round of (Ro) 32. This may seem odd, to segment groups that consist of the Ro32/16 but exclude data from earlier rounds. When I started this research I actually included them all together but quickly found out that was a bad idea. When we get to the data I will explain more but I'll say this, those earlier rounds generally feature a much larger gap in player talent which leads to more predictable results.
3. Rematches that take place in the group stages. These are matches where the players had met before and then meet later in a different stage. A few examples would be two players meeting in the top bracket and then meeting again in the finals or loser bracket. Or when players meet in one group stage and meet again in another group or bracket.
I won't explain this much more, let us dive right in and take a look at the data. This is from the launch in 2010 until January 2018 and looks at Premier tournaments. So here we go:
|Outside Ro32 Deciders Matches||Ro16/32 Decider Matches||Out of Group Rematches|
|Previous Winner Win %||74.8%||52.4%||68.3%|
|Previous Loser Win %||25.2%||47.6%||31.7%|
The first takeaway is that rematches in the early stages of tournaments usually results in a pounding and the main reason for that is tournaments that feature rounds of 64 or 128 or larger generally feature massive gaps in player skill and talent. Think early stages of a MLG or DreamHack where you great WCS caliber players against local players. That delta in ability is why we see such a repeat winner. We see that shift in later rounds, by the time you get to group stages for 16 or 32 players the caliber of players is usually much closer in skill. Generally the weaker players are weeded out and the players are closer. This is why we see a near perfect split in the rematch. This may not seem like a big deal but keep this in mind that entering the decider match the previous winners had a 100% win rate and to see that drop 47.6% is astounding. There is a logical reason for this as the Decider match features the loser of the Winner match and the winner of the Loser match, that means the loser of the Winner match is facing a player who had already struggled and lost a series combined with not having played you yet.
Now if we look at rematches that take place outside of a group it seems to split the difference. The previous winner still remains at an advantage, they were good enough win the previous meet up, but it has fallen off. This could be due to an increased number of games (going from a best of 3 to a best of 5 for example), study by the player (Polt had an incredible 63.4% rematch win rate against a player that beat him earlier in a tournament) or just luck (maps, build order wins, etc).
Overall while I'm not sure the Decider Match Curse is real but there is a clear point to note, you are better off facing a new opponent in the Decider match than one you have already played. Now the more competitive the tournament is the more often the previous loser wins, GSL features the most brutal Decider Match Curse with the previous loser winning over 50% of the time in the round of 16 groups.
Whether it is mental or not, it seems like the Decider Match still remains one of the deadlier places to run into someone you've squared off against recently, so watch your back.