Comparing different Boulder scoring methods

EDITORIAL

22 November 2021

Here is a quick comparison of the current Bouldering scoring with Tops/Zones, the newly suggested IFSC 100 point system and the 11 point system I presented to an IFSC working group in Munich in 2017. The comparison is based on evaluating the three criteria; Understandable, Fair and Countback.

Understandable: How easy is it for the spectators and the commentators to follow and analyse the score? The best example describing how hard it is to understand the current scoring system is that in most events the commentators misunderstand and actually mislead the audience. On the contrary, when it comes to the 11 point system, it is super simple to do the maths as you only add 1, 3, 10 or 11 points together. In the IFSC 100 point system, you might end up in a situation where some of us need a calculator, i.e. 55 + 25 and 35 + 25 etc

Fair: In the current system, Tops always beats zones. In the 11 point system, in theory, 1 Top and 0 zones could be beaten by getting 8 zones. I think this is an interesting twist which some actually would think is fairer. I mean, if you just get one Top and do not reach even the lower zones on the remaining three problem, I think it is fair that a climber that possibly touches the top on all four problems could be ranked higher. In any case, in the suggested IFSC 100 point system, there is a much bigger risk/chance that zones win over Tops.

Countback: Today, if two climbers have done the same number of Tops and zones, we use the number of attempts to the Tops/zones as a tie-breaker. This is happening often as in practice there are just 25 different scoring possibilities. When it comes to the 100 point system, the risk for ties are even higher as there are just 18 different scoring possibilities. This can be compared with 40 different scoring possibilities for the 11 point system.

It should be mentioned that there are several other scoring possibilities and in practice, it is all about trade-offs. As an example, we could add 10.2 points for topping on the second go. This would mean that the 11 point system would be less understandable but at the same time, we would need fewer countbacks. On the other hand, we could decide to give two points for the second zone. This would make the system a bit more understandable, Tops would always beat zones but there would be many more ties, demanding countback. In practice, it is all about defining and giving weight to the three criteria and then applying different maths.

In order to create a Combined point system for the Olympics, we could instead work on a max score of 50 points in each discipline. This would mean giving 12.5 points for a flash instead of 11 points. This would possibly make it a bit less understandable but on the other hand, such a system would significantly reduce the risk for countback and many would say such a system would also be fairer.

It is also important for me to say that my counterpart developing the different point systems has been Reino Horak, team manager in Norway. As a matter of a fact, he will try the 11 point system in one of their comps in December. This comp will also include a new format with more climbers rotating allowing more climbers taking part in the final, just like in the suggested IFSC 100 point system.

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