Double Elimination Bracket – Esports Tournaments Guide

by Fabio

The Double Elimination bracket is a great format to create a fun and engaging tournament for your viewers. It makes for exciting storylines and gives teams a chance to prove themselves even after losing a match. Here at Bitspawn, we want to provide you with all the resources you need in order to create and execute a great esports tournament. This is why we constantly update you with useful information on all the different facets of esports tournament hosting. In this guide, you will learn how and when to use the Double Elimination bracket in your own competitions on Bitspawn!

double elimination bracket from The International 2019 (from
Double Elimination bracket from The International 2019 (

How Does Double Elimination work?

A Double Elimination bracket is comprised of two sides, the Upper Bracket and the Lower Bracket. The upper portion resembles a typical Single Elimination bracket, where the match winners play against each other progressively, until there is eventual winner. The losing teams land in the lower part. Here, they face off against each other in a similar fashion. If a team loses a match, they are out of the tournament. If a team wins, they will get the chance to play against the next set of losers from the Upper Bracket. The Lower bracket is a lifeline, of sorts, for the teams that were defeated and are now looking to redeem themselves.

Finally, the winner of the Upper Bracket Finals faces off against the winner of the Lower Bracket Finals. In this match, the eventual tournament winner is crowned. So far so easy, right? Some organizers like to expand this tournament format even further. At Dota 2’s The International, for instance, the first set of matches of the Lower Bracket are entirely comprised of teams that didn’t make it during the Group Stage. They get yet another chance to prove themselves at the event, although they are immediately at a disadvantage. 

The Double Elimination bracket is especially popular in the Dota 2 space. Many fans and players just prefer to see the teams getting a second chance in the events. However, not every organizer likes the format and employs it. In CS:GO and League of Legends, for instance, you will rarely ever see Double Elimination during a playoffs stage.

Why Double Elimination Can Be Better Than GSL/Single Elimination

One of the biggest complaints about CS:GO Majors of all time is that the playoffs bracket is only Single-Elimination. This gives teams just one small chance to advance in the tournament and every small mistake will be punished to the extreme. Some prefer this, as it makes for understandably intense storylines. 

But it also cuts short on one of the most interesting aspects in competitive play – the redemption arc. It’s just so exciting to watch a team fail and then climb all the way back to the top. Consider the playoffs of The International 2012, where Invictus Gaming and Natus Vincere faced off in the semi-finals of the upper bracket. After a decisive victory on the first map, Invictus unfortunately fell on the following two. In a CS:GO Major, they would have been out of the event. At TI 2012, however, they began a sweep through the lower bracket. They beat EHOME, Team DK and LGD in the process. 

Still of Invictus Gaming players after winning The International 2012 (from Flickr)
Invictus Gaming after winning The International 2012 (Dota 2 TI Flickr)

When they finally advanced to the Grand Finals, they had to face Natus Vincere once again. Their previous encounter and the fact that Invictus Gaming had to fight back through the lower bracket made it ever more exciting when they finally succeeded over Na’Vi and hoisted the trophy. This goes to show how much the Double Elimination format can add to an event. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s useful and applicable to every tournament.

Read this: The Most Exciting Dota 2 Games Ever Played

When Should You Consider Another Format?

Let’s just quickly get one thing out of the way. Structurally, a GSL bracket is just a 4 team Double Elimination bracket with a different name. You have the upper portion, the lower portion and the point at which both parts meet. The only difference is that in a GSL Group, the winning side of the Upper Bracket Finals advances and doesn’t have to fight the lower bracket team again. 

If you blow the format up into, let’s say, an 8 team Double Elimination bracket, you get a total of 18 matches. With Single Elimination, that would only be 7 matches. Whether that’s a good thing for you depends on how much time you want to allocate to the event and how much you want to broadcast per day. A CS:GO Major nowadays takes four days to get through the playoffs and crown the champion, with two matches each day (apart from the Grand Finals day). The International 2019’s Double Elimination playoffs took six days to complete, with roughly three matches per day. 

Esports tournaments live off of excitement and suspense. The Double Elimination bracket is certainly a great asset in creating the storylines necessary for that. What it comes down to is your personal preference and the amount of time you’re willing to spend on your tournament. 

No matter what format you decide on – Bitspawn is your resource for creating and hosting esports tournaments. We provide you with an accessible platform to start your event. Players can easily join, win prizes and display their skill to the world. It’s a win-win-situation for all. Register on Bitspawn and start your esports tournament journey today!

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