Photo courtesy of Evan Fitzgerald.

While playing at the Mirakelkubb tournament in Waregem, Belgium on Sept. 7, 2016, I learned an interesting way to shorten games when time limits are used. In the United States, our current method is to stop the game after the team that has control finishes their turn and then count baseline kubbs. The team with the most kubbs knocked down gets the victory or a partial win. In a tournament using the Klassic system you are given two thirds of a point, while the losing team receives one third of a point.

Shortly before the Mirakelkubb tournament started, I was chatting with Tournament Organizer Jonas Steelandt. He explained to me how they shorten a game that goes longer than 20 minutes, but still guarantees that the winner is determined by knocking down the king. I have to admit I was skeptical when I first heard it, but Jonas suggested I keep an open mind and let him know what I thought at the end of the tournament.

To my knowledge, the rule doesn’t have a name but it is currently being used by the majority of tournaments in Switzerland, Belgium, and some tournaments in Germany. I heard it referred to as the Swiss Model (not to be confused with the Swiss tournament format that the Klassic tournament system is based). For this article, I will refer to the set of rules as the Accelerated Kubb Match rules.

Accelerated Kubb Match Rules

  1. When a predetermined time is complete, the accelerated phase will begin after the team that is currently throwing completes their turn.
  2. A toss to the king (lag) determines which team will have the accelerated rules start on their turn.
  3. When the team that wins the toss starts their turn, a kubb will be removed (the kubb that is farthest from the center line) on their opponent’s side of the pitch after the kubb tossing phase. This kubb will be removed from the game.
  4. Each following round will continue to remove a kubb until the game is complete.

For example, let’s say that the Kubb Snipers are playing the Lumber Tumblers, and the Snipers currently have control of the batons. At the 20 minute mark of the match, a signal (like a horn or whistle) announces to all teams that haven’t finished their game that they are now using the accelerated finish.

The Snipers finish their throwing round and then both teams choose a player to perform a lag to the king like the opening lag to the game. The team that wins the lag will be the first to have an advantage. Let’s say the Lumber Tumblers won the lag and they have two kubbs still standing, while the Kubb Snipers have knocked down their entire row of baseline kubbs.

The Lumber Tumblers inkast their eight kubbs and the Kubb Snipers stand them up as normal. Since the Lumber Tumblers won the lag, they can remove the kubb that is farthest from the center line from the game. If there is a baseline standing, then that is chosen. The Lumber Tumblers choose a baseline and the Snipers remove it from the game permanently.

The Lumber Tumblers knock down all eight of the field kubbs and their one remaining baseline kubb in six batons. Now, the Kubb Snipers get to inkast the nine remaining kubbs. After the Tumblers stand the field kubbs up, the Kubb Snipers remove one the farthest field kubbs to be permanently removed from the game, and then proceed with their turn. In this case, the Snipers finish the game by knocking down all eight field kubbs, and topple the king.

Note that in this example, if the Kubb Snipers would have won the lag to the king, then the Tumblers would not have been able to remove a kubb on the turn after the whistle and the kubb elimination process would begin on the Kubb Snipers turn.

In three of our nine qualification games that day, we hit the 20 minute mark. During one game, we finished before we had to redo the king toss. In the other two games, we got into the acceleration phase. The rule seemed confusing at first, but I quickly understood the flow of it. The first thing I noticed was that the sense of urgency quickly escalated when the whistle blew. It made the king toss to determine who got to remove a kubb first very critical and therefore, more thrilling. You didn’t want to make a mistake and let the other team throw again, because just clearing your baseline was likely to not be enough to get another chance to play. The other advantage to this process was that I realized that there was no advantage to playing slow and causing the game to run out of time compared to our current system. Jonas asked me after the tournament what I thought about the system and I told him that I believe it was an improvement. I felt it was a lot more fun than I expected versus the hollow feeling of ending a game without a decisive winner.

My suggestion to all the clubs and skeptics about adopting this rule is to try it and see what they think. The first concern that I hear is that most games finish on time today. I believe that we will see more occurrences if more three-plus  player tournaments use the Klassic system, due to the slower play and reduced baton efficiency of larger teams that typically occurs. It may not happen a lot with the more competitive teams, but I can think of a lot of matches over the more than 60 tournaments that I have played or directed that have gone long (and some very long). I don’t advocate this being used in Championship matches, but I think it has a place in the round of 16 or even quarterfinals where a tournament organizer wants to make sure semi-finals and the finals aren’t delayed by a rogue match that goes 90 to 120 minutes long. We have seen where it takes over an hour to complete a second game at some tournaments that set a time limit on elimination games. Then there is some awkward tie-breaker, like a shootout, used to determine a winner. By limiting a game with the accelerated finish, it has the potential to be a better experience for the teams, fans, and tournament organizers.

Jonas said that as more teams and tournaments got used to the system, it is enjoyed more by the teams because a clear winner is determined. He told me it isn’t loved by the losing teams during games that go to the championship bracket and have a time limit, but neither is stopping the game and counting kubbs or determining the winner by a shootout. There are several reasons why directors need to limit the elimination games (lighting, limits to facility usage by the location, long day of kubb for players and organizers, etc). For those cases where a limit needs to be applied, please use the comments below for any suggestions on how you think tournaments should handle the best two out of three matches that go long.

I realize that some are still skeptical of this process, but I suggest you take the advice that Jonas gave to me, and let me know what you think after you experience using it.


Updated June 23, 2017: The article originally stated that any kubb could be chosen for removal. This was incorrect as it should be the kubb furthest from the center line. It has been updated to reflect this.