This section describes how tournaments work.


Although most fencing tournaments have a similar structure, they may differ in the details. Here we are describing GHSFL tournaments.

Individual Tournaments

All GHSFL tournaments except the Team Championship and some scrimmages are individual tournaments (each fencer competes as an individual). The following is a brief summary of how an individual tournament is scored. For more details, follow the links in the summary, or go to the Scoring section.

These tournaments consist of two rounds:

Round 1: Pools

Fencers are divided into pools with either 6 or 7 fencers in each pool, or sometime 5 or 6 fencers in each pool.  The fencers’ initial seeding is used to make each pool be of about the same strength.  As far as possible, fencers from the same school are spread evenly across the pools.

Each fencer fences one bout against every other fencer in the pool. If the pool includes two fencers from the same school, they will usually fence each other before fencing someone from another school. This means that at the start of the pool round it is usual to see fencers from the same school fencing each other.

  • In a pool of 5 fencers there will be a total of 10 bouts.
  • In a pool of 6 fencers there will be a total of 15 bouts.
  • In a pool of 7 fencers there will be a total of 21 bouts.


Each pool bout consists of one 3-minute period. The winner is the first fencer to score five touches.

  • If the score is 4-4 and there is a double-touch, the score remains at 4-4.
  • If a fencer scores 5 touches before the 3-minute period ends, that fencer is the winner. The score is recorded as V5-D3, D2-V5, etc. (“V” for victory, “D” for defeat).
  • If time expires before either fencer has 5 touches, the winner is the fencer who has more touches.
  • If the score is tied when time expires, the referee tosses a coin to see which fencer has “priority”. The fencers fence one 1-minute “sudden death” period and the first fencer to score a touch that is not a double-touch is the winner.
  • If there is a double-touch during this extra period, the score does not advance and the fencers restart from where they were (rather than returning to the en garde lines).
  • If the score is still tied at the end of the extra period, the fencer with “priority” is the winner. In this case, the winner is not awarded an extra touch, so the score is recorded as V4-D4, V3-D3, V2-D2, etc.


At the end of the pool round, the fencers are asked to check the score sheet and sign it to show they agree with it. The pool results are tabulated and used to decide the seeding for the second round. The top 80% of the fencers advance to the second round.

Round 2: Direct Elimination

The Direct Elimination round (also known as “DEs”) is a standard single-elimination bracket arranged to make sure the higher seeds do not meet until late in the round. The bracket will normally begin with a table of 32, 64 or 128 fencers. If there are not exactly 32, 64 or 128 fencers in the round, the higher seeds will get a bye in the first bout.

Direct Elimination bouts consist of three 3-minute periods with a 1-minute break between periods. The winner is the first fencer to score 15 touches. In a similar way to a pool bout, if the score is tied at the end of the third period, there is a 1-minute “sudden death” period with priority.  Fencers are allowed a break of at least 10 minutes between bouts.

There is a “non-combativity” rule that applies in Direct Elimination bouts. If no touch is scored after a minute of fencing, or if the fencers remain too far apart to be able to score for about 15 seconds, then they are considered to not be trying to score. In that case, the referee will call halt and the bout advances immediately to the next period (there is no one minute break). If non-combativity occurs in the third period, the referee tosses a coin to decide which fencer has priority and the fencers fence one final minute. This is not “sudden death”, the entire minute is fenced. If the score is tied at the end of that minute, the fencer with priority is the winner.

Final Results

The finalists take 1st and 2nd place and the losing semi-finalists are both awarded third place. Fencers who lose in the table of 8 are awarded 5th to 8th place; the one with the highest seed following the pools gets 5th, the next highest gets 6th, etc. Similarly, fencers who lose in the table of 16 are awarded 9th to 16th place, and so on. Fencers who did not advance to the second round are ranked after those who did, and in the order of their seeding from pools.

Team Tournaments

The Team Championship and some scrimmages are team tournaments which consist of a series of team matches between teams of three or four fencers.

Team tournaments often do not have a round of pools, but go straight into Direct Elimination.

For information about the format of the Team Championship, see Points and championships – how they work


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