In order to enter, each team must submit an entry fee of 1,000 dragons. The high price of this fee means that many teams tend to be partly or wholly sponsored by larger organizations (such as guilds) or noble families (particularly families who have interests in mercenary companies). However, sponsors are not mandatory for entry provided a team is capable of funding their own entry.
Teams must contain a minimum of four and a maximum of six members, and must provide a group name upon registration. Should a team contain magic users, those combatants are required to declare their abilities to the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors upon registration. They do not need to extrapolate on their abilities, but those who fail to declare are disqualified from the tournament if the omission is discovered.
The tournament’s first stage is designed to showcase participants’ endurance, resource allocation, and ability to strategize in a war of attrition and lasts a period of five days, running from the 21st to the 25th of Ches.
In it, teams fight previously-unknown adversaries (eg. captured monsters or constructs created for the event) in a series of encounters over the course of a single day. On the first day, teams face three encounters. On the second day, they face five. Though teams rest between each of their fights (during which the other teams will fight), the encounters scale in difficulty with each fight.
During the preliminary stage, teams earn points during each fight. 25 points are always awarded for successfully clearing an encounter. More may be awarded by a trio of judges who oversee the matches—typically for clever tactics or group synergy—and the audience can also ensure teams are granted extra points for showmanship and popularity with the crowd.
This means, therefore, that a group does not have to clear all encounters to proceed. They simply need to earn more points than their competitors through a combination of clearing encounters, impressing the judges, and wooing the audience.
At the end of the tournament’s first stage, the eight teams with the highest number of points proceed to the second stage.
The second stage of the Queen’s Gambit commences on the 27th of Ches and runs for another five days, culminating in the final match on the 1st of Tarsakh, the day of the Queen’s Gambit.
Unlike the first stage, which is points-based, the second stage is an elimination tournament. However, the point totals from Stage One directly impact the standings of the top four teams from the previous stage.
In Round One, the bottom four point earners are paired off against one another in single-elimination matches where the victorious teams proceed to Round Two.
The third and fourth highest point earners from before, meanwhile, are guaranteed places in Round Two and do not fight in the first round. Instead, each is paired off against the two round one victors. The teams once again fight in single-elimination matches, and the two victorious teams once more proceed.
The top two highest point earners from Stage One are guaranteed a spot in Round Three and do not fight until this round. In Round Three, each is paired off against the Round Two victors.
Unlike previous rounds, matches from Round Three onwards are double elimination matches. Meaning, teams must lose twice in order to be barred from future rounds. The winners of each fight proceed to Round Four, and the two losing teams then fight against one another. The loser of that fight is removed from the runnings, while the winner goes on to Round Four.
Round Four is the semi-finals. The two victorious teams from Round Three are pitted against each other, with the victor proceeding to the final round. The loser, meanwhile, must then fight the other single-loss team that proceeded from Round Three, and the victorious team proceeds to the final round.