The Tournament



Alex Scott


QITV for BBC One, 8 November 2021 to 28 October 2022 (55 episodes in 2 series)


The Tournament is played by eight contestants, each is in their separate nook around the rim of the studio. Alex is in the middle.

Alex Scott in the studio.

We go round the ring, and meet the players. Each states their name, location, occupation, and gives a reason why they're bound to win. "A battle cry", claims Alex. Already, The Tournament strikes a false note, trying to be harder and nastier than it actually is.

There's a quickfire opening round, eight multiple-choice questions. We see who got each question right and wrong, and how quickly they respond. These results form the leaderboard: most right answers at the top, ties broken by speed of response.

Matthew is the strongest link with six correct answers...

The top player on the leaderboard carries £500 into the next round. Next player has £350, then £300, £250, £200, £150, £100. The bottom-ranked player takes a mere £10 through.

Whoever's top of the board gets first choice of their opponent, and first choice of seven categories selected for the show. These categories are broad ones – "Natural World" or "Science and Technology".

Unexpected video game riff in the afternoons.

There's high drama as the players walk into their positions, all pounding drums and flashing lights. Before the show, the players had a test of their knowledge in various categories, and Alex uses this info to tell us who's expected to be better.

And after all this fluff, the head-to-head finally takes place. Give eight more correct answers than your opponent and you've won the game. Otherwise, whoever's ahead after two minutes is the winner. Still tied? They'll ask another question until a winner is found. All questions are on the buzzers, all questions can and should be interrupted. Questions can be handed over on an error.

The winner of each contest takes the money assigned to their opponent – so if you beat the £200 player, you add £200 to whatever you took into the round. If you complete the win inside two minutes – a "knockout" – there's a bonus £500 to be had. Alex always refers to it as a "cheeky" bonus.

Blue has 18 seconds to give two more correct answers and gain the bonus.

So there are four of these head-to-head contests, reducing the contenders to four. Whoever's got the most cash picks their opponent for the second round, and picks the subject from the three remaining. The semi-final format is exactly the same as the first round.

The final round involves the last two players, it's always general knowledge. Players are looking to win the money they've taken into the round, the total isn't added together. And, yes, all the main quiz rounds are exactly the same, two-minute tug of quizzes.

It is possible for someone to win the final by a knockout, eliminating their opponent in the two minutes. When this happens – and it's a rare achievement – a Golden Run happens. Three correct answers in 30 seconds to double the prize money.

Someone is absolutely certain to go away from every episode with a decent amount of money – a theoretical maximum of £5800, typically £1000-£1500.

A rare Golden Run in progress, all the contestant crannies are lit in gold.

The Tournament feels wrong, even though the show is perfectly fine. The show seems to encourage people to be nasty and objectionable. There are flashes of aggression, people give a little disrespect to their opponents. But, by and large, the players are pleasant and not at all obnoxious.

The Tournament has the atmosphere of a primetime programme played for lifechanging stakes, it wants to be bigger than a decent holiday on daytime BBC1.

Amounts of money for the second series were raised to £10, £50, £100, £250, £400, £600, £750 and £1,000.


Well... they've tried to cultivate some catchphrases, unfortunately they're all terrible:

"It's time for kick-off" (Because the host used to be a footballer, which apparently means everything has to be connected back to football - whether it makes sense or not. And it doesn't.)

"[Contestant], you are locked in" (For no apparent reason except that they've heard the phrase "locked in" used on other programmes and decided that's just what people say on quiz shows. Considering that the players spend most of the show in individual cubicles and only come out to play the head-to-heads, they could have turned this on its head and said selected players are "unlocked" which would have been much less hackneyed and fitted well with the video game-style graphics, and with the actual mechanics of the show. The change would cost nothing, they just had to apply a tiny bit of thought to it. But no...)

"Who is the favourite?" (Which would at least be specific to this game, but quickly becomes grating once you've seen a couple of episodes and realised that it DOES NOT MATTER and yet she's still going to go through this rigmarole every single time. Alex frequently follows "the favourite is" with "x, it's you", which is surely the fattiest possible way of revealing this. Come on, treat us to "x, it's y" once in a while if you have to do that.)

While it hardly counts as a catchphrase, another linguistic mess that will constantly irritate you once you've noticed it (and yes, that means we're about to ruin yet another bit of the show for you) is the way Alex introduces every head-to-head as "Alice vee Bob" while the graphics say "Alice VS Bob". Come on, either have the host say "versus" or change the graphics to match what she does say.


Devised by James Rawson, Dan Schreiber, Simon Urwin

Theme music

Music composed by Stefano Civetta


The first television format for QITV, a production house spun out of the very successful show QI.

The first series aired at 2.15, except on Fridays, when it aired at 1.45 due to Doctors not being on air due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buoyed by the success of Bridge of Lies, the second series was upgraded to the 4.30 slot, before Pointless. Its first episode was postponed from 19 to 20 September 2022 by the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Because The Tournament rolls contestants from one episode to the next (winning contestant is replaced, everyone is replaced after two episodes, episode 25's contestants did not appear in series two), they have to air episodes in order, and got back on track by airing its fiftieth episode on Saturday 22 October at 3.45.

Web links

BBC programme page

See also

Weaver's Week review

Not to be confused with one-off jousting re-creation Tournament.


To correct something on this page or post an addition, please complete this form and press "Send":
If you are asking us a question, please read our contact us page and FAQ first.

Name: E-mail:   
A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in