How Many Points is Badminton Played To?

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To win a badminton match, you’ll have to know how many points you’re playing to. Otherwise, you and your opponent will be whacking the shuttlecock to and fro, ad infinitum. So, how many points do you or your opponent need to score to win?

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Badminton is played to a score of 21 points. In other words, whoever wins 21 points first wins a badminton game. According to the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) rules, whoever wins three games wins the entire badminton match. To score a point, you’ll either have to cause your opponents to miss or wait for them to commit faults.

Other than the score cap, there are other areas of badminton scoring you’ll need to be better acquainted with. From the scoring system to how ties are decided, I’ll be giving you all the details you can take.

Let’s get into it!

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What is Rally Scoring?

Badminton wasn’t always scored the same way. The scoring system in use today is what’s called a rally point scoring system. It’s called rally scoring, for short. But what is it and how does it work?

A rally scoring system is a way of awarding badminton players points based on who hit the shuttlecock last. Under a rally scoring system, badminton players can score points whenever their opponents either fail to return a stroke or commit faults in play or service. An important feature of this scoring system is how players can score points regardless of who served. This is a far cry from the pre-2006 scoring system, which we’ll talk about later on.

To imagine rally scoring in action, picture this scenario:

Imagine that you’re playing against somebody. You start as the receiver and not the server. Your opponent serves, and you manage to strike the shuttlecock back to your opponent’s side of the court.

This goes on for a while until your opponent fails to return the shuttlecock. Under the rally scoring system as described in the Laws of Badminton, you get a point. By getting a point, you also get the right to serve the next rally.

In a nutshell, this is how the rally scoring system works. For more on rally scoring, check out my article describing the system in greater detail.

How Many Points Do You Need to Win a Badminton Game?

Winning an entire badminton match requires that you win two out of three badminton games. To win a badminton game, you need to score a certain number of points.

As mentioned, you need to score 21 points to win a badminton game. Whoever scores 21 points first wins the game.

There are times when it’ll take more than 21 points to win a game. According to the BWF’s rules on scoring, there are different score caps for tie-breaker situations. These rules are outlined in sections 7.4 and 7.5 of the BWF’s Laws of Badminton.

We’ll get into the details of this later. For now, you might be wondering what the scoring system was like in the past. Allow me to satisfy your curiosity in the next section!

Have Badminton Games Always Been Played to 21 Points?

Badminton didn’t always have the rally scoring system we know about today, nor was a game always won by reaching 21 points.

In the past, it only took 15 points to win a game. However, the scoring system was different at the time. Before the introduction of the rally scoring system in December 2005, badminton games were scored with a sideout scoring system. Under this scoring system, 15 points were necessary to win a game. In a sideout scoring system, whoever served scored points. For the opponent to score, the server of the rally would have to miss, giving the player a chance to both serve and score.

With 15 points being the score cap in the past, you’d think that games were faster. On the contrary, the sideout scoring system produced very long matches, despite the comparatively low maximum number of points for players to score.

As a result, new scoring rules became necessary for games to be faster and more exciting. This led to the existing scoring rules being proposed in December 2005. The adoption of the new rally scoring system came into full swing in August of the following year.

Since then, players have had to score 21 points or more. That’s right — sometimes more. Here’s why.

What Happens When Players or Teams are Tied at 20 Points?

Now we get to THE question — what happens when there’s a tie at 20 points?

When both players or teams tie at 20 points, the first team or player to establish a two-point lead wins the game. When you do the math, it can actually take 22 points for a team or player to win in this scenario.

Let’s illustrate with an example:

Suppose that you and your opponent tied at 20 points apiece. In this situation, you will continue playing until one of you establishes a two-point lead. If you score 22 points and your opponent scores 21, nobody wins yet. You’ll have to score 23 points to beat your opponent’s score of 21, finally winning the match.

As you can imagine, this can go on forever, especially if both players are highly skilled. This brings us to the next section.

Up to How Many Points Can a Badminton Game Continue Beyond 21 Points?

Tiebreakers can be nail-biting things to watch. However, even these need to come to an end, and the BWF agrees.

Badminton games can go on beyond 21 points and finish at the 30th point. Past 21 points, both players will have to score two points ahead of their opponents. However, when the score becomes 29-29, the 30th point decides the game.

In short, you can see a game going on beyond 21 points. However, regardless of whether or not a player has two points ahead of the opponent, the 30th point will determine who wins the game.

Winning at 30 points
The 30th point will determine who wins the game.

You — 1; Badminton Scoring Ignorance — Nil

21 points and badminton skills are what win a badminton game. Score 21 points enough times during a badminton match, and you’ll win the entire match!

Of course, you’ll have to make sure that you leave your opponent far behind — lest you fancy a race to 30 points!

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