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The first thing most people learn when they first learn how to play badminton is how to start a rally with a serve. But how exactly does a badminton game – or match – end? I’ll go through the multiple ways an official badminton game and match can end in today’s post.

A badminton match can end in 3 ways:

  • A player or team wins 2 out of 3 games.
  • A player or team forfeits the match due to injury or other reasons.
  • A player or team is given a black card.

How Does a Player or Team Win a Badminton Game and Match?

Winning a badminton match occurs when a player wins 2 out of 3 games, otherwise known as sets. In each set, the first player to score 21 points and establish a 2 point lead in doing so wins the set.

If both players score 20 points, the first one to score two points more ahead of the other wins. However, there is a cap at 30 points. Meaning, that in the event of both players scoring 29-29, the first player to score a point (i.e., getting 30 points) wins.

How Does a Player or Team Forfeit a Match in Badminton?

A player or team forfeits a match in badminton if they do not show up for the match in a timely manner or by notifying a badminton official, such as an umpire, that they withdraw from the match. This frequently occurs in high level tournaments due to injuries or not feeling well. Tournament scores will show the score as a “walkover” in the case of a forfeit.

How Does a Player or Team Get a Black Card in Badminton?

Black cards are given to players when they commit multiple severe offenses or a single extremely severe offense. A black card signifies that the player is disqualified from the match and will receive additional punishments such as a suspension or ban from future badminton tournaments.

The most famous example of black cards in badminton was during the 2012 London Olympics when several women’s doubles pairs purposely threw their matches in an attempt to get better drawings for the single elimination stage of the tournament.

Another famous example is when 2 former partners met in the 2013 Canada Open Finals and got into a fist fight leading to one of the players needing stitches. Clearly, this is unacceptable behavior and resulted in disqualification for both teams.

Have the Rules for When a Badminton Game Ends Changed?

Badminton rules have changed multiple times over the years regarding when a badminton game ends.

The original badminton rules had a side-out scoring system with a best 2 out of 3 games of 15 points. Players had to win by 2 points. If a game went to 14-14, the player who got to 14 first can choose to play to 15 or 17. Side out scoring means that players can only win points if they served in the rally. This was the system from 1873 to 2006. 

With this scoring system, badminton matches can go on for a long time – in fact they can go on indefinitely in theory! To make games shorter in an attempt to save time in badminton tournaments and have more exciting gameplay for viewers, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) experimented with different scoring systems.

In 2002, the BWF experimented with a best of 5 games to 7 points side out scoring system. If the score went to 6-6, the first player to hit 6 could choose to play to 8 points instead of 7 points. However, they ended up abandoning it in favor of the next system below as gameplay still took too long.

In 2005, the BWF started experimenting with a best of 3 games to 21 points rally point scoring system, which is what we use today (as of the year 2021). A rally point system means that players win a point no matter who serves in the rally.

Are There Any Discussions on Changing the Rules for When a Badminton Game Ends?

One of the discussions on changes to the game’s format and finish occurred in 2019. It involved the implementation of a five-set format.

The five-set format now meant that players needed to win 3 out of 5 games to win. Instead of 21 points, 11 points is the new target score. Similar to the old system, players have to win by a 2 point margin but would have a cap at 15 points.

Nevertheless, spectators can go to bed at night knowing that the BWF makes changes for the same reason it did in 2006. The BWF changes rules to create more exciting games for onlookers and to raise the standard of the sport.

Is There a Time Limit in Badminton?

There is no time limit as to how long a badminton game or match can be. With the 21 point rally scoring system, badminton matches are much faster than they were in the 15 point side out scoring system since one of the players would win a point after every rally as long as it isn’t a let. However, rallies can still be incredibly long if the players cannot break each other’s defenses and would therefore prolong a match.


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