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Criteria for Winning Various Competitions

by Ron Kurtus (updated 28 May 2023)

The determination of the winner of a competition depends on the type of contest.

The criteria for winning can be the decision of judges, the points scored within some limitations such as time or maximum score, or the situation when the loser is incapable of continuing.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Decision of judges

In some competitions third-party judges determine the winner. Most often performance competitions use judges because the criteria for victory is vague. In some cases, head-to-head competitions also use judges.

Although the judges are supposed to be fair and honest, they are also human and can make mistakes. Also, there is always the possibility of corruption or bias in the judging.

(See Major Types of Competition for more information.)

Performance competitions

Examples of competitions where only the performance of the person or team is judged include:

Head-to-head competitions

Examples of competitions where contestants not only score points but also try to prevent opponent from scoring and where points scored are determined by judges include:

Case studies

During the gymnastics competitions in the Olympics, communist block judges consistently voted for their athletes and against those from non-communist countries. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the judging criteria was improved, minimizing biased votes.

Although a job applicant may be the most qualified, the judgment of the hiring official may eliminated the person due to some personal biases. In such a situation, the manager may actually be hurting his company.

Points scored

The total points scored, according to agreed-upon rules, determine the winners of some competitions. This is usually the most fair way to deem one party champion. Sometimes judges or referees are used to make sure the rules are followed.


In a single-score competition, only the end-result is counted as a win or loss score. For example, in performance competitions, the best time indicates the winner of a foot race. In a head-to head competition like chess, checkmate indicates the winner.

Cumulative score

In other competitions, points are added until someone is declared the winner.

Examples of performance winners include:

Examples of head-to-head winners include:

Total victory

Total victory is when one contestant is completely defeated or gives up. The loser is humiliated, disabled or even killed. Total victory can bring about hard feelings if the loser or those on his side are given a chance to get their revenge. Boxing is one of the few head-to-head competitions where total victory is seem when the opponent is knocked out or unable to continue.

Predatory competition examples include:

Case studies

After their defeat in World War I, Germany was humiliated and suffered economical problems for years. This was a factor in the rise of Nazism, leading to World War II, where Germany got their revenge on the French.

John D. Rockefeller used his power of Standard Oil to crush or bankrupt most of his smaller competitors in the oil business. Although many of them hated him, they were not able to do anything about it. His company prospered and he became one of the world's richest men.


The criteria for winning a competition can be the decision of judges, points scored, or when the opponent is incapable of continuing. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Know the rules of the game

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