The evolution of the badminton scoring system - from ancient 'setting' to modern 21 x 3

As the Badminton World Federation seeks to modify the badminton scoring system, we analyse the evolution of the way scores were kept in the game.

The Badminton World Federation wants to modify the badminton scoring system. (Image: Twitter)

The Badminton World Federation (BWF) wants to bring about a change to the current badminton scoring system. The move has been met with mixed reactions but there is every chance the rule change will be approved. Yet while there is some outrage over the decision, it is worth noting this is not something unheard of with the sport. Indeed, the game’s scoring system has undergone drastic changes from its early origins. It’s also worth noting that there have been instances where changes to the badminton scoring system were floated but not approved. Therefore, it is safe to say that the current rule change might suffer the same fate.

With that in mind, let us look back at previous iterations of the way scores were kept in the sport.

The original system

The first system dates back all the way to 1973. Matches were decided on a best of three games basis, with men’s matches needing 15 points to win. For women, the magic number was 11.

The system also allowed for players to determine a winner with just the one game. However, in order to win, the player needed to score 21 points.

What’s notable about the original system is that only the person who served scored points. If the non-server won the rally, the serve would be transferred to him and he could then potentially contest a point.

Perhaps more complicated was the ‘setting’ rule.

In a game to 15 points if the score reached 13–all, the player reaching 13 first could use the “setting” or play straight through to 15.

If they choose to “set”, the score reverts to 0–0 and whoever scores five points wins the game.

If the score was 14–all, the player reaching 14 first would again have the option to “set” or play straight through to 15. But this time the winner would be the first to score three points.

In a game of 11 points, setting would occur at nine and 10 with “setting” to three and two points respectively. In a game to 21 points, setting would take place at 19 and 20 points “setting” to five and three respectively.

The major issue with the points system was that matches ran too long. Therefore, it came as little surprise when this was dropped in 2002, the first time rules changed.

The 5 x 7 experiment

The decision to change the system in 2002 was to make the game more commercially viable. Games were shortened to 7 points, with up to five games happening in a match.

When the score reached 6–6, the player who reached six points first could elect to set to eight points.

The biggest issue, however – that of lengthy match timings – was not solved. The system was quickly dropped after the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

The 3 x 21 system

The scoring system that modern fans are familiar with first came about in 2005. Games were reduced to three, with points needed being set at 21.

Perhaps most importantly, the rule of only servers winning points was dropped, with a rally system being employed.

Players must reach 21 points with a lead of at least 2 points, while game limits are capped at 30. A score of 29-each leads to a golden point situation, wherein whoever wins the next point is awarded the game.

Sportslumo Desk

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