by Ron Kurtus (revised 16 November 2016)
In a head-to-head competition, two opponents vie for the same prize or reward, while trying to stifle the rival's efforts. Contestants alternate between being on the offense and on the defense, as the competition progresses.
The criteria for victory may be submission by the loser or the decision of judges. In some head-to-head competitions, there are no clear winners.
Questions you may have include:
- What happens when a side is on the offense?
- How does a competitor defend its position?
- How is the winner declared?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Offense is when one side is attacking or trying to score points and is directly trying to get the prize.
- In basketball, the team with the ball is on the offense and trying to score points
- A monkey, trying to take a banana from another monkey, is on the offense
- In a political debate, a candidate who states his or her views while criticizing the opponent, is on the offense
At some point in the competition, the opponent may take charge and put the contestant on the defense.
Defense in a head-to-head competition is when one side is trying to deflect the attack by the opponent. This may be trying to stop the opponent from scoring points, from taking the ball, or from defeating the contestant.
- In soccer, the team on the defense tries to stop the other team from scoring a point by blocking a kick or stealing the ball
- A monkey holding the banana tries to prevent the offensive monkey from stealing it from him
- In a political debate, a candidate will dispute claims by the other side and perhaps counter-attack
- In business, a company may defend its position from an aggressive ad campaign by a competitor by countering with its own ad campaign
At some point, the side on defense can go on offense and attack their opponent's position.
Declaring the winner
The winner in a head-to head competition can be decided by submission or specific limitations to the competition. There are some competitions where they is no clear winner.
In some head-to-head competitions, the winner is decided by the submission of the loser.
- In some chess matches, a player may see his position is hopeless and submit to defeat
- In a fight between two dogs, one may give up and go into a submissive pose
- An endurance competition will end when one side gives up
Head-to-head competitions that have a set of rules and specific limits—such as time limits or points scored—can be decided by some criteria or the decision of judges.
- A political competition ends on election day when the votes are counted
- A beauty contest outcome is determined by the judges
- The baseball team that is ahead in runs at the end of 9 innings (unless there is a tie) wins the game
No clear winner
In some competitions, there is no clear winner. This is often seen in business competitions, where one company may be ahead in sales, but since there is no end-point, they continue with their competition. Only in the case of a company driving the other out of business is there a clear winner.
Two opponents vie for the same reward, while trying to stifle the rival's efforts in a head-to-head competition. Contestants alternate between being on the offense and on the defense as the competition progresses. The criteria for victory may be submission by the loser or the decision of judges. In some competitions, there are no clear winners.
Use clever strategies to beat your opponent
Resources and references
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