competition involving a relatively large number of competitors

A tournament is a competition with large number of players, all taking part in a sport or game. The word and general meaning come from the medieval tournament or "tourney". The word is still used sometimes used for a military event such as the Royal Tournament.

The word tournament is now defined in two ways:

  1. One or more competitions held at a single place and held over a short period of time. Some game clubs help prepare members for such tournaments. Chess clubs, for example, often use ranking systems, chess clocks, and rules like those used in chess tournaments.
  2. A competition with many matches, each with a small group of competitors. The tournament winner is based on the combined results of these individual matches. These are common in sports and games where each match can only have a small number of competitors, often two, as in most team sports, racket sports, combat sports, many card games and board games, and competitive debating. Such tournaments allow large numbers to compete against each other, even though there are only two teams or players in a single match.

These two types of tournament are different. All golf tournaments meet are of the first type, but match play tournaments are in the second. Football (soccer) leagues like the Premier League are tournaments in the second sense, but not the first, having matches spread across many places over a period of up to a year. Many tournaments meet both definitions; for example, the Wimbledon tennis championship.