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No first prize was awarded at the Sendai International Violin Competition this year.

Unfortunately the article gives no explanation for this, stating only that:

No first prize was awarded at this year’s competition.

I have never heard of this happening before - is there any explanation for why a competition would no award a first prize, but would award one second prize instead?

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This actually happens more than you might think. If you Google it you might be surprised by how many results you can find.

The reason is usually to do with the overall standard of the competitors. In these prestigious competitions they don't just give the first prize to the one judged to be the best: they also have to show sufficient talent to be considered "worthy" to get the first prize. If no-one is considered sufficiently remarkable for that honour then they do not award a first prize and they give the best performer (in their judgment) the second prize.

  • 1
    I wonder if they've ever had not-quite-so-good entries, and not even awarded second prize. – Tim Jul 4 at 10:04
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    So, no "least bad competitor" award? – piiperi Jul 4 at 11:01
  • I see, that is interesting. I tried googling but obviously didn't get the right wording. – marcellothearcane Jul 4 at 16:13
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    @piiperi well, that's basically what this is, no? “You weren't good enough to win, but all the others were even worse, so have... oh well, 2nd place.” – leftaroundabout Jul 4 at 22:52

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