Real-time competition: online scoreboards

A snapshot of the Contest Online Scoreboard during the Russian Worldwide Multimode Contest in late October 2020.

Radiosport may seem a lonely endeavor for a single operator competing from a home station as I do. It’s lonely in the sense that you’re all alone in the room, no co-operators, no team, just a ham and his radios. Solitude, yes, but that doesn’t really equate to loneliness.

In my contest preparation, I will often review previous years’ performance – looking at my own scores and totals on each band, and the official results from last year. I’ll study how other stations fared last year, too. All of this helps me set a goal and gets me revved up for the contest, as I like to outperform last year’s effort.

Read about how I keep track of my performance in real time against last year’s operation using Athena software during a contest.

For years, I operated in each contest without knowing how I’m doing against others. Where and who you are working can be a close-kept secret for some in the “unassisted” categories. Knowledge is power, and if not power it can be an advantage. If you found a late-night 20M opening to Europe, you might want to keep that to yourself, so your competition doesn’t also land all those juicy surprise multipliers.

But operating in isolation doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. These days, I am able to monitor the scores of many competitors in real time.

Enter the online scoreboard.

These are sophisticated (but free) online services – interactive websites – that allow stations to send in their current QSO totals, multipliers and scores every few minutes, and those data are posted online for all to see. It’s pretty cool stuff.

For the active contester, seeing your performance moment-by-moment ranked against the performance of other participants can be a real motivator. It sure helps keep my butt in the chair longer that I otherwise would when things slow down.

Listen to the Zone Zero podcast about online score reporting

Where to look

There are a couple of options, but I typically use both of the most popular online scoreboards:

Contest Online Scoreboard | Setup instructions

This service will work with a wide range of contest logging software. I use N1MM Logger, and it works very well. The development team (Victor VA7WA, Alex K2BB and Randy K5ZD) have created a remarkable resource for contesters.

To post your score data, point your logging software to submit the posts to

CQ Contest Score Server  |Setup instructions

The other major contest scoreboard, CQ Contest Score Server is also compatible with a wide range of logging software, including N1MM Logger. From time to time, I find that my score posts don’t show up using the Score Distributor (mentioned below).

To post your score data, point your logging software to submit the posts to

Score Distributor

If you want to post to both the Contest Online Scoreboard and the CQ Contest Score Server, there’s an easy way to do that, too! Just point your logging software to submit your score data to the Score Distributor —

Score Distributor will automatically forward any score data it receives from contest logging software to both online scoreboards.

Getting started

To get it all working, you’ll need to first register with one or both of the online scoreboards. I recommend using the same username and password for both – which makes it super easy to use the Score Distributor service to feed your score to both scoreboards.

Next, in N1MM Logger’s Configurer, just click on the Score Reporting tab to get set up. For the score reporting server, chose the Score Distributor Server, enter your score reporting username and password, and you are done.

N1MM Logger’s Configurer -> Score Reporting setup screen

I like to set the reporting update interval to 2 minutes (the shortest interval available), so I get the most up-to-date information when I look at the scoreboards.

It’s all good

Once you have things up and running, open the online scoreboard in your web browser and see who’s operating in your category.

You can filter the scoreboard to show only stations in your category, and you can also choose to see full band-by-band breakdowns. Not all stations submit information by band, though. That’s where some prefer to keep things a mystery, and I understand that perspective.

Still, it is interesting to see who is making points on each band and who’s concentrating on a particular band. In the spirit of transparency and maximizing fun for my competitors, I choose to broadcast my band-by-band breakdowns.

While the scoreboards are both interesting and can even help in estimating where you should be based on who else is making points on a particular band, they are not considered assistance under contest rules. They’re fully allowed and add real value to my contesting enjoyment.

Summing up

If you’re like me, the simple camaraderie with others on the air is not a mere virtual connection. It may be fleeting under contest conditions, but even a three-second contest exchange is much more than the sum of its parts.

Example: when I work John W9ILY in a contest (and we find each other almost every time out), our exchange is perfunctory and brief, but I know John is out there doing exactly what I am doing – I can see him and I know he sees me. We’re in this together, competing for fun and feeding our enthusiasm for an activity that has captured our imaginations and our weekends for decades.

Over the many hundreds of QSOs with John over the years (the log says there have been more than 400 of those going back to 2002), not once have I heard him without warmly thinking how I would miss him if he were not out there with me. We are connected in a way that matters far more than the moment.

So, it’s okay to be alone in your shack for a contest, but there’s no need to be isolated. Try the online scoreboards and join your fellow competitors in the chase for a higher spot on the list!

Let’s go get ‘em! I’ll see you out there.