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I've seen both refered to as "match". Is there some secondary usage or perhaps a connotation or nuance that separates the two?

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試合 is a match/game while 勝負 is a duel/challenge/fight. –  oldergod Jul 19 '13 at 1:31

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

From what I understand, 試合 appears to apply mostly (only?) to sports, but is also acceptable and considered correct for board games (chess, 将棋【しょうぎ】, 碁【ご】, etc. - see comments below). 勝負 applies to these situations as well, but also to "fights"/"fighting" (actual, struggle for power, etc.), and to "the game" as in winning the game (the victory). The characters for 勝負 literally mean "win lose", so it can also have that definition.

  • 真剣勝負をする → Play/Fight for real
  • 勝負の世界 → The world where power rules
  • 勝負に出る → Make a decisive move
  • 勝負はこっちのものだ → The game is mine! (as in "I'm going to win!" or "The victory is mine!")
  • 勝負は時の運だ → Victory or defeat [Whether you win or not] is just luck.

Here is an image from the game Samurai Shodown (サムライ・スピリッツ) showing the pre-fight announcement ("Fight!").

勝負

And another picture from the same game when you win the round (勝負あり - "You win")

勝負あり

They also differ when used as する verbs. 試合をする simply means to "have/play/hold a game/match". But 勝負をする can take that meaning as well as "to fight/challenge".

  • 正々堂々勝負をしよう → Let's play fair [a fair game].
  • 実力で勝負する → Dictionary says "match one's skill (against a person)"
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"Sports" shouldn't be taken too narrowly, you can use it with chess, see chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/detail/q1045697175 As you pointed out, the important difference is that 試合 would not be used for a real struggle for power.試合:技の優劣を競い合うこと。 勝負:勝ち負け(を争うこと・戦い) –  blutorange Jul 18 '13 at 16:36
    
@blutorange: You mean to say that 試合 can be used with chess? Your link is broken. –  istrasci Jul 18 '13 at 16:37
    
This should work detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1045697175 There may be more appropriate terms, but everybody in that thread seems to agree that 試合 wouldn't be wrong, especially when used by non-professionals (of shougi). –  blutorange Jul 18 '13 at 17:48
    
So 試合 can only be used the traditional sense of a match (prepared in good time, official, etc.) And 勝負 can be used to refer to anything where there's a winner and a loser? (A brawl, power struggle, a spontaneous game between two friends)? –  Daniel Safari Jul 18 '13 at 19:08

勝負(win and/or lose) = a match to make it clear who is a winner and who is a loser

試合(trial match) = a match with rules to train, to enjoy, or to enhance skills

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Does this mean that 試合 can not be used for things that matter alot? Like the baseball finals? –  Daniel Safari Jul 25 '13 at 20:25
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Actually, we use 試合 for the baseball finals and the Olympic games. They may matter a lot, but just "games" after all. No one dies because of them. –  k04 Jul 27 '13 at 9:18

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