Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

Fan and Peter-Paul Serves at the North American Championships

I though the most interesting thing to watch at the North American Championships were the top players' serves, especially USA's Fan Yiyong and Canada's Pradeeban Peter-Paul.

Fan has an extremely heavy and low backspin serve, which are far spinier than it looks. However, he was having trouble controlling his forehand pendulum serve. The second bounce, given the chance, is supposed to be near the endline, making it hard to loop or drop short. It seemed to be going too long, allowing opponents to loop. In many of his matches he switched to a backhand serve, often short to the forehand, with either backspin or no-spin. The no-spin serve especially seemed to give opponents trouble as they kept putting it slightly up or long, and Fan would jump all over them.

In one match against Peter-Paul in the semifinals of Men's Singles, Fan led 2-1 in games and was up 10-5. Serving at 10-9, Fan called a timeout and spoke with USA coach Yang "Alex" Shigang. Then he served the simple backhand serve short to Peter-Paul's forehand, the return went up slightly, and Fan ripped the winner. Fan turned to Alex and gave him a thumbs up.

Peter-Paul struck back. Down 2-3 in games and down 8-10 double match point, he served fast and spinny down the line, and Fan missed the loop. Down 9-10, Peter-Paul served deep again, this time to the backhand. Fan missed a backhand loop. Up 11-10, Peter-Paul served long to the backhand again, and Fan missed again. Game to Peter-Paul, match is tied up 3-3, and Peter-Paul won the seventh to complete the comeback. (Fan had defeated him earlier in the Men's Team final, the only USA win in their 3-1 loss.) I sometimes think that international players like these two miss off deep serves more than many lower-rated players because they know that if they don't really attack the serve hard, the opponent is going to counterloop a winner. And so under pressure to loop the serve very hard, Fan missed.

Later I asked him about the serves, and mentioned that I was coaching a top cadet who didn't mix his serves up that much. Peter-Paul stressed that mixing the serves up is key - but that should be obvious, right? Not to a lot of players who don't always approach serving with the idea that it's a weapon that can score points directly, either from misses or easy pop-ups. You should develop serves that consistently allow you to attack, but also develop serves that can win points outright. Then mix them in, and watch the opponent flounder.

Another interesting serve many should watch was the forehand reverse pendulum serve of Ariel Hsing. It looks like a regular forehand serve until the last second, and then she snaps the racket the opposite way, and often drops the ball short to the forehand, breaking away from the receiver with tremendous sidespin. Players had fits with it, and over and over set her up for third-ball attacks, both forehand and backhand.

One serve-related item: against short backspin serves, it seems most of the top players are mixing up short receive and quick, angled pushes. Not as many were flipping off short backspin serves. When they did flip these serves, opponents seemed very good at looping them back, putting the flipper on the defensive. When players did flip, they either did so very aggressively to the forehand, or quick, deceptive ones to the backhand. So most flips were done not against short backspin serves, but against short receives against their own backspin serves. (Against sidespin serves, flipping was more the norm, since you generally don't want to push them.)

Choe! Vs. Caw!

At the North American Championships, in the cadet (under 15) events, most of the USA players yelled "Choe!" when they won points. The Canadian's mostly yelled "Caw!" I have no idea where either of these come from, though I vaguely recall it was the Koreans who first introduced "Choe!" When the Canadians scored, they sounded like crows. Why do they make these screams? It's psychological in that it keeps them pumped up, as well as perhaps wearing down an opponent mentally.

Tampa Bay players play table tennis

Here's a video of the Tampa Bay Rays playing table tennis, featuring Andy Sonnanstine, David Price, and B.J. Upton. Several Rays players said that the hand-eye coordination needed to play table tennis was a perfect way to sharpen the skilled needed for the big leagues. (The bad news for them: it didn't pay off as the Rays started getting swept 3-0 by the Orioles - my team!) Here's an article about the Rays playing table tennis at the St. Pete Beach Community Center (a chapter of the Sunrise Table Tennis Club), playing table tennis champions like Ty Hoff, shown in the video on the left near the end.

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As I understand it, "choe" comes from the Chinese word for ball. Phonetically it sounds like Qiú. If you go to google translate and translate "ball" from English to Chinese you can then click on listen to see how it sounds. No idea where the "caw" comes from :) Let me know if this sounds right to you.

>Let me know if this sounds right to you.

Sounds right - I think someone once told me something like this. Like you, I have no idea where the "caw" comes from, other than as the single most irritating sound in the universe.

North American Championships

I just returned from the North American Championships. Results and articles are here. I don't have time to do a write-up - I got in very late last night, and I'm leaving shortly to coach (yep, the life of a table tennis coach) - so I'll write about one interesting thing.

A number of USA players weren't happy with the way the Stag balls and tables bounced - but they are the official sponsor of the ITTF Junior Circuit, so our cadet and junior players have to get used to them. The Canadians had more training with Stag equipment, and it showed on day one when the Canadians dominated many matches in men's, women's, and junior & cadet events. The USA players gradually adjusted, and by the second day things were back to mostly normal.

A lot of the problems some USA players had were mental. Once it got in their heads that the bounces were different or (according to some) erratic, some had great difficulty in adjusting and focusing. In the future, players need to try and train with the equipment that's going to be used at major tournaments, or come in early to train at the tournament site. I've already told one of our cadet players I work with to order a couple dozen Stag balls for future training.

Recap on the 13-year-old with long pips on both sides who made the Chinese National Team.

A number of people asked about this 13-year-old, and so I've reposted my article from Friday, April 1, with the most important parts in bold that should better explain the technical aspects of this revolutionary change in our sport and the future of this new Chinese superstar who's barely a teenager. Here is the article:

Another generation of top Chinese juniors is upon us, and again there's something new. Fang
Ping-Yi, a 13-year-old with a unique style from the Szechuan Province came out of nowhere
recently to make the Chinese National Team, finishing third at the Trials last week. While most
international stars use inverted, Fang uses grippy long pips on both sides, even the forehand. 
Long pips are normally a defensive surface, since it can't "grab" the ball for topspin attacks, but
Fang overcomes this by using an extremely slow blade, and thick sponge under the long pips.
Ordinarily a slow blade is defensive, but the slowness dramatically increases hang time
on the racket, allowing Fang to hit with power and  topspin with his off-the-bounce smashes.
Lots of us coaches will be watching young Fang to see how he develops.

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Lol, he purposefully made it about long pips which made me bite the hook.

North American Championships
Are you following the news and results at the ITTF's North American Table Tennis Championships page? It started this morning. By the time you read this my voice will probably already be hoarse from coaching and cheering.

Zhang Jike's forehand reverse serve
This is one of the best demonstrations of the reverse pendulum serve I've ever seen. Read it, study it, use it. Just not against me or anyone I coach.

13-year-old Makes Chinese National Team
Another generation of top Chinese juniors is upon us, and again there's something new. Fang
Ping-Yi, a 13-year-old with a unique style from the Szechuan Province came out of nowhere
recently to make the Chinese National Team, finishing third at the Trials last week. While most
international stars use inverted, Fang uses grippy long pips on both sides, even the forehand. 
Long pips are normally a defensive surface, since it can't "grab" the ball for topspin attacks, but
Fang overcomes this by using an extremely slow blade, and thick sponge under the long pips.
Ordinarily a slow blade is defensive, but the slowness dramatically increases hang time
on the racket, allowing Fang to hit with power and  topspin with his off-the-bounce smashes.
Lots of us coaches will be watching young Fang to see how he develops.

I don't even know what to say. A 13 yr old that created a new long pips style. Well, maybe not as I have heard rumors of players doing this in China, but it is far from common. I wish him the best of luck and can't wait to see what he will do in the future.

I've answered your questions about 13-year-old Fang Ping-Yi in my blog this morning. It's an amazing story, isn't it?

Practice those alternative serves!

What do I tell students to work on just before tournaments? Well, there's the usual stuff. And you don't want to overtrain and show up tired, and you want to eat well and get lots of sleep. And you want to play lots of practice matches so you'll be match tough.

But one thing many people forget is to practice what I call "alternate" serves. Just by playing matches you'll be practicing your regular serves. But what about those surprise serves you throw out there every now and then for a free point? Fast & deep serves, tricky breaking serves, etc.? Those are the ones you need to practice. Unlike your regular serves, you often have to pull these serves out cold. The day before or the morning of a tournament, get some balls, go off to a table by yourself, and practice those serves. Imagine the score as deuce when you do so to emulate pulling off the serve under pressure. Do that a hundred times, and when the time comes to actually do it under pressure, it'll be second nature - you've already done it a hundred times in the last day.

How'd you like to try to rip a fast down-the-line serve at deuce in the fifth? Believe me, you don't - unless you've practiced it first!

Guam's Table Tennis Month

Yes, Governor Eddie Baza Calvo of the U.S. territory of Guam has declared April to be Guam Table Tennis Month! The proclamation says, "When students participate in sports, they learn valuable lessons like teamwork.  It also helps with social skills, teaches responsibility, and nurtures lifelong friendships.  Teams become families—families that demonstrate the diverse beauty found on Guam."

Off to the North American Championships

I'll be at the North American Champions in Toronto Thur-Sun. Root for USA! (Well, unless you're Canadian, then you can root for them.) Articles and results should be going up on the ITTF's North American Table Tennis Championships page.

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Seemiller vs. Malek 1979

Here's a Blast from the Past - the final of the 1979 USA Men's Singles Championships in Las Vegas, where Attila Malek upset Dan Seemiller. It's hard to believe it's been 32 years since this great match. The tape is 22:40 long. You can see how the game has changed, due to new techniques but even more so due to better technology. The sponge surfaces they use are far less bouncy than modern sponges; if a top player were given one of their rackets to hit with, they'd probably hit one ball and say, "What is this stuff?"

The biggest difference in play back then is probably backhand play. Note that both play their backhands pretty much flat in rallies. (Seemiller, of course, uses the "Seemiller" grip that's named after him, and so mostly jab-blocks the backhand.) Malek had a backhand loop, but seems to use it mostly against backspin. Part of this is because of the sponge they are using, and part of it is because the backhand loop simply wasn't considered as big a weapon in those days, and players weren't trained to use it in rallies as often, though that was changing rapidly in Europe.

They also have less power on forehand loops, though much of this is because of the slower sponges. Both loop from close to the table to make up for this, so opponents have little time to react.

My favorite quote: "Dan Seemiller not only looks like Jimmy Connors, he sounds like him." Both players are in great shape - players in those days did just as much physical training as modern players, though modern players know how to train better for table tennis, especially with weight training. Dan mentions he trains twice a day for about two hours.  Malek says he should practice eight hours a day, as he did in Hungary, but now "only" trains four hours a day.

Seemiller, who would win five USA Men's Singles titles and be the longtime USA Men's Coach, is now a full-time coach at the South Bend Table Tennis Club in Indiana. Malek, now a member of the board of directors for USA Table Tennis, is a full-time coach at the Power Pong Table Tennis Club in Huntington Beach, CA.

I recognize a few people in the often blurry background, such as Danny's brothers Ricky and Randy Seemiller (and I think father Ray Seemiller is sitting next to them), Perry Schwartzberg, D-J Lee, Eric Boggan and Brian Masters (both age 16), and that's Marty Reisman wearing the slanted hat and white (or is it pinkish?) shirt. The two Chinese ballgirls I believe are Diana and Lisa Gee, both about 9 years old and future USA Team members. Anyone recognize others, or know who the commentators are?

NA Championships

I'm off tomorrow to the North American Table Tennis Championships in Mississauga, Canada, near Toronto. Keith Evans is the USA Cadet Boys' Coach, but I'll be working with Tong Tong Gong, one of the members of the USA Cadet Boys' Team. Because I'm not the team coach, Keith will be coaching him and the other team members in the big team match against Canada (winner goes to the World Junior Championships) and in some singles matches, but at the least I'll be able to talk tactics with them between matches, and perhaps coach some of the singles matches. (Keith cannot coach against another USA player, so in singles I'll be coaching Tong Tong in those matches, unless he's playing another player from our club, MDTTC.) It is a protocol thing as I have to be clear that Keith IS the USA coach; I'm only helping out since I've worked with Tong Tong for quite some time. I know what it's like from the other perspective, to be the team coach and have other coaches come in wanting to coach specific players - I was the USA junior or cadet coach a number of times in the past, especially in the 1990s - so I have to be careful not to overstep my bounds.

Words quoted incorrectly

In a comment on my blog on Monday I wrote, "If you leave your long pips in the heat or play outdoors in the heat, and that changes it into frictionless long pips, then you have treated it with heat, thereby making it illegal." Note the three references to heat that I bolded, and where I specifically said it was the heat that was a treatment? Over in another forum, Olivier Mader wrote, "Sure, there are people like Larry Hodges who think that playing outdoors is treating but I believe that he would be in the minority with that view." Maybe I'm living in the clouds, but I just don't get people who will misquote someone like that. When you have to change someone's words to make a point, you've lost the argument while saying a lot about yourself.

If I were to say, "It's dangerous to go outside in freezing cold unless adequately dressed," would it be honest for someone to claim I said, "Larry Hodges says it's dangerous to go outside"? Of course not. It's lying by omission.

Another person wrote that I had said I was "skeptical of the pure long-pips blocking style." Actually, I wrote I was "somewhat skeptical of the long-pips blocking style." He took off the "somewhat" to (falsely) make a stronger point, and so instead of quoting me accurately, he only quoted me "somewhat" accurately. The fascinating thing is these people actually read my blog, and only saw the negative they wanted to see. When I invited them to make the case why I shouldn't be somewhat skeptical of that style, i.e. do something positive, where were they? (And watch how fast my words will now be misquoted or taken out of context! Some people simply cannot exist without enemies, real or imagined.)

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"If you leave your long pips in the heat or play outdoors in the heat, and that changes it into frictionless long pips, then you have treated it with heat, thereby making it illegal."

Based on your own quote and my understanding based on that would be that you would consider a rubber treated if it was played outdoors in the heat or just in the heat indoors.. So, if I'm understanding this correctly, I would be treating my rubber no matter if I was playing in my garage as the temperatures there reach 130 - 140 degrees in Summer or if I'd play outdoors where we are usually well into the 90's on a nice and sunny day.. So, unless I play at the clubs that is 1 hour away, I would be treating my rubbers just by using them in my garage or outdoors in my driveway as it is hot in Florida for most of the year... Of course, you can't really play indoors in 120+ degree temperatures.. That's unhealthy, so outdoors play is really the only option unless I could convince my wife to put the table tennis table in the living room and I doubt that this will happen.. With other words, I would have to stop playing at my house for most of the year in order not to not treat my rubber based on your definition as we do have heat for most of the year around here..

So, what about people in poor countries with hot climate where they usually don't have AC units.. They would be treating their rubbers any time that they play as they don't have AC..

Even on the ITTF website, they show such treaters at work in a Park in NYC..

http://www.ittf.com/_front_page/ittf_full_story1.asp?ID=23814

In reply to by pushblocker

This is one of the most fascinating responses ever. So now you claim you are playing in a garage in 130-140 degrees? Okaaaaaaaay. By the way, I conversed with the chair of the ITTF Equipment Committee, and he sounded pretty doubtful that pure heat would do this to long pips, as opposed to actual light, such as sunlight or (drum roll please) a sun lamp. But there is one thing you are correct on - it's very difficult to test, and so those who cheat can get away with it, just as those who cheated with steroids got away with it for years.

As to your "understanding" of my quote, you changed what I wrote and attributed me saying something I had not said. That's lying by omission. If you want to inteprete what someone says, then quote them *accurately* and explain your interpetation, don't put your interepretation out there as if it were something I said when I didn't. That's dishonest.

By the way, I play table tennis in my garage. Since I'm the world's top distributor of rubber cements and bicycle glues, the basement is full of these glues, and they get into my rubber. I have no other place to play. So if I show up at a tournament with glue fumes coming out of my racket, it's not my fault. :)

In reply to by Larry Hodges

You didn't read my post correctly.. I said that I'm playing outdoors as it's too hot to play in  my garage.. I already previousely said that I checked some of the rubbers in my garage and they weren't much different than the ones out of the package.. Might be the UV rays when playing outdoors if it's not the heat..

"By the way, I play table tennis in my garage. Since I'm the world's top distributor of rubber cements and bicycle glues, the basement is full of these glues, and they get into my rubber. I have no other place to play. So if I show up at a tournament with glue fumes coming out of my racket, it's not my fault. :)"

If that would really be the case, you could verify if your rubber is legal or not by buying or renting a ENEZ or similar device..

No such device is available to test pips friction and furthermore, there really is no friction limit that applies to players as it only applies to manufactorers.. Again, I have run many times into players who played anti like inverted rubber, so it's not really a long pips phenomena..

In reply to by pushblocker

Actually, in the first half of your response you were talking about playing both indoors and outdoors, but I'll accept that you meant outdoors, since that's what you did say in the second half. Regardless, I don't believe playing outdoors, even in the sun, is going to turn your legal long pips into frictionless long pips. What do you do, keep them aimed up at the sun throughout the point? (You get very little energy if the sun's rays come at an more severe angle.) You do realize that if you keep the racket straight up and down, as you mostly do when you play, the pips will aim sideways, not up towards the sun. Or will you now claim that you play with the sun in your eyes, low in the sky, so the sun can bask directly on your long pips, during hour after hour of play in thereby maximizing the sun's energy on your poor, poor pips?

Sorry, I don't believe it. To make your long pips frictionless, you'd have to leave it outside to bake in the sun, or use the sun lamp that you admit you use to treat other people's long pips, just not your own, even though yours just happen to end up the same way, frictionless. Of course. And you don't seem to want to respond to the problem of your changing my words and then posting them as if I'd said something I hadn't said.

Now a really serious question. Since you claim it's from playing outdoors in the sun that must be causing your long pips to become frictionless . . . why aren't you heavily tanned? Do you wear a mask when you play to protect your face from these terrible sun rays? Heck, in the videos, your legs are whiter than mine, and that's saying something! Or do you play in the hot sun in long pants? How is it that the very sun that can burn into your long pips until they are frictionless hasn't done the same to your face, arms, and legs?

Here's an example of a tape that shows you close up - sorry, you are very untanned. How is this possible?

In reply to by Larry Hodges

I actually said " if I was playing in my garage" and not that I'm actually playing in my garage at those temperatures.. I also later said that it would be unealthy to play in 120+ degree temperatures indoors..

As for tanning, did you ever hear about sunblock??  I did have a skin cancer removed once before and I do not take any chances.. My dermatologist told me that for any longer outdoor activities, I do have to use heavy SPF (I use SPF 55).. If I wouldn't do that, I would be a frequent flier for skin cancer surgery.. The sun is pretty strong down here in Florida and anyone not using sunscreen for longer outdoor activities is a fool..

In reply to by pushblocker

If you are in the sun so much that it's able to burn into your long pips and make them frictionless, it's going to take more than sunblock to stop you from getting some tanning.  They are not perfect absorbers of UV radiation. (That's why they have SPF  numbers - to indicate the level of protection. There's no perfect protection. But congrats on taking steps to avoid skin damage.) And you haven't explained how you keep the sun's radiation flowing into your long pips when you play (even though it's hitting it at an angle, thereby losing most of its effect), or why you publicly misquoted me. I'll drop the misquoting issue now, but please don't do it again.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

SPF 55 means that it takes 55 times the time to tan/burn than without it.. This means that if I'm 55 minutes in the sun, I actually only burn like I spent one minute in the sun..  So, if I play 4 hours on a Weekend day using the SPF 55, it's like spending just over 4 minutes in the sun without sunblock. 4 minutes are really not enough to get tan...

In reply to by pushblocker

The problem is that with the sun hitting your paddle at an extreme angle, it's going to take a HUGE amount of hours to have a major effect. Remember, we're talking about sunlight coming down on your paddle at a rather extreme angle, unless you spend your playing time pointing your paddle into the sky for some reason. I just don't see how the sun can have such a major effect on it like that, unlike the handy sun lamp you say you have but don't use on your own tournament rubbers, though you do on others.

It's rather coincidental that you openly use a sun lamp to create and sell frictionless long pips, claim you don't use them yourself, but just happen to play outdoors in the sun all the time and so the sun supposedly also makes your long pips frictionless despite the angle it's coming down at, while of course not being out there long enough to get a tan, while denying that exposing your racket to direct sunlinght for long periods of time is treating the rubber in any way even though it apparently greatly affects its characteristics. Sorry, I just don't buy all this, or the whole "The sun did it!" supposed loophole to allow you to use frictionless long pips. But we're going nowhere on this, and I'm leaving for the North American Championships soon, so I'll drop this for now.

A little off topic perhaps, but another nice way to see how the game changed so radically from the 70s to the 90s is to watch the best of Waldner DVD set.  The footage of the matches between the early 80s and the early 90s is like watching two different games.

In reply to by david.bernstein

It's completely on topic, and you're right that watching Waldner is an excellent way to watch how the sport has evolved. The biggest difference is in backhand play, from flatter backhands like Waldner's and Persson's to the modern almost-everyone-backhand-loops-everything game. I may write an article on that.

Breaking 2500 Revisited

Sometimes when looking for historical records, such as the youngest players to break 2500, you look so hard to the past you forget about the present. And yesterday, while compiling this list, I left out an obvious one - Michael Landers. He was born in August, 1994, and broke 2523 in at the Nationals in December, 2009, at age 15 years 4 months. This makes him the third youngest to do so, after Lily Zhang's 14 years 9 months and Adam Hugh's 14 years 11 months, and just beating out Han Xiao's 15 years 5 months and Keith Alban's 15 years 7 months.

An interesting question came up - who reached 2500 the fastest? That's tough to judge since we don't know when most of these top juniors started, only when they played their first tournament. But Landers might be in the running for fastest. Landers played his first tournament in December of 1994 (age 10), starting with a rating of 1056, and broke 2500 exactly five years later with a rating of 2523, undoubtedly one of the fastest to achieve this.

I'm a little proud; Michael came to a number of the five-day camps I run at MDTTC with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang. I don't have complete records with me, but he came to our camps in July 2005 (age 10, rated 1256); August 2006 (11, 1777), and December 2006 (12, 2020). I believe he came to a couple of other camps, but I don't have a listing handy for all of them. (I may run over to the club later to look those ones up.) Of course, the main credit goes to Michael, his parents, and his coach, Ernest Ebuen, but can't we grab a scrap of the credit, maybe one big toe's worth?

MDTTC was a bit more instrumental in the development of such local juniors on the "2500 club" as Han Xiao (15 years 5 months), Peter Li (16 years 11 months), Marcus Jackson (17 years 2 months), Sunny Li (17 years 4 months), Amaresh Sahu (17 years 6 months), and a whole new group of cadets currently in the 2250 range.

U.S. Junior Champion and Men's Singles Finalist Peter Li might be of interest. He was born in January, 1993, and reached 2552 at the Nationals in December, 2009 (the same tournament Landers went over 2500) at age 16 years 11 months. Exactly one year later, at the 2010 Nationals, he broke 2600 with a rating of 2642 at age 17 years 11 months. (But there might have been a few others who broke 2600 at age 16 or 17; I'll let others work that out.)

Yesterday I wrote that Mark Hazinski was the youngest to reach 2550, 2600, and 2650 at 15 years 10 months. But only one month behind was Adam Hugh, who reached 2611 at age 15 years 11 months.

There was also a typo in the blog - it read, "Adam Hugh reached 2410 on Dec. 8, 2002. He was born on Jan. 5, 1988. So he was 14 years 11 months old when he broke 2500." The 2410 should have been 2510.

Videos!

  • My apologies to long pips blockers for this parody - but this video (48 sec) is hilarious! Yes, that's Professor Larry Bavly, mathematician, high-ranked table tennis player in the "heavy division," . . . and insurance agent? I'm wondering if a certain online community dedicated to the proposition that all racket surfaces are equal (but some are more equal than others?) will go bananas over this.
  • I have no idea what to make of this video (3:46), but it's Brian Pace at his most hilarious.
  • Here's Brian again, but this time more serious as he relates in this rather long video (13:36) the relationship between training and peak performance and improvement.
  • Brian's got a lot of other great table tennis videos on his website, Dynamic Table Tennis. If you want to see high-level table tennis demonstrated, go have a look. (Some you have to pay for - table tennis players have to make a living - but much of it is free.)

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Glad he got a revisit. It was probably harder for you to think with the numerous national level players that must have been circling inside your brain xD. He won the nationals the year I started playing table tennis. Going from 1056 to 2500 in five years is certainly no small feat. I myself started at around 600 and now rest about 1800 after 20 months. I'm hoping to reach 2300 within 5 years of play. Maybe I can attend one of the Maryland Table Tennis Camps and receive some instruction like Michael did (I'm sure it did help him, maybe even a whole foot's worth). I know Kil would probably enjoy seeing you again. Just need to convince 1 or 2 more people to split the gas.

Springtime

It's springtime, birds are singing, children are playing, the grass is growing . . . so why is it frickin' 27 degrees outside? Good thing table tennis is an indoor sport.

Injury roll call

After I won hardbat singles at the Cary Cup, I was hobbling about with various injuries in both knees, right leg, right shoulder, and upper back. Now, ten days later, four out of five of these problems have mostly gone away. The remaining nefarious injury that won't go away? My upper back is still a mess. I had to stop early on Friday at the club, where I was a practice partner for our elite junior program. On Saturday and Sunday, I coached and practiced with the juniors, but only with the beginning ones - I could barely move and so couldn't really play high level with the advanced ones. I'm off for a few days, then I coach Thur-Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon, so I better get better quick. Maybe I should lunch on Advil.

Youngest players to break 2500

At the ICC California State Open on March 19-20, 14-year-old Lily Zhang became the youngest player in U.S. history to break 2500, with a new rating of 2523. When the new rating came out, most of us were pretty sure that she was the only 14-year-old ever to break 2500. Was she? Immediately my detective instincts went to work.

One thing to take into consideration is that the ratings have inflated. For example, when Eric Boggan won the USA Nationals in 1978 at age 15, he came out with a rating of just 2448, which made him #2 in the U.S. after Dan Seemiller (2601), with Rick Seemiller (2447) the only other player over 2400. For perspective, in the current USATT Magazine, the #50 player in the Men's rankings is 2462. While techniques, training, and equipment have advanced, that's independent of actual ratings - if these were still at exactly the same level as in 1978, the ratings would still have inflated the same way. (Think of it this way: even if you have better techniques and equipment, so does your opponent.)  So there would be very few players who might have broken 2500 at age 14 until recent years. This is a good thing since it's painstaking to look up old ratings in crumbling magazines from long ago - you have to look in all of them to find the highest ratings. But all the ratings are online since 1994, so it's a lot easier now.

Who were the "obvious" candidates as possible 2500 players at age 14? Historically, the best juniors have matched their age, i.e. broke 2000 at age 10, 2100 at 11, 2200 at 12, 2300 at 13, and 2400 at 14, and 2500 at age 15. Han Xiao was the first to break 2400 at age 13. I checked on him and a few other obvious ones to see when they broke 2500.

Players like Eric Boggan and Rutledge Barry were challenging and beating many of the best U.S. players by age 14 but neither came close to 2500, or even 2400 at 14. Sean O'Neill reached 2500 at age 15 in 1982 - he matched his age every year from age 11 to 15. From way back then, I don't think anyone else really came close to breaking 2500 at age 14. At first I didn't think since had broken 2500 as a 14-year-old other than Lily. And then I hit paydirt.

Adam Hugh reached 2510 on Dec. 8, 2002. He was born on Jan. 5, 1988. So he was 14 years 11 months old when he broke 2500. So Lily is not alone. However, Lily was born in June, 1996, and so was 14 years 9 months old when she broke 2500. So I believe she is the youngest ever to break 2500. And it's also interesting that the youngest to break 2500 is a girl. Go girls' lib!

Others who reached 2500 at a young age since 1994:

  • Han Xiao was born on Dec. 19, 1986, and reached 2501 in May of 2002. So he was 15 years 5 months at the time.
  • Keith Alban was born in Dec. 1983, and reached 2537 in July, 1999, at age 15 years 7 months.
  • Mark Hazinski was born on April 20, 1985, and broke 2500 in February, 2001. (He actually went straight from 2412 to 2652.) So he was 15 years 10 months old at the time. He's the youngest to reach 2550, 2600, and 2650, so Lily now has another target!
  • Justen Yao was born on Jan. 29, 1993, and reached 2536 in Nov. 2008. So he was 15 years 10 months when he reached 2500.
  • Jeff Huang was born in Oct., 1991, and reached 2585 in April, 2008. So he was 16 years 6 months when he reached 2500.
  • Sunny Li was born in July, 1982, and reached 2536 in Nov., 1999, at age 17 years 4 months
  • Another interesting one - Judy Hugh, Adam's sister, reached 2418 at age 14.

Did I miss anyone? I'm debating whether to go through old magazines to find the actual ages for those who reached 2500 at a young age, such as Eric Boggan, Sean O'Neill, Scott & Jim Butler, Dhiren Narotam, and Chi-Sun Chui.

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Interesting.  So that sets the bar for the youngest age to first reach 2500, what about the oldest?  What is the age of the oldest player on the day they first broke 2500?  I bet it's not more than 25.  (Filtering out players who don't start playing in the US until later in their lives, like Lupi, Gao Jun, etc.)

Hi Dave, I'm sure there are older players who broke 2500 for the first time. I'm fairly certain Barry Dattel went over 2500 a few years before 1994, and he was in his thirties. George Brathwaite's "peak" years were in the late 1970s/early 1980s when he was mostly about 2350. However, I believe he reached 2500 at least once in the late 80's when he was already about 50. I doubt he was really better so much as the ratings had inflated some, and he'd held his level. Others who come to mind are Insook Bhushan and Rey Domingo. Both were in the 2400s for years, held their level, and eventually reached 2500 for at least a short time. Unfortunately, I'd have to go through a lot of old magazines to get their specific ratings before 1994. Dr. De Tran spent about a month over 2500 in 1994, did it again in 2003, and again in 2008 when he was around 40. Ignoring the flukey one in 1994, he was at least 35 or so when he first went over 2500.

I wonder who reached 2500 in the shortest amount of time? By amount of time, I am referring to how long they had been playing rather than how old they are. Michael Landers comes to mind as his first tournament was in 2004 and he made it to 2500 by winning the 2009 U.S. Nationals. So, that is about 5 years. I am happy to see him still holding his own among the elites. I would love to know if there are any others with similar time frame improvements.

 

P.S. Is he too old to make your list?

Yikes, I left out Michael Landers! He broke 2500 at age 15 years 4 months. I'll add him to my list in my "update" this morning in my blog. As to how fast a player gets to 2500, it's tough to call since we rarely know when they started, just when they played in their first tournament. Landers played his first tournament in December of 1994 (age 10), starting with a rating of 1056, and broke 2500 exactly five years later with a rating of 2523, undoubtedly one of the fastest to achieve this.

ITTF Seminar in Maryland

We're up to ten confirmed participants (and a number of maybes) in the ITTF Coaching Seminar to be held at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, April 16-17 and 23-24, with a Paralympics session on April 30. (Schedule each day is 9AM-Noon, 1-4PM.) Here is the info flyer, and here is the USATT news item. If you are a player interested in becoming an ITTF coach, or learning how to coach, come join us! There's already a wide range of coaches, including several USATT Regional and State Coaches, and others who are not yet certified. I'm hoping to get 14-16 participants. If interested, please email me.

Straighten the belt, and the rest falls into place.

I bet you have no idea what this headline means or how it pertains to table tennis. Imagine when playing that your body is a belt. If your feet are in the wrong position, or if your grip is off, then it affects everything in between. If your foot positioning and grip are both correct, then like a belt that's been straightened, everything in between falls into place. Isn't that a great analogy? (Let me know if you have a better example than a belt.)

As a coach, I've noticed that the majority of technique problems do come from improper foot positioning or grip problems, although players (and some coaches) often treat the symptoms instead of the root cause. When you fix the root cause - often the two ends, i.e. the foot position and grip - the rest often falls into place. Not always - longtime problems with foot positioning and grip can create bad habits, and they can be hard to break. But getting the two ends right is a great step in that direction, and one of the top priorities with new players so they develop good technique from the start.

Long Pips and Color Rule Revisited

It was interesting yesterday seeing some of the online comments in other forums about my blog on frictionless pips. There were quite a few that attacked me for stuff I didn't write, especially in one particular forum. I wrote a lot of words - 1270 of them - so you'd think people who disagree with what I wrote would argue against the words I wrote, but instead some changed them, and then attacked me for words I didn't write. It's not worth responding to their posts directly since if a person is going to attack me for things I didn't write, they'll attack any response I make in the same way, and it's all very time consuming and tends to get nasty. I'm going to go over a few of the postings, and then at the end I have a question for you. (See the bolded part at the end.)

One wrote that because I was for the color rule back in 1983, I thought Dan Seemiller and Eric Boggan "sucked" - despite the fact that Seemiller was ranked in the top 50 in the world with the two-color rule and was U.S. Men's Champion the very first year they had the rule, and that Eric actually went up in the rankings to his highest world ranking ever (17th) after going to two colors. (His overall ranking went down some over the next few years, but he stayed in the top 40 or so.) It's easy to attack without getting the facts first. If they read the blog, then they could have simply posted the question, "Larry, if you were against the color rule, did you think Dan Seemiller and Eric Boggan sucked?" and I would have emphatically said no. They are arguably the two greatest U.S. players in the sponge era, i.e. the last 50-60 years.

I was accused of thinking that Peter Chen "sucked" just because I'm "somewhat skeptical" of the long-pips blocking style. Players like Chen and Olivier Mader, who play with the long-pips blocking style but with little attack, are very good players - it takes practice and skill to reach their levels - just not athletic ones, as most would probably agree. But that distinction that I wrote about was lost on those who read the blog with an agenda. If someone disagrees with what I wrote about athleticism, fine, but not one person actually made an argument against it. "Somewhat skeptical" does not mean I think those with the long-pips blocking style "sucks." To paraphrase a famous movie quote, I don't think those words mean what they think they mean. (They actually imply that I'm not sure and am open to persuasion - see my question about this at the end.)

Another wrote, "I guess he knows more than Waldner, who thinks FLPs is harmless and shouldn't be banned." And yet nowhere in the blog did I write that frictionless long pips (FLP's) should be banned, only that they were illegal, which is a fact. I really have no firm opinion on them other than that they shouldn't be used if they are illegal, and can only shake my head at someone claiming I wrote something that I absolutely did not write. Plus, of course, it's a silly bait and switch to say I think I know more than Waldner, and then bring up a value judgment that has little to do with actually knowing more than Waldner. (On a related note, does this mean that anyone who disagrees with Waldner on a table tennis subject thinks they know more than Waldner? Waldner also said that he was naturally talented from an early age. Does this mean that those who do not believe in talent are wrong because Waldner disagrees, and they should be refuted sarcastically by saying, "I guess he knows more than Waldner"?)

It was posted that "S-Jan" (an infamous Internet table tennis troll from the past) was "right about me," but it never specified what he was right about. Considering "S-Jan" made zillions of made-up accusations against numerous people during his trolling years in the '90s, it's a rather vague accusation to make. Plus, as I said in the second sentence of the blog, my thinking on long pips has evolved over the years, and so what he wrote in the '90s is somewhat meaningless to the discussion.

And just for the record, that wasn't me in the background in the video of Olivier Mader vs. John Wetzler saying something like, "Olivier's forehand is zero to negative rating and backhand of 1200 with double inverted rubbers." (According to Mader's posting, it was Cory Eider, though I don't really know - but it wasn't me. I was busy watching the player I was coaching, and barely noticed the other match or the discussion going on about Mader.)

On the subject of long pips, one person write, "In order for you to know if a rubber performs completely different from new can only be made if you actually have a new sheet to compare it with." That's simply not true. If a sheet of long pips is frictionless, and you know that it was not frictionless when new due to ITTF regulations, then you know it performs differently than a new sheet.

I could mention other postings, but it's not worth it. Not one person actually refuted the facts and rules I presented about frictionless long pips being a judgment call by the referee. Some really believe that an experienced referee, coach, or player can't tell whether it's frictionless, which of course they can - though, as I noted in my blog, you can only tell if it's not borderline. It's a judgment call, like many other calls a referee has to make.

It's the price of public blogging; there will always be people with an agenda twisting your words.

Now here's a serious question. Yesterday I wrote, "I'm somewhat skeptical of the pure long-pips blocking style, especially when a player basically covers the entire table by just reaching out and blocking everything back dead with long pips without sponge. In my opinion, it simply isn't very athletic, and table tennis is a sport."

As I wrote, I'm somewhat skeptical about this style because of its lack of athleticism, and from the very strong returns that can be made by passive blocking. Keeping in mind that I also wrote, "But it's legal, and as players and coaches, it's our job to figure out how to play against any legal surface," make your (civil) case as to why I shouldn't be "somewhat skeptical." You have the soapbox, if you so choose.

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Hey Larry, this is Olivier! You are refering to a rule that frictionless long pips is illegal.  Care to provide the link or wording of that rule? The T9 technical leaflet is a regulation on what properties a rubber has to have to get the ITTF approval. This is in no way a requirement for players to abide by.

There is NO rule that requires a rubber to have a certain amount of friction AS LONG as the rubber is uniform and has not been intentionally treated. If a rubber reaches such state without intentional treatment and it is uniform, there is NO rule that would prevent use of such rubber!

If you think that there is, please feel free to post it! The rules are not about what you'd want them to say.. They just say what they say!

In reply to by pushblocker

You are refering to a rule that frictionless long pips is illegal.  Care to provide the link or wording of that rule? The T9 technical leaflet is a regulation on what properties a rubber has to have to get the ITTF approval.

Olivier, see the bolded part above. Please show me where I referred to the frictionless long pips regulation as being a rule, as opposed to a regulation. I didn't; you simply made that up to support your argument. The only times I referred to rules were in reference to the color rule and the rule that the racket covering shall not be treated. I referred to the regulation about frictionless long pips six different times. Did you read what I actually wrote?

  • "The ITTF made a regulation a while back that they are illegal."
  • "The USATT Tournament Guide specifically states that the referee 'Is the final authority on interpretation of the rules and regulations as they apply to the tournament.' Note the reference to regulations, which would include the ITTF regulation on frictionless long pips"
  • "The Tournament Guide also says, "In making decisions that are not fully covered by the rules, the referee should consider in turn: ITTF and USATT rulings, precedent, and the rule's intent." And it's pretty clear that the intent of the frictionless long pips regulation was to ban frictionless long pips."
  • "If a sheet of long pips is frictionless, and you know that it was not frictionless when new due to ITTF regulations, then you know it performs differently than a new sheet."

How could you possibly have missed all this? 

In reply to by Larry Hodges

Where you go wrong is that regulations do NOT apply to the players, they apply to manufactorers.. They are NOT applicable!

In reply to by pushblocker

Where you go wrong is that regulations do NOT apply to the players, they apply to manufactorers.. They are NOT applicable!

Olivier, please read what you respond to before responding. I completely agree that regulations apply to manufacturers, not players, and would challenge you to show where I wrote otherwise. (And I note you were not able to show where I called it a rule, as you falsely claimed I had.) If you read my blog, you'll see where I explained that if your long pips are frictionless, then you have treated them to make them so, and that breaks a USATT rule. I never said you broke a regulation, so please stop making things up to support your arguments.

In reply to by pushblocker

Olivier, two questions:

1) Were you using frictionless long pips at the Cary Cup Open?

2) If yes (and I believe you have already admitted they were frictionless), how did they become frictionless?

Despite the rather immediate negatives that have arisen due to your posting, I am rather glad that you decided to blog about an issue that I feel is of importance to the table tennis community right now. More and more people seem to be taking up arms against the rules by using what can only be termed as technicalities. When you wrote "The USATT Tournament Guide specifically states that the referee 'Is the final authority on interpretation of the rules and regulations as they apply to the tournament.' Note the reference to regulations, which would include the ITTF regulation on frictionless long pips. The Tournament Guide also says, 'In making decisions that are not fully covered by the rules, the referee should consider in turn: ITTF and USATT rulings, precedent, and the rule's intent.' And it's pretty clear that the intent of the frictionless long pips regulation was to ban frictionless long pips.", I had no real argument for this. As has been mentioned before, you can't argue with a person's judgement if they are given that power. Many people will claim this is unfair, but it is a rule put in place to cover the possible exploits of loopholes within the rules. However, I will state that there are many methods of treating, some of which will not seem frictionless if a ball is rubbed across them. They will still play frictionless though. I do not know if the referee can rule that a rubber is frictionless by watching gameplay, which would probably not go over well...

I myself did not agree with the ban of frictionless long pips and still do not. However, myself and the long pip players in my area moved on and are now playing at a much higher level. Not everyone will be able to do this, but the sport shouldn't be about the past. If you were the greatest player during the single color era, then noone can take that away from you. If you were the greatest FLP player your club had ever seen, again noone can take that away from you. We should concentrate on the advancements we can make to this sport within the realm of the rules.

In reply to by PipProdigy

Good points, PipProdigy. I'm still undecided on the frictionless long pips ban, but it does bother me when someone makes the type of argument some have made about it actually being legal to use, or that's it's okay because others are also abusing the rules about treating your surfaces. (Perhaps it's okay to rob banks because others do so?) If someone wants to protest the rules, that's fine. I'd respect Mader more if he very publicly declared he was using frictionless long pips at a tournament, made his arguments there, and challenged the referee to ban his racket. That would be a protest based on principle, as opposed to abusing the rules and using them for personal gain by rationalizing in such legalistic fashion while ignoring the holes in the legalistic argument.

You are using the same type of argumentation that activist judges do at the Supreme Court of this country.. I don't want to hijack this argument with politics, but I think that this is a valid comparison.. In the Supreme Court Cases of DC vs. Heller, 4 of the SCOTUS judges ruled that owning a gun is not a individual right while the constitution says: The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia is essential for a free state..

Nowhere does it say that you have to be in a militia to be allowed to own guns. It's made up. Of course, just like activist judges in the court of law, there can be activist referees that ignore what the rules actually say.

Of course, the intend of the frictionless ban was to ban frictionless pips.. No doubt about it.. However, the ITTF board of directors does NOT have the authority to apply this regulation to players. Only the AGM has that authority.. (that's a fact, just read the ITTF bylaws).  Eberhard Schoeler knew that he would not be able to get the AGM to support the ban as a rule and therefore he went the easier route to prevent manufactorers from making frictionless rubbers.  IF he would've been certain that it would pass the AGM, he should have requested a rule change that would require any rubber to be used at a tournament to be required to be above a certain amount of friction AND provide a method of testing that. However, they did NOT do that and if a rubber is worn due to use and not treatment (and that includes inverted and anti too), and it is uniform, there is NO rule that would prevent you from using it. A very well player from the Northeast (and I'm not as disrespectful and mention a name and accusing him of anything without proof) has been playing a inverted rubber that played like anti for many years and I do not recall that you or anybody else tried to slander and question the character of that person. The rules regarding that have not been much different back then. They actually became more LENIENT after they removed the "as authorized" clause.

Sure, you can use your influence to get Referees to make activist rulings just like 4 SCOTUS judges did in the Heller vs. DC case but that still doesn't make it right. The rules are written in the english language and the way that the specific rules are worded are very clear.. Of course, you can go and say that they didn't mean what they wrote..  If they didn't mean what they wrote, then they should go and amend the rules just like Congress should pass a consitutional amendment to eliminate a individual right instead of judges trying to legislate from the bench..

While politics and TT really don't have too much in common, I do think that the example that I provided illustrates my point!

 

Olivier

In reply to by pushblocker

Olivier, I almost deleted the above because of the political nature, and I still might. In the Forum rules, there's a listing of things that might be moderated, which includes, "Contentious discussions that aren't specifically related to table tennis, such as politics and religion." I probably need to put that up somewhere as a guideline for blog responses as well. For now, I'll leave your political posting. The problem is that many people, myself included, disagree with some of the political stuff you wrote, which I believe is misleading and biased. But if someone responds, we're off to the racetracks with a big political debate, and that's not going to happen on this table tennis site. So be warned to please keep the political discussions and political examples out of future postings, even if you believe they are good comparisons. This is not the place for them. Thank you.

Regarding the player from the northeast who you say uses inverted rubber that plays like anti, I believe you are referring to Rich DeWitt. I've never coached against him, and only played him once. His backhand is not at all like anti, but it is relatively dead. If what you say is true, some might say it is illegal; I don't know. However, the key difference is that his rubber plays like a legal surface, while yours plays like frictionless long pips, which cannot be used legally, since it means you either broke the ITTF regulation, or broke the USATT rule about treating a surface by letting the long pips bake in the sun or heat to make them frictionless.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

It's not his backhand but his forehand rubber ;-)

He recently got a new sheet but he has been playing with a very old one that played like anti before.

My entire point with my post was that the wording of the RULE is very clear..

Here's the rule:

 

 

2.04.07  The racket covering shall be used without any physical, chemical or other treatment.  2.04.07.01  Slight deviations from continuity of surface or uniformity of colour due to accidental damage or wear may be allowed provided that they do not significantly change the characteristics of the surface. 

I'm actually a IT Systems analyst and its so clear that I can code from those rules:

IF TREATED

    ILLEGAL

END

 

IF DEVIATIONS FROM CONTINUITY OF SURFACE OR UNIFORMITY OF COLOR DUE TO ACCIDENTAL DAMAGE OR WEAR

    IF PROPERTIES CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY

         ILLEGAL

    ELSE

        LEGAL

    END-IF

ELSE

     LEGAL

END-IF

Now, if it can't be determined if a rubber reached a certain state  due to treatment or wear,  the 2nd part comes into play.

My rubber does NOT have any DEVIATIONS FROM CONTINUITY OF SURFACE OR UNIFORMITY OF COLOR DUE TO ACCIDENTAL DAMAGE OR WEAR

and therefore, it would fall into the ELSE branch of my if statement..

Again, unless you can prove that the rubber got to the condition that it is via treatment, it falls under the 2nd part of the rule

and my rubber clearly would not be illegal based on that.. Of course, you can send someone to prison because he looks like a criminal.. but in a real court of law that usually doesn't and shouldn't happen. So, just like that, you can also declare a rubber illegal even though it wouldn't be illegal based on the rules

 

 

In reply to by pushblocker

Since I haven't examined Rich DeWitt's blade or played or watched him play (at least closely) with the rubber on his forehand that you say is illegal, I have no idea if it is or not. If what you say is true, it could be called illegal; it's the referee's judgment. Similarly, if in the referee's judgment (and judgment is not a court of law) your rubber has been treated, then it is illegal. What is treatment? Wine is aged, and that could be considered a treatment. Since you have posted many times about the heating of long pips to make them frictionless, a referee could very easily judge that you have treated it. Nope, he can't prove it, but if you read my blog, you saw where I quoted how he can use the spirit of the rules and regulations.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

Again, the regulations in the friction rule are regulations for manufactoerers to get rubbers approved. Those regulations are decided by the ITTF board of directors. However, the board of directors does NOT have the authority to pass RULES that apply to players. SO, if the spirit of the REGULATION  was to outlaw pips below a certain friction level, they should have gotten the AGM to pass a RULE that requires a rubber to be at or above the legal limit. However, they were very much aware that they would not have gotten the majority needed at the AGM to pass anything regarding that at the AGM. It really doesn't matter what the spirit of it was. It matters what the bylaws of the ITTF say and regarding them, those regulations apply to manufactorers and a actual rule would have to be passed to make it apply to players. It's the same way with catalytic converters on cars. The spirit of the federal requirement to have a catalytic converter is to keep emissions low. However, if a state does not have a emission testing or emission requirements, it's 100% legal to drive with a worn out catalytic converter that pollutes the environment.. Sure, it was the spirit of the law to reduce emissions but its not illegal in Florida to drive with a worn out catalytic converter...  A police officer can't just pull me over and give me a ticket for polluting just because the spirit of the law was to reduce emission.. It does not work that way.. It would work that way in a dictatorship where you make up rules as you'd want them. However, in democracies, there is a way to pass laws and rules. The ITTF is run as a democracy and just like we have house and senate in our political system, the ITTF has AGM and board of directors to make certain decision..  What you would like to see is that cops could pull over a car, test the emissions and fine the driver if he doesn't meet the emission requirement, even if the state doesn't have one because the spirit of the catalytic converter requirement was to lower emissions.. This is the exact logic that you are using.

In reply to by pushblocker

Olivier, you are STILL harping on the frictionless long pips ban being a regulation, not a rule, which nobody is disagreeing with. The point is that it 1) breaks the rule about treating a surface, since you heat the long pips to make them frictionless - as you have already admitted to doing in your garage (though then legalistically challenging us to "prove" that the particular sheet you are using was made frictionless that way, as opposed in some other "non-treating" way!), and 2) that it breaks the rule's intent, i.e. the spirit of the rules. You wrote, "It really doesn't matter what the spirit of it was." Since, as I've pointed out several times, the Tournament Guide EXPLICITLY  says, "In making decisions that are not fully covered by the rules, the referee should consider in turn: ITTF and USATT rulings, precedent, and the rule's intent," you are simply wrong on this, and I wish you would stop making claims that are obviously factually incorrect. The rule's intent is the spirit of the rules, and the referee is EXPLICITLY told to take this into account.

Bringing up cases about gas emissions is irrelevent and silly, since I don't think they have it coded into their rules that the rule's intent or spirt of the rules should be taken into account. (Which means your conclusions about what you think I think are wrong.)

Now, when you bring up what the AGM should have done to pass this as a rule instead of a regulation, there you make a better argument. I'd have to hear the AGM's side of it to form an opinion on this, and perhaps at some point later on I will look into it. That's a separate issue than the issue I blogged about. If you want to argue that it was a mistake for a rule's intent to be included in the Tournament Guide, that's another argument you could make, though denying that wording is there is not an argument since it IS there.

It really would be helpful if you kept your arguments to table tennis rather than bring up irrelevent cases that others may not have studied. They may mean something to you, but in a table tennis site, few want to research or talk about catalytic conversions or car emissions, or why those particular rules were made. Please try to stick to table tennis. Thanks.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

Larry, I did not say that I leave my table tennis equipment in the garage to make it age faster.. I have elaborated on why.. Furthermore, I really don't know if leaving my stuff there is responsible for the faster aging or the fact that I play outdoors TT in my driveway for most of the year as it's too hot in my garage most of the year here in Florida. I actually looked at some rubbers that were just stored in the garage and they are not much different than new.. However, those that I played outdoors seem to have changed noticeably. Neither can be considered intentional treatment. There is no rule that prevents me from playing outdoors.  As for rules and regulations, the right thing to do would've been that the ITTF should've passed a rule and a regulation if they want to be consistent but Eberhard Schoeler, the architect of the ban, knew that he wouldn't get the needed majority, so they only passed a regulation for manufactorers in order to get their rubbers authorized. If they'd pass that rule, I personally think that it would not be too difficult to enforce IF the ITTF would specify what the maximum friction level at the table should be and a method to measure it.. The method could be as simple as having a ball, filled with a specific weight dragged by a device that has a readout.. A german guy actually came up with a testing device that does that and has a readout (manual and not digital). However, his device would only consider the weight of the ball and no additional weight/force on the ball as in the official ITTF test. Now if ITTF wants to pass the rule  and comes up with a low cost device that can be used to enforce it, I would be 100% in favor or that. What I'm not in favor is for people to make up their own tests that are obviousely not accurate. Saying that sliding the ball over the ball WITHOUT pressure is a accurate measurement is absolutely wrong. I do not have one of each aproved sheets of long pips and neither do you have them. In order to say that if a rubber fails that test, that it has to be illegal can only be made if you have made that test on all rubbers to know that all of them would pass that test in their original condition. There was a rubber that remained legal after the ITTF fricitonless ban and it was HALLMARK Super Defence. This rubber hat very slick pips tops but very grippy necks.. If you'd slide a ball over that rubber without pressure, you would feel no resistence, yet the ITTF approved that rubber, saying that it passed the friction test. The reason why the rubber was discontinued was NOT due to the ITTF banning it, it was due to the fact that HALLMARK stopped selling it as it did not sell well..   However, if it would have sold well, it would probably still be legal.. There might be other rubbers like that as there are hundres of different long pips rubbers..  If you don't believe me, do some research on HALLMARK Super Defence and get a old sheet yourself and see that it would not pass your test but it did pass the official ITTF test.. That's why tests should be performed in a standardized, scientific way so that no unfair subjective results are created. I'm all for enforcement, but do it objective.. Sure, many things in table tennis are judgement calls, like in a match to determine if a serve was legal or not.. However, when you are looking at a rubber, it's not like a serve that happens in a matter of a fraction of a second.. You have it right in front of you and ITTF should come up with a way to clarify the rules and a mechanism to enforce them.

Here is the video of this inofficial test:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lvEjRGXcbU

This test doesn't use a specific weight for the test, but if it did and the weight would be standardized, we would have a fairly accurate way of testing friction.. However, first it has to be determined on what friction a rubber may have (or what percent of friction it is allowed to lose before being illegal). Right now, there is no clear definition and the ITTF shoud do something to end the current situtation, in one direction or another..

In reply to by pushblocker

[Hold on while I struggle through a single 24-line, 665-word paragraph. It doesn't make for easy reading.]

Much of the stuff here makes sense, as it's your opinions on the ITTF ban, and since I'm not as familiar with that part of the situation as you apparently are, I don't have much to comment on. However, early on you wrote, "Neither can be considered intentional treatment." Sorry, but the rule about treatment doesn't differentiate between "intentional" or not. It's like saying it's okay to put something on the surface of inverted to make it grippier and claiming it's okay to use it because you accidentally dropped the stuff on the surface. (Prove it wasn't an accident!) If you leave your long pips in the heat or play outdoors in the heat, and that changes it into frictionless long pips, then you have treated it with heat, thereby making it illegal.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

I think that opinions my greatly vary about IF playing outdoors can be considered treating. Accidently dropping ANY substance on a rubber can hardly be considered to be the same as using a rubber to play. Of course, you are entitled to your opinion.. I did think that leaving my rubbers in my garage had also something to do but I did check some of the rubbers before yesterday and noticed that the rubbers in the garage still had about the original friction, and only the ones that I played outdoors have low friction. So, I was wrong when I talked with Ragu. It was only speculation on my part on why the rubber is the way it is. Anyways, there is precedent at the ITTF level that the rubbing test is not acceptable. There aren't too many examples at the ITTF level as there is only one player who still plays the long pips at the table defense and like I said, this happened at a ITTF even in moscow where the Umpire did the rubbing test and declared the rubber illegal and when Akerstrom appealed the Umpire's decision to the Referee as the rubbing test was not a official test, the Referee allowed the use of the rubber. There's actually also USATT precedent.. In 2009 at the NA Teams, a player complained about my rubber and suggested to the referee to make the rubbing test on my rubber and the referee refused as the rubbing test is not a official test. The referee visually inspected my rubber very closely, checked it on the list and declared it legal. My rubber has been checked be referees a few times and I have never been rejected to play with it. I'm actually not aware of anybody being DQ'd or anybody who was refused to play at a USATT event due to the rubbing test.. I am aware of people who have had a visible treatment (i.e. super glue, epoxy, paint) that have been rejected to play but not due to a inofficial rubbing test.  Again, I do favor a fair and objective test, especially one that I could do myself to my rubber to test it to be legal (once the ITTF defines what is actually legal at the table). If there is a way for me to objectively tell if a rubber is legal or illegal, I will not play it in a sanctioned event if it tests illegal, even if the tournament does not have the equipment to test the rubber. BTW, there is LEGAL frictionless ANTI rubber that acts just the same way as frictionless pips did... and this is 100% legal.. For example, Dr. Neubauer A-B-S is 100% frictionless, yet 100% legal.

In reply to by pushblocker

Oh, there's no question that the rubbing test hasn't been accepted yet in the U.S., even in extreme cases where it shows the long pips is obviously frictionless - Raghu could tell immediately when he rubbed a ball against your long pips that they were frictionless. (It's the borderline cases that are tricky to judge.) As has been posted in other forums, it has been done in Europe, but there is no standard on this yet. And as I've posted, just because a person gets away with cheating doesn't change the fact that it is cheating.

You didn't answer my two questions, so I'll ask them again.

1) Were you using fricitionless long pips at Cary Cup, as you apparently privately admitted to some players? (And yes, we've already been over the rules vs. regulations thing.)

2) If yes, how did they get that way? However, you have said you aren't sure, so we'll pass on this one.

I do have a third question for you. I've been told, and now have copies of online postings, where you say you use a UV light machine or lamp to make long pips frictionless. For example, you wrote, "The best way to treat pips is with a high intensity UV-A light. Something like that will get any rubber frictionless in 30 minutes to 2 hours with no visible evidence." You also refer to a 400 Watt UV-A light that you own. Do you have such a UV light machine or lamp that you use to make long pips frictionless?

Of course, I've read your postings where you say that just because you treat long pips to make them frictionless doesn't mean you actually use them in tournaments, and that until someone proves you are actually using the long pips you have treated in tournaments, you are innocent. Does this accurately portray your beliefs?

In reply to by Larry Hodges

--1) Were you using fricitionless long pips at Cary Cup, as you apparently privately admitted to some players? (And yes, we've already been

--over the rules vs. regulations thing.)

I assume and am pretty certain that my pips were below the 25mN  level that the ITTF requires manufactorers to abide by but I can't be 100% sure as I do not have a accurate way to measure it. What is clear is that my rubber had less friction than a new sheet, no doubt about that.

 

--2) If yes, how did they get that way? However, you have said you aren't sure, so we'll pass on this one.

I'm pretty certain that the rubber got that way from playing outdoors. I do play indoors from December to February but I do play outdoors on weekends from March to November as it gets too hot in my garage (where my table sits) in the hotter months.. Florida is very hot.

--I do have a third question for you. I've been told, and now have copies of online postings, where you say you use a UV light machine or

--lamp to make long pips frictionless. For example, you wrote, "The best way to treat pips is with a high intensity UV-A light. Something like

--that will get any rubber frictionless in 30 minutes to 2 hours with no visible evidence." You also refer to a 400 Watt UV-A light that you own.

--Do you have such a UV light machine or lamp that you use to make long pips frictionless?

Yes, I do have a UV light (actually a DYMAX 2000-EC to be exact) to treat rubbers that I'm selling via Ebay Germany to Europe as training rubbers, not to be used in tournaments! It is a way to make a  little extra money to buy equipment etc..  Having the knowledge and equipment is not the same as using it to produce rubbers for my own use. Anybody who read my posts could go and get a UV light and treat rubbers. If they do it for training or for sanctioned events is something that they have to decide based on their morals. The Experimental section is clearly labeled in a way that it's clear that it's not meant to encourage people of using those things in touranments.. Actually, boosting etc. is also discussed there just like treating pips.

--Of course, I've read your postings where you say that just because you treat long pips to make them frictionless doesn't mean you actually

--use them in tournaments, and that until someone proves you are actually using the long pips you have treated in tournaments, you are

--innocent. Does this accurately portray your beliefs?

Yes, that is correct. If you'd like to bring a lie detector and a professional operator to a tournament, I'm willing to take a lie detector test to the regard of the pips that I'm using having been under my UV light or not..  NONE of my PERSONAL rubbers have been under the UV light that I use for my Ebay auctions. I'm also very clear on those auctions that the rubbers should not be used in sanctioned events.

In reply to by pushblocker

BTW, there is LEGAL frictionless ANTI rubber that acts just the same way as frictionless pips did... and this is 100% legal.. For example, Dr. Neubauer A-B-S is 100% frictionless, yet 100% legal.

This has been in the back of my mind all morning. I've played and experimented with anti rubbers for years. I don't think a "frictionless" antispin plays like  frictionless long pips. With long pips, the ball slides against the "frictionless" long pips. But with anti, even if the surface is very slick, the ball sinks into it, and that removes some of the spin - it's just a lot more surface contact. While I haven't played against Dr. Neubauer A-B-S specificially, the slightly less friction of other antis return a ball that's nowhere close to long pips. So I doubt if you get the same near 100% spin reversal with a flat "frictionless" anti as with "frictionless" long pips. If you did, there'd be more players in the U.S. using the stuff - anti is easier to control than long pips, and so it'd be a huge advantage.

This reminds me of when you argued that Rich DeWitt's inverted plays like antispin. I asked players at my club who have played him recently, and they said neither side is anything like antispin, just a relatively dead inverted, like the old D-13 before Sriver came about. This concurs with my experience when I played him a couple years ago. I don't know if it's legal, but it plays like a legal surface, so few people care about it. It's when people get an advantage by breaking the rules that people tend to take notice.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

Above I wrote, "If you leave your long pips in the heat or play outdoors in the heat, and that changes it into frictionless long pips, then you have treated it with heat, thereby making it illegal." Note the three references to heat that I bolded, and where I specifically said it was the heat that was a treatment? Over in another forum, Olivier Mader wrote, "Sure, there are people like Larry Hodges who think that playing outdoors is treating but I believe that he would be in the minority with that view." Maybe I'm living in the clouds, but I just don't get people who will misquote someone like that. When you have to change someone's words to make a point, you've lost the argument while saying a lot about yourself.

If I were to say, "It's dangerous to go outside in freezing cold unless adequately dressed," would it be honest for someone to claim I said, "Larry Hodges says it's dangerous to go outside"? Of course not. It's lying by omission.

Another person wrote that I had said I was "skeptical of the pure long-pips blocking style." Actually, I wrote I was "somewhat skeptical of the long-pips blocking style." He took off the "somewhat" to (falsely) make a stronger point, and so instead of quoting me accurately, he only quoted me "somewhat" accurately. The fascinating thing is these people actually read my blog, and only saw the negative they wanted to see. When I invited them to make the case why I shouldn't be somewhat skeptical of that style, i.e. do something positive, where were they? (And watch how fast my words will now be misquoted or taken out of context! Some people simply cannot exist without enemies, real or imagined.)

In reply to by pushblocker

Ah, just saw this buried deep in the middle of the long paragraph: "Saying that sliding the ball over the ball WITHOUT pressure is a accurate measurement is absolutely wrong. I do not have one of each aproved sheets of long pips and neither do you have them"

The logical disconnect in the second sentence here is that you forget that you can assume that the original sheet is NOT frictionless, since there's a regulation against that. So there's no need to have an original sheet if the current sheet is frictionless, since that would mean it has been treated in some way to make it frictionless. As to the first sentence, yes, rubbing a ball over the pips isn't a highly accurate way of measuring friction; it's just a rough way. If the long pips are well over the line that defines frictionless, however, you can tell. (If you want a scientific test for everything, then prove at the next tournament that your rubber is red and black. Do we really need to bring color spectometers to tournaments, or can we rely on the referee's judgment in most cases?)

To use a simple example, at the Cary Cup, Raghu Nadmichettu told me last night that before his match with you he ran a ball across your long pips, realized that they were frictionless, and asked you about them. You admitted they were frictionless, and said it was because of the heat in your garage. So yes, in many cases you can easily tell. That doesn't mean most umpires or referees will call it, just as most don't call illegal serves. But just because it isn't called doesn't make it legal.

By the way, I notice that the forum that I was quoting from (OOAK) has deleted all the postings I quoted. I think they did this before my blog, so I'm not claiming they did it in response. I'm glad they recognized the problem with those postings, as I wrote about above.

In reply to by pushblocker

Olivier, the moderator ("Speedplay") posted, "The previous content was removed due to getting way of track, while causing plenty of flames. Lets no go down that route again." This seems to contradict your statement above.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

What I said is correct.. The posts were moved to another section, only visible by moderates and spam fighers (like me).  That's a group of about 10 - 12 people that can view it.. It's not being posted to.. It was removed from the PUBLIC view!

I guess my question is "what is it you're skeptical about?"  Is it that you personally don't like to coach it, or you think that a player using that style will never reach an international standard, or that lps blocking is somehow bad for the health of table tennis as a sport? 

Personally I'm in favor of the lps blocking style because it increases the diversity of the table tennis community and makes the sport accessible to a wider variety of players.  Although it's not a very athletic, elegant, or dramatic style I think ultimately table tennis is much better off with lps blockers than without. 

In reply to by david.bernstein

Well said. As I wrote, I'm somewhat skeptical because of the lack of atheticism, but I'm willing to rethink that. I'll have to ponder the value of athleticism vs. the diversity and other arguments. (I have coached the style.)

In reply to by Larry Hodges

I will say that I feel it is much easier to make a strong return with inverted rubber on a passive block (against a loop) than it is to do with long pips. I feel that this is because a passive block with inverted allows you to use the opponents own top-spin and pace to send their return right back on the table, provided the correct bat angle is used. Since a passive block with inverted returns topspin, the ball comes down on its own. However, with long pips, a well executed loop is incredibly hard to return low as we have to use a variety of techniques to mitigate our opponents pace. Combine that with the fact that backspin floats, rather than diving as topspin does, and you have to respect a long pips player at least a little bit. All of the above statements are made regarding long pips WITH friction. When you wrote "and from the very strong returns that can be made by passive blocking", what about the lp return makes it strong? The degree of backspin produced? Or is backspin considered a stronger return than topspin in this scenario?

With regard to athleticism, I think it is fair to state that the long pip blocking style of play does not REQUIRE athleticism.  Some can even take it one step further when they point out how much easier serve return is with long pips. However, I find that these players can add so much to a club as playing them is a good way to measure how you react to different types/degrees of spin and how well you can execute your game against a steady player who is very good at imposing his game on you. We also make good warmup partners for that very same reason. An older gentleman saw me sitting in between divisions at Nationals and asked if I could help him warm up. I said that I would, but apologized to him for being a long pip player as this might hinder his warm up. He said it was no problem. It didn't take long into the warmup for me to realize he was a much better player than me. Afterwards, he thanked me for the warmup and commented how great it was to hit with someone who could block so consistently. Turns out, the man was Dell Sweeris xD. I heard he did pretty good in his matches after that too.

In reply to by PipProdigy

Hi PipProdigy,

I think a long-pips block of a loop, with the heavy backspin, is generally harder to deal with than a standard inverted block, unless the inverted block is punched aggressively. It takes more timing to punch a loop hard with inverted and keep it on the table than to dead block with long pips, where you are both blocking slower and the spin isn't taking on the surface. If you block passively with inverted, i.e. just stick the racket out, then you get a rather weak return that most intermediate players can hammer. They can't do that against the heavy backspin of a long pips block.

Also, with inverted, to make a good block, you have to really get in position. You can't reach for the ball and effectively punch it. With long pips, you don't need to punch the ball, so you can get away with reaching for the ball and blocking passively. I do this in training with students (though not much recently). I don't think there are many players under 2000 who can beat me if I just stand and block with long pips (no sponge). Who knows where I'd be if I actually trained at it, and combined with my regular forehand.

The problem with the long pips blocking is that it limits your options, in particular forcing somewhat predictable defensive returns. However, within those limits, except against strong or experienced players, it is highly effective. That's why the style is so effective.

Congrats on getting to hit with Dell Sweeris! He was a U.S. team member during the 1970s. I worked and practiced with his son Todd quite a bit, and he made the Olympic Team twice. I use to spend Thanksgiving at his house every year along with Todd, then continue to the Teams in Detroit before it moved to Baltimore in '98.

In reply to by Larry Hodges

I don't disagree that a long pips block is "generally" harder to deal with than a standard inverted block. However, you mentioned how easy it is to make said return. I feel that against a loop, I can passively block away from an opponent with relative ease and use their own speed and pace against them. However, this return is rather weak if it is not taken right off the bounce. When addressing that heavy backspin is harder for the players to hit than a topspin return, I think this is an issue that is largely dependent on the fact that players are far more familiar with topspin. Better players who are good at hitting backspin or topspin find the slow pace of the long pip blocks to be like a "lollipop".

I think we may be using different interpretations as far as the incoming loop is concerned. I am assuming a fast loop is coming deep. If you find this an easy stroke to return, you may need to start training with long pips. I can also not block this kind of loop by reaching for it. It must be taken in front of me or it will fly way off the table. I also have to find a way to kill the pace.

I agree 100% about the limitations of the long pips blocking style. It is these limitations that have caused my game to constantly evolve so that my play can one day get to the higher levels.

I really enjoyed playing with Dell Sweeris. Todd is actually my favorite player from his generation and I was a bit starstruck getting to play with his dad. He was incredibly nice and couldn't have been more complimentary of my game and the level of play I have reached in such a short amount of time.

In reply to by PipProdigy

I sure wish I could really switch to long pips and play as a blocker for a long period of time to see what level I could reach that way. But I can't, since I'm a full-time coach, and to be a better hitting partner, I have to use inverted. I bring out the long pips and other surfaces for them to practice against, but to really see how effective I could be with it I'd have to focus on it for a time, as I did as a long pips chopper in the 1990s (2180+ after nine tournaments), with a hardbat, and (as some might know about) with a clipboard. After I finished my weekly sessions, I could bring out the long pips, but I don't have the energy to keep playing at that point. Right now I can barely do the needed hours due to back problems, not to mention knee, leg, and shoulder problems after the Cary Cup from playing hardbat.

Frictionless Long pips

As a coach, I've spent a lot of time over the years thinking about long pips, both how to play against and with them, and about whether they should be legal. My thinking on this has evolved over the years. I admit I'm somewhat skeptical of the pure long-pips blocking style, especially when a player basically covers the entire table by just reaching out and blocking everything back dead with long pips without sponge. In my opinion, it simply isn't very athletic, and table tennis is a sport. But it's legal, and as players and coaches, it's our job to figure out how to play against any legal surface. Besides, if you were to ban long pips, you'd essentially lose the chopping style, which is truly athletic and great for spectators. Plus not all long-pips blockers just stand there and block - some play an athletic forehand game, with the long pips often more a weakness than a strength.

Recently there's been a lot of debate about frictionless long pips. The ITTF made a regulation a while back that they are illegal. (Technically, no surface is frictionless, but they are defining frictionless to be under a certain amount of friction.) Some have taken legal long pips and baked them in the sun or treated them in some other way to make them frictionless, and argue that that's okay. It's not.

If a referee judges that the long pips are frictionless, then he knows that they have been treated in some way to make them frictionless. USATT rule 2.4.7 states, "The racket covering shall be used without any physical, chemical or other treatment." So when a player does something (such as letting them bake in the heat) to make his long pips (or antispin) frictionless, or does something similar to an inverted or any other covering, he is cheating.

Some might argue that since others cheat, it's okay for them to cheat. Sorry, two wrongs do not make a right. Only a small percentage of players cheat, and those who choose to do so are cheaters - and most of the time they are cheating against an opponent who is playing by the rules, unlike the cheater. How can a cheater justify that? (A separate argument could be made for cheating in a match if the opponent cheats, such as using illegal serves if the opponent serves illegally and the umpire won't call it, but that's a separate discussion.)

At the Cary Cup this past weekend, at least one high-rated player was using frictionless long pips. You could tell by the near complete spin continuation when he pushed against backspin, returning the spin nearly 100% as topspin, and the nearly 100% return of topspin as backspin when blocking. (Of course, there could be borderline rubbers where it's not clear, but it was pretty clear in this case.) A referee (or player or coach) experienced with frictionless long pips can rub a ball across the pips and tell if they are frictionless - it's a judgment call. And by definition, a referee can make this judgment call. Of course, not all referees will have enough experience with frictionless long pips to make the call. I don't know if the Cary referee could have - I wish I had asked him about it.

The USATT Tournament Guide specifically states that the referee "Is the final authority on interpretation of the rules and regulations as they apply to the tournament." Note the reference to regulations, which would include the ITTF regulation on frictionless long pips. The Tournament Guide also says, "In making decisions that are not fully covered by the rules, the referee should consider in turn: ITTF and USATT rulings, precedent, and the rule's intent." And it's pretty clear that the intent of the frictionless long pips regulation was to ban frictionless long pips. However, as far as I know, nobody complained to the referee at the Cary Cup, and so no official judgment call was made.

I considered complaining to the referee, but didn't want to disrupt the play of the top cadet player I was coaching. If it had been for a bigger match, say for a national title or a team match against another country, I might have reconsidered. Suffice to say I was confident the cadet could win the match, and he did so somewhat easily by playing very smart.

One defense used by players with frictionless long pips is that they are innocent until proven guilty. Sorry, that's not true; this is not a court of law. If you are using frictionless pips, you are guilty, period. You just haven't been caught yet. Those of us who can recognize frictionless long pips know these players are cheating, just as some of us can normally tell when an inverted player uses illegal speed glue by the sound. (Many modern sponges have the speed glue effect built in, so speed gluing has little advantage now - but those who do so are cheating just as much as those who use chemicals to increase the surface friction of inverted, use frictionless long pips, or who knowingly serve illegally, etc. But that too is a subject for another discussion.)

Now a little history - if that bores you, slowly back away from your computer screen. I'm sure there's a football game on TV. The color rule was passed in 1983, requiring different colors on the racket so players could see which side of the racket the ball was hit. I was one of the instigators for that - like most others, I thought it blatantly wrong that a player could use two very different surfaces that looked the same, but get two very different shots with the same stroke. For several years it led to very poor rallies as the game became a game of almost pure deception, with players making seemingly simple mistakes over and over, and twiddling the racket became the pre-eminent skill. It wasn't just choppers that caused anarchy with this; most attackers found that to survive in the suddenly ultra-deceptive table tennis universe, they had to use some a combination racket as well, and huge numbers went to long pips or anti on the backhand, which they used to set up their forehands. They could do any "spin" serve, and the opponent had to figure out whether it was spinny side (inverted) or dead side (long pips or anti). Similarly, they could flip the racket in rallies, and opponents would make error after error. I did a survey back then and found that over 70% of the players in the 100+ entry monthly tournaments I was running had gone to combination rackets, with over half using long pips or antispin. Think about that! Many of the other 30% were considering it, and nearly all were frustrated at what was happening to the sport - including most of the new combination racket users.

Here's a poem I wrote that was published in USATT's magazine that year, before the color rule was passed:

Little Jack Ding Dong,
Was rotten at ping-pong,
And he could not figure why;
So he bought some weird rubber,
And beat a top player,
And said, "What a good player am I!"

And then the color rule was passed, and life was good again. I vowed I would never complain about an opponent's legal racket surface again. I'm advanced enough that if I can't beat someone when I know what side they are hitting with, then it's my own fault. I've stuck to that, and expect my students to do so as well.

***

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I don't condone cheating by treating rubbers whether pips out or inverted. That said, had someone asked the referee to make a ruling on the LPs in question, how would it have been determined whether the rubber had been treated in some way? Isn't that the only thing that would have disqualified the rubber since the friction requirements only apply to the ITTF approval process for manufacturers? Once a manufacturer's rubber passes ITTF's friction test and is added to the approved list, then where otherwise in the rules, regulations, or technical circulars are players or tournament officials sanctioned to test for friction level (or HOW to test for friction level)?

And thus if neither a "legal" basis for testing for friction is outlined nor a method for doing such testing in an objective manner exists, the only thing left to determine is if the rubber has been subjected to "physical, chemical or other treatment." And if such treatment cannot be objectively and conclusively determined to have occurred then rejecting such a "suspicious" rubber then becomes nothing more than the subjective and capricious opinion of one person. That is how despots operate and not the "rule of law."

I'm not disputing whether frictionless pips should be legal or not. I don't really care. But rules must be objectively quantifiable or they are worthless and actually PROMOTE cheating. The real problem lies at the ITTF and USATT who seem to be either afraid or unable to make a rule concerning frictionless pips that can actually be objectively enforced without relying on anecdotal obseravtions.

 

In reply to by Willis

That said, had someone asked the referee to make a ruling on the LPs in question, how would it have been determined whether the rubber had been treated in some way? Isn't that the only thing that would have disqualified the rubber since the friction requirements only apply to the ITTF approval process for manufacturers? Once a manufacturer's rubber passes ITTF's friction test and is added to the approved list, then where otherwise in the rules, regulations, or technical circulars are players or tournament officials sanctioned to test for friction level (or HOW to test for friction level)?

I answered this in the blog, where I wrote:

"A referee (or player or coach) experienced with frictionless long pips can rub a ball across the pips and tell if they are frictionless - it's a judgment call. And by definition, a referee can make this judgment call."

and

"If a referee judges that the long pips are frictionless, then he knows that they have been treated in some way to make them frictionless. USATT rule 2.4.7 states, 'The racket covering shall be used without any physical, chemical or other treatment.' So when a player does something (such as letting them bake in the heat) to make his long pips (or antispin) frictionless, or does something similar to an inverted or any other covering, he is cheating."

You can argue that the player didn't intentionally leave the rubber out in the sun to bake into frictionless long pips (and if you believe that, I have a bridge I want to sell you), but intent or not, baking in the heat is a treatment. And so it's the referee's judgment call. Referees make many judgment calls, such as judging whether a rubber surfaces is too damaged to use, whether clothing is offensive, or if a player is acting in poor sportsmanship. It's their job.

I also wrote (I've bolded certain items):

"The USATT Tournament Guide specifically states that the referee 'Is the final authority on interpretation of the rules and regulations as they apply to the tournament.'"

and

"The Tournament Guide also says, 'In making decisions that are not fully covered by the rules, the referee should consider in turn: ITTF and USATT rulings, precedent, and the rule's intent.' And it's pretty clear that the intent of the frictionless long pips regulation was to ban frictionless long pips."

So, to conclude, if the referee judges the rubber is frictionless long pips, and therefore has been treated in some way to make it so, the rubber is illegal. Plus they would also use the regulation's intent, which was obviously to ban frictionless long pips.

I believe these answer your questions. 

Hi Larry.

Too bad that one guy who takes advantage of uncleared rules makes all "Long pips" players look bad.

I agree with what you wrote. And congrat on your coaching.....Tong Tong is getting better.

Seriously, if I have to play THAT guy in tourny. What should I do if he refuses to change rubber when asked? And refs or umpires don't know what to do?

It's not about afriad of losing. It's more of a idk....don't feel right.

 

Joe - chopper @ balt club

 

Seriously, if I have to play THAT guy in tourny. What should I do if he refuses to change rubber when asked? And refs or umpires don't know what to do? It's not about afriad of losing. It's more of a idk....don't feel right.

Hi Joe,

It's not an easy situation. Many referees are leery of making such judgment calls, though of course some will, especially in Europe. That's a major reason I didn't make an issue of it at Cary. A referee could only make the judgment call if it were obvious, of course.

Fifth-Ball Attack

On the forum today, someone posted questions about the fifth-ball attack, and why players tend to miss the fifth ball when the third ball is against backspin. Specifically, he wrote, "I've noticed that the 5th ball is missed quite often when the 3rd ball attack is against under spin."

Some quick definitions:

  • Third-ball attack means the server serves, the opponent receives, and the server attacks.
  • Fifth-ball attack means the server serves, the opponent receives, the server attacks with the intent of setting up a ball to put away, the receiver returns the attack, usually with a block, and the server attacks again, often trying to end the point.

The most basic third-ball attack is when the server serves backspin (usually short, at least at the higher levels so opponent can't loop it), the opponent pushes it back long, and the server loops, often looking to end the point on that shot. The most basic fifth-ball attack is when the server serves backspin (again, mostly short), the opponent pushes it back long, the server loops, the opponent blocks, and the server either smashes or loop kills.

The main difference between the third- and fifth-ball attack here is the back shoulder. (I wrote about proper use of the back shoulder in a previous article.) When looping the backspin, the back shoulder drops; when smashing or looping the fifth ball block, the shoulder stays up. (It may drop slightly if looping against a block, but the key phrase is slightly.)

After lowering their back shoulder to lift the backspin, it's common for players to inadvertently lower their shoulder again for the next shot, leading to shots that go long. Plus the fifth ball (often a quick block) comes out faster than the third ball (usually a much slower push), and so the player is rushed, and a rushed shot against a quick incoming ball often goes long. (It rarely goes into the net since a player's first instinct is to hit over the net. When rushed, even dead blocks are often lifted too much and sent sailing off the end.)

The poster also wrote, "One coach I read said that you never attack hard against the 5th ball under these conditions (3rd ball was against under spin), that you must hit a controlled offensive shot and that the 5th ball is all about placement." While I understand the thinking behind this - placement is a priority, and consistency is almost always more important than creaming the ball (with creaming the ball consistently being high in the list of things top players learn to do), I would argue that it is the third ball that should be the "controlled offensive shot" to set up the fifth ball. That's the whole purpose of the third-ball loop in a fifth-ball attack. While the server often does get weak pushes on the third ball that he can loop away for a winner, more often he should focus on placement, depth, and spin to set up a weak return that he can put away on the fifth ball. (But note that placement is key to put-away shots - many players can return power shots if they go right where they are ready, usually the middle forehand or backhand areas, or too-obvious crosscourt shots. Put-away shots should go to wide angles or to the opponent's elbow, and down-the-line put-aways are often nearly unreturnable.)

This doesn't mean the server should always try to rip the ball on the fifth ball; only that the purpose of the third ball loop is to set up a shot that he can rip, and that if he does get a ball he can rip, he should (you guessed it) rip it, i.e. smash or loop kill. If he doesn't get a ball he can put away, then he should do another "controlled offensive shot" to set up the next ball, i.e. the seventh ball.

Addendum, added later: As pointed out by Han Xiao on Facebook, if a player goes for a putaway on the third ball - as many do, especially Chinese-trained loopers - then, if it comes back, it comes back so quickly that you should take a step back and loop the next ball for control. It really all comes down to playing style and situation.

Lottery

Just for the record, none of the five Mega Millions lottery tickets I bought in Virginia on the way back from the Cary Cup on Sunday were winners. So the planned National Training Center, Nationwide Table Tennis League, and the hiring of the entire National Chinese Team as practice partners for the USA Junior & Cadet Teams are all cancelled due to this unexpected lack of funding. The sport of table tennis has suffered a great loss.

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