Lindenwood College

November 11, 2014

Rules Changes and One Last Change

I am tired of rule changes. The game as it is played now is substantially different than the game when I started out. Some of the rules changes were good, such as the two-color rule, the six-inch toss rule, and the idea of making hidden serves illegal. Others were more ambiguous for me - the larger ball, games to 11, and various rules restricting long pips. Some I'm not happy with, in particular the switch to non-celluloid balls, though that's mostly because they jumped the gun and made the switch before the balls were standardized or training balls were available. (I blogged about this on October 21 - see second segment.)

At this point it would take a rather strong argument for me to agree with any more changes. However, there is one last rule change I'd like to see before declaring our sport "perfect" - and that is fixing the hidden serve rule.

I've blogged numerous times about the problems with the hidden serve rule, where umpires rarely call them and so many top players (and juniors) use them to win titles, while those who play fair learn that cheating often pays off in our sport. The problem is that umpires sitting off to the side cannot tell for certain whether a serve is hidden from the opponent, and for some reason I've never fully understood, do not understand the meaning of these two rules:

Rule 2.06.06: It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. 

Rule 2.06.06.01 If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect. 

The second one is pretty explicit. If the umpire isn't sure, then it's not a legal serve. How much clearer can we get?

The first one also makes it very clear that if the umpire can't tell if the serve is visible to the receiver, then the serve is illegal, and they have to either warn (the first time) or fault the serve. If they aren't sure if the serve was hidden or not, then they can't be "satisfied" that the serve complies with the requirements of the Laws. Here (for example) is the Merriam-Webster Definition of "satisfied":

  1. to cause (someone) to be happy or pleased
  2. to provide, do, or have what is required by (someone or something)
  3. to cause (someone) to believe that something is true

Definition #3 is the one that applies here, though you can use #2 as well. If an umpire can't tell if the serve is hidden or not, he cannot "believe that something is true" (definition #3). Nor can he know if the rule that is required is being followed (#2). (If you do try to use #1, well, I don't think an umpire can be "happy or pleased" that he can't tell if a serve is hidden or not! But the third definition is clearly the one used in the context.)

As I've blogged before, there's an obvious solution, one that was proposed to the ITTF at the meetings at the last World Championships, but was voted down. When serving, players should be required to serve so that "throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit if there were umpires." When there are no umpires, it would be assumed the umpires would be sitting about five feet out on each side, lined up with the net. The point of the rule isn't to make sure the umpires can see the ball. The point is that if a server hides the ball from an opponent but it isn't obvious he is doing so, it'll be obvious he's hiding it from at least one of the umpires, and so it would be an easy call for an umpire to declare it illegal. No more hidden serve problems!

Note that the two-color rule was also voted down the first few times it was proposed before it finally passed, and the same is true of other rule changes. I think this rule is so obvious and so easily fixes the problem that we should keep proposing it until it passes.

And then, NO MORE RULE CHANGES*!!!
*Unless there's a really, Really, REALLY compelling argument for one - not likely.

TT Scene from Big Hero 6

I saw the Big Hero 6 last night (it was great!) - and there was a short table tennis scene. When the hero Hiro (pun intended!) visits the university where they are making robots there are two robots rallying in the background. (Or was it a person playing a robot? I should have taken notes!) A few minutes later they are seen again. Alas, I was unable to find any video or pictures of the scene.

Brian Pace and Orlando Muniz Training Session

Here's the video (10:27). This gives an idea of what type of drills advanced players do in their training sessions.

When Serving Short Becomes Important

Here's the article.

Ask the Coach

Here's Episode #23 (10:39)

  • Question 1 - 0:41: When I watched a video of me playing I noticed that all of my loops were going to the middle of the table, Ma Long is able to control his and I was wondering how do you do it? Luke Styles
  • Question 2 - 2:26: Sir, how do I improve my topspin against a chop player? Sahil Garg
  • Question 3 - 5:57: After serve I usually do the slow spinny loop against the backspin. Sometimes they can block my slow spinny loop but after that I don't know what to do, should I do the counter loop or should I do the slow spinny loop again. Long Regain
  • Question 4 - 8:19: Why do lots of players use the pendulum serve always or often? Maverick Abrenica

Here's Episode #24 (12:35)

  • Question 1 - 1:38: Can I play 2 sports at a same time. In my school I play table tennis and basketball. So is it ok if I play both at the same time? Or will basketball ruin my table tennis stroke because of the heavy ball? What is your opinion? Jethro
  • Question 2 - 4:14: What is the right leg position while playing a punch? Which leg should be in front while playing a forehand punch and which when playing a backhand punch? Kaustubh
  • Question 3 - 6:21: I can already do a backhand flick on a short backspin serve but not really on the forehand side. I can do it from the middle of the table but I'm not quick enough to move to the forehand side. Is there a trick to know where it is coming? Rob J
  • Question 4 - 8:33: I used to play hard bat and was able to beat some better opponents using it. Since I have moved to a sponge bat my better opponents are beating me. Can I change to my old hard bat playing a better player and change back to my sponge bat for the others? Stan

Fan Zhendong is the 2014 Chinese National Men's Singles Champion

Here's the article. The 17-year-old defeated Ma Long in the final, 4-2. Fan also won Men's Doubles, teaming with Xu Xin to defeat Zhang Jike and Ma Long in the final. Zhu Yuling won Women's Singles, 4-2 over World Champion Ding Ning.

Lindenwood College Friends Seek Redemption at 2014 Butterfly Thanksgiving Teams Tournament

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Daniel Rosenfeld Interview

Here's the USATT interview with this Paralympic player.

Top Ten Shots from the Russian Open

Here's the video (4:12), which was held this past weekend in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Here's the ITTF Russian Open home page, with results, articles, photos, and video.

Hand Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!

Non-Table Tennis - World Fantasy Convention

I spent Saturday at the World Fantasy Convention in Arlington, Virginia. This is where science fiction and fantasy fans from around the world gather annually for panels, exhibits, movies, readings, etc. Outside my table tennis world I'm also a science fiction & fantasy writer (one novel and 71 short story sales). I gave a 30-minute reading Saturday at 1:30 PM where I read the first two chapters of my novel "Sorcerers in Space." (Due to table tennis commitments, I only went over on Saturday, though the convention was Thur-Sun.)

I've always admired how well-run these conventions are. For example, the annual World Science Fiction Convention generally gets 5000 or more paid attendees, and it's all volunteer run. The World Fantasy Convention is smaller, but probably had over a thousand.

When I mention science fiction or fantasy conventions, some of you probably have visions of people running around in funny costumes. That's true of some conventions, primarily fan-based conventions. But the more "serious" (like this one) are more literary. While there are always some who dress up, most dress like normal people and act almost like normal people.

I got lost on the way there (I don't have GPS, alas) - and then, by sheer chance, saw a van with the wording "Hyatt Regency Crystal City," which happened to be the hotel the convention was at. I followed it, knowing it was 50-50 it was going to (and not from) the hotel - and I won as it soon pulled into the hotel. After a huge hassle finding parking (and another hassle later trying to find my car), I arrived just in time for the Science Fiction Writers of America 90-minute meeting, which started 8:30 AM on Saturday.

At registration I received book bags with about 15 new novels and other goodies. Then I spent the day attending panels, watching some short movies, viewing the fantasy art show, and meeting and talking with other writers. Some of the writers I talked with included Joe Haldeman, James Morrow, James Maxey, and Cat Rambo. (Haldeman is the equivalent of a top-ten-in-the-world table tennis player, while the other three are the equivalent of U.S. team members.) I had a good time at my reading as well. To promote my novel I gave out about 20 copies.

We shared the hotel with a Rolling Thunder convention. They are basically a nationwide motorcycle gang with the following mission: "…to publicize the POW-MIA issue: To educate the public that many American Prisoners of War were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future Veterans from being left behind should they become Prisoners of War-Missing In Action. We are also committed to helping American Veterans from all wars." Nearly all wore motorcycle garb, either leather or jean vests with "Rolling Thunder" in large lettering, most of them jammed with patches and buttons. Anti-Jane Fonda buttons seemed popular. I think they outnumbered us - all these bearded motorcycle gang-type people was pretty scary at times!

Here's a thought: there are something like 400 billion galaxies, with about 100 billion stars on average in each. That's about 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. How many aliens are out there? How many of them have developed games like table tennis? Are they shakehanders, penholders, or do they manipulate the paddle telepathically? These are the burning questions that need answers.

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May 31, 2012

Forehand Looping from Backhand Corner

There's a discussion at the about.com forum about a point showing Larry Bavly (Heavyspin) winning a point with a "relatively low speed block to show that all points do not have to be won by hitting the ball hard." He does this against an opponent who had forehand looped from the wide backhand corner. There was some debate as to how this happened. The basic problem was that the woman looping against Bavly was rushed, and so was left off balance at the end of the stroke, and unable to recover back into position for the next shot. Here's the video. (This will download the video as a wmv file, which you should be able to play.) See how she is off-balanced at the end of the stroke, leaning to her left (our right)?

Now watch this example (in the point starting at 2:41) on youtube of a player doing the same shot and having no trouble covering the wide forehand for the next shot. This is a match between Wang Liqin (near side, in yellow shirt) versus Ma Long (far side, purple shirt). Wang is serving. Ma pushes the serve back, blocks the next ball, then steps way around his backhand to forehand loop. Wang blocks the ball to Ma's wide forehand, and Ma has no trouble covering it. Throughout the match watch how both players take turns ripping forehand loops, and see how fast they recover - because they are balanced throughout the shot, and so are able to recover almost instantly for the next shot. (Watch the slow motion replay.) There's another example of Ma doing this at 4:35, though this time he barely is able to cover the wide forehand  Note how the players sometimes even use their momentum from the previous shot to get back into position.

A similar point happens in the second point shown, starting 22 seconds in. This time it's Wang Liqin who steps around to forehand loop, and is ready to cover the wide forehand. Ma actually blocks more to the middle of the table, but you can see Wang was ready to cover the wide forehand - and since the ball wasn't so wide, he is able to take this ball right off the bounce. (Watch the slow motion replay of this point.) There's another point like this starting at 2:24, where Wang again steps around to forehand loop, and is immediately able to cover the wide forehand - but this time, while he's there, he misses. There's another one at 3:43 where Wang against steps around, and this time Ma has an extremely wide angle to block to. Watch how easily Wang recovers and moves to cover the wide forehand, though Ma misses the block.

Regardless of where you are looping from, or even what stroke you are doing, balance throughout the stroke and rally is one of the key differences between elite and non-elite players. Players who can do repeated attacks in the same rally can do so because they are balanced and in control of their positioning and momentum; players who can only do one or at most two good shots in a row are usually off-balanced and not really in control. This doesn't mean you should always be perfectly centered between your feet, but that your weight should almost always be centered somewhere between your feet, with you in control of your body positioning, regardless of the momentum from the previous shot.

We won't talk about the rather awkward (but effective this time) "Seemiller" style block Bavly uses this point. Some things better remain unspoken.

Serving Short and Low

Are you playing in the Easterns this weekend, or any other upcoming tournaments? Have you been practicing your spinny serves so you can keep them short and low? No? Good. Then if you play anyone I'm coaching (and I'm coaching at the Easterns), we're going to loop or flip your serve in, and like the piggy with no roast beef, you'll cry all the way home. Oh, you've changed your mind, and decided to practice your serves? (Monday's Tip of the Week will be on how to do this. And no, you don't have to serve short all the time, just most of the time, or at least when facing an opponent who can effectively loop your serve.)

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Overcoming Fear of Defending (1:32)

Joint Table Tennis and Golf Scholarship

Austin Preiss is going to Lindenwood College on a joint table tennis and golf scholarship, which must be a first. Here's the article. Some of you may know Austin both as a top junior player the last few years and for doing exhibitions around the country with his father Scott.

Stop-Motion Video Ping-Pong

This was a school project by someone, but it's hilarious, and gets better and better as it goes on (2:26).

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