Real Table Tennis

October 17, 2014

Big Upcoming USA Tournaments

This is sort of the main "tournament season" for many players, with the Teams and Nationals both coming up, along with other big 4-star tournaments. If you are relatively new to big tournaments, perhaps the first thing to do is to read my USATT article (with the longest table tennis article name ever), "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Your First Table Tennis Tournament…But Didn’t Know Where To Ask!" (It includes sections on General Info, Ratings, Etiquette, and How to Play Your Best.)

If you play in any of these tournaments, you might want to enter some smaller events first to develop "tournament toughness," which will help you in the big ones. Here's my Tip of the Week on this, which begins, "Playing in tournaments is quite different from playing practice matches. Here are three reasons for this. First, the playing conditions are generally different than you are used to - different tables, balls, floors, backgrounds, and lighting. Second, you are usually playing different players, while in practice you often play the same players over and over. And third, there's far more pressure in a tournament match than in a practice match. (There are other, lesser reasons - traveling, time zone changes, eating different foods, etc.)"

Here's a rundown of some of the big ones coming along. (To find tournaments, see the USATT Tournament Schedule.) We'll start with three of the BIGGEST ones.

Nov. 28-30 - The Teamses. We normally call it the "Teams," but there are now two big 4-star Team events over the Thanksgiving holidays, so we have to pluralize that to "Teamses." (Now I sound like Gollum.) The format for the two Team tournaments is 3-person teams, with each team match a best of nine. (In some of the "feature" matches in the final or just before that they play an adjusted best of five.) 

I've got a huge conflict here. I'm sponsored by Butterfly, but the JOOLA North American Teams are both local and run by a former junior star from my club, Richard Lee. (Richard won nearly every age event at the Junior Nationals and Junior Olympics during his heydays in the 1990s - and though I wasn't his primary coach, I spent hundreds of hours practicing and playing with him.) Richard still comes to MDTTC, and his son, 7-year-old Ryan, is now one of our up-and-coming juniors. Here are the two tournaments.

The $3000 Butterfly Teams are held in Hobart, IN. Here's their promotional video (2:07). Tournament director is Dan Seemiller. They are the "new kid on the block," running their own 4-star team tournament on the same weekend as the traditional North American Teams. If they are successful, I'm guessing they will increase the prize money in the future.

The $20,000 JOOLA North American Teams are held in Washington DC, about 20 miles or so from my club (MDTTC). Here's their promotional video (54 sec). This is the bigger of the two by far, with 140 tables and 830 players last year, the most of any USA tournament. I've been going to this one since 1976. (It was in Detroit back then, moving to Baltimore in 1998, and to Washington DC last year. I was the original instigator in bringing it to Baltimore, along with Richard Lee, Jim McQueen, and others.) They'll be using the new JOOLA 40+ plastic balls at the tournament. I'll be coaching my students at this tournament.

Dec. 16-20 - the 5-star $31,000 USA Nationals in Las Vegas. This is one of USATT's two showcase events. (The other is the U.S. Open in July.) I'll be there mostly coaching and attending some meetings, though I'm also playing in a few hardbat events. (I normally use sponge.) The deadline to enter the tournament without a late fee was originally today, with a $75 late fee until Oct. 27, and then no more entries accepted. But they just extended the deadline - they do this every year - and now the first deadline is Oct. 31, with entries accepted with the $75 late fee until Nov. 10. You can actually watch as the entries come in, either by name or by event. They currently have 388, but will have about double that before entries close. (For some reason they don't advertise the total prize money, so I painstakingly added it all up, and it came to $30,650, which I rounded up to $31,000 above.) They'll be using the new Nittaku 40+ Premium ball at the tournament. 

Here are other upcoming 4-star tournaments.  Note they are now running monthly 4-star events at the clubs in Westchester TTC (NY) and Triangle TTC (NC).

Oct. 17-19 - $10,000 North Carolina Open at the Triangle TTC in Morrisville, NC. It might be too late to enter this one, since it starts today, but who knows?

Oct. 25-26 - $8900 Butterfly South Shore Open in Highland, IN. I'll be at this one, coaching Nathan Hsu, who is in the Open, Under 2450, and 18 & Under Boys. We're driving up - a 9.5 hour ride. (If you're there, come by and say hello.) Here's the list of entries so far. The highlight of this tournament might be the Nate Wasserman Junior Championships. These include six events:

  • 18 & Under Boys (1st $1000, 2nd $500, 3-4 $100)
  • 18 & Under Girls (1st $1000, 2nd $500, 3-4 $100)
  • 15 & Under Boys (1st $500, 2nd $200, 3-4 T)
  • 15 & Under Girls (1st $500, 2nd $200, 3-4 T)
  • 13 & Under Boys (1st $200, 2nd $100, 3-4 T)
  • 13 & Under Girls (1st $200, 2nd $100, 3-4 T)

Oct 25-26 - $7000 Westchester October Open at the Westchester TTC in Westchester, NY. (It's actually in Pleasantville, NY, which is in Westchester County, but I like saying "Westchester.") They run a monthly 4-star tournament at Westchester, so I hope lots of players will support this. I wish I could bring players and attend more of their tournaments (as a coach), but I'm too buy on weekends to get away too often.

Nov. 15-16 - $5000 Triangle November Open - another big one at the Triangle TTC in Morrisville, NC. I'll have to get down to one of their tournaments sometime.

Nov. 22-23 - $7000 Westchester November Open - another big one at the Westchester TTC. The entry form for this one doesn't seem to be up, but info is at the club's web page.

Dec. 6-7 - $5000 Triangle December Open - still another big one at the Triangle TTC in Morrisville, NC.

Dec. 27-28 - $7000 Westchester December Open - still another big one at the Westchester TTC.

Knock the Ball Off the Table Contest

Here's the video (1:53) between USA's Kanak Jha and Sweden's Kristian Karlsson.

Interview with Brian Pace

Here's the interview, which covers his table tennis (player and coach), cycling, and other subjects.

2014 ITTF Women's World Cup About to Take Off in Linz

Here's the ITTF Press Release. Here's the ITTF Home Page for the event (with articles, results, and soon pictures and video), which runs in Linz, Austria, Oct. 17-19 (Fri-Sun).

Aging Player Keep On the Ball with Pingpong

Here's the feature article in the LA Times.

TableTennis11 Blog and the Ten Best Backhand Players of Modern Table Tennis

Here's their blog page, with the link the "Best Backhands" item (which includes video) and two previous blog items on "7 Things You Need To Know to Master The New Plastic Ball" and "Top 5 Blades You Want Right Now!"

Training Through Seo Hyowen's Eyes

Here's video (15 sec) of what training looks like from the world #10 and #1 Korean woman.

Table Tennis USB Flash Drives

Here they are! Up to 16GB size.

Lefty Cat Smacking Forehand

Here's the repeating GIF image.

Real Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon! Here's a similar one with the same idea.

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May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

What to Do at the End of a Close Game.

Here Was My Weekend

SATURDAY. I was coaching pretty much all day. I gave a private lesson from 9:15-10:15AM, then a group beginning/intermediate junior session from 10:30AM-Noon. From 2-4 PM I gave private lessons, and then from 4:30-6:30 was a practice partner for a group session.

Probably the most interesting session was the 9:15-10:15AM session with Sameer, 11, rated 1181. I've been coaching him at his house where there's only about four feet going back. Today was the first time I gave him a private lesson at the club where there was room to go back - so much of the lesson was on looping against block, which he can't do at his house. He's going to start taking more lessons at the club for this reason. He has a tendency to stand up straight, and then his strokes fall apart. When he stays low and doesn't rush, he's a lot better.

In the afternoon one of my sessions was with John Olsen, 56, rated 1999. I've been working with him for a few years now, and now he's playing me dead even in our practice matches. Against juniors, I'm still pretty good, but more experienced tactical players are starting to see the holes in my game now that I've slowed down to sloth speed. It's not easy being a mostly one-winged attacker when your feet move like a sloth. Add that John's used to my serves, and that my blocking in matches has also deteriorated due to slower footwork (yes, good blocking takes footwork), and he's not easy to play anymore.

That night I saw the movie Epic, which I thought was pretty good. If you go to see it, early on there is a scene where the main character, M.K., takes a taxi to visit her father out in the wilderness. She has a short discussion with the taxi driver. The taxi driver is voiced by none other than Judah Friedlander, one of the stars from 30 Rock, stand-up comedian, and well-known table tennis player! (I've given him several private lessons. That's why he's the World Champion.)

I looked around that afternoon and realized how spoiled players at MDTTC are, along with a few other clubs around the country. Regular club players were playing side-by-side with some of the best players and juniors in the country. Here's a listing of some of the players or coaches at the club that afternoon, with their rating (and age if a junior - lots of good juniors!), with apologies to those left out.

  • Cheng Yinghua, 2614
  • Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), 17, 2587
  • Jack Huang, 2526
  • Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), 14, 2498
  • Harold Baring, former #2 in Philippines, 2400+
  • Raghu Nadmichettu, 2331
  • Richard Doverman, 2310
  • Crystal Wang, 11, 2292
  • Zhang Liang Bojun ("Brian"), 16, 2251
  • Chen Jie ("James"), 16, 2249
  • Tong Tong Gong, 15, 2246
  • Stephen Yeh, 2233
  • Derek Nie, 12, 2215
  • Roy Ke, 13, 2191
  • Lixin Lang, 2187
  • Heather Wang, 2181
  • Barbara Wei, 2178
  • Larry Hodges, 2145 (I'm getting old!)
  • Greg Mascialino, 2099
  • Changli Duan, 2080
  • Changping Duan, 2065
  • Amy Lu, 12, 2022
  • Princess Ke, 12, 1953
  • Adam Yao, 11, 1908
  • Tony Li, 11, 1799
  • Wesley Duan, 12, 1761
  • Tiffany Ke, 8, 1430
  • Lisa Lin, 9, 1385
  • Missing on Saturday, but back on Sunday: Nathan Hsu (17, 2397) and John Hsu (2248)

SUNDAY. I coached a 6-year-old from 10AM-11AM. He's up to 86 forehands and 35 backhands in a row against multiball. But at his age hand-eye coordination is a problem, so we spent some time on ball bouncing. He was able to bounce the ball up and down on his racket seven times, a new record for him. It isn't easy as his reactions at this age aren't fast enough to really react to the ball in the time it takes to bounce up and down on his paddle. He could just bounce the ball higher, but then he loses control.

I was off until that afternoon. I had another private session from 3:15-4:15, then a group junior session from 4:30-6:00. While I was coaching there was an elderly woman hitting with an older teenager for about an hour, and I realized they had been there the day before as well. I'm guessing it was a grandmother and grandson. What made it interesting is both had these identical windmill-style forehands, sort of like an exaggerated Dick Miles forehand (if you've ever seen that!). They'd bring their rackets way over their heads like a windmill, then bring it down and hit the ball. They weren't much beyond the beginning stage, but it was somewhat obvious he had learned his strokes from her.

The group session was smaller than usual because of Memorial Day weekend. With three coaches (myself, Raghu Nadmichettu, and John Hsu), and a practice partner (11-year-old Tony Li, rated 1799, who helps out in these sessions), the kids got a lot of one-on-one practice.

MONDAY. I believe yesterday was the first morning since Christmas where I didn't have either a blog or coaching in the morning. I actually could sleep late! (Except my 15-year-old dog, Sheeba, can no longer last the night, and as usual got me up at 4AM to go out.) I got a lot of work done on various writing projects.

Plastic Ball Conflict of Interest?

To quote from the OOAK forum, "It comes to light that Dr. Joachim Kuhn, the ITTF Equipment Committee member in charge of ball testing and approval, the man behind the report about how great the new plastic balls are (that was recently suppressed by the ITTF without explanation) has a MAJOR conflict of interest. Turns out that Dr. Kuhn's wife, In Sook Yoo, is one of the two patent holders, so Mr. and Mrs. Kuhn stand to make money on every new ball sold." There are discussions on this on the OOAK forum and About.com.

Kanak Jha Wins Two Silver Medals at Polish Cadet Open

Here's the pictures and caption. The events were Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams.

What Table Tennis Is All About

Here's a new tribute video (4:50) from Genius Table Tennis.

Worlds Pre-Match Light Show

Here it is (2:13)!

Meet Coach Richard McAfee

JOOLA put together this video (2:00) welcoming him as a sponsored coach. I think all sponsors should do this with all their sponsored coaches and players.

Will Shortz on TV

Here's a video (16:16) of world-renowned puzzlist and Westchester TTC owner Will Shortz last Wednesday on the Artie Lange Show, with guest host Colin Quinn. As described by Will, "The conversation started with puzzles, then segued to table tennis, and ended with me playing Colin in a TT match." The discussion turns to table tennis at 8:46 (here). For the record, Will won 11-1.

Real Table Tennis

Outside, where the buffalo roam. (Or cattle anyway.) Or perhaps indoors, on the floor, with shoes for a net.

Cartoon Fox/Kitten

I'm not sure if this Facebook picture is a baby fox or a kitten. (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

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August 27, 2012

Tip of the Week

Movement in Doubles.

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Five

The eleven week camp marathon is over - each camp Mon-Fri, with a total of 55 days of camp. We averaged over 30 players per camp.

On Friday, the final day, I gave lectures on flipping short balls, on equipment (inverted, short pips, long pips, antispin, hardbat) and on how to play certain styles (choppers, penhold, Seemiller grip). We ended the morning with the candy game, where I put piles of candy on the table (jolly ranchers and Hershey kisses), and the kids took turns trying to knock them off as I fed multiball, three shots each. There was a stack left at the end so I distributed that among everyone.

Then we had lunch, and then 17 of us walked to the 7-11 down the street. (They keep giving me free small Slurpees for bringing in so many customers!) In the afternoon we had a practice tournament. I also had an informal awards ceremony for Wesley Fan and Kyle Wang, who had won bronze medals at the Junior Olympics a month ago for Under 14 Boys' Teams, but had left without getting their medals (or even knowing they had won them!). The medals had been mailed to me to give to them. We also sang Happy Birthday to Daniel Zhu, turned ten that day.

Things I Learned This Summer

  • The human head weighs a lot. You don't know this until you have a neck injury. According to the kid in the movie Jerry Maguire, the human head weighs eight pounds. According to Wiki Answers, it's 8-12 pounds. My own subjective belief is mine weighs 100 pounds. (Here's that picture of me in the neck brace. Tong Tong Gong took the picture.)
  • The amount of Slurpee that a kid can fit into his stomach after a table tennis training session is larger than the volume of his stomach. (This is true even after he has eaten lunch.)
  • When you walk to 7-11 during break, you have to go outside, and it's HOT outside in the summer.
  • The most accurate forehand in the world is from a kid who's told he can have the candy on the table if he can hit it off.
  • If you eat Chinese food for lunch during camps all summer, you gain weight. I went from 175 to 183, and now begins the torturous journey back to 175. My diet starts today.
  • When driving through an intersection, watch for Metro Access Buses on the left that suddenly pull in front of you.
  • The grip and foot positioning are still the core problems with most bad technique. If both are done properly, everything in between tends to fall into place, though there are a few common problems that still persist - not using shoulder rotation, muscling the ball, hitting shots too flat, etc.

The Backhand Block

Here's an article by Tom Nguyen on improving his backhand, with tips from Steven Chan.

Tahl Leibovitz: Saved from Homelessness by Table Tennis

Here's an article in the Times of Israel about how table tennis saved Paralympic Champion Tahl Leibovitz from homelessness.

Chinese Training

Here's a video from two years ago (7:54) that shows the Chinese team in training.

1958 U.S. Table Tennis Nationals

Here's a video (9:59) with clips of matches from the 1958 Nationals (now usually referred to as U.S. Opens), with commentary by Marty Reisman, who also appears in many of the clips. (He would win Men's Singles.)

Bryan Brothers Play Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:23) of the Bryan Brothers (twins Bob and Mike, #1 tennis doubles team in the world and recent Olympic Gold Medalists) playing table tennis in a charity to benefit the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). Note the two-handed backhand by Mike! You also get to see Bugs Bunny (or a very large rabbit) playing. Really.

Real Table Tennis!

Here are six pictures of vintage table tennis as it should be played. (Click on each picture to see the next.)

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