Lord of the Ping

April 23, 2013

Tip of the Week

Proper Practice Progression Prevents Poor Play.

Hopes Trials

The Hopes Trials were held in conjunction with the North American Cup this past weekend in Westchester, NY, at the Westchester Table Tennis Club. And here's an article (lots of photos) on the players at the North American Cup.

I saw very little of the North American Cup since I was alternating coaching matches in the Hopes Boys and Girls Trials. (There was also an all-day USATT Board Meeting on Saturday, but I missed all of that as well.) I did see some spectacular play by 2406-rated 15-year-old Allen Wang - he's moved up to where he's challenging the best players in the country, despite being roughly six feet twenty inches tall. He beat Canada's Xavier Therien (rated 2517), went seven games with Peter Li (2557), and had a spectacular match with eventual North American Cup winner Andre Ho (2522), including an incredible game which Ho finally won, 25-23 (!). I saw some of the women's final - as usual, Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang put on a show, with Zhang winning.

I wrote a lot about the tournament in my blog last Thursday, so I won't repeat all of that. I coached Crystal Wang and Derek Nie in all of their matches, which roughly alternated every hour all day long. Most of the time they practiced together to prepare for their matches, but I also joined in a lot, especially with Derek, where we had a lot of nice counterlooping duels as well as lots of serve & receive and serve & loop practice.

Crystal, rated 2292, won Girls' Singles without losing a game. She beat Ivy Liao of Canada (rated 1939) in the semifinals at 7,3,7. In the finals, she faced Amy Wang of New Jersey (rated 2168, but recently over 2200, and with a winning record against Crystal). However, this time Crystal won at 8,7,8 in a battle of Crystal's two-winged looping (often off the bounce) against Amy's more traditional hitting. Amy is looping more than before, but is forced to block when Crystal starts looping, and Crystal's loops into the forehand and middle were effective.

There were two umpires - the main umpire, and the assistant umpire, who was the scorekeeper. Throughout this match, for some reason, the scorekeeper seemed to stare at me almost continuously between points. Every time I'd glance at the scoreboard he'd be staring - almost glaring. I have no idea why; I'm not even sure if I've met him before. Perhaps he thought I was signaling or something. Several others noted this as well. Neither he nor the main umpire were staring or glaring at the other coach. 

I've never used signals when coaching; they are illegal. (Here's proof: I've been coaching matches for over 30 years, and I've many hundreds of players in tournament matches. ATTENTION, all players I've ever coached - if I've ever used signaling when I coached, please step forward now and let everyone know. But nobody's going to step forward because it never has happened.) Some umpires are overzealous in guarding against signaling, but it's somewhat silly. Any coach could get away with signaling if he wants. For example, no umpire is going to tell a coach he can't clap after a point. So a dishonest coach can, for example, work out with his player that one clap means serve short to the forehand; two claps mean short to the middle; three claps short to the backhand, and so on. Elbows up for topspin, down for backspin, and perhaps clap with the tips for no-spin. (I'm making this up as I go along. Really.) Or use innocuous words of encouragement that mean something. However, all this is rather counter-productive as signaling a player over and over is a really good way to mess up their concentration as well as training them to not be able to think for themselves.

Derek (rate 2215, was 2234 before a bad Cary Cup) made it to the semifinals of Boys' Singles. There he faced Victor Liu (rated 2226). It was a seesaw battle, where one player seemed to dominate every game. Derek led 9-7 in the fifth. The last time these two had played (at the 2011 Nationals) Derek had led 9-6 in the fifth and lost five in a row. Two of the best times to call a time-out are when the player is losing focus, and when the player is serving and on the verge of winning an important game. In the latter case, you do so to make sure the player is completely focused and knows what serves to use to lock up the game. So I called a timeout - but Derek, feeling he was okay, shook it off. He lost the next four points, including an easy loop, a push, and an easy block. Sheer agony as he lost, 8,-5,7,-7,9. We'll never know if the timeout might have helped. Victor went on to win the final over Gal Alguetti at 13,7,9.

With Victor, Derek, and the Alguetti twins (Gal & Sharon, rated 2283 and 2271), I don't think we've ever had such a strong group of players at that age group, all 11 or 12. Add in Kanak Jha (2457) and Jack Wang (2329), who were one year too old for the Hopes Trials, and several others in the 2150-2200 range, and we have a powerhouse group coming up. Not to mention the twin towers on the girls' side of Crystal & Amy Wang! (No relation, though Amy is the younger sister of Allen, mentioned at the start.)

Brain Teasers at the Hopes Trials

It wasn't all table tennis, however. During the five-hour ride to and from the tournament, and also at meals, Derek and Crystal became addicted to brain teasers. I know hundreds of them, but I'd used many in past trips, and so began to make ones up. I think Derek may major in college in brain teasers.

Here are some brain teasers involving table tennis that I made up. Email me your answers, and tomorrow I'll publish whoever gets them right! (I made up many more, but can't remember them, alas.)

  1. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a lion, a giraffe, a raccoon, and an elephant. Then he played another animal, but over and over the animal served wet balls. Why?
  2. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a chimpanzee, a dog, an ostrich, and a snake. Then he played another animal, but over and over, rather than playing, the player would drop his paddle, fall to the ground, and lay still. Why?
  3. A group of miners had dug tunnels to extract diamonds from the ground. They decided to set up a ping-pong table in their tunnel. The tunnel was exactly six feet wide, so just wide enough for the table and net (which extends six inches on both sides). It was very long, so there was plenty of room on each side. It was exactly thirty inches tall, and so just enough room for the table and net. However, once it was set up, they were unable to play. Why?
  4. Here's a non-table tennis one I made up. Remember, this is being said out loud, so ignore the actual spelling. An old man with one hair went to a barber and asked him to cut the hair. The barber was outraged, and called the police. Why?

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Featured by Australia TTA

Here's the article. Copies of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers are going fast!

Largest Club in the Country

The Westchester Table Tennis Club has been the largest full-time club in the country for several years, at 13,000 square feet with 18 tables. (My club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, is "only" 10,000, with 16 tables, alas. Though we sometimes jam in 18 tables for training.) However, a new club has just opened in Portland, Pure Pong, with 16,500 square feet and 20+ tables. Here's the article.

Table Tennista

Here are the headline international stories at Table Tennista.

Stiga Tisza Table Tennis Camp in Hungary

Here are three short videos from the camp.

Training in China

Here's a training video (3:38) in China from Tony Table Tennis.

The Lord of the Ping

I think he's cupping his hand - but he doesn't have to follow no rules.

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October 22, 2012

Tip of the Week

Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves.

MDTTC October Open

I ran the MDTTC Open this weekend, a rather exhausting ordeal since I also did four hours of coaching. Here is my write-up and results of the event, followed by the usual blog stuff. 

$2600 Butterfly MDTTC October Open
MarylandTable Tennis Center
Gaithersburg, MD • Oct. 20-21, 2012
By Larry Hodges

This month there were extra large trophies waiting for winners of most of the Sunday events, in addition to $2600 in prize money mostly given out in Saturday events at the October Open at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The larger trophies went over very well, and hopefully will attract more players in our next tournament, sometime early in 2013.

Wang Qing Liang, rated 2621, defended his title from last month, once again defeating fellow MDTTC coach Chen Bo Wen, rated 2516, in another 4-2 battle, this time at -9,10,-9,7,8,5. There's an old adage that choppers tend to get better as the match goes on as they adjust to the opponent's attack, and that's exactly what happened. By the end of the match there seemed no way to get through Wang's chopping defense, and his forehand loop was as spectacular as ever when he'd swoop in against a push or counterloop from off the table. Chen had actually spit matches with Wang at the recent Badger Open, knocking Wang's rating down from the 2642 he'd achieved mostly from making the semifinals of Men's Singles at the U.S. Open. Wang won $1000 to Chen's $400.

Both had semifinal battles. Former MDTTC junior star Richard Lee (rated 2424 and the long-time owner of North American Table Tennis) led 10-9 and 11-10 in the first (going for the possibly the most powerful forehand rip in the history of the universe at 11-10 that just missed) and 10-8 in the second before losing at 11,10,7,8. In the other semifinals, Larry Abass (rated 2320) came from way behind to win the first against Chen, and then made it to deuce in the fifth game, but in between it was all two-winged looping penholder Chen, winning at -9,4,5,4,10. Abass, who also used to be a big two-winged looper (but shakehand style), is now using one millimeter sponge on his backhand, which he uses to backhand loop against backspin but mostly chop against topspin. He caught both Chen and many spectators by surprise with his excellent chopping game, including Raghu Nadmichettu in the quarterfinals. Between him and Wang, the chopping game is alive and well in Maryland. Lee and Abass each pocketed $200 for the semifinals.

Hung Duy Vo, who'd lost the final of Under 2350 last month (to Raghu Nadmichettu), mostly dominated Under 2300 this month for $200, defeating Nasruddin Asgarali (who won $100) in the final, -8,11,6,8, and Roy Ke (age 13, rated 2188) in the semifinals, 7,7,-7,5. Asgarali took out Lixin Lang in the semifinals, 8,-10,6,4, allowing him to return to his greatly appreciated help at the desk.

Chen Qiming won Under 2150 ($150), 7,7,-10,-9,4 over Arsha Kuds ($75), whose comeback from down 0-2 in games fell short. But Kuds then surprised everyone by making the quarterfinals of the Open with wins over Hung Duy Vo and Lixin Lang. Both finalists did Houdini comebacks in the semifinals, with Chen coming back against Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6, and Kuds against Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.

The semifinals of Under 2000 was a battle of experienced veterans against aspiring juniors, with the veterans prevailing in five as Mahesh Balagangadhar defeated Jason Wei (14), 5,-7,5,-6,8, and Gordon Gregg defeated Amy Lu (U.S. #3 Under 12 girl at 1852), 4,-8,7,-7,9. In the final, it was Balagangadhar ($100) over Gregg ($50) with his Seemiller grip variation that seems to give junior players so much trouble.

Mohamed Kamara won $80 by defeating Princess Ke ($40 for the U.S. #4 Under 12 girl at 1821 until she turned 12 in August) in the final of Under 1850, -9,6,11,-9,6.

Timothy La, with his two-winged smashing game, seems to like to go five games. This month he changed the trend from last month (where he kept losing five-gamers), to prevailing deuce in the fifth, defeating David Goldstein in the Under 1600 final, -8,7,4,-8,11, and stopping Alexander Beaulieu's comeback in the semifinals, 8,9,-9,-12,12. In the other semifinal, Goldstein defeated Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9, to the great relief of the control desk, since Kyle was holding up many matches by making the semifinals here, and also...

...winning Under 1350 over Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11. Kyle, 13, had a semifinal battle with Daniel Yang (12), -9,4,9,-4,6, while Zangwill defeated an exhausted Ken Chia in the other semifinals, 4,4,2. Why was Ken Chia exhausted?

Leon Bi won Under 1100, exhausting the inexhaustible Ken Chia in the final, 5,8,6. Leon, however, could only lament how he'd been in a three-way tie to advance out of both his Under 1350 and Under 1600 round robins, only to finish in third each time by a single game as two advanced. Not bad for a 12-year-old with a rating of 637 before a full summer of training!

Special thanks goes to tournament sponsors Butterfly and Llewellyn Realtor James Wu.

(NOTE - Click on the names below for a photo of the finalists, or all four semifinalists in the Open.)

Open - Final: Wang Qing Liang d. Chen Bo Wen, -9,10,-9,7,8,5; SF: Wang d. Richard Lee, 11,10,7,8; Chen d. Larry Bass, -9,4,5,4,10; QF: Wang d. Richard Doverman, 4,10,9; Lee d. Nathan Hsu, 6,6,6; Abass d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 6,6,8; Chen d. Arsha Kuds, 8,17.
Under 2300 - Final: Hung Duy Vo d. Nasruddin Asgarali, -8,11,6,8; SF: Vo d. Roy Ke, 7,7,-7,5; Asgarali d. Lixin Lang, 8,-10,6,4.
Under 2150 - Final: Chen Qiming d. Arsha Kuds, 7,7,-10,-9,4; SF: Chen d. Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6; Kuds d. Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.
Under 2000 - Final: Mahesh Balagangadhar d. Gordon Gregg, 10,8,-10,8; SF: Balagangadhar d. Jason Wei, 5,-7,5,-6,8; Gregg d. Amy Lu, 4,-8,7,-7,9.
Under 1850 - Final: Mohamed Kamara d. Princess Ke, -9,6,11,-9,6; SF: Kamara d. Mort Greenberg, 9,4,11; Ke d. Tony Li, 8,4,3.
Under 1600 - Final: Timothy La d. David Goldstein, -8,7,4,-8,11; SF: La d. Alexander Beaulieu, 8,9,-9,-12,12; Goldstein d. Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9.
Under 1350 - Final: Kyle Wang d. Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11; SF: Wang d. Daniel Yang, -9,4,9,-4,6; Zangwill d. Ken Chia, 4,4,2.
Under 1100 - Final: Leon Bi d. Ken Chia, 5,8,6; SF: Bi d. Douglas Harley, 2,7,7; Chia d. Michael Borek, -4,8,-7,7,4.

European Championships

The European Championships, though of course somewhat upstaged by the MDTTC Open, were held this weekend in Herning, Denmark. Timo Boll of Germany won Men's Singles for the sixth time, this time over surprise finalist Ruiwu Tan of Croatia, while Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus won Women's Singles for the second time, over Yi Fang Xian of France. Here are ITTF articles on it, and here's the home page for the event, with complete results.

Simple Tactical Advice

"Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." This is the advice I regularly give. I've expanded on this in my upcoming book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide," which will be out in December.

Rajul Sheth for Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship of the Year Award

He's one of the nine nominees - go here to vote!!! The awards will be presented on Nov. 18. Here's a description of the award: "Silicon Valley Awards 2012 'Making a Difference' is all about the people who live in Silicon Valley and who make a difference in one way or another to help the Valley grow and become a better and richer place, culturally and professionally. The objective of the SVA 2012 'Making a Difference,' is to recognize these individuals in Silicon Valley who epitomize the Silicon Valley culture, its philosophy; these people work in a way which creates successful endeavors.

ITTF Coaching Seminars in India

Here's another ITTF article about the last of the three ITTF Coaching Seminars run in India by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Pongcast Episode 17

Here's their latest video (12:07), this time showcasing the 2012 China National Championships and the 2012-2013 Chinese Super League. (Did you know the Chinese Super League was originally put together by Xu Huazhang, the former Chinese National Team Member who lived in the U.S. for much of the 1990s, at one point achieving a rating of 2777? He lived and trained at MDTTC, and shared a house with me for two years.)

The Lord of the Ping?

I think his hand is cupped.

***

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