Kristian Karlsson

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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October 15, 2014

All About Color

I'm regularly asked the difference between red and black rubbers, and which color should be used on the forehand and backhand. The short answer - it doesn't really matter. They supposedly play the same. So what you put on each side is just a personal preference. (I have heard that black DHS rubbers are better than the red, the only exception I've heard about.)

But it wasn't always that way - in the early days of the red and black rule the red side was a bit faster. The problem was in the black dye, which apparently slowed the rubber down. And so for the first few years most top players put the red side on the forehand. I was different - I had plenty of pop on my forehand, but needed more on the backhand, and so right from the start I had black on the forehand - and I still do. I always thought more players should do it this way for the same reason, but back in those days it was more acceptable for shakehands players to have softer backhands. (After using black on the forehand for 30 years, it would seem strange to me to put red there.)

After a few years the problem with the black dye was fixed, and the two colors now apparently play the same. However, for years afterwards most top players were in the habit of red on forehand, black on backhand, and many players copied them, so during the 1980s about 2/3 of top players had red on the forehand. However, for some reason the tide has slowly changed, and these days the majority of top players have black on the forehand - I have no idea why. I just did a quick check on Youtube of the top ten players in the world and found that nine of the top ten men and nine of the top ten women use black on the forehand - see below. Of the men, only Chuang (and apparently Boll earlier in his career) use red on the forehand, and only Feng Tianwei of the women does so. (Note that some Chinese players flip when smashing lobs, such as Fan Zhendong below - I think they may have harder or faster sponge on the red backhand and prefer smashing with that.) One reason for this is that some of the Chinese apparently use black DHS rubber on the forehand (since, as noted above, some say black DHS plays better than red), and red Tenergy on the backhand.

MEN - Forehand Color

  1. XU Xin (CHN) - Black
  2. FAN Zhendong (CHN) - Black (but against a lob he flips)
  3. MA Long (CHN) - Black
  4. ZHANG Jike (CHN) - Black
  5. OVTCHAROV Dimitrij (GER) - Black
  6. WANG Hao (CHN) - Black
  7. MIZUTANI Jun (JPN) - Black
  8. CHUANG Chih-Yuan (TPE) - Red
  9. BOLL Timo (GER) - Black (but earlier in career had red)
  10. YAN An (CHN) - Black

WOMEN - Forehand Color

  1. DING Ning (CHN) - Black
  2. LIU Shiwen (CHN) - Black
  3. LI Xiaoxia (CHN) - Black
  4. FENG Tianwei (SIN) - Red
  5. ZHU Yuling (CHN) - Black
  6. WU Yang (CHN) - Black
  7. CHEN Meng (CHN) - Black
  8. HAN Ying (GER) - Black
  9. ISHIKAWA Kasumi (JPN) - Black
  10. SEO Hyowon (KOR) - Black

Why is there a color rule? Let's go back to the 1977 World Championships. Two Chinese players, Liang Geliang and Huang Liang, reached the semifinals in Men's Singles. Both were chopper/loopers, with long pips usually on the backhand. This was a rare style in those days - most choppers were more defensive, pick-hitting mostly when given an easy chance. These two Chinese players had the same color on both sides (as most players did in those days - usually red), and flipped both when serving and during rallies. Opponents couldn't tell which side they were hitting with, and it caused havoc. They devastated most opponents, but (according to numerous sources) were ordered to dump in the semifinals, where both lost. 

Players all over the world copied this. At the time of the 1977 Worlds perhaps 10% of players had combination rackets, and most of them were with short pips on the backhand, rarely if ever flipping. By 1983, when I did a survey at tournaments (I was already running monthly ones in Virginia), over 70% of players had combination rackets, nearly all of them with long pips or antispin. Rallies were getting worse and worse, and players with the same surface on both sides weren't able to compete with players they had easily beaten before - in fact, they could barely get into rallies. It was not a fun time for the sport, and players quit in droves. (Of course, some players loved the havoc this type of game created!)

The ITTF changed the rules in 1983 to require two "clearly different" colors. The first reaction to this was the use of "clearly different" colors that, when the racket was moving, were difficult to tell apart - in particular, maroon and black. The ITTF then made the rule cherry red and black. ("Cherry red" was later changed to "bright red.") It did take some of the color out of the sport. Before the color rule surfaces came in a wide variety of colors, such as green, purple, gold (some of us remember the introduction of Tornado!), and even one that was white. I sort of miss the variety.

I was one of the many that pushed for the two-color rule. But I also promised that if they passed the rule, I'd never complain about a player's legal racket surface again - and I never have. From the intermediate level on, if a player can see what surface the opponent is using he should be able to play it. 

While it was long pips users that caused the most problems before the two-color rule, there were also players using antispin. Some shakehanders used it very successfully, as did many players with the Seemiller grip. Dan Seemiller and Eric Boggan both reached about top 20 with the grip, before the color rule. Dan had a powerful forehand loop, and didn't flip nearly as much as Eric, and so many thought Eric would drop a lot after the color rule. Many assume that Eric reached top 20 only because he used the same color on both sides. However, that's not what happened. Eric jumped the gun, and when the ITTF announced a year in advance, in 1982, that they'd be requiring two colors, he made the switch a year in advance. As he explained to me once, he knew he'd have to use two colors for the rest of his career, so he might as well get used to it. 

At the time he went to two colors he had his highest ranking ever, #23 in the world. After making the switch to two colors he reached #17. (I've heard others say he only was #18, but I'm pretty sure I remember seeing #17.) What people didn't understand about Eric's game was that because he hit the ball so quick off the bounce, players had trouble reacting, different colors or not. It was often choppers who took the ball later that caused more problems before the two-color rule, and now players had time to react to them - but not so much time when playing Eric. 

Nationals Deadline This Friday

The deadline to enter the USA Nationals without a $75 late fee is this Friday, Oct. 17. Don't forget to enter!!! I'm going mostly to coach, but also entered hardbat doubles and hardbat over 40. I was toying with other events, but there are just too many conflicts with my coaching.

Fall USATT Magazine

The new issue is out. I have two articles in it: "Why Table Tennis is Chess at Light Speed" (page 45) and "A Visit from St. Timothy" (page 66 - this latter from my blog last week).

ITTF Level 3 Course

The course is taking place right now in Colorado Springs, Oct. 11-20, run by Richard McAfee. I originally planned to go, but finally concluded I was both too busy and couldn't really afford to go at this time. (That's a lot of lessons cancelled!) I will try to go to one in the future. Here are some photos from the ongoing course.

Interview with Hungarian Women's Coach on What Makes the Best Players Stand Out

Here's the interview with Peter Teglas by Dora Kurimay. I found the ball-bouncing thing interesting as I've seen the same thing. Often the little kids who early on are most competitive on who can do the most bounces become the best players.

Ask the Coach

Here are two more "Ask the Coach" episodes from PingSkills - they are creating them pretty fast!

Episode 7 (12:55).

  • Question 1: When I go to club and play with my friends and other players, I'm better than most of them and I can beat them 3-0 or 4-0. But when I play in a tournament with those players I feel scared even if the other player is a lot weaker than me. Ali.
  • Question 2: You show how to execute different strokes, and watching and trying to repeat your moves works well for players who are almost as high as you are. I wonder what adjustments should a player do if he is seemingly lower or higher? Roman.
  • Question 3: You know the backhand block executed with the wrist movement when the bat curves the ball on its side and decreases its spin and speed. I'm wondering if the same kind of stroke can be executed on the forehand side? Evgeny.
  • Question 4: How to make an effective backhand serve and what about the toss should it be lower or higher? Dario.
  • Question 5: Hi Alois and Jeff I tend to have a lot of difficulty with looping half long balls with backspin as they go too high over the net and my opponent can just block it or smash it down. How do i achieve a low arc when this happens? Shea.

Episode 8 (9:41).

  • Question 1: I mainly play in a local league. I have a robot at home. What would be the best preparation for my league match? Matches are played starting at 7.30. How do I warm up? You go straight at the table so any warming up must be done when you hit up. Filippo R
  • Question 2: Hi Alois, Just a simple question. Is the finish position for the topspin stroke always be in front your eyebrow? Or just a matter of preference? Because i find my finish position for my topspin stroke depends on the ball that i receive. Antonius Willson
  • Question 3: I've noticed you use the shakehand in your videos. I'm somewhat new to the game and find the penhold grip a bit more comfortable. Are most of the videos as shown equally relevant for penholders, or are the styles for both hands too different? Tom Adams
  • Question 4: When I play several backhand topspins I bring my thumb on the rubber which helps to close the bat more but the bat rotates in the palm of my hand. If my opponent then switches to my forehand I often don't have the time to recover my grip. Any tips? Thijs G

Kanak Jha Featured by ITTF

Here's the ITTF article on the USA junior star.

Kristian Karlsson in Training

Here's video (51 sec) of the up-and-coming Swedish player in training, who recently shot from world #69 to #50. Note how the drill is a two-shot sequence. Far too often players do continuous drills when in reality, few rallies are like that. When doing multiball at the intermediate and advanced levels much of multiball should be two- or three-shot sequences.

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (43) of this rally between Taipei's Chuang Chih-Yuan and South Korea's Joo Saehyuk. It starts as a standard attack vs. chop rally (and note how Chuang goes after Joo's middle), then the counterlooping begins.

Ping-Pong Protesters in Hong Kong

Here's the article and picture.

Will Shortz and the Quest to Play in All 50 States

Here's the article. I've been to all 50 states, and I've played table tennis in all but three (Alaska, Hawaii, and Connecticut), so Will and I are tied - but he's about to pull ahead!!!

Trigonometry

It seems like half the top cadet players at MDTTC are starting to take trig, and so I've been helping some of them. (I have a bachelor's in math.) So the sines are I've become a trig tutor, one of the tangents to my coaching. And while I'm making bad puns, has anyone else noticed that the Italy is part of the ETTU (European Table Tennis Union), and that Et Tu was supposedly Julius Caesar's last words? (My careful research also finds that Dennis Brutus was a former VP of the South African Table Tennis Board.)

The Lost Tablet of Amun Ra

Here's the latest TT artwork from Mike Mezyan, hieroglyphics and all - and yes, "tablet" is just a "t" away from table!

Backhand Cartwheel Chop

Here's the video (3:34) of this hilarious "coaching" video from PingSkills featuring cartwheels, pandas, and chopping!

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December 6, 2012

Video Analysis

On Tuesday I did a video analysis for a top USA junior player. I've been doing this for $150, but I just raised the price to $200 - it just takes too long to make it worth the time otherwise. This one took over six and a half hours, and ran 18 pages (single spaced in Times Roman 12 point) and 8653 words, my longest one to date. (I'm not doing any more until January - too busy.) The one I did yesterday covered seven games against four opponents, plus video of him practicing. (One of the games he played ended 25-23!!! Yes, in a game to 11.) Here's my video analysis page, which includes two samples of ones I've done.

I break my video analysis into four parts:

  1. Point-by-point analysis of several games or matches.
  2. Analysis of the games, both on how the player can improve and tactical suggestions against that player.
  3. Player analysis, where I analyze the player's game and what he needs to work on to improve.
  4. Drilling suggestions, where I describe drills for this player.

When I do the point-by-point analysis (the most time consuming part), I write about what happened in every point, usually watching each point 2-3 times. Then I go over those notes to analyze the match itself. Then I go over each match analysis to analyze the player's game, and work out what drills he needs to work on.

In the one I did yesterday, some of the things I found (and gave recommendations on how to improve) included:

  • The player's serves were too high, due to a high contact point. Needs to serve lower.
  • Too often serve and pushed rather than serve and looped.
  • Feet were often in a backhand position when looping forehands.
  • Had trouble covering wide backhand in fast rallies - wasn't stepping to the ball.
  • After strong first forehand loop, often played soft with second loop.
  • Because often rushed, player backhand looped from the side erratically, but in practice did it more in front (more conventional). So he was practicing one way, executing another.
  • Backhand receives were too soft and tentative.
  • Didn't step in well for short balls to the forehand.
  • Held racket too high when receiving, leading to a tendency to push against side-top serves.
  • Plus plenty of strengths to build on.

Peter Li Teaches the Basics

Reigning USA Men's Singles Champion teaches the basics of the grip, stance, and forehand in this short video (1:10).

Playing the Middle

Here's a coaching video (8:26) from Greg Letts on playing the middle.

Magnifique Moment de Tennis de Table

Here's another highlights video (11:21)!

Under 21 Europeans

Here's a good match between the #2 and #4 Europeans under age 21 (#15 and #19 in the world under 21), Simon Gauzy of France versus Kristian Karlsson of Sweden. The future of European table tennis? The time between points is removed so the whole match takes place in 5:26.

Ultimate Ball Control

Here's a video (53 seconds) of a kid who has incredible skill in getting the ball into a cup of . . . water. (So it's not beer pong, it's water pong.)

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