Playing choppers

October 14, 2013

Tip of the Week

Playing Choppers. This week I'm "cheating" - this is a previously published article that's listed in the Articles section here. However, I've had several requests for advice on playing choppers, and I realized that none of my 139 weekly tips since I started them in January, 2011, covered this. However, I did some rewriting of the section, so it's not exactly the same. Also, I plan on publishing a compilation of all these tips next year, and this will make them a bit more complete. (I was going to do a Tip on why it's often best to give the serve away at the start of a match, but I'll save that for next time.)


Last Thursday I blogged about my day on the set of the HBO comedy "Veep." I was only there on Wednesday - for 13 long hours. The episode featured table tennis, and I went in originally as one of the table tennis players - but they wanted only players in their 20's, and so I was relegated to being a possible extra as a janitor - but they didn't use me, alas, as even there they wanted people in their 20s. On Thursday they did the actual table tennis scene. I wasn't there, but Toby Kutler told me about it.

He and Khaleel Asgarali were the real table tennis players in the scene. (Qiming Chen was there the day before but wasn't there on Thursday.) Two actors who - falsely - claimed to be good table tennis players were also used. Toby said that he was originally told that he and Khaleel would be playing, and that he would accidentally smack a ball that would hit star Julie Dreyfus, that he'd get to speak a line "Sorry about that," or something like that), and that she and her aides would all get angry and start screaming at him and the other players, and tell them to leave. However, there was a last-minute directorial decision to have them play doubles, and so the two actors who said they could play were added, meaning the rallies were much weaker. One of the others than had the honor of hitting the ball that smacked Dreyfus, and there were no speaking lines from the real TT players. Also, the players didn't actually hit her; they used a ping-pong gun to shoot a ball at her instead.

The table tennis episode is Episode 3.3, the third one of season three, and will air in March or April of 2014. Toby, Khaleel, and Qiming will be seen in the episode not only as TT players but as workers on a computer and walking by, possibly in several scenes.

The Brains of Einstein and Chinese Table Tennis Players

Here's an article from yesterday's Washington Post (though it apparently appeared first in the LA Times) about Einstein's brain. It references a technique developed by a Chinese physicists for "measuring the thickness of the corpus callosum in Chinese table tennis players, whose sport requires remarkable feats of inter-hemispheric coordination."

China's Top-Down Take on Innovation

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal that references table tennis as an example of where China is good at innovation, while explaining why, in general, it is not. "To understand why China has such a tough time producing world-class innovations, take a look at how the Chinese play games. Ping pong tables are everywhere in public spaces and open to all comers, from kids to agile retirees, producing a reservoir of talent that has made China a ping pong innovator and champion. By contrast, basketball courts in China are generally locked up. Entrance is controlled by the state—in this case, school officials—shrinking the talent pool and the chance for youngsters to hone their moves. The result: basketball mediocrity."

Nine-Year-Old's Trick Shot Compilation

Here's an article with a link to a video (1:27) of a nine-year-old's ping-pong ball trick shots. Pretty impressive for any age!

Bobby Riggs Commercial

Here's a video (38 sec) from the 1970s that advertises Hasbro's Power Tennis Game, and shows Bobby Riggs playing a version of table tennis in a commercial that spoofs his internationally televised "Battle of the Sexes" match against Billie Jean King. Here are some pictures of Riggs playing table tennis: photo1 (Reba Monness on left) photo2 (Mary McIllwain on left) photo3 photo4 (jockey Chris McCarron on left) photo5 (tennis player Billie Jean King on right)

Non-Table Tennis - Capclave

I spent Friday night, and about half of Saturday and Sunday at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Gaithersburg, MD, held five minutes away from the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I was on three panels, including two that I moderated, plus I did a reading. (I still managed to get a number of coaching hours over the weekend, but I was able to reschedule many of them.)

I moderated the infamous "Religion and Politics" panel, which can get rather heated, but we managed to keep it mostly low-key this time around - much of the discussion wasn't about actual religion or politics, but about famous religious or political novels and movies that influenced the world. This was a good fit for me, as many of my short stories and both of my novels (one coming Nov. 15, the other in a state of flux as I do a rewrite for a publisher) are political. I sat next to the famous James Morrow during the panel. It's the second time I've been on a panel at a convention with him.

I also moderated the panel on "Amazon - Good or Bad?" I had to great moments in this panel. At the start, after we introduced the panelists, I said, "I have some disturbing news. Some of us who really hate Amazon have gotten together and formed an Orange Crush Party." (I held up a can of Orange Crush that I'd just picked up from the con suite.) "We demand that Amazon be closed down immediately. Otherwise, we will defund and close down Capclave. There will be no more panels, the exhibits and dealer's room will be closed, and all parties are cancelled." At first people in the audience thought I was serious, but they figured it out and laughed at the end. I also did a stunt where, right there on stage, I bought a book from one of my four fellow panelists on my Kindle. I also explained my experiences with Amazon in selling my TT books. One surprise - I thought most of the people would think Amazon was bad, as they continued to use it, but the general consensus - with a few notable exceptions - was that Amazon was good.

I was also on the "1001 Uses for an Unsold Story" panel where we talked about the possibilities - rewriting it, reusing the central ideas of the story in another story, using it in a novel, or just saving it for the appropriate anthology that might someday come along. Or printing it out to line your parakeet cage.

I did a 25-minute reading on Sunday, where I read an excerpt from my upcoming novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." I also had time to read my "cult classic" story, "The Bat Nerd," about a bat that thinks it's a superhero.

And I got to meet and shake hands with George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones novels, now an award-winning HBO series. Plus I attended a number of panels and readings, and spent much time in the dealer's room, where I ended up buying only two books somehow.

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January 31, 2013

Ongoing Tactical Adjustments

I've had some interesting matches in recent times with a local elderly 2100 chopper. I haven't lost to him in many years, but he's been finding ways to make it more . . . interesting.

I'm better against choppers than any other style, and once went over 20 years without losing to a chopper rated under 2400, while beating five over 2400. And this chopper is a very defensive one, with long pips on the backhand, inverted on the forehand. He often covers much of the court with his backhand chop - he's pretty mobile. With his defensive game, I have no trouble winning; it's no contest. I generally win points five different ways against him when he's chopping: 1) Serve light topspin to his long pips and rip a winner; 2) Steady soft and not too spinny loops over and over to his long pips until he misses or pops one up slightly, which I can rip; 3) Line up to loop to his forehand, but at the last second go inside out to his wide backhand; 4) Line up to loop to his wide backhand, but at the last second whip around and loop quicker off the bounce to his wide forehand; 5) Sudden attacks his middle, which in his case is toward his forehand side; and  As long as he plays defensive, I'm pretty much at home.

But he's been working on his attack. I think before he had some relatively dead sponge on his forehand, but at some points went to some sort of modern-age looping sponge. Every time I come to the club I see him practicing looping, which is eye-opening as he's never really even had much of a forehand in all the years I've known him, and he's older than I am (I'll be 53 next month). But it's starting to pay off for him as he is starting to not only loop, but even counterloop on the forehand.

I played him two weeks ago, and this was the first time his attack really worked. He kept ripping forehand loops. Often he'd serve short backspin or sidespin, I'd push, and he'd loop a winner, something I'd never seen him do before. He won the first game mostly by attacking. I won the next three games, but all were 11-9 or deuce, and I won some of them by making reflex blocks off his loop that I could have easily missed. He also won a number of points by counterlooping when I looped to his forehand; it got to the point that I kept the ball mostly to his backhand, which made him more comfortable, since that's where he's strongest chopping - and it took some of the deception out of my game as I became leery of faking to his backhand going to the forehand side. The steady soft loops to his backhand also didn't work so well - he'd chop a few and then suddenly step over and counterloop with his forehand. This was the first time in a long time I'd really felt threatened by his game - he could have won this one.

I thought about all this a bit, and was ready when I played him a few days ago. Even though he's a "chopper," I couldn't start the rallies off as if he were. So this time I backhand banana flipped all his short serves into his wide backhand. He'd chop with his long pips, and I was right back at home. I also started to set up most of my loops as if I were going to his forehand, and change and go to this backhand at the last second. This kept him protecting his forehand side, so he wasn't able to step over and counterloop with the forehand. And after I'd lulled him this way a few times, I'd line up to go to the backhand, and then I'd rip to the forehand. (I also play the middle a lot, but I tend to be better against choppers by aiming one way and then changing directions.)

I think he's realized that the next step is to develop more variety on his serves so I won't be able to flip so well. Plus he'll probably get better at not getting faked out when I fake one way and go the other.

Regarding the backhand banana flip, I've recently made it my mission to really use this shot aggressively against our local junior players, both so they can get used to it, and so I can win against them (duh!). Normally I flip with light topspin, but now I'm focusing on really turning that shot into a mini-backhand loop, with both topspin and sidespin. It's been highly effective already in practice matches.

Here are articles I've written on Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation, on the Backhand Banana Flip, and on Playing Choppers.

ITTF Eligibility Reminder

If you were born in another country but now live in the U.S., and wish to perhaps someday represent the U.S. in world events (either on the U.S. Men's, Women's, Paralympic, Junior, Cadet, or Mini-Cadet Teams), here are the rules you need to know about.

Calling hournikova17

While cleaning out some spam last night I inadvertently deleted your account. Sorry about that! You'll have to register again.

Table Tennis Scheduling

Normally I'm off Tuesdays, but coach from 5-8PM on Wednesday. But there was a school play ("Shrek"!) at a local middle school, and both my 6PM and 7PM students were in it - one as (I think) the Gingerbread Man, the other a techie. So one rescheduled for Tuesday night, the other cancelled for this week. Then my 5PM person emailed on Monday, worried about the upcoming snowstorm predicted for Wednesday (it didn't happen - just lots of rain and wind), and also rescheduled for Tuesday. So I ended up getting two hours on Tuesday, and had Wednesday off. Well, sort of - I spent the day on the Tactics book (see below). Maintaining a table tennis coaching schedule is always a matter of moving things around to accommodate local events. One regular student of mine has two schedules - one for basketball season, one for non-basketball season. (He's on his middle school basketball team.)

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

When I converted from Word 2003 to Word 2010, the page layouts were messed up. I spent much of yesterday redoing them. Unfortunately, I'm still having technical problems with the publisher's online software, which now insists certain text is outside the margins when it clearly is not. I also learned that I can convert directly from Word to PDF and upload the file as a PDF instead of Word (thereby bypassing their online conversion process that was causing so many problems), but then their software insists that the graphics aren't high enough resolution (though they are), and that the embedded fonts are not embedded. So this morning, after I finish the blog (and also the new MDTTC monthly newsletter), I'll try to figure out what's going on.

I'll be running short of time soon. Tim Boggan is moving in with me for two weeks on Tuesday to work on his newest volume of U.S. table tennis history, so I need to finalize everything before then. I won't be able to do much of anything on Sat or Sun as I'm coaching all day both days. And Monday is pretty packed as well. So I need to finish everything by tomorrow afternoon before I go to the club at 5PM.

This is getting irritating - I fully expected to have had it all competed already.

Last Orange Ball

From our opening in 1993 to May of 2012, the Maryland Table Tennis Center used orange training balls. They would be scattered about the club all day long as coaches coached and players played, often with multiball using boxes of balls at a time. And then, in April of last year, there was a shortage of orange balls from sponsor Butterfly, and we needed more balls for our Spring Break Camp - and so we ordered a few boxes of white training balls. With the red flooring we'd had installed they seemed more visible than the orange, so we decided to switch over to white balls. However, we still had boxes of orange balls, and so we've been using a mixture since then. We often have as many as seven coaches coaching at one time, and so always have at least seven boxes of balls ready to use (one gross each, 144). One by one, the orange balls broke, until we were down to only seven at our Christmas Camp. In my latest census two days ago, we were down to our final orange ball. The death watch toward the final orange ball extinction at MDTTC begins.

Attack of the Baby Monster

We're gonna need a bigger net!

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