Asia-Euro All Star Challenge

March 18, 2013

Tip of the Week

Dummy Loops.

$16,700 Cary Cup Championships

It's been a long journey. I left for the Cary Cup Championships in North Carolina, five hours drive away last Thursday morning, going down with Tim Boggan, who drove down from New York. (After the tournament he and his wife, who met him there on Sunday, go on vacation in various locations down there.) Tim had some early problems in that his credit card stopped working, most likely because he was suddenly using it in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, when he usually uses it in New York. But he's traveled extensively, using the credit card all over, and he said this had never happened. I had to put his hotel room for the first night on my credit card.

Here's the Cary Cup Championships web page, which includes complete results.

One major thing that jumped out at me this tournament was that the Maryland players who had played in recent tournaments tended to do well, while those who hadn't played tournaments in a while didn't do so well. This is actually an ongoing thing, as all the training in the world doesn't make up for a lack of "tournament toughness." When you play lots of tournaments, you get used to tournament pressures, to adjusting to different serves and playing styles, and to figuring out what serves and rallying shots you should use against various players. Players who hadn't played tournaments since, say, the Nationals in December didn't seem to have this tournament toughness, and it showed, especially in return of serve.

Two players from Maryland played great. Roy Ke, 13, rated 2174 (but perhaps a bit under-rated) won the "B" Division, going 11-0 in the division and defeating Bin Hai Chu (2233) in the final. Here's a picture of the Final Four - that's Roy on the far right, holding the biggest trophy, with Chu on the far left. I kept running into Chu this tournament. I played him in the final of the Hardbat event (see below), coached Crystal Wang in her "upset" win against him to make the "A" Division, and told Roy how to play him in the "B" Division final.

Crystal Wang also had an excellent tournament. At age 10 she'd reached 2355 in rating going into the Nationals in December. As 10-year-olds sometimes do, she wasn't there mentally that tournament, and had an almost historic rating loss, dropping all the way to 2112. Now that rating is sort of a joke for her, as she's been competing and sometimes winning the Elite League on Sundays at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, often beating 2400 players. (She'd won the Elite League the week before, with wins over two players over 2350.) She'd also won Under 2250 at the MDTTC Open two weeks before (and was up 2-0 in the Open on Raghu Nadmichettu, rated 2363), which was just processed last night - and she was up to 2264, a bit closer to her real level. In the "A" Division, where she was seeded last in her group of nine players, she pulled off three big wins, including one player over 2400, and should be back over 2300 after the tournament is processed, which will cause many sighs of relief among rating-worried players in the 2200 range who were terrified of that 2112 rating. Not bad for someone who turned 11 just a few weeks ago!

Much of the tournament I was coaching Derek Nie (12, 2234) and Tong Tong Gong (15, 2258). Neither had played a tournament since the Nationals in December, and neither had good tournaments. Both had Houdini-like escapes in the preliminaries to make it to the "A" Division. Derek's was especially scary. Against D.J. Settle, rated 2140, Derek lost the first two games and was down 10-6 quadruple match point in the third! But he came back to win, 11-9 in the fifth. Tong Tong was down 2-1 in games to Corey VanWagner (2063) before also winning 11-9 in the fifth. We found out afterwards that Corey had studied Tong Tong on video, which explained why he played such smart tactics and could have easily pulled off the upset. Both had trouble receiving serves this tournament, and Derek's looping game was off - and he picked up this nasty habit of missing pop-ups when up game point!

For the fourth year in a row I came up early to play the Hardbat Event on Friday before switching to coaching the rest of the way. I'd won the event in 2010 and 2011, defeating Bin Hai Chu (see above) in the 2011 final. I'd lost to him in 2012. Once again I played him in the final (going 8-0 to get there). He's a pips-out penholder already, so going to hardbat is rather easy for him. He won the first game easily as he played well and I kept missing. After I fell way behind I switched to chopping to see if that would mess him up. We had some good points, but he played great and won 21-10. (Matches were best of three to 21, using 38mm balls supplied by Tournament Director Mike Babuin that were made in 1958 - I kid you not! But they played fine.) In the second game I was on a rampage, and played one of my best hardbat games ever. However, life and table tennis are not fair, and neither are nine nets and edges to my zero, including two pop-up net-edges. Match to Chu, 21-10, 21-16. Alas, but I did get a huge trophy and $200 (to Chu's $400). I also managed to pull a muscle in my left thigh halfway through game two. I ignored it and it didn't affect my play, but I was limping the rest of the tournament. Fortunately I wasn't needed as a practice partner as we had plenty of players.

My only minor gripe about the tournament was a meaningless match I had to play in hardbat. The event had 14 players, two groups of seven, with the top two advancing to a final RR of four players. The problem was there was no carry-over, and so I had to play the runner-up from my preliminary RR a second time. That wasn't a problem. The problem was that I had to play him in the last match of the preliminary RR, where we had both clinched a top two finish. Since there would be no carry-over matches, despite my protest before the event began, it meant that this match was meaningless - and what would count would not be this match, but the one we'd play shortly afterwards, in the Final Four RR. I don't mind playing an occasional meaningless match, but the problem was I didn't want the player to get used to my serves and rallying tactics. So I found myself mostly holding back on my best serves and tactics. I won the first at deuce, lost the second 21-11, before winning the third 21-14. When we played again, I no longer had to hold back, and this time won 21-7, 21-14. He probably did play better the first time around, but I was gritting my teeth as I mostly avoided using certain serves and tactics. Hopefully next year we can either have carry-over matches or go to direct single elimination after the preliminary RR's.

Because I was busy coaching I didn't get to see many of the big matches. I coached Tong Tong and Derek in matches against Eugene Wang (who'd win the tournament) and Jim Butler (with Derek almost winning a game), and hopefully they learned something there - especially about Wang's receive and Jim's serve.  

On the drive back I entertained Derek Nie with non-stop brain teasers. He solved most of them, and I had fun giving humorous hints.

A special thanks goes to Mike Babuin (recently elected the Chair of the USATT Board of Directors) and the Cary staff for putting on a great event. I look forward to going down again next year to this great tournament and continuing my rivalry with Bin Hai Chu!

Twenty Winning Tips

Here are 20 winning tips from Tahl Leibovitz, and top player and coach from New York City. I especially like the first three, which I'm always stressing to players.

Asia Defeats Europe

Here's an article on the first leg of the 2013 Asia-Euro All Star Challenge, where Asia wins, 7-3. Perhaps the most interesting match was a rare loss by Zhang Jike to a non-Chinese player - here's the video (15:25, with time between points removed, and some of the better points replayed in slow motion) of Vladimir Samsonov's win over Zhang.

The Health Benefits of Table Tennis

Here's an article on the health benefits of table tennis, from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). "It's like aerobic chess. It's great for hand-eye coordination and reflexes (cerebellum and parietal lobes). You have to focus (prefrontal cortex) so you can track the ball through space (parietal lobes and occipital lobes), figure out spins (parietal lobes and occipital lobes), and plan shots and strategies (prefrontal cortex and cerebellum). Then you have to follow through and execute those tactics successfully (prefrontal cortex and cerebellum). All the while, you have to stay calm so you don't get too nervous on game point (basal ganglia). And you can't dwell on the point you blew a few minutes ago (anterior cingulate gyrus) or blow your top when you make a mistake (temporal lobes)."

Han Xiao Marries

Here are the wedding pictures of the event where Han (many-time U.S. team member, 3-time Men's Doubles Champion and one-time Men's Singles Finalist) and Genna Shaw tied the knot on Saturday, March 16 (two days ago).

2013 BATTF Tour Grand Final Trailer

Here's the trailer (1:16) for the 2013 Bay Area Table Tennis Federation Grand Final.

The Making of Table Tennis Bats and Rubbers in Japan

Here's a video (13:09) on how the manufacturing process in Japan. It's a fascinating process. I once toured a Double Happiness factory in China and watched them make sponge and rackets.

Young Ping-Pong Zen

Here's a picture of kids - future monks? - playing table tennis in full monk attire. Both players seem to be standing on stones to increase their height!

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