Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

May 21, 2018

Tip of the Week
Develop Power Timing by Slapping.

Weekend Coaching
On Friday I spent 2.5 hours watching the Friday night league at MDTTC, taking notes on our junior players on their games, both for those I coach and to pass on to the other coaches. I'll be doing this more and more as the U.S. Nationals approaches for many of the 17 MDTTC juniors who are going. It was a hodgepodge (that's the third time I've used my namesake word in this blog since it started in 2011) of strengths and weaknesses.

Overall, I was very happy with how they played, though of course they must all strive for constant improvement or I won't be happy! On the weakness side, way too many of them attacked the corners over and over instead of tactically attacking the middle (elbow). One still tends to lean instead of stepping to the ball - I'm recommending he do a lot of shadow practice, jump rope, and Stutter Stepping. (Another was so light on his feet that he stepped even to net balls, handling them with relative ease.) Some were too passive in attacking, which meant they are not getting the attacking practice they need to develop. (One player has really taken this to heart, and is losing games he'd normally win, but he's rapidly developing his attacking game to go along with his already proficient blocking game.) Several tended to go into backhand stances and push too much. A couple had trouble with fishers and lobbers. One doesn't really snap the arm when smashing, just holds it out straight, losing a lot of power and quickness. And so on.

On Saturday we had the Junior League, which is really a combination of playing and coaching. Once again they played doubles, and then singles, both up-down tables. In singles, most of the games were "improvised," such as starting each game with the server always down 8-10, or the rule that the server had to serve and attack in some way unless receiver did something to stop it.

Glenn & Jess O'Dea from the Melton Table Tennis Association in Australia were in town and watched the Saturday session. They took a number of pictures and notes, and plan to write about it in their newsletter. They also gave me a Melton TTA shirt with my name on it - here's the picture with Glenn!

On Sunday in the Beginning Class, after 15 minutes of serve practice, we spent half an hour with a forehand-to-forehand contest. Players rotated about, with each getting several sessions with a coach, where they tried to hit as many forehands in a row as they could. I told them at the start that there's a saying in table tennis that you don't have a forehand or backhand until you've hit 100 in a row with a live partner - and two of them did it!!! Next week we'll do the same thing for the backhand.

In the more advanced Talent Program, we started with serve practice. Next came multiball practice, where each coach was a "station," doing a specific drill with two players, with the players rotating from station to station. One player did the drill, the other stood behind, shadow practicing in unison with the player. (Parents picked up balls.) My drill was to feed short backspin, player forehand flipped, followed by four random topspin balls, then repeat.

Next came up-down-tables with a twist - they players did various stroking and footwork drills, where whoever missed or hit to the wrong spot lost the point. We finished with some physical training and then Brazilian Teams.

Thailand Open
Here's the home page for the event, which took place this past weekend in Bangkok, THA, May 16-20, with results, lots of articles, photos, and video. Men's Singles was won by Xu Ruifeng, who had no world ranking - so it looks like China is only getting stronger! Women's Singles was won by Liu Shiwen, who in the not-always-accurate new ITTF system is world #10, but was #1 or #2 for most of the two years before that system came into place, and probably should still be in the top two. Here are articles on these two winning, from the tournament news page.

New from Samson Dubina

  • 4 Mental Tricks - "Many tournament matches are won or lost based on your mental approach going into the match.  There are 4 simple mental tricks…"
  • Tournament Day Reminders - "8 simple things to think about..."

Videos from 3T Table Tennis Training
Here they are, from Werner Sigmund.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Table Tennis Serving Rules
Here's the article from EmRatThich, with lots of pictures and video.

Roy M. SeGuine: October 31, 1956 - May 10, 2018
Here's the obituary. Roy and I were USATT co-webmasters from 1999-2005, and I believe he continued as one of USATT's webmasters for a few years after that. He was a 2000 level player from Virginia. (I mentioned this in my blog last week, but obit just went up.) 

Can Table Tennis Be a Popular Sport?
Here's the article from Eli Baraty.

Table Tennis Legends Tour
Here's the Facebook gallery - Saive won!!! Here's the Table Tennis Legends home page. But I can't find the actual results anywhere - anyone know where they are?

National Collegiate Table Tennis May Newsletter
Here it is.

Highlights Reel
Here's the video (10:15) of lots of great rallies.

Prince Harry Playing Table Tennis

Alto Pong?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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May 18, 2018

The Ongoing Hidden Serve Saga
Here is a draft of the letter I plan to send to the ITTF at some point. I will likely ask the USATT Board of Directors to get behind this so the letter (or a version of it) can come from USATT. (NOTE - on Monday afternoon I updated the letter to a newer draft.)

Dear ITTF Rules Committee, Umpires and Referees Committee, and Athletes Commission:

The illegal hiding of serves is a major problem in our sport. Video and still pictures show that most world-class players regularly hide the ball when they serve, thereby gaining a huge advantage over those who serve legally. (Examples are given in the Net Visibility Rule proposal, one of a number of proposals to solve this problem - this is not an endorsement of any specific one of them.) Cadet and junior players see that most world-class players regularly hide their serve illegally and almost always get away with it, and so they are forced to either do so themselves, or be at a huge disadvantage. Coaches have to explain to these cadets and juniors, and their parents, that if they want to compete on an equal basis and reach a high level, they too have to serve illegally - basically, coaches are forced to tell players that they must cheat to compete. We are likely the only Olympic sport that allows such open flaunting of the rules. We believe this is a very bad situation.

We respectfully request that ITTF make it a Top Priority to resolve this problem, by requiring worldwide enforcement of the rules as they are written, including Rule 2.6.6, "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws." They should also strongly consider changing the serving rule to make this task easier to accomplish. Umpires are requested to enforce the rules at the start of every major tournament, but in the case of hidden serves, it simply isn't being enforced. Few umpires want to be the one who starts calling them when other umpires are not, and some umpires believe the current rules are difficult to enforce. From the umpire's point of view, it is difficult to tell if a borderline serve is hidden or not, though of course that falls under Rule 2.6.6.

One possibility would be for ITTF to set a date whereby all referees and umpires worldwide would be required to strictly enforce the service rule, in particular Rule 2.6.6 in regard to hidden serves, with players notified well in advance. There could also be a six-month period where umpires are allowed to give two warnings in a match before faulting. We are aware that ITTF is working on this, but this has been the case for several years, and resolving this must become a priority.

A Shameless Reminder to Support a Poor Table Tennis Writer and Coach and Buy His Books
Yep, it's time to buy some of my table tennis books. C'mon, you know you want to!!! Here's my Amazon page. Here's the book listing here at TableTennisCoaching.com, which might be more convenient with all the descriptions and links on one page. Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is by far the biggest seller, but the two Tips books also do pretty well.

I'd really like to write a sequel to The Spirit of Pong, but there just haven't been enough sales to justify it. Apparently not enough TT players read SF! C'mon, why not pick up a copy, it's only $5.99 for 100 pages of great table tennis! It's actually a fantasy novel about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis and ends up training with the spirits of past champions, facing betrayal as he seeks the Body of Pong, the Mind of Pong, and the Paddle of Pong. Many of the greats of the past make appearances, from Hiroji Satoh (first sponge champion in 1952) to Waldner, and the section with Ogimura as he seeks the Body of Pong is like the training sequences from Rocky. There's also a bonus humorous 4-page table tennis story at the end about a guy who is determined to be the greatest table tennis player in the world, and while training on a robot, he hits the ball so hard it cracks, and out comes a genie, who grants him one wish. You can guess what the wish is, but you'll never guess how the genie grants it, nor the identity of the genie!

Here's the official description from Amazon:

Andy "Shoes" Blue wants to be a table tennis champion, but he’s just another wannabe American. And so he goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis. He is trained by the mysterious Coach Wang, and begins an odyssey where he learns the secrets of table tennis from the spirits of Ichiro Ogimura (who helped spawn China’s greatness), Rong Guotuan (China’s first world champion in 1959, whose tragic story Andy must relive), and others, and must face the mysterious "Dragon." Can he overcome treachery and learn the final secret of table tennis in time to defeat his ultimate nemesis?

Here are the two Amazon reviews:

Review #1:

A fascinating story of an American wanting to be the best in the world of table tennis, going to China for some magical and intriguing training sessions, and how he eventually achieved his hard-earned success. The best part is in the journey of it - vivid, colorful descriptions of the matches, processes, psyches, and sometimes point-by-point analysis. This was a real page-turner, and was one of the best binges I've been on.

Review #2:

If you're a ponger, you know that an American doing well in the World Championships is about as rare a Loch Ness monster sighting. But hey, if you thought the U.S. hockey team could win the gold medal in 1980, if you thought Argentina could beat the U.S. in basketball in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and if you cried during the ending scene of "Rudy", then this book is for you.

You really do have to keep your fantasy hat on while reading the book. Set aside that Chinese National Team fanboi-ism for a little bit and you'll be guaranteed a nice literary experience. The story is basically what it says in the back cover, an American who goes to China to learn the Chinese secrets of table tennis.

Pros: I really liked the chapter with Ogimura. The physical preparation for table tennis really pumped me up to go out and do a few sprints and some push-ups. It was like a motivation CD that you listen to in your car before hitting the gym. Once you arrive, you're ready to get down to business. I also enjoyed reading the chapter with "The Dragon". It was really very funny for me. Again, keep your fantasy hat on. There was also a good bit of history in the book. I knew a little bit being a ponger but there were a few things that I had to search online for verification. The World Championship match was complete insanity. The development of the characters of Andy and Coach Wang were excellent in that a reader can identify with both of their motivations.

Cons: The chapter with Rong Guotuan was a bit dark. I was not put off by it as I enjoy those kinds things in other books also. I just did not think it fit in well with the overall feel of the book. I suppose it would be like putting bacon in an ice cream cone. Some might like it and some might not.

Overall, Larry did a great job mixing TT history, fantasy, and fiction in a 100-page package.

Thailand Open
Here's the home page for the event, which takes place in Bangkok, THA, May 16-20.

How to Destroy Opponents With Long Serves
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak. "If you play table tennis at an amateur level, especially at lower levels, you can dominate your opponents with long serves. These are serves which land very deep on your opponent’s side of the table, ideally with a lot of speed and spin. In this blog post, I explain why long serves are effective (especially at lower amateur levels) and how to do devilish long serves which can give your opponents nightmares."

Free Live Stream Coaching Session - Tonight!
Here's something new. Coach Samson Dubina will be answering questions live tonight at 9PM eastern time at his Facebook page. "We have had hundreds to questions submitted to the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy. Tonight, I'll be answering some of those questions on Facebook Live Streaming at 9pm Eastern Time. We are offering this as a FREE service to the table tennis community! Join us tonight and ask your own questions! Here is a short list of questions that I'll be answering..."

  • Should I change my stance from backhand to forehand?
  • How can I compete in tournaments without feeling pressure?
  • When playing against a sweaty opponent, how can I deal with wet balls?
  • How can I best return no-spin serves?
  • When serving, where should I position my fingers?
  • How can I master the drop-shot?
  • When gripping the racket, how much pressure should I apply?
  • Join us tonight and ask me your personal table tennis questions during the facebook live stream session! I'll be looking to answer about 10-20 questions during the 30 minute session.

Full-Time or Part-Time Coach Needed in Northern California
Fremont Table Tennis Academy (FTTA), situated in the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California, is looking for a full-time or part-time coach to join its coaching team. FTTA is one of the top performing clubs in the nation and has a large junior program. A potential coach can start this summer or in the fall. If interested, please contact FTTA Owner Shashin Shodhan at shashin@fremonttabletennis.com.

Worlds Recap: A China Sweep, Sweden and England Headline for the Men and Two Koreas Show the Power of Sports
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

New to International Scene, Chinese Trio Upset Seeding
Here's the ITTF article.

Denver Table Tennis Alliance’s 4th Mensual Tourney
Here's the article.

Top 4 Women Table Tennis Team 2018
Here's the video (9:23) from the Worlds from EmRatThich.

Zoran Primorac and Chen Weixin Ready For The LEGENDS TOUR Tonight!
Here's the video (1:44).

1961 Beijing and 1963 Prague World Championships Featuring Zhuang Zedong
Here's the video (7:48). It's fascinating to watch how they played in the days before looping. A surprising amount of lobbing. Zhuang, and I believe most of his opponent, are using short pips.

Stock Table Tennis Images
Here's the page from 123rf.com. I like the green paddles dressed up in various outfits and activities.

Stupid Ping Pong
Here's the video (2:55) - basically two kids (amateurs) doing lots of silly stuff while they play1

Rio Animal Olympics Table Tennis
Here's the video (65 sec, but link goes to 33 sec in where the table tennis begins). I bet you've never seen an Olympic table tennis final between a plush killer whale and a teddy bear!

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May 17, 2018

Table Tennis vs. Science Fiction Writing
Outside table tennis I also write science fiction - see larryhodges.com and my bibliography. (Short version - 90 short stories sold, 4 novels, and 2 short story collections. I have a story coming out in the next issue of Analog.) However, table tennis is still the main priority and it pays the most of the bills, both coaching and writing (eight books).

I started a new science fiction novel last week, but every time I tried working on it, some table tennis issue came up and I'd put it aside. There was the Hall of Fame program; researching some history and photos for one of this year's Hall of Fame inductees; a USATT Board of Directors teleconference; proofing some USATT documents; an ongoing confidential issue I've hinted about and spent nearly 100 hours on and can't wait to blog about hopefully this summer; some Coaching Chair issues; planning out junior training group sessions; preparing Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 21, for online publication; finalizing the flyers for the upcoming Serve and Receive Tactics seminars I'm running at MDTTC and at the Nationals in Las Vegas; writing up player evaluations on local juniors; prep work for the upcoming Maryland State Championships I'm running; a new proposal regarding hidden serves; lots of TT email correspondence; and of course the usual blogging and Tips of the Week. And all this was just since Monday! 

I came to a decision yesterday to put aside the novel (for now) and focus more on table tennis and short stories. Writing a novel takes a lot of immersion, where you focus on it for 3-6 months to get the first draft done, and then spend up to a year rewriting and editing it. Short stories are easier to get into, and it's far easier to jump back and forth between them and TT.

So I'll be able to focus more on table tennis again. Soon I'll read and update my notes for "Parent's Guide to Table Tennis," and then work on it during my one-week writing/reading "vacation" in Las Vegas between the World Veterans and the Nationals. I'll be writing up a storm at the World Veterans, with multiple stories every day, some on event coverage, others features on players and other issues.

Eventually I will also get around to doing the photos needed for Table Tennis Fundamentals. I'd like to get them done later this year, and hopefully write it next year. It would be a greatly expanded version of my previous Table Tennis: Steps to Success.

On a related note, we have 16-20 juniors from MDTTC flying 3000 miles to the USA Nationals this year, including the #1, #3, and #4 players in Under 10 Boys. So I'll be spending a bunch of time over the next month watching them in matches to prepare for coaching them at the Nationals. Tomorrow night I'll be at the Friday night league to watch and take notes. (But tonight, right after I coach the Thursday night junior class, it's Deadpool time!)

Thailand Open
Here's the home page for the event, which takes place in Bangkok, THA, May 16-20. Here are highlights from the first day: Kang Eunji vs He Zebao (Qual) (2:36).

Footwork Patterns Part 4
Here's the article, with links to video, by EmRatThich. "Footwork is very important in table tennis. It’s one of the fundamental techniques in table tennis that every player should learn first. Today, we learn the 4 main footwork patterns in table tennis."

Epic Block Technique
Here's the video (1:44). It's in Chinese, but is still good viewing.

The Realities of Table Tennis Addiction
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

WAB Club Feature: Bridgeport Sports Club
Here's the article featuring this club in Richmond, just South of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, by Steve Hopkins.

Li Jiao Leaves Coaching Post to Return to China
Here's the ITTF article. "Crowned European champion on two occasions and the winner of the Women’s Singles gold medal at the 2015 European Games, Li Jiao led the Netherlands to great success in her playing days. Fast-forward to May 2018 - Li Jiao has now announced her departure from her role as head coach of the Dutch women's team."

Focus on Fundamentals, Kuala Lumpur Responds
Here's the ITTF article. "Staged at the Expert Swing Table Tennis Center; Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia was the recent home for an ITTF/PTT Level One Coaches Course."

ITTF Opens Bidding for 2019 Challenge Series
Here's the ITTF article.

Young Timo Boll - Damien Delobbe 1998 YOUTH TOP 12
Here's the video (4:46) from Arnaud Scheen.

Ping-Pong in Virtual Reality (Fail)
Here's the video (35 sec)!

Can You Play Ping-Pong with KITCHEN ITEMS?
Here's the video (4 min)!

***
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May 16, 2018

How the Game Has Changed! A Look Back to 1994
I was doing some research on something recently and came across an article I wrote in the Sept/Oct 1994 issue of USA Table Tennis Magazine. The article was my diary as the USA head coach at the King Car International Youth City Championships in Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 22-30, 1994. We had two boys' teams and two girls' teams, with 14 players. Many of the best junior teams from all over the world attended, including teams from all over Europe, Asia, and a few from South America and Africa. The notable missing team was China, since we were in Taiwan.

Before the tournament we had a five-day joint training camp with the Taiwan and South Korean Teams. I noticed that their players had incredible footwork and forehand loops, but their backhand loops were rather weak. So I called our team together and told them our focus during the tournament was simple - get your backhand loops into play as they weren't used to facing them. The strategy worked - USA #1 (Dave Fernandez, Barney J. Reed, Richard Lee) came out of nowhere to get third place in Boys' Teams, beating some of the best teams from Taiwan, South Korea, and Sweden - with each match played in front of 20,000 screaming fans!!!

What jumped out from reading the article was how the game is changed. Here are three excerpts.

"A new style is developing in the Far East. We met up with a number of junior players who played penhold, but used both sides of their rackets on the backhand. At least one player had such a good backhand loop with the back (inverted) side of his racket that you couldn't push or serve long to him at all. Liu Guoliang of China made the finals of the 1994 U.S. Open playing this way, but he didn't use the technique nearly as often as some of the top junior players we saw here." [NOTE - Liu Guoliang was a rising start but still a relative unknown at the time. He'd become famous the following year when he made the final of Men's Singles at the 1995 Worlds, and then win gold in Men's Singles at the 1996 Olympics, and then win Men's Singles at the 1999 Worlds.)

"There were few shakehand players with inverted on both sides. There were many penholders, both pips in and inverted, and many shakehand players with combination rackets. Nearly all the top shakehanders, however, seemed to be either long-pipped choppers, or have pips-out on one side. Interestingly, more players had pips on their forehands than on the backhand."

"Our backhand techniques, especially as used by Dave Fernandez, Barney J. Reed, and Shashin Shodhan, seemed superior to most of the Asia players, and in meetings afterwards, coach after coach complimented us on it. They were especially impressed by Dave's quick, over-the-table topspinning backhand (basically, an off-the-bounce backhand loop). All of our opponents had great difficulty against these quick topspins." [NOTE - what was a novelty back then, these off-the-bounce backhand loops, is now the norm.]

Other highlights from the article:

  • In tournament party, all the junior teams were expected to give a 3-minute skit or sing a song. Team USA sang "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" and then "Row Row Row Your Boat." They then dragged me up front to demonstrate my ball-blowing trick, where I balance the ball - to the side - in the air by blowing on it, spinning the ball so it doesn't fall.
  • At the tournament party, Team USA won the "Fetching Contest." The rules were simple - the winner was the first team that could gather 10 watches, 5 necklaces, and 5 belts won. We were the Champions.
  • I wrote a long paragraph about the Taipei traffic, where huge numbers of motorcycles and a smaller number of cars weaved in and out like crazy, just missing each other by inches, and nearly every car had dents on them. We lived in daily fear of our daily commute to the playing hall!

Training Videos From Samson Dubina
Here are the videos (1:19 and 3:11) featuring Samson and Kenzie.

Table Tennis Tidbits #28
Here's the USATT article featuring a retrospective analysis of the 2016 Men's World Cup by Robert Ho.

New From EmRatThich
Here are new videos, both from the 2018 Final Champions League.

Roy Seguine RIP
Former long-time USATT webmaster and long-time player from the Virginia Roy Seguine has died. Here is the Tribute Wall. I'll post when an obit goes up.

Late-Night Ping Pong and Drinks Head to Downtown Austin
Here's the article. "Ping pong club and restaurant Spin is finally opening its sprawling downtown Austin location this week on Friday, May 18 at 9 p.m."

Table Tennis Enthusiasts Showcase Their Sport in 'Butterfly' Tourney
Here's the article on the event at the Broward County TTC in Florida, by Gary Curreri.

USATT and EastPoint Sports Enter into Licensing Agreement
Here's the USATT article.

Disappearing Table Tennis Table
Here's the video (1:50) by Leon the Magician. So . . . how do you think he did it?

Immigration Pong
Here's the cartoon!

***
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May 15, 2018

USATT Teleconference and the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet
We had one last night, a rather short one, only about 70 minutes, starting at 7PM. All nine USATT board members (including me) attended, as did the USATT CEO, COO, HPD, LC, and the chair of the HPC. (Awe, c'mon, do I have to spell these out for you? Think of it as a brain teaser.)

The meeting really had two parts, the "Open" session and the "Closed" session. During the open session we primarily discussed:

  • World Veterans - over 4000 entries. However, there have been problems with visas from some countries, likely due to the U.S.'s changing to more restrictive policies, and we may have lost up to 100 entries. We also arranged to have a USATT board meeting at the Veterans on Wednesday, July 20, with a board dinner the night before. 
  • U.S. Nationals. Final entry deadline is May 25, so what are you waiting for?
  • Para Data Protection Guidelines
  • Volunteer Recognition

Then we went into closed session to discuss legal matters. I wish I could discuss these matters, but I cannot. I'm hoping the saga of the biggest issue discussed will come to an end sometime this summer so I can write about it. I've hinted about it a few times, but suffice to say it's mind-boggling how one person can waste so much of everyone's time. I've now spent nearly 100 hours on this one issue that only about 20 people in USATT know about.

Meanwhile, I finished the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet program book last night (6 pages), other than getting the finalized list of the 2018 Hall of Fame Boosters and final proofing. If you'd like to donate and join the USATT Hall of Fame Boosters Club, here's the Donate Page. Here's the 2017 Hall of Fame Boosters Club.

I've been doing their program books since 2009, and this is the ninth one I've done. But there's something surreal about doing this one, since I'm getting their Lifetime Achievement Award. The five inductees are Li Ai, Dhiren Narotam, Norman Bass, Henan Li Ai, and Doru Gheorghe. The induction ceremony will take place during the USA Nationals, on Thursday, July 5, with the following schedule: 6:30 - Social; 7:00PM - Dinner; 8:00 - Awards. Here's a listing of the annual inductions with links to each program. (Page down below the pictures from last year's induction.)

Group Shadow Practice
Here's the video (33 sec) - this should be a part of any training program.

Zhang Jike at Full Speed
Here's the video (15 sec) as he does speed multiball. Can you do this?

The High-Toss Backhand Serve
Here's the video (43 sec) - why haven't you developed this?

New From EmRatThich
Here are three new videos.

Looking for an Over 50 Doubles Partner for the World Veterans?
Mike Levene is looking for a partner. He's a lefty looper, rated 2110, previously as high as 2229. He and I made the final of Over 40 Doubles at the 2010 U.S. Open, losing the final to Dan Seemiller/Mark Nordby. He runs the Smash TTC in Virginia. Contact him directly at 678-682-1907 or email him.

Exciting Young Names Present But One of Experience Overshadows All Other
Here's the ITTF article that features Liu Shiwen. In the new ITTF rankings (that give more weight to participation) she's only #10 in the world, but she's obviously better than that. She was #1 for 11 months, 2015-2016, and spent six months of 2017 as #2. When ITTF came out with their new rankings, in one shot she dropped from #4 to #24.

The Evolution of the Table Tennis Racket
Here's the article. "From 50 cm Long Handles to Boosters (and Everything in Between)."

Ruth Aarons in Action
Here's the video (59 sec) of USA's 1937 and 1938 World Women's Singles Champion doing an exhibition with Sandor Glancz.

The 2018 Russian Slapping Championships
Here's the video (4:18) - not for the squeamish! But seriously - wouldn't any table tennis player with a good forehand be great at this?

Vigiland - Pong Dance
Here's the video (2:51)!

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May 14, 2018

Tip of the Week
Tactical Thinking Between Points.

Doubles Foibles
I did a lot of doubles coaching on Saturday during the Junior League Training. This is a joint junior league and training session (mostly ages 8-13), where we do both singles and doubles, often using improvised games so the players get specialized type training. For example, we play games where the server loses the point if he doesn't serve and attack, or gets two points if he serve and attacks and eventually wins the point, or where the server starts out behind 7-9 or 8-10. And so on.

During the doubles segment on Saturday the one thing that stood out was that . . . no one thing stood out. Every team had different strengths and weaknesses. But there was one pattern and that was in most teams (not all), both players had the same doubles weaknesses, as if they copied from their partner. Here's a rundown. (Note that I'm picking on the problems I found, but they also did a lot of things well.)

  • The Wanderers. These two are good in singles, but in doubles they had this "wandering" habit. After hitting their shot both tended to move way, Way, WAY out of the way, bordering going into the next court. They'd go off to the side and back, and then, after their partner hit their shot, they'd be in the wrong country for their own shot, leading to many on-the-run lunges. Ideally, players should move mostly back and slightly angled away from their partner, but stay as close to the table as they can so they can get to the next shot.
  • The Blasters. I think this is self-explanatory - they both went for every shot. I kept reminding them that they should put some topspin on their flips, and try not to break lightspeed with each shot.
  • The Pushers. Again, self-explanatory. How many times did I have to remind them to stop pushing against topspin serves??? (Yeah, lots of pop-ups.) And please, Please, PLEASE will one of you attack the ball???
  • The Loop and Lob Brothers. One would loop, the other would, well, just get the next ball back, even if it was a weak return. That's the problem when you put a conventional attacker with a more defensive-minded player. Surprisingly, such teams often can become pretty good with practice, but they need to really focus on tactically playing together, and taking advantage of their respective strengths and weaknesses. For example, the defensive-minded one knows that he's going to get more weak balls than he usually does, since his partner is often looping, so he should be set to take the smash when it's there, rather than stand in his often defensive position. Similarly, the attacker doesn't need to force his attacks since his partner is comfortable if he pushes.
  • The Long Servers. When playing against loopers - which is most players - serving long over and Over and OVER isn't the best tactic. But even though the players can serve short, they don't really think about this unless I remind them once or twice or a trillion times.
  • The Arguers. There's something surreal about games where I find myself saying, multiple times, "Is there any way I can get you two to stop bickering and to play?"

Table Tennis Training Methods in China and Five New Videos
Here's the article, with links to video, from EmRatThich. "How do Chinese table tennis players practice? What is the training method in China? Why don’t Chinese players miss the easy ball? And why they are so good compared to other countries? Today, let’s talk about the training method in China and the main difference between the training drills in China and in the Western countries."

Here are five videos EmRatThich put up this weekend:

Home School: Improve Swing with Ping Pong Paddles
Here's the video (1:18) from the Golf Channel! "Go steel some ping-pong paddles from the kids" - apparently he hasn't seen Olympic table tennis!

Training with Patrick Franziska and Lubomir Jancarik at Dusseldorf TTC
Here's the video (16:14). Franziska of Germany is world #27; Jancarik of Czech Republic is world #111.

Maryland State Championships
I'll be running them at MDTTC, June 2-3. You have to be a Maryland resident to play in championship events (Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, age events), but the rating events are open to all.

May 2018 World Ranking: Impact of 2018 World Team Championships
Here's the ITTF article.

India Can Be Among World's Top Five Teams in a Few Years
Here's the article from ESPN.

26th Butterfly Cape Fear Open
Here's the article on the tournament held in Fayetteville, NC.

Wild Table Tennis Art
Here it is - I have no idea what it is, but it looks pretty wild!

Challenge Pongfinity - Episode 14
Here's the video (4:01)! Wait till you see the guy rallying on two tables, and using an air dryer as a "racket"!

***
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May 11, 2018

Upcoming Tournament, Coaching, and Writing Plans
WORLD VETERANS AND USA NATIONALS.
I'll be at both, June 18-24 and July 2-7 in Las Vegas. For the Veterans (4046 entries!), I'll be doing daily online coverage for USATT. We also have a USATT board meeting during the Veterans that I'll attend. At the Nationals I'll be coaching, attending meetings, and of course going to the Hall of Fame Banquet where I get the Lifetime Achievement Award!!! (Hope to see some of you there.) Between the two, June 25-July 1, I'm taking a Las Vegas writing/reading "vacation," where I plan on getting a lot of writing done in my hotel room - see my writing plans below. I'm also helping with a pre-Nationals clinic for some of our junior players, plus I'll be running a 90-minute coaching seminar, tentatively on July 1, on Serve and Receive Tactics - you are invited to that! (I may move that to Tue or Wed night.)

TABLE TENNIS COACHING PLANS.
My shoulder is rapidly improving, and I actually think I probably could do private coaching now. I can tough my back with my right arm again (yay!), and no longer have to hold it with my left when I comb my hair. (Seriously, how funny does it look combing your hair while using your other arm to hold the combing arm?) But here's the problem - if I did so and re-injured it, I'd be right back where I was before. So I'm planning to wait until at least late summer or even September before I start up private coaching again. When I do so, I plan on greatly limiting my hours, probably doing private coaching only two times a week. This is both to minimize the chance of re-injuring the shoulder and other injuries, plus it opens up more writing time. For now, I'll continue just running group sessions.

WRITING PLANS.
I have both my table tennis and science fiction writing careers. After much reflection, I've decided these are my next books, in this order.

  1. Campaign 2110 and Campaign 2120, sequels to my 2016 science fiction novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, a drama/satire that covers the election for president of earth in the year 2100, where the world as adopted the American two-party electoral system. This was always planned as a trilogy, and it's been bugging me for a while that I hadn't gotten to the next two novels. As I've blogged in the past, the novel contains a considerable amount of table tennis! One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player (who leaves the pro table tennis circuit to run a worldwide presidential election), and during the campaign teaches another of the four main characters, an alien ambassador, how to play - and since her ancestors snatched flying insects out of the air, she has far better coordination and reflexes than humans, and soon begins to beat him. I'll have them continue the table tennis as the adventures move to other worlds. The complete titles of second and third volumes are Campaign 2110: Scorpions in Space, and Campaign 2120: Galactic Scorpions.
  2. Parents' Guide to Table Tennis. I've been planning to write this for a long time and keep putting it off. I may work on it during the break between the World Veterans and Nationals, unless I'm working on the two Campaign novels above.
  3. Table Tennis Fundamentals. This would be an updated and expanded version of Table Tennis: Steps to Success, my previous book on the fundamentals of table tennis. My goal is to get the photos done this year - I'm having difficulty deciding who I should hire for this! Then I hope to write this next year. Or maybe I should just demonstrate the shots myself? My strokes are rather stiff and aren't good for video, but if I'm only doing photo sequences . . . maybe.

More and more these days I'm doing my writing at the huge eatery at Lake Forest Mall. Often I go there shortly after I finish my blog. Today I have a bunch of things to take care of (working on the Hall of Fame Program book for one, which I prefer to do on my desktop at home), but I expect to go there by early afternoon and have a late lunch and later on dinner there, while getting lots of writing done. If you are ever there, check the tables by the windows and I might be there! (Stop by and say hi, but please, for the love of Table Tennis, don't join me for lunch or dinner - seriously, I'm there to write!)

There's been a big change in my life recently as I find I get more writing done with Dr. Pepper than Mountain Dew. What a life-changer that is!!! :) (Pizza + soft drink = productivity.) These days I only drink soft drinks when I'm writing or at movies, so don't worry, I'm not overdoing it. After hitting 200 pounds in December, current weight is 179, and I'll be under 175 soon.

And while on the topic of writing, don't forget to support us poor, starving writers and injured coaches by buying some of my books. I may start a union, Union of Shoulder Addled Table Tennisers (USATT). (If you can come up with a better acronym, comment below.)

Thursday Beginning Junior Class
I taught the class last night, with John Hsu assisting. We started with 15 minutes of multiball footwork. Then we moved to the day's focus - pushing. We gave the usual demo (with a multi-color ball so they can see the backspin) and a short lecture, and then had them practice. All were able to create a decent backspin, even the youngest in the class, about age 7. Then we went to games, including the popular "worm juice" game for the younger kids, who are all getting too good at smacking the Gatorade bottle (as I feed multiball), forcing me to drink the dreaded "worm juice."!

Maryland State Championships
I'll be running them at MDTTC, June 2-3. You have to be a Maryland resident to play in championship events (Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, age events), but the rating events are open to all.

Early Bird Deadline at the USA Nationals
The early "Early Bird" deadline is TODAY, May 11, so don't forget to enter TODAY!!! Tomorrow the cost for adults goes from $250 to $325, for juniors from $225 to $300. Here's the USA Nationals page, July 2-7 in Las Vegas.

Training Drills
Here are two new training videos from 3T Table Tennis Training.

Investigating, Implementing, Performing: Developing a Tournament Goal
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "One year at the US National Team Trials, I was leading 3-2 against Mark Hazinski and leading 9-3 in the 6th game.  After a series of aggressive mistakes by me, he closed the gap 9-8.  I simply pushed and blocked the next 2 points to win the match 11-8 in the 6th.  Walking off the court, my coach said, 'I would rather have you lose the match than to win it like that.'  I replied, 'The goal was to win.'"

China's Table Tennis Continues to Dominate
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "Knowing the outcome is a big problem for our sport or any sport for that matter! For example, if I took a Ferrari and a Ford Focus on a track and announced to all my family and friends come and watch these two cars race, I’m pretty sure no one would be interested."

Ma Long Multi Ball Training at World Team Championships 2018
Here's the video (3:41).

Xu Xin "Golden Hand"
Here's the video (8:13) from EmRatThich. "Xu Xin is not only the Show man. He also has the "Golden Hand" in table tennis. This is the best rallies of Xu Xin in the WTTTC 2018 World Team table tennis Championship in Halmstad."

Tomokazu Harimoto
Here are two recent matches of the 14-year-old Japanese whiz kid, now ranked #10 in the world.

Kozul Drops Racket
Here's the video (50 sec, including slo-mo replay). Denis Kozul (world #109 from Slovenia) is serving from down match point to Jon Persson (world #68 from Sweden), but drops his racket on the table right after the serve. Persson puts the ball in the net, so it's seemingly Kozul's point, right? But the umpire awards the point, and the match, to Persson. The reason is not given in the video. However, I suspect it's because Kozul apparently touched the table with his free hand while picking up his racket. But then, at the end of the video, the umpire seems to change his mind, and calls the score 7-10, now awarding the point to Persson, and the score boards now reflect that. So I'm not sure what happened here.  An umpire can't change a judgement call, and if he judged Kozul touched the table, or did something else to lose the point, I'm not sure how he can legally change it from declaring Persson the 11-6 winner to 10-7.

Sports Science Conference Proves Resounding Success
Here's the ITTF article.

Music to the Ears of Nenad Bach, Bat on Ball
Here's the ITTF article. "Enthralled by the stars of the sport but there was another reason why the man, who enjoyed number one hits in Europe in the 1980s, was present in the Swedish west coast resort." "…he presented the Ping Pong Parkinson project, an initiative of which he is the founder having recently organised a tournament at the Westchester Club in New York for those who suffer from the illness."

Golden Paddle Trophies
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Now that's a nice looking trophy!

Ping-Pong Knockout Forehand
Here's the video (10 sec)!

***
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May 10, 2018

Early Bird Entries at the USA Nationals and the Coaching Seminar
Here's the USA Nationals page, July 2-7 in Las Vegas. The early "Early Bird" deadline is tomorrow, May 11, so don't forget to enter NOW!!! On May 12 cost for adults goes from $250 to $325, for juniors from $225 to $300. So maybe, just maybe, you should consider entering NOW!!!, and save yourself $75? It's like getting a free sheet of Tenergy!!! (Did I mention you should enter NOW!!!?)

I blogged about the USA Nationals on April 19, where I wrote about the 91 events, spectating, equipment booths, the Hall of Fame Banquet, the VIP package, the USATT board meeting, and the coaching seminar I'll be running.

The coaching seminar will be on Serve and Receive Tactics, tentatively held on Sunday, July 1, from 5:30-7:00PM. (I might see if it can be moved to perhaps Tue or Wed night.) It will be FREE to all USATT members. Here are topics I will be covering:

Serve Tactics

  • The purpose of the serve
  • Set-up serves vs. trick serves
  • Types of deception
  • Long serves
  • Short serves
  • Serving combos
  • Holding back on serves
  • Ten-point plan to serving success

Receive Tactics

  • Reading the serve
  • The purpose of the receive
  • Types of receive - your arsenal
  • Passive, disarming, & aggressive receives
  • Receiving deep serves
  • Receiving short serves
  • Deception on receive
  • What to do with tricky serves

I plan to run a similar seminar at MDTTC on Thursday, May 31, from 8-9:30PM, as a fund-raiser for sending MDTTC coaches to the Nationals. For that one, we'll be charging probably $15 for MDTTC members, $20 for non-members. (I'm doing both of these as a volunteer - I won't get paid a cent.)

New ITTF World Rankings
I blogged about the new world rankings on Tuesday (4th segment). Here are four new articles and a video on them.

The Table Tennis Troubleshooter
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "Experienced players are often excellent diagnosticians. You may not need to have played very long to recognize weaknesses in other players. Watching other players gives some insights, but playing a match against them reveals far more about their abilities. Every player comes with their own idiosyncrasies. Some of these traits provide special strengths for them, but some may stall their progress for years."

Slow Motion Analysis of Fan Zhendong vs. Koki Niwa
Here's the video (2:41).

USA Fields Talent Packed Squad of Nominations and Qualifiers for 2018 North American Hopes Tournament
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

WAB Club Feature: Pleasanton TTC in California
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Coach Expresses Hope of Joint Korean Table Tennis Team at Asian Games
Here's the article from Inside the Games. "…but warned they should only do so if it increases their chance of success."

Traian Ciociu, the Senior Player but Ready to Learn
Here's the ITTF article. "Age is no barrier, without doubt Luxembourg’s Traian Ciociu, is young at heart, the 55 year old is the most senior player on duty at the current Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. Motivated, he fulfils both the role of player and that of the guiding hand for the younger players in his team."

Table Tennis Tidbits #27
Here's the USATT article (with links to video) by Robert Ho: 2016 China Open, Top Two Tangle Times Two.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 27
Here’s chapter 27 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 27 covers "1994 May-June Tournaments." Note that Volume 21 is now out. This volume is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Salute to Professional Coaches at the ICC Butterfly America Open
Here's the Facebook album. (Can non-Facebook members see them?)

ITTF President vs TableTennisDaily's Dan!
Here's the video (9:07).

Giant Fox Pong?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

***
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May 9, 2018

Today is "Larry's Gripes" Day!
Everyone should be allowed to air their gripes once a year. Here are mine.

  • Dealing with constant shoulder problems, though they seem to be getting better. I think I'll start an association, Union of Shoulder Recoverers (USA). Let's make USA #1!
  • Dealing with a certain USATT member who has wasted more USATT time and energy than anyone in the past ten years. I've spent 90 hours on this person's issues (others have spent far more), and am doing all I can to get out of the web of intrigue and accusations (and, unfortunately, nonsensical, time-wasting grievance cases) he makes on a semi-regular basis. 
  • Dealing with the daily requests for articles - or more specifically, the ones who don't understand that just because they preface their request by saying, "Larry, you are such a great writer!" doesn't mean I have the time or energy to write an article about anyone or anything that someone asks me to do - and why do I seem to owe this to so many people just because I'm supposed "such a great writer!"? (Okay, I like that last part.) The large majority of my table tennis articles are for my blog, a Tip of the Week, for USATT, Butterfly (my sponsor), my club (MDTTC), and upcoming books or novels. Seriously, when someone asks me to write an article, they are basically saying, "Larry, I want you to write my article because it's more important than the next chapter of your book." Remember, there are a lot of these requests, and only one of me. (USATT, Butterfly, and MDTTC are somewhat exempt from this.
  • Did I mention my shoulder problems?
  • Students who show up late for a class and thereby miss the opening lecture and demo. 
  • Those who have all the answers for USATT and assume no one else has thought of what they believe is the answer, or that it has already been tried in some way, nor are they normally willing to do the work needed to apply the idea, assuming USATT has the manpower to do so. (It doesn't.) Suggestions are great, but first do a little checking on the history of the idea - feel free to email me or someone else with a long table tennis history to see if it's been tried, and if so, how it was tried so you can see if there's perhaps a better way of doing it. Again, keep in mind that USATT has limited resources.
  • Lefty's with good backhands. Really, I never want to play them. They're evil. They have that wide angle into my forehand. Seriously, they are all Sith.
  • Phone calls out of the blue from people I don't know. I prefer email so I can deal with it between tasks, rather than interrupting whatever I'm doing - and I'm almost always doing something. I only give my phone number out to a select few, but somehow people find it. I think there's a TV reality show out there somewhere titled, "Find Larry's Phone Number and Call Him When He's Busy."
  • Parents who believe they know table tennis better than the coach. Fortunately, the great majority do not.
  • People who want me to do their research on things that they could easily Google. 
  • Gosh, I wish those shoulder problems would go away. Did I mention them? (But really, it's getting better.)
  • USA didn't win Men's or Women's Teams at the Worlds again??? Jeez, that's 69 years in a row. (We swept both in 1937 and won Women's Teams in 1949. Ah, the memories from those grand old days back in 1937 when we were #1 . . .)
  • People who read the previous item and literally thought I remember the 1937 Worlds and must be really, really old, like 100 or so.
  • Seriously, you didn't know that lefty's with good backhands are evil? Really, they are! That angle into the forehand, it's so unfair...

4 Mental Tricks: Pre-Match Preparation
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. Learn about the Nandan, Lily, Mike, and Roger Effects! Regarding the Lily Effect, I always seem to play my best when I'm down 8-10. So I'm always imagining that is the score, even at 0-0.

7 Losses in a Row – a Review of My League Season
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Training Videos
Here are a series of training videos. Click on the arrow to see the next one. The commentary is in Chinese but you can learn by watching the technique.

Ping Pong Filipino Prodigy
Here's the video (10:38) from EmRatThich. "Watch 11-year-old table tennis sensation Aljay Villena, the best hope of Philippines for that elusive 1st Olympic gold medal."

Aerobic TT Rocks Halmstad
Here's the article.

Letter from the ITTF CEO
Here's his letter about the Worlds.

Halmoo the World Team Championships Mascot
Here's the moose with:

When Superheroes Use their Powers in Sports
Here's the video (3:18) - guess who plays table tennis? Go to 1:48 in the video to find out!

***
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May 8, 2018

Withering Weekend Work and Shifting Shoulder Shockers
Forget Spider-man, it's Spider-day at MDTTC! At least on Saturday it was. During a junior session a giant Wolf spider came crawling into the playing area. You can imagine how the kids reacted. At first the coaches shooed them back to the tables, as the spider was near the barrier, away from the table. But someone had to take action we needed a hero! I grabbed a box, and with my paddle, got the thing to crawl onto it. Then I let it go outside, despite several girls screaming, "Kill it!"

Despite all the excitement, we got some serious table tennis in. We did a lot of up-down table games, but had them start with varying scores, such as the server is down 7-9 or 8-10.

In my Sunday Beginning Class the focus was on smashing. Which is almost as exciting for them as the spider was on Saturday. Then we had the more advanced Talent program, where we challenged them with more complicated drills than usual. For example, in one drill the player would serve short backspin his partner's forehand. Partner would quick-push to the wide forehand. Player would loop down the line to partner's backhand. Partner clocked it crosscourt to player's backhand. Then then they continued the rally with the backhand-forehand-forehand drill. We also did a bit of serve practice, and I'm impressed with their improvement. Some may remember I noted in a blog earlier this year that I thought some of them needed a lot of serve practice, but that's exactly what's happened. One kid, who absolutely could not put backspin on the ball back in January, may now have the heaviest backspin serve in his group - yeah, he got determined and has been practicing it, and can now make the ball bounce backwards on the far side of the table. 

Here's a quick update on my shoulder. After the cortisone shot on Wednesday, the shoulder is suddenly feeling good for the first time since last September!!! This is also due to two months of physical therapy (3-times/week for 90 minutes), plus one to two 20-minute stretching routines each day. Amazingly, I can do something I haven't been able to do in years - put my playing arm flat against my back. However, just to be safe, I don't plan on playing for a time. When I do return - tentatively in the fall, but perhaps late summer - I will likely restrict my private coaching to less than before, while continuing with the four group sessions (6.5 hours) I do each week. 

World Team Championships Finals - Shortened Versions
Here are videos of the Men's and Women's Team Finals from the Worlds, with time between points removed. (With apologies to esteemed commentator Adam Bobrow.)

Men's Team Final

Women's Team Final

2018 World Team Championships is Simply LIT
Here's the ITTF video (2:30).

New World Rankings
The new world rankings are in, after the World Team Championships.

  • On the Men's side, Fan stays #1; Ovtcharov and Boll trade places as #2 and #3; Ma Long mysteriously stays at #6 despite being the best in the world; and 14-year-old Japanese whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto moves into the #10 spot (from #13 last month, and #11 in Jan and Feb).
  • On the Women's side, the top three spots stay the same, but Singapore's Feng Tianwei drops from #4 to #9. Ding Ning, who many believe is the best in the world and who was #1 for a year until October, dropped from #11 to #16, while Liu Shiwen, another candidate for best in the world (world #1 or #2 for most of 2016-2017), stays at #10. These Chinese players may dominate at the table, but they apparently don't compete as often as their counterparts, and the new system punishes them for that - while making the rankings less accurate. 
  • USA's Kanak Jha moved from #82 to #72, but no other USA men are in the top 300.
  • USA's Lily Zhang moved from #55 to #53, while Yue Wu exploded from #122 to #72. Crystal Wang (who wasn't at the Worlds) moved up one spot to #155, with no other USA women in the top 200.

Photos from the Worlds
Here is a gallery from Steve Rowe. It's on Facebook, so I'm not sure if non-Facebook users can see it.

8 Slump-Busting Tips: How do I GET OUT of this slump?
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Funny Moments - China National Team at the Worlds
Here's the video (2:38).

***
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