June 29, 2017

Table Tennis Game Variations
At the end of our camp yesterday the top juniors all got together and played a variation of Brazilian Teams I’ve never seen before. The normal rules for Brazilian Teams are simple – see below. But as I watched, a player lost a point – but stayed at the table. I asked why, and it turned out they had invented “Deuce Brazilian Teams,” where you play from deuce, i.e. have to win by two. So everyone gets to play at least two points on their turn, and it’s easier to stay up longer. It got me thinking about other game variations. Here are a few.

  • Brazilian Teams. Three or more to a team (though you can play with two). One player from each side goes up and plays a point. The winner stays, the loser goes to the end of his team’s line and the next player goes up. New player always serves. Games are generally to 31 or even 41 or more. Sometimes, if there’s a player stronger than the rest, you limit the number of points a player can win in a row and stay at the table. If you sweep the opposing team (or score 4 in a row), you are a hero. If you sweep them twice (or score 8 in a row), you are a superhero. Variation – Deuce Brazilian Teams, where instead of playing one point, players start out at deuce, and have to win by two, with the winner staying.
  • Up-Down Tables. Players pair up on the tables. They all play one game to 11, with no deuce – 11-10 wins. Winners move up, losers move down. Goal is to reach table #1 and stay there, or as close to that table as you can. If there’s an odd number, the loser on the last table practices serves the next round. This is great for all ages at camps. Sometimes, to quicken the pace, you play shorter games, perhaps to 7, or even start at deuce (have to win by two).
  • King of the Table. One player is “king,” others line up on other side. Challenger serves. If he loses the point, he goes to the end of the line and the next person comes up. If the Challenger wins the point, the King serves. Challenger has to win two points in a row to become King. Another variation the younger kids prefer is you only have to win one point to become King – so the King changes faster. Also, while it’s generally called “King of the Table,” we often call it “Captain” or “King or Queen” of the table or the girls rightfully object. How about Dictator of the Table?
  • Backspin Service Game. Players get five or ten serves each. You serve heavy backspin, usually high. If the ball bounces back into the net, you get one point. If it bounces back over the net and back onto your side on one bounce, without touching the net, it’s three points. If it bounces back over the net but takes more than one bounce, or nicks the net in either direction, it’s two points. This is my personal favorite, and all of my students learn this.
  • One-Shot Pong. This is for when you have a top player against a relative beginner. The stronger player has only one shot to win the point – he must win the point outright on his serve and on his serve return. If the beginner returns the serve, or returns the receive against his serve, he wins the point. (Another variation – all the beginner has to do is touch the receive of his serve! Generally the stronger player can loop or flip at wide angles for aces.) Other variations, depending on the difference in level, is the stronger player gets to serve and do one shot, and/or receive and one shot.
  • Doubles. Or, if you want to get creative, Triples!!!
  • Opposite Hand and/or Opposite Grip. Self-explanatory.
  • Mini-Tables and/or Mini-Rackets. Self-explanatory.
  • Hardbat and Sandpaper. Self-explanatory.
  • Cell Phone Pong. Self-explanatory.
  • Jungle Pong. This is a favorite of the kids, who often play this non-stop on break. You get a group together, and number themselves in order, so each player knows who he goes after. Then player 1 serves. Player 2 (and all subsequent players) have to let the ball come off the table and bounce on the floor, then he hits it back on the table, on either side, and the next player does the same. When a player fails to make a return, he’s out. This continues until you have a champion.
  • Cup Game. This is more for kids. They stack paper cups into pyramids or walls – “The Great Pyramid of Egypt” or “The Great Wall of China” – then they line up and knock them down as I feed multiball, 2-3 shots per player, taking turns. A variation of this is to stack ten cups in a pyramid and everyone gets up to ten shots to see how many they can knock over.
  • Frog Game. Another one for kids. I have a giant rubber frog I keep at the club – “Froggy” is the club’s unofficial mascot. I put him on the table, divide the kids into two teams, and as I feed multiball, they try to hit poor Froggy, keeping score. You can use just about anything as a target.
  • Worm Juice. Another one for the kids, though adults often join in this one. You put a bottle of Gatorade or similar liquid on the table, and say it’s squeezed worm juice. Kids take turns trying to hit it as you feed multiball. If they hit it, you have to drink it. Best part – you get to mock them as you feed the balls!!! (But they get the last laugh when they hit it.)

China Open Chinese Player Withdrawals and Aftermath

  • Chinese Men's Team Withdrawn from Australian Open, from ITTF. “It is unfortunate that the decision was made to withdraw the entire men’s team of Zhang Jike, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Yan An, Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan from the Australian Open, despite only two of the players (Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin) being involved in last week’s incident at the China Open.”
  • Table Tennis Authorities Remind Players Who is Boss, from SupChina. “After China’s sports authorities relieved much-loved national table tennis team coach Liu Guoliang of his coaching duties in a sideways promotion to become vice president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, three players protested, walking out of their matches at the World Tour China Open in Chengdu on June 23. The action caused a nationwide outcry online — many people criticized the “Soviet” nature of China’s sports administration that prioritizes the system over individual talent, although a few commenters accused the three protesting players of putting politics above sports.”
  • China Seeks Ping-Pong Diplomacy to Defuse Coaching Row, from Reuters. “The removal of China's top table tennis coach has stirred up rare tensions in the country's sporting world, prompting a backlash from leading players and fans, and drawing the gaze of the country's censors. Fans of table tennis, China's unofficial national sport, flocked online to vent their anger over the removal of the national team's popular head coach, Liu Guoliang, who stepped down from his position last week.”

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