Korean Open

June 18, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of Week One of our ten weeks of camps at MDTTC. As usual, it's always surprising watching beginners on day one who seem to have no concept or potential to do a proper shot suddenly start making the shots properly on day two. There are four in the camp who are basically beginners. 

Sometimes it's a coach can get caught off guard by what he doesn't know about the players. After a day and a half of coaching, I asked three of the beginners (ages 6, 8, and 10) if they thought they were ready to play some games. All three looked rather confused. After some questioning, I realized the obvious - they didn't know how to play a game. None knew how you score a point or how many points a game was up to. So I stopped everything and went over the rules with them. I made a game out of it, seeing who could correctly answer (or guess) the answer to basic rules. When I first asked how many points a game was up to, they argued whether games were to ten or twenty. One guessed that each player served six times in a row, and the other two immediately agreed with this. So I made a mental note to myself to remember to go over the basic rules sooner next time. 

Ratings Quirks

Here are two interesting quirks of the USATT rating system. 

1) Can You Predict the Odds in a Match from their Ratings?

The USATT rating system is set up so that players exchange points based on the difference in their ratings, and whether it's an upset or not. (Here's an explanation of the system.) For example, if the two players are rated 100 points apart (technically from 88 to 112 points), if the higher-rated player wins, he gains 4 points, the lower player loses 4. If it's an upset, then the lower-rated player gets 20 points while the higher-rated player loses 20. Based on this, the higher-rated player should win 20 times for every four times he loses, or 5/6 of the time. There have been discussions of this on online forums for years.

On the one hand, it's fairly obvious that there are more upsets among lower-rated players than higher ones. For example, a player rated 1100 is more likely to upset a player rated 1200 than a player rated 2100 is going to upset a player rated 2200. This is because the ratings are far more volatile at the lower levels - players are far more likely to make sudden dramatic improvements at those levels than at the advanced levels. So there are far more upsets at the lower levels than at the higher levels.

On the other hand, the ratings should spread out to match this probability, so at all levels the probability of a hundred-point upset should be the same at all levels. But this seems to contradict the previous statement.

So who's right? Surprisingly, both are basically right. The part left out is that many of these under-rated players at the lower levels get adjusted upward. The USATT system goes through four steps in processing the ratings. The first step only finds players who need to be adjusted, and then adjusts them upwards. So mathematically, the system is making predictions for these players with their adjusted ratings. So when an 1100 player beats a 1200 player, but is adjusted up to 1500, as far as the rating system is concerned, a 1500 player just beat a 1200 player. In other words, it doesn't see an 1100 player beating a 1200 player; it sees a 1500 player beating a 1200 player. 

Among 1100 players who beat 1200 players but are not adjusted, I would guess that the percentage of their wins against 1200 players would be about the same as a 2100 player (who is not adjusted upwards) against a 2200 player. And so if you look only at the adjusted ratings of players (for those who were adjusted) and use the USATT rating system to predict matches, it'll be pretty consistent at all levels, i.e. the chances of an 1100 player beating a 1200 player would be about the same as a 2100 player beating a 2200 player - about 1/6.

2) Can a Player Gain Ratings Points by Losing a Match?

Yes, but it's extremely rare. The only case I know of where this happened was at the Southern Open in 1996, though I'm sure there are others. Xu Huazhang, a former Chinese national team member who had recently moved to the U.S., had been going to school and so had a rating of only 2572. He went undefeated in the tournament, winning both the Open and Elite Singles. He was adjusted upwards, and came out 2777. But when we looked at the results, we realized a strange thing. The USATT adjustment factor - a mathematical formula which used to be public but is no longer listed in the explanation of the system - normally adjusts a player upward partially based on their best win and worst loss. But since Xu had no losses, a different formula is used. We discovered that if Xu had lost one of his two matches against Jim Butler, he would have achieved a rating over 2800! So by winning both matches, he lost at least 23 rating points. When I discovered this I reported it to the USATT Ratings Committee, but nothing was done. And since the adjustment formula is no longer online, I can't show why this happened.

Facebook Friends

Are you on Facebook? Are you an avid table tennis person? Then send me a friend request! Here's my Facebook page. One advantage - as soon as I finish a blog each morning (Mon-Fri), I post a note on Facebook about it, including a content listing.

Why the New Poly Balls Can Be Heavier

Here's the ITTF Technical Leaflet on this - see the parts in green, which are new. The key part is right at the end, where it says that instead of the standard range for the weight of the ball from 2.67 to 2.77 grams, with the new balls it can be from 2.65 to 2.82 grams until Jan. 1, 2016. I don't have any accurate way of measuring the Nittaku Poly ball I blogged about on Monday, but I'm guessing it pushed the upper limit here, while most balls were, if anything, probably on the lower range. (Anyone have figures on that?)

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-six down, 74 to go!

  • Day 75: Until the 1950s, Table Tennis Was Considered a “Jewish Sport”

Youngest Player at the Japan Open

Here's a picture of Japan's Harimoto Tomokazu, showing all the media attention he's getting.

Top Ten Shots at the Korean Open

Here's the video (5:16). 

Ping Pong Beer

Here it is - straight from Belgium!

World Ping-Pong Federation

Here's the cartoon!

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June 16, 2014

Tip of the Week

Be a Perfectionist.

MDTTC Summer Camps

Our ten weeks of MDTTC summer camps starts today, Mon-Fri every week, 10AM-6PM. It's going to be a busy summer. I'll miss two of the weeks, June 30-July 4 for the U.S. Open, and July 28-Aug. 1 for a writers workshop. I'm still doing my usual private coaching, plus this blog and Tip of the Week, and other writing, so it's going to be a hyper-busy summer. As usual.

Nittaku Premium 40+ Poly Ball

Paddle Palace sent me one of the newly created Nittaku Poly balls, the 3-Star Nittaku Premium 40+, made in Japan. These are the plastic ones that will replace celluloid balls later this year in many tournaments. This ball is of special interest because it's possibly the ball we'll be using at the USA Nationals in December, as well as other USA tournaments. (There will also be a Nittaku SHA 40+ ball that is made in China, but it's likely the Premium from Japan that might be used at the Nationals.) 

Why is this important to you? Because it's likely these are the balls YOU will be using soon. Might as well learn about them and get used to them.

I tried the new ball out on Sunday morning at MDTTC, hitting with Raghu Nadmichettu, Derek Nie, Quandou Wang (Crystal Wang's dad), John Olsen, and Sutanit Tangyingyong. There was pretty much a consensus on it. Here are my findings, based on my play with it and comments from the others.

  1. The ball sounds almost exactly like a regular celluloid ball - no more cracked sound like many of the previous versions.
  2. The ball is extremely sturdy, almost unbreakable. Unlike a celluloid ball, you could press your thumb on it and there was little give. No soft spots. These balls will last forever until someone steps on it.
  3. The surface of the ball is slightly rougher than a celluloid ball.
  4. It didn't have the powder that covers a new celluloid ball.
  5. It was seamed, but you could barely see it.
  6. The ball is heavier and slightly wider than the celluloid ones. I think to get rid of the crack sound they made the walls thicker. When you hit with it the extra weight is instantly obvious.
  7. I compared it to a 40mm ball, and it looks 40.5mm. That's why they label it "40+."
  8. It spins slightly less because of the extra weight and greater diameter. All shots initially have less spin - serves, loops, pushes, chops, etc. However, what spin you put on the ball tended to stay, as the extra weight allowed it to better overcome air resistance. At the same time the ball reacted to the spin slightly less, due to the extra weight.
  9. It was very easy to serve short with spin with it. I think this was because the extra weight meant the ball came off the racket slower when serving with spin.
  10. I did a bounce test, dropping it and a Butterfly 3-star next to each other. The poly ball bounced slightly higher every time.
  11. Even though it was technically faster on the bounce test, in rallies it played a touch slower, again presumably because of the extra weight, and because the lower trajectory off the racket (due to the extra weight) made the ball cross the net lower and therefore bounce lower on the other side. One player in backhand-backhand rallies kept putting it in the net.  
  12. The ball seemed especially heavy when looping, and a bit more difficult to spin. There was less loft - you had to aim slightly higher. Overall I found it a touch harder to loop against blocks, mostly because of the extra effort needed to overcome the extra weight.
  13. Counterlooping was easier, but the ball definitely felt heavier the more you backed off the table. But balls that might have gone off the end seemed to drop on the table like a rock. This was because even though the ball started with less spin than normal, the spin dissipated less, and so there was as much or more spin at the end than a normal counterloop. However, this was partially offset by the extra weight, meaning the ball reacted slightly less to the spin.
  14. It's very easy to block with it. The ball could bring back the quick-blocking game. But I think blockers with long pips are going to have trouble as the ball won't return with as much spin. Part of this is because the incoming ball will tend to have less spin. 
  15. I think hitting is about the same with it. Because there's less spin it's easier for a hitter to hit against a loop. But because the ball tended to have a slightly lower trajectory, the ball bounced lower, which might even things out. When an opponent loops close to the table, there's less spin with this ball than with a celluloid one. But as the looper backs off, the ball tends to come out spinnier since the spin doesn't dissipate as quickly due to air resistance. (Remember that many players thought going from 38 to 40mm balls would favor hitters, but it was the reverse. And now we've gone slightly bigger.)
  16. When I first tried chopping, balls that normally would have hit the table kept sailing off. (I'm about a 2100 chopper, though I'm normally an attacker.) There was noticeably less spin. Then I hit with Sutanit Tangyingyong, a 2300+ chopper, and he had no such trouble. His chops were extremely heavy, though he said they'd be heavier with the regular ball. (I struggled to lift and to read his chops, and then realized something - since I primarily coach these days, I haven't played a seriously good chopper in well over a decade!) He concluded that the ball would favor choppers who vary their spin - his no-spin chop with this ball was deadly - but choppers who rely on heavy backspin wouldn't do as well. I realized afterwards that part of the reason I had so much trouble with his chopping is that his heavy chops, while starting with less spin, kept the spin due to the ball's extra weight, and so the balls were heavier than I expected. Also, lifting a heavier ball against heavy backspin is more difficult.
  17. My conclusions - the new ball might affect players perhaps the equivalent of 25 ratings points at most. However, that's a 50-point swing, since one player might be 25 points better, another 25 points worse. (Note that 25 points means more at the higher levels. But at the lower levels, where 25 points doesn't mean as much, it'll affect play less as players are less specialized, and so it'll come out about the same.)
  18. The ball is going to help blockers and counterloopers. It's going to hurt long pips blockers, and looping against blocks. After the difficulty I experienced lifting against chops, I'm starting to think it might help choppers, the most surprising thing I found. 

Paddle Palace also gave me what five-time U.S. Men's champion and 2-time Olympian Sean O'Neill wrote about the ball. Here's what he wrote:

The Nittaku Premium 40+. Two words - "Game Changer."
a) Really round, others have noticeable wobble
b) Different matt finish. I don't think these will get glassy with age
c) Spin doesn't dissipate. Really true flight paths.
d) Hard as a rock. No soft spots at all. Feels if the walls are thicker than other 40+
e) Sounds good, no hi pitched plastic sound
f) Texture very noticeable. This makes for truer bounce especially on spin shots
g) Durable. These things are gonna last big time.

Orioles Host Frank Caliendo and Han Xiao

When I heard that famed stand-up comedian Frank Caliendo was in town doing shows, and was interested in playing the Orioles, I contacted their press manager. And so it came about that on Saturday morning Frank (who's about 1800) and Han Xiao (former long-time USA Team member) visited the Orioles clubhouse on Saturday morning to play the Orioles. I wasn't there, and don't have pictures or video, but I'm told they played a lot with Darren O'Day (who I've coached a few times) and others, but they weren't sure of the names. Alas, the Orioles best TT player, JJ Hardy (also around 1800), wasn't available. There was a 10-15 second video of them playing on the Orioles pre-game show. (Here's the link to my blog last August when I visited and played the Orioles in their clubhouse, along with some of our top junior players.)

Non-Table Tennis: Speaking of the Orioles…

This weekend they featured another of my Top Ten Lists. Except this one had 12: Top Twelve Ways That Orioles Fans Can Help Out. This is the 20th article of mine that they've featured. (It contains some inside jokes; feel free to ask about them in the comments below.)

Samson Dubina Coaching Articles

He's put up several more coaching articles on his home page. These include articles on Boosting Your Attack, Returning No-Spin Serves, and How Ratings Can Mentally Fool You.

Why Are the Chinese So Strong?

Here's the article. Includes links to numerous videos.

Lily Zhang Wins Silver in Korea

She made the final of Under 21 Women's Singles at the Korean Open, losing 4-1 in the final to Hitomi Sato of Japan. Here's the "playing card" picture of Lily!

Amy Wang and Michael Tran Winners at World Hopes Week

First, they won the Team Competition; here's the ITTF article. Then Amy won Girls' Singles while Michael made the finals of Boys' Singles; here's the ITTF article.

2014 U.S. Open Blog - A BIG THANK YOU!!!

Here's the blog by Dell & Connie Sweeris. They are co-chairs of the upcoming U.S. Open in Grand Rapids and are both members of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part Two. Kagin is on the USATT Board of Directors and is a Vice President for the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

USA Umpires Pass International Umpire Exams

Here's the story and pictures. Congrats to Ed Hogshead, Linda Leaf, and David Pech!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-three down, 77 to go!

  • Day 78: A Special Father’s Day Remembrance: President Sharara Pays a Tribute to His Father
  • Day 79: Origination of the 100-Day Countdown

Table Tennis Company Competitions in Washington DC

Here's the story. Golden Triangle is organizing the competitions between June 6 and Sept. 19.  

Table Tennis Keeps Youth Out of the Streets

Here's the article and video (2:19).

Best of the Legends Tour

Here's the video (2:06), featuring Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jean-Michel Saive, and Jiang Jialiang.

Unbelievable Rally at the Korean Open

Here's the video (55 sec) of the point between Yu Ziyang of China and Romain Lorentz of France.

Table Tennis is So Simple

Here's the cartoon!

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