U.S. Team members who competed at the Tokyo World’s sure had something to talk about on coming home. But, ah, so did Patti Hodgins (TTT, May-June, 1983, 10) who, with Leah “Miss Ping” Neuberger, took her paddle-play not to any Yoyogi Stadium court but, with some trepidation (“Oh, my God, we’re going to get KILLED”), to a MaMa Club tournament a train ride away. Here’s “Patti-san” to describe her unique day:
“…Why is MaMa’s Table Tennis growing in popularity and not only in Japan but in Hong Kong, Korea, and elsewhere? Because it obviously [with 14,000 members] serves a function in the average housewife’s life.
The young Japanese develops his/her table tennis game in school and league play. After grammar and junior high school, the students must pass exams to get into high school, else go to work. A tour guide told us that there’s a child labor law that protects the young from working until after junior high school, and that if they’re caught working before then their parents are fined. On graduating from high school, the students must again pass exams if they want to attend a university. Good table tennis players try to go to schools with good table tennis teams.
After attending a university, table tennis players, like everyone else, go to work. If they are very good, large companies encourage them to join their teams of superior players who get to play the sport on company time. Somewhere, around age 25-26, they suddenly get less time off to play—and the company’s subtle message is that their competitive days are over.
A woman tries to get married before age 25 because after that she is considered ‘over the hill.’ Mr. Goto, our guide, said the divorce rate in Japan is low. Remarriage is rare—except for movie stars. Married women devote themselves to (priorities in the following order) #1 their husbands, #2 their children, and #3 themselves. Table tennis provides housewives with exercise and a special connection with other women—hence its increasing popularity.
…On the train to the tournament, there were about 60 women, all going where we were. We had tea in one of the cars and some Korean women gave both Miss Ping and me a pair of little red and green Korean shoes that we were to hang on a wall of our homes for good luck.
…After we got off the train we all went to a restaurant where, for breakfast, I had soup, rice, and two eggs with crabmeat. Then, at the gym, I was initially shocked to see so many players—women players!
We lined up according to nations—with signs for each group. They played a march and we all filed in. All eyes were on the two blondes from the U.S. I was conscious I was taller than anyone in the room. Welcoming speeches were given in Japanese. After about ten men were introduced whom we were never to see again, it was our turn to be brought up and individually recognized. After this, 500 women ran around putting the 40 tables and accompanying barriers up. Miss Ping and I, meanwhile, were inundated by, ‘Will you please pose for a picture with me?’ requests.
Everyone was very helpful and the tournament was organized for play very rapidly. There were Four Divisions—A, B, C, D. We played in the B Division. I hadn’t played in about three weeks, didn’t win any of my very close matches, but I played well enough and was satisfied. Miss Ping said she wasn’t at her best because the gym was a little dark and she couldn’t see well.
After the Singles matches, we all played Doubles. I, “Patti-san,” partnered a Japanese, and, helped by lots of cheering from Japanese ladies, we came first in our Division. We won a pair of socks and a Japanese scroll. We also received many gifts from the ladies—for example, a silk scarf with the insignia of the MaMa’s Club banner, and a jade necklace with rhinestones. We all exchanged personal cards and everyone was very, very friendly.
We finished around 5:00 p.m., then took buses to a resort hotel on the ocean that was very beautiful. There everyone changed into pretty dresses—everyone but Miss Ping and me—in preparation for a really lavish reception with an abundance of food and drink.
While we were eating, many of the ladies began to go up on the stage and entertain us by singing—singly and in groups. A Japanese lady did a lovely fan dance, and the Koreans sang and danced. I joined some English ladies in singing “Auld Lang Syne,” but Miss Ping had a paralysis-of-the-throat attack. After both of us went up on the stage and thanked everyone for an unforgettable day, we finally got back, dog-tired, to our hotel rooms in Tokyo around 11:30 p.m.
I was thinking, Wouldn’t it be nice if we in the U.S. had a MaMa’s Club? Maybe some of you would help me, Patrti-san, start the first chapter?”
Also reminding us that he, too, was active at the World’s was Manny Moskowitz (TTT, May-June, 1983, 17). “‘Arigato Gozaimasu’ (‘Thank You’),” says Manny, “to the Japanese Organizing Committee for the wonderful hospitality extended not only to the competitors but to the officials as well.” Moskowitz was one of 27 Foreign Umpires (but the lone American) working the matches, while Japan had 150 International Umpires at the ready. Manny thanks “Shigetoshi Matsumoto and Mawatari Hideto, the two International Umpires who chaperoned all the Foreign Umpires during the Championships…and helped make our stay so enjoyable.”
Moskowitz’s umpire team was composed of Canada’s Stan Szaijkowski and Japan’s Hiromitsu Matsumoto. In following their daily table/hour schedule, they used a rotation system: “one of us took a turn at being Chair Umpire, one sat alongside operating a manual scorer, while the third member sat opposite, operating an electronic score machine, as well as acting as service judge and edge-ball judge. Naturally we umpires did not get as much opportunity as we would have liked to witness all the outstanding play. (I congratulate the U.S. Team for their fine showing, and apologize for not being able to be present for many of their matches.)”
“This being my first World Championship, I was impressed with the entire operation. The discipline and efficiency of the organizing committee was admirable. I wish to thank the USTTA Executive Committee for the opportunity of establishing relations with so many foreign umpires, making it possible for an exchange of mutual problems.” [Umpire relations among countries? It strikes me that the U.S. and Canadian umpires are likely to be pretty chummy, for notice that Moskowitz and Canada’s Mike Skinner share the exact same heading for their columns.]
No surprise that Jeff Zakarin, formerly one of the U.S.’s best juniors, didn’t turn up at the World’s—he was abroad alright, but in Israel. And still in table tennis. He’s based in Arad—“a town,” he says, “that just seems to pop up from the Negev Desert and from which one can easily see the Dead Sea, Jordan, Mesada, and the West Bank.” Turns out that “Arad (pop. 15,000) has a TT Club with seven tables and 150 players, 90% of whom are under 19-years-old.” Jeff’s “been coaching 11-13-year-olds [for future Hapoel Games?] on Wednesday nights.”
Jeff admits “there wasn’t a wealth of talent at this year’s May 1-7 Hapoel Games at Safad. In fact,” he says, “I found the level of play slightly disappointing and not very newsworthy.” Still, he perseveres with the Team Results: Men’s: West Germany over Chile, 5-2. Women’s: West Germany over Israel Hapoel, n.s. Good luck with your young pupils, Jeff. Maybe we’ll see you back playing in the States some not too distant day.
Perry Schwartzberg, at the July 16-17, 1982 E.C. Meeting, had been named Alternate Manager to John Read for the 1983 World’s, Alternate Coach/Captain to Danny Seemiller for the 1983 Pan Am Games, and Team Manager for “all other events.” He warmed-up for his duties with a managerial article on umpiring (TTT, May-June, 1983, 17). An umpire, he said, has “three main grounds for concern”:
“Above all, he must do his utmost to ensure a clear, steady rhythm for the match. The players don’t want outside disturbances, and that includes those brought on by an inept umpire. Calling the score wrong, getting up to clean the table in the middle of a game, even a seemingly harmless ‘Good shot’ from an umpire can turn a player’s attention from the match. The umpire must remain diligent, yes, even mechanical in his actions, while at the same time using human instinct and experience to help the match flow. A good umpire constantly calls the score at the same time interval before a point begins so as to provide continuity.
“Second, he must ensure that neither player gains any advantage not in accordance with the rules of table tennis. If an umpire thinks a player is taking advantage of another, he should be prepared to act—if necessary in three stages: immediately call a let; give a warning; award the offending player’s opponent the point. If an umpire merely has a hunch as to impropriety, he should realize that by saying something he may disturb a player’s rhythm and so give an unfair advantage to that player’s opponent. Generally, if the opponent doesn’t say anything, especially if he’s an experienced player, why should you? Don’t jump into a hard-fought match just to say, ‘Your fingers aren’t all touching when you serve.’
Third, the umpire must honor the players evenly as they must honor him. It’s best that he not involve himself in the match, but act as a ‘Watcher,’ just observing and on very rare occasions setting things straight. If in doubt, he should call a let. It’s always better than giving a point to the wrong party.”
Of course it’s Moskowitz who regularly clues us in on Umpire techniques. For example, he urges that when the umpire flips a coin at the start of a match to see who’ll get his/her choice of serve or side, the coin not land on the table top. Or he might explain an umpire’s Hand Signals. “When a point has been scored, the umpire may raise to shoulder level the hand nearer to the player or pair who’s won the point (may be for the benefit of a manual scorekeeper). At the start of a game or at the change of service he may point with his hand towards the player due to serve next. When for any reason the rally is a ‘Let’ he may raise his hand above his head to show that the rally has ended.”
I note, too, that on occasion it’s possible to see Bat Signals.
Only a month or so after the U.S. Team left Tokyo to return home, they were followed by John Allen’s return. He’d been nine months in Japan playing table tennis and studying the Japanese language. In John’s last week in Japan, he’d gone to the Tamasu (“Butterfly”) Company to say “Goodbye” to his friend Hiraoka who told him to put on his playing clothes and get ready to play. So he did, and here, said John (Timmy’s, Nov.-Dec., 1983, 31), is what happened:
“The Tamasu Dohjo facilities are fantastic—locker rooms, exercise machines, video room, observation balcony, cameras, and one barriered-off table. When I walked in, former World Champion Mr. Nobuhiko Hasegawa was playing a match with Peru’s #1 Walter Nathan, while a guy from Germany was keeping score.
At first, I stood watching in awe. At 35, Hasegawa is still a great player. A little nervous, I began to stretch as I kept watching his technique. Hasegawa, after being down two games, won in the fifth, making it look easy. After the match, I was introduced and was asked to keep score between Hasegawa and the German player. A good match, but only three games. Again Hasegawa made it look easy—such control!
Then it was my turn. I was so nervous, and it all happened so fast. I played anxiously and impatiently, rushing and missing many shots. While Hasegawa’s control, placement, and consistency was again and again apparent. His backhand is great—it has to be considered one of the best in the world. Our match lasted three quick games—I got about 10 points each game. Afterwards, I was somewhat discouraged at my performance and even more so at the short time it took Mr. Dick Yamaoka and Hiraoka to come down from the video room where they’d been recording. Hasegawa was offering me advice and Mr. Yamaoka was translating and giving me some of his own.
After a couple of matches and some pictures (I just happened to bring my camera too), Mr. Hasegawa changed clothes and was on his way. Wow! A World Champion. What a fantastic experience. It was one of many I had in Japan. I changed too, then said my ‘Thanks’—which couldn’t be emphasized enough for all that I’d received.”
In his article “What Hasegawa Was Talking About” (TTT, Dec. 1982, 11), Wu Ching-Shyne corrects Rufford Harrison’s assumptions (TTT, Sept.-Oct., 1982, 15) made on reading Norio Takeshima and Nobuhiko Hasegawa’s articles in Butterfly’s Table Tennis Report. Rufford had taken issue with what these Japanese Champions said. But the Problem is, reports Wu, that Rufford, reading the English translation of these articles, is unaware [as surely many American readers would be] of what immediately recognizable table tennis terms in English mean in Japanese. Wu, reading the article in a non-English translation, explains:
“…Harrison talks of open and closed rackets and of how to hit or not hit, say, Dick Miles’s chop—but nothing of what he says applies to what Hasegawa is talking about. Harrison, providing he can read correctly, just assumes that the Butterfly English translation is right and that the experts Takashima and Hasegawa are wrong. But Hasegawa, for one, is not wrong in what he says in his original Japanese—he, not Mr. Harrison, makes perfect sense.
Hasegawa was saying that, before you go on court against a close-to-the table shakehands player (he’s not talking about a chopper at all) who uses pips-out with sponge on his backhand, you had best do some shadow play—some special sort of imaginative practice. In this shadow play, you serve short to the opponent’s backhand and imagine that he ‘pushes’ it back to your backhand—and then you move to your left corner of the table and execute a third-ball loop or drive. Remember, advises Hasegawa, that ‘pushes’ (not, as Harrison is thinking, ‘chops’) made by pips-out soft rubber produce a sort of no-spin (in comparison to ‘pushes’ made by regular rubber). Remember, too, he says, that the bounce of the ball is kind of going down, that it will not go as long as it would if it were struck by inverted rubber. Therefore, advises Hasegawa, you must move forward a little bit, must ‘cover’ (not, as Harrison thinks, must ‘open’) your racquet a little and make a good swing.
…Perhaps Harrison doesn’t realize that in Japan and Taiwan (Republic of China), ‘chop’ means either ‘chop’ or ‘push,’ while ‘push’ means ‘block.’ So, when Hasegawa’s or another’s translation reads ‘chop.’ it might mean either ‘push’ or ‘chop’; and when it reads ‘push’ it means ‘block.’ ‘Cut,’ by the way, means ‘chop’ for sure.
Harrison is right in a way, though. He told us, in that article of his, ‘not to believe everything we saw in print.’”
Hasegawa, then, wasn’t talking about a chopper—but our Larry Thoman, in one of his “Coaching Clinic” articles excerpted from his Guide to the Experience of Playing Table Tennis, is (TTT, Mar., 1983, 18). Larry says, in playing against a chopper be prepared from the beginning for a long drawn-out battle. Never expect to win the point on one shot. That is, don’t think you must hit hard in order to win. That helps, but always be prepared to keep your attack going for as long as it’s necessary to win the point. A slow loop is probably just as effective as a fast one. Use your placements to make the chopper move continually, especially back and forth. This can be accomplished by using a slow loop, roll, push, or drop shot followed by a fast loop or smash. If your fast shot is returned, use another slow shot. Your power shot should be directed at the chopper’s elbow, particularly if he/she’s drawn in close to the table. Also, often a long fast topspin or no spin serve to that chopper’s elbow is effective.
Make as few mistakes as possible because the chopper won’t be making many. Don’t let him/her surprise you with pick hits, or change of spin. If the chopper uses anti, all chops with that side of the racket carry very light or no spin. A chop return of a loop will carry extremely heavy underspin and should generally be pushed back, even when returned high. Watch your opponent’s wrist movement: if he/she snaps it and slices underneath the ball, expect heavy spin; if the chopper uses no wrist and pushes through the ball, he/she’s using no spin. Don’t rush your shots. Get into good position for each stroke. WAIT for the ball to come to you. Above all, have patience.”
Just as Larry tells you how to play a chopper, so he also tells you, again from his Guide, how to play a looper (TTT, May-June, 1983, 16). “The best tactic to use against this high-rated attacker,” he says, “is speed because the loop takes a relatively long time to execute in comparison to other strokes. The idea is to rush him so he can’t take a full stroke, and his shots can be attacked. Use quick, fast strokes. Keep the looper moving continually. Don’t let him get grooved into one type of return. Try always to attack first. Know how to jam the ball down on returning fast loops, and how to move back from the table in returning slow loops. Angle your block returns. If you play with ”dead” rubber, use “stop” blocks, stopping the paddle as you make contact, thus taking the pace off the ball as you keep your return short and hope for an opportunity to attack.
Keep up your fighting spirit and don’t be intimidated. Instead of merely pushing or blocking the ball back, train yourself to aggressively hit any loop that is not hit with full force or is not placed strategically. If the looper has a poor counter-drive and smashing game, you may want to use high topspin lobs. If the looper doesn’t hit the lob hard, come in and take the attack away from him with your own attack.”
If a penholder wants a model for his loop game he’d best read an article on two-time World Champion Guo Yuehua by Wu Huanquan of the Chinese Academy of Sport Science. This article, used with the kind permission of Xu Cai, President of the China Sports Press Association, was translated by Ai Liguo and edited by Sue Butler and appeared in TTT, Nov., 1982, 8. Here are some excerpts from it:
“…Guo’s game is characterized by superb forehand loop drives and flexible footwork (involving: skipping on both feet; side-step with foot-shift; and single-foot stride or short skips). Though he has some weaknesses—his returns against short serves are often void of strength, and he’s not so good, well, not perfect, on much-needed backhand blocking and pushing. It has to be noted, though, that the looping player has to move in and out as well as right to left more frequently than the fast-attacking player. Thus the penhold looper must work harder to master the block and push play. However, Guo can rely on his strength to take the attacking initiative and score [for of course, as we see from the article, he has evolved various tactics to use against either shakehander or penholder]. When he throws everything he has into a loop drive, his explosive power runs through his legs, waist, shoulders, upper arm, forearm, and wrist. Guo compares his looping movement to discus throwing, though the amplitude of swing is not so large.
…Guo is good at serving forehand side-topspin and side-underspin balls from both high and low tosses. He conceals his stroke-action and is very quick. He is able to produce very different serves with similar movements. He attaches much importance to variation of spin in service. At the ’83 World’s, with his serves and third-ball attacks, in his ten matches against Hungarian, Czechoslovak, and Yugoslav players, he won 158 points and lost 40, a success rate of 79%. Of the 158 points he won, 52 were service aces. In his three-game match against Surbek in the Singles final, he won 20 points and lost 3 with his serves and third-ball attacks, a success rate of 86%.
As for transitory techniques, Guo has them all. Though still learning how to handle drop shots, he favors varied chop returns. When he is positioned close to the table and unable to loop, he often resorts to a quick flick. When he is not sure whether he can successfully make a counter loop, he uses a forehand counter-drive down the line to gain time for more advantageous moves. One of Guo’s major strengths is the lob, and while lobbing he might make a sudden counter-drive to extricate himself from this passive position.”
It’s no accident, then, that, with all these major techniques at his disposal, he’s been the dominant player in the Sport for the last six years.
Rufford Harrison in another article, “The Sweet Spot” (TTT, Feb., 1983, 12), picks up on Larry Thoman’s advice (TTT, Feb., 1979, 5) to “Always contact the ball near the top center of your racket (its sweet spot”). Rufford questions “whether the differences from point to point over the surface of a racket are enough to justify calling one part a sweet spot.” He says, “If there is a sweet spot, then I suppose I would expect it to be at the top of the blade on a BH drive if the grip is shake-hand, since the top of the blade is reinforced by the thumb. But the same argument would suggest a sweet spot at the bottom on the FH drive, since the bottom is reinforced by the first finger. And it would suggest a more central sweet spot with the pen-hold and Seemiller grips. I can’t reason my way to a sweet spot that is always at the top.”
Larry, in a brief answer to Rufford, said he didn’t have any proof of a sweet spot, just the contact point that “felt right” to him. He thought now he should have said, “Always contact the ball near the center of the racket.”
A different kind of “sweet spot” was the one U.S. Open Director of Operations Tom McEvoy repeatedly found in what he was holding. Here’s the first of three articles on Tom, this one, courtesy of Neil Smyth, from the May 21, 1983 Las Vegas Sports Forum (reprinted in TTT, May-June, 1983, 24):
“Tom McEvoy, more commonly known as ‘Grand Rapids Tom,’ is in his glory after whipping 233 other entries in the Limit Hold ‘em event at the ‘World Series of Poker’ at Binion’s Horseshoe Hotel & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas. Limit is the first of the four Hold ‘Em contests that conclude the 15-event month-long tournament.
Asked how it feels, he broke into a huge smile and said, ‘If you had only $3,000 to your name, and had just won $117,000—well, that says it all.’
Tom has been playing poker professionally here for the past four years, and most notably had taken first place at Lake Tahoe in the Amarillo Slims Limit Hold ‘Em tournament, beating out 96 players. Now, with his win at the Horseshoe his lifetime dream has become a reality.
After being an accountant for 12 years and an office manager with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, he decided he was tired of working for other people and wanted to be his own boss. ‘I wanted to follow my dream,’ he said. ‘I knew I was good but didn’t know how good. I’ve been playing poker since I was a kid and used to beat all the kids out of their weekly allowances. Then their mother would call my mother to complain and my mother just told them, ‘It serves them right for playing with him in the first place.’
Asked how he ever got involved in poker, Tom said he learned the game from his grandmother who used to beat him consistently.
Tom was always considered the Black Sheep in the family. A brother is a professor in Springfield, Ohio, while another works for Travelers Insurance Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His family was very much against his poker playing, especially in conservative Grand Rapids, but Tom had to pursue his dream. His wife, Bobbie, doesn’t mind his poker playing as long as he wins. She says their two boys brag about their father. “If the boys want to learn how to play I’ll teach them, but I won’t encourage them,’ asserts Tom.
‘I love the competition in big tournaments,’ he added. ‘That’s when I get the “Killer Instinct.” I want to bust them out. They’re out to get my money and I’m out to get theirs. After many hours of competitive play it’s a gut-wrenching feeling. There’s just an enormous amount of mental strain and this is what I thrive on.’
Tom said he enjoyed playing with Bobby Baldwin and David Slansky. ‘I’ve read David’s books and discussed his theories,’ he said. ‘He certainly has a more scientific strategy of the game than I do. I’m more aggressive, bluff more, and show the nuts.’
‘Personally I would rather play with the World’s worst players than the best,’ he said, ‘although the challenge of playing with the best is more exciting and stimulating. There are many winning styles of poker play and I really don’t believe one is superior to the other. Everyone has their own style of play.’”
In the second article on Tom (Timmy’s, July-Aug., 1983, 27), we learn that just ten days after his $117,000 win in the fourth to last (Limit) tournament at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, Tom did the almost unthinkable—he won the concluding 100-entry $540,000 ($10,050 buy-in) World Series of Poker (No Limit) Championship.
So, any way you figure it, Grand Rapids Tom is the World Champion. And what is his advice for those who want to enjoy themselves in Vegas, play a game of Chance or two? “Have fun. But remember, more people have been ruined by gambling than helped by it. Certainly I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying to make a living by it.”
Still less would he recommend anyone trying to make a living at table tennis, for he knows that scene well.
He really began concentrating on the paddle sport as far back as 1966. And—know what?—for 17 years what do you think he played with? Inverted? Nope. For 17 years, right through the Age of Technology, of Deception, he’s played not with anti-spin, not with pips-out sponge, not with pips-out hard rubber—but with just plain wood. On both sides. Without a flicker of interest in incorporating into his game any bat-twirler’s bluff.
“I experimented with rubber,” said Tom, “but I’d just pop the ball off the table. I had no ball control. Wood gives you that.”
And just how well could Tom play using only wood?
“Well, back then,” he said, “there weren’t nearly as many junk styles, and so orthodox players were far more confused than they would be now.”
Tom’s biggest win was over—guess who?—Danny Seemiller—in Fort Wayne, in 1972, six months before Danny qualified as the #1 player on the U.S. Team.
“You know,” he said, “I’ve been around quite a while. I took over Dell Sweeris’s old Woodland Club. Used to play in 15-20 tournaments a year. In 1976 my rating was 2050, and in the National’s I got to the final of Class C and the semi’s of Class B.”
Perhaps by this time you’re detecting a note of nostalgia in Tom’s voice, some regret?
Well, you should—because at the ’83 Tokyo World’s, the ITTF just passed a rule that says the UNCOVERED side of a blade can’t be used to strike the ball. That means that Tom’s lifetime racket has been taken away from him. “I don’t understand it,” he said. “What’s their rationale? The World’s best Oriental penholders may occasionally have used their wood side to throw off an opponent. But that’s not something new and tricky. In this day and age, who could I fool?”
So now what was Tom gonna do? Continue to play or not?
“I bought some two-color Sriver Killer rubber from Bowie Martin. It wasn’t so good for my forehand—but I blocked very effectively with it on my backhand. So I thought maybe I’d use Super-Anti on my forehand. But I’ve got a problem—I don’t have good ball control on my forehand with Super-Anti.”
What Tom was saying was that, like so many players in the last decade, he’d have to try to make his way out of a difficult transition. “It’s like changing your poker style,” he said. “like suddenly jumping up a level or two—from a small $3-$6 game into a $10-$20 or even higher- stake game. It’s much tougher. You come across better players who’ve learned all kinds of little tricks.”
So, what now? Will proud Tom, whose rating is 1840 and dropping, survive his lost-bat crisis?
“Now,” he said, “with the two-sided racket I’ll have to play with, I’ll be just like everybody else.”
Like everybody else? Not quite, Grand Rapids Tom. Not quite.
Which brings me to the third and last article on Tom that first appeared in the Sept. 16th Las Vegas Sun, then was reprinted, again thanks to Neil Smyth, in Timmy’s, Sept.-Oct., 1983, 28. It tells us that in another tournament billed as the “World Championship of Poker”—this one played in Dublin, Ireland—Irish-American McEvoy was again the winner. “‘This is a great thrill,’ said Grand Rapids Tom, who for this event had shamrocks stitched into his shirt as good luck symbols.
This tournament was organized by a Dublin bookmaker, Terry Rogers, who said he was donating a portion of the proceeds to a community of nuns. [That is, unless he changed his mind.] Attendance was disappointing at a $30 admission fee for spectators. And a separate competition for women had to be cancelled for lack of entries.
However, this was the richest poker tournament ever held outside the United States. The site was Killiney castle, a medieval structure south of Dublin converted into a luxury hotel. In a bleary pre-dawn (4:47 a.m.) finish, the $76,000 tournament concluded with McEvoy taking the first prize of $43,125. England’s runner-up Michael Anderson won $18,400, and third-place finisher, American Alan Elrood, got $8,740.
London’s Anderson had looked a likely winner earlier in the session when he relieved McEvoy of $23,000 in one hand. [You can imagine how “relieved” Tom was on losing that hand.] Then it was neck and neck with both players holding $38,000 in chips until Anderson lost his luck—Tom’s pair of fours beating Michael’s pair of twos in the finishing hand [a tense but surely strange climactic ending].”
Nancy Hill Persaud contributes a four-question quiz article from the Mar. 6th Family Weekly (reprinted in TTT, May-June, 1983, 16) that begins by asking, “Does your sports preference reveal a lot about yourself and others?”
The answer is Yes—but it may not have taken a team of psychologists at Canada’s Bishop University to recognize that a “preference for individual sports is associated with the introvert, who is inclined to be independent, critical of others, selective in choosing friends, and a loner.” Though I really don’t know Tom McEvoy well enough to say, I’d certainly guess that (1) taking a chance on playing poker for a living, and then becoming a champion player (an individual against the masses), as well as (2) persistently being a table tennis player using only the bare wood on his racket, certainly shows an introvert’s independence and a tendency to be a loner. Even an extrovert’s “interest in the personalities of others” applies to Tom as introvert because, though he may not be interested in being talkative and socially compatible, it’s part of his successful business to know how people think and act—at least at a poker table.
Next question: Athletes don’t age as fast as the general population—true or false? Answer: True. “Studies at the University of California’ Nutritional Sciences Department indicated that athletes and other physically active people, even those who ride a bicycle for an hour a day, get more mileage from what they eat, and assimilate more vitamins, proteins and trace elements, than more sedentary persons. Thus they tend to look better, feel better, and retain their youthful vigor longer.”
How about the question: “Men consider themselves better athletes than women, and women agree’’? Answer: False. “A Pennsylvania State University questionnaire interview of men and women college students concluded that both the male and female respondents acknowledge males to be more competitive in game playing. But the females think women are slightly better players. [Why in the world, Family Editor, would women think men are more competitive players yet not as good as the women? He who competes the most is less the player? Sense?]
And finally, “People who run tend to eat more than non-runners—true or false? Answer: False. “A University of New Mexico survey of more than 400 runners varying in age, sex, and occupation showed a decreased intake of food, cigarettes, and alcohol, plus improved nutrition and better sleeping habits as a result of running….Other studies of the psychological differences between runners and non-runners found runners to be less outgoing and polished, and more intelligent, serious, shy and self-sufficient than the general population.”
Can we deduce whether Carl Danner is an introvert or extrovert? Never mind. Isn’t it enough to see he likes to play doubles? Here are some excerpts from his “How To Play Winning Doubles” (TTT, Mar., 1983, 18):
“If you’re like me you’ve been mired at the same playing level for some time (I’ve been a 2000-2100 player for seven or eight years). So if you want the challenge to improve you’re not getting in singles, try doubles. Most players don’t realize how satisfying tournament doubles can be, and that’s because they’ve not taken it seriously enough to know how to play it well.
The first and most important thing is to select a good partner—one who is compatible with you in three ways: (1) his/her game meshes well with yours; (2) you and he get along well together, both on and off the court; and (3) you and he are roughly the same playing level.
A good relationship with your partner is necessary due to the team nature of doubles. Any success that you earn is shared equally with your partner, so you must feel as good about his success as you do about your own. It may surprise you, but you are better off playing with someone your own level than with someone who is significantly better than you. If one player in a doubles team is good enough to intimidate his partner in singles, then that same feeling of intimidation will extend into their doubles play. Problems will come up almost no matter what happens in the match, usually of the sort where the two players’ expectations about each other will get mixed up with their shot-making.
Of course you’re going to work out such things as how to move together, what serves to use, how to follow up on them, and ways of discovering and exploiting the weaknesses of your opponents. You’re also going to adopt a professional attitude—that means relentlessly always playing your best regardless of what your opponents are doing.
As for playing tactics I can sum them up in one word: attack, always attack. Serves should serve to set up your partner. You should always receive serves with your forehand. You know where the serve must come. Why not use your forehand and use it strongly? Loop every single thing that doesn’t bounce twice. Never push a ball that you can loop. Never block a ball that you can drive. Never drive a ball that you can smash. A strong attack wins points outright while intimidating your opponents and taking advantage of the ways doubles differs from singles.
Think about it: why are 2300-2500 players better than we (you and me) are? Usually the reason is that they can make their shots more quickly and consistently than we can. But in doubles most of that advantage disappears because players alternate shots. You have almost twice the time to set up your play in doubles as you do in singles. Thus the emphasis shifts to power and placement and away from consistency and quickness. And so allows you and me a chance to get in there with the big boys.” [Introvert or extrovert, two Carls are better than one?]
I think it fair to say that, whether you prefer winning at singles or doubles, the three table tennis articles by Mark Holowchak I’m going to finish this chapter with—“Strength Training” (TTT, Feb., 1983, 16); “Proper Nutrition and Athletic Performance” (TTT, March, 1983, 19); and “A Time to Rest” (TTT, May-June, 1983, 16)—have applicable suggestions for those under “enormous mental strain” (as McEvoy says he often was). In competing not only in athletic championships but in prolonged sedentary table contests like poker, chess, or bridge, a single mistake in any part of the game might not allow you to recover.
Holowchak, in his first article says, “The benefits from lifting weights are many. From a psychological viewpoint, a stronger athlete is a more assertive, confident individual. Physiologically, weight lifting aids in injury prevention and improves one’s neuro-muscular efficiency (motor ability). What this essentially means is that an athlete training with weights can improve his speed of movement, muscular coordination, flexibility, strength and endurance.
Though these advantages can only improve one’s table tennis game, players shy away from such conditioning. And that’s because people have misconceptions about ‘pumping iron.’ They’ll tell you that it will slow you down. Not true. Studies have proven that a proper strength program—keeping the body light and lean—can only improve one’s speed. They’ll also tell you that (sooner or later) everyone, especially a woman, who stops lifting will have that built-up muscle turn to fat. Not true. Muscle tissue not being used will shrink in size—it will not turn into adipose tissue. As for women, they can’t develop the massive, bulky muscles that most men can. They have lower levels of testosterone and a higher percentage of body fat.”
Mark presents for both the aspiring and already professional player an On Season and Off Season Program that’s based on “a careful analysis of the major muscle groups one uses while playing table tennis.”
In his next article, Holowchak points out what most athletes already know—“that the foods one eats are responsible for maintaining normal body functions, the restoration and growth of body tissues, and the vitality or energy levels of the individual. Mark speaks of calories—“potential energy for one’s body”—and says of course that athletes, including tournament table tennis players, need more calories than non-athletes. How many varies according to (1) “the basal metabolic rate (BMR)—that is, all of the chemical reactions within the body that require energy to maintain our normal body functions.” And to (2) the activity levels outside of the BMR, such as thoughts and movements.”
Mark discusses Carbohydrates (“the best source of quick energy because they are the easiest and simplest foods for the body to digest”), Fats (‘the most efficient source of overall energy, but not so assimilable and too time-consuming as a short-term energy source”; also they absorb vitamins and protect vital organs), and Protein (“eight essential amino acids must be consumed daily from a protein source(s).”
Now the question is: “What’s the right balance of high quality carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, juices, breads), fats (unsaturated oils, butter, nuts, milk products), and protein (fish, fowl, eggs, milk products, meats) that will yield a competitor the best results?” Mark suggests that “a 60% carbohydrate, 20% fat, and 20% protein diet best suits the average athlete. Most athletes have sufficient amounts of fat reserves to draw upon in a day-long event if necessary. Therefore a high-carbohydrate diet before and throughout the day usually provides for an easily digestible and energy-efficient way to sustain a high-energy level.”
In his last article, Holowchak emphasizes how important it is “to allow the body (and mind) adequate time to recover between training sessions and after tournaments. The body needs to recover from the constant stress of intense daily activity. Without this recovery time, many people train so hard and so often that they get little or no results.” Mark offers a personal example: “At one time when I was training for table tennis, I would wake every morning at about 5:30 to run four miles. Afterwards, I would practice stroking and decision drills with a friend for one hour. Then I would put in eight hours at my job. After work, I would train for all facets of the game for three hours minimum. Now this went on seven days a week for maybe half a year. Well, my physical conditioning improved, my stroking and footwork improved, yet my overall rating improved only slightly. Obviously I was overtraining.”
Mark explains how a physiological imbalance occurs when an athlete trains, so that “after intense anaerobic or aerobic training sessions (in which there’s degeneration of muscle tissue) you need approximately 48 hours for your body to fully recover itself (restoration of muscle tissue). Every ‘progressing’ athlete’s training program must include these two phases.”
There are two kinds of rest, Mark says, “passive rest and active rest. Passive rest regenerates the body by inactivity—you do nothing but allow the body to restore itself. In active rest, the individual aids in the regenerative process through stretching, meditation, light swimming, massage, etc.”
So what’s the amount of rest a tournament table tennis player needs? Depends on the individual. Mark suggests the following sensibly-spaced schedule: “Set aside two days a week (perhaps Tues. & Sat.) for highly coordinative, mentally-alert workouts, such as game-situation drills, or match play. Assign three days a week (perhaps Mon., Wed., & Fri.) for more variable physical workouts, such as stroking, footwork and anaerobic/aerobic conditioning. And allow the remaining two days a week (perhaps Thurs. & Sun.) for rest.”
Follow these directives and you can’t help but come to the table, your spirits lifted, 100% ready to play.