USA Table Tennis

History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 13: 1984

CHAPTER FIVE 

1984: February Tournaments—Danny Seemiler/Alice Green Win at $1,830 New York Chinatown Open. 

Jay Crystal (Timmy’s, Apr., 1984, 11) reports on the Feb. 4th Victoria, British Columbia Open—well, reports on his experiences. Listen up: 

“…I’m the last car on. The captain’s eyes are bloodshot and he needs a shave. The 8:40 a.m. ferry stops at Lopez, Shaw, Orcas, and San Juan Islands before shooting across Hare straight to Sydney. From there it’s a 17-mile drive to Victoria. All in all about a three-hour trip from home.

It could have been rainy, cold, nasty this time of year in the Northwest. Instead it’s clear and brisk. Air has a tinge of salt to it, but it’s still wintry, too early yet for the fragrant, alive smell of spring. The sun is warm on the lee side of the ferry. The scenery’s unbelievable—the islands are covered with Douglas firs, and I see seagulls, fishermen, sailboats. And to think my friend Dewey wanted me to go skiing.

As soon as I leave the ferry, the pace picks up considerably. I follow my makeshift way into Victoria, and after two stops for directions I arrive at the tournament site.

Even though I get a chance to warm up, I immediately lose my first game in the round robin Prelim’s. But I pull out the match, and the other two too, and advance to the knockout.

Along the way I pick up a doubles partner and have to pay an extra $7 to enter. Which leaves me with $16 Canadian. “How much does the ferry trip back cost?” I ask the Tournament Director.

“Eighteen dollars, lad.”

Gulp! That means I have to make the finals in order to get home.

In the semi’s, I’m up against Eric Calveley, whom I’ve always played close—the last time a 19-in-the-5th death struggle. Eric’s a nice guy though, and I figure if I lose he’ll give me the extra $2 to get home on.

I needn’t have worried though—I blitz Eric 6 and 8 to make the finals.

Eddie Lo is my last opponent and in the first game he does to me what I did to Eric. In the second, I start counter-looping and lobbing instead of trying to block his bullet loops, and win it at 12. In the third, I tie it up at 13-all. At which point I attack Eddie’s serve four straight times—and miss all four. That’s the turning point. Lobbing from the barrier I go down in flames, 21-18.

Suddenly time is a factor. It’s 9:00 p.m. The last ferry leaves at 9:30 and we still have the semi’s and finals of doubles to play. I hustle after balls and play as fast as I can. Of course the margin of victory is 19-in-the-third. It’s 9:10 (I told you I hustled), and we’re 20 minutes from the ferry, the LAST ferry. Three of the four finalists want to catch that ferry. So we play a one-game final and shake hands. Eddie and I grab our prize money, burst out the door, and somehow make our connection.

As I finally catch my breath I reflect on how the Canadians are always a pleasure to compete with. They are courteous, sportsmanlike, and organized.

I stop in Blaine for refreshments, plug in my headphones to Bowie, and am back in my Lake Sammamish home by 2:00 a.m. A quick but beautiful and exciting trip to the Great White North.

Jeff Mason (SPIN, March, 1984, 4) covers the Sacramento Club’s Banda Open, held Feb. 3-4 just before the second Pro-Am tournament on the 5th. “Because of the Chinese New Year Holiday, the tournament was much smaller than last month’s Winter Open. However, we did offer 14 events.”

Results: U-2200’s: Erwin Hom ($100) over James Therriault ($60), 7, 16, -16, -17, 9. U-2000’s: Therriault over Masaaki Tajima, 16, -21, -20, 14, 10. In the best quarter’s: Tom Miller over Cindy Miller, -13, 22, 15. Open Doubles: 1. Toni Kiesenhofer/Avishy Schmidt. 2. Hom/Dean Doyle. 3. Therriault/Tajima. 4. Charles Childers/David Chun. Senior’s: Zak Haleem over Allen McDermott.

U-1850’s: penholder Horace Cheng’s loop-and-kill play prevailed over McDermott, -19, 7, 20, 15. Best quarter’s: McDermott, showing controlled spin and placement, over T. Miller, -17, 14, 26; David Chu over Chris Holton, -19, 14, 19. U-1700’s: McDermott over Doohyun Won, 12, -14, 20, 16, after looper/lobber Doohyun won -18, 22, 17 over 300-point favorite Nadine Prather who’d stopped Steve Oldham, 18 in the 3rd. U-3250 Doubles: Steve Noffsinger/Bob Schanilec over Therriault/Tom Harris in five. U-1550’s: Won over Schanilec. U-1400’s: Noffsinger over Fresno Boys Club junior Emilio Vargas. U-1250’s: Michael Hara over Warren Baxter. Best quarter’s: Paul Barrozo over Kevin O’Neill, deuce in the 3rd. U-2250 Doubles: O’Neill/Hara over James Stewart/Andy Heroux. U-1100’s: Stewart over George Akahori who’d advanced by Harris, 18 in the 3rd. U-950’s: 1. Heroux. 2. Morgan Lehman. Hard Bat: Miller over Jack Mason.

 Jeff also covered (Timmy’s, Feb.-Mar., 1984, 23) the Feb. 5th Pro-Am Circuit #2 tournament. He begins by calling our attention to earlier well-played matches: “looper/lobber George Sanguinetti upset counter-driver Cindy Miller…Mike Greene spun his way through Enrico Li…Spinmaster Grant Connell took James Therriault into the 3rd…Zak Haleem won a game from Avishy Schmidt…Ed Hu was 1-1 with Danner until the last game when Carl started hitting stronger forehands…Al Covey played a fantastic though losing three-game match against Charles Childers 400 rating points above him…and, in another match that could have gone either way, Tito LeFranc barely defeated Khoi Nguyen, 21, -19, 22.”

Jeff then concentrates on the final matches: 

“The players and spectators seemed fairly confident that the four semifinalists—Khoa Nguyen, Dean Doyle, Erwin Hom, and Carl Danner—would finish according to their rating. But if Nguyen took 1st-Place in this #2 Circuit Tournament, whatever happened in the #3 Tournament, he would almost be assured of the final 1st-Place $1,000 prize money.

Nguyen looked unbeatable as he easily defeated Danner and Hom, players who’d given him considerable difficulty in past tournaments. Hom just got by Danner, deuce in the 3rd. And Doyle downed Hom, but then lost to hard-hitting Danner, 23-21 in the 3rd.

At this point, Dean looked too tentative, too weak with his forehand, to be able to put much heat on Nguyen. But as the final match began, Dean’s game underwent a dramatic metamorphosis. His usual angle-block, tricky-spin game changed and he went to an almost totally offensive forehand-attacking strategy. Khoa was caught completely off guard. Doyle’s dramatic transformation made it impossible for Nguyen to initiate his attack—something which he’d never had a problem with in the past. This time the tables were turned, and, decisively winning the first game, Doyle looked like a player possessed. Then with an exciting deuce-game finish, he also won the second, and the match (via a head-to head 2-1 tie-breaker over Khoa). This victory gave Dean the 1st-Place award for the #2 Circuit Tournament and a chance for the $1,000 top prize that’ll be awarded at the conclusion of the #3 Tournament on March 11th.

Here are the Circuit-Point leaders after Tournament #2: 1. Khoa Nguyen (36). 2. Dean Doyle (34). 3. Erwin Hom (30). 4. Avishy Schmidt (22). 5. Charles Childers (20). 6. Carl Danner (20).” 

Winners at the Feb. 25-26 Northrop/Hawthorne Open: Open Singles: 14-year–old Vietnamese  immigrant Lan Vuong over a rallying Mike Baltaxe, 14, 17, -12, -15, 17. U-2200: Ricky Guillen in a convincing comeback over Loc Ngo, -19, -18, 7, 17, 10. Bob Cruikshank (Timmy’s Apr., 1984, 14) tells us: “Ricky Guillen came to the tournament with black rubber on both sides of his racket. He came to me and asked if I had a sheet of ‘used rubber,’ red and spinny. I gave him a sheet of Nittaku Milford, red 2.0. Though I recommended he NOT do it, he put it on his backhand to replace his Tackiness Drive 1.5 mm. He played poorly with it, and lost in the Open Singles [in five to Open runner-up Baltaxe]. He then put the Tackiness back on his backhand and moved the Milford to his forehand. And with that combo he played very well, hitting forehand loop drives to perfection [though losing his first two games to Loc].

U-2000’s: Shmuel Goshen over Dan Banach who’d survived Frank Suran, -19, 18, 24. U-1900’s: Stevan Rodriguez over Gabor Berezvai, -13, 16, 21, -16, 18. U-1800’s: Mike Perez over Harold Kopper, 19 in the 5th. U-1700’s: Perez over Chris Fullbright in five. U-1600’s: Karl Dreger over Doohyun Won, 19 in the 3rd, then over G. Kinyon, 21, -15, 21, 21. U-1500’s: Brian Thacker over Allen Blyth. U-1400’s: Vanlop Sangvanboon over George Schwarz. U-1300’s: M. Armstrong over T. Nguyen who’d outlasted Harold Alexander, -18, 19, 18. Unrated: Kinyon over D. Sheppard. Draw Doubles: Won/Rodriguez over Fullbright/Tom Ballard. Hard Rubber: Dreger over Kopper. Esquire’s: Banach over Leon Ruderman. Senior’s: Banach over Amin Jaffer who’d escaped Suran, -20, 13, 21.

Bill Baker tells us (Timmy’s, Feb.-Mar., 1984, 24) that history was made at the 32nd Arizona Open, held in Phoenix, Feb. 18-19 at Arizona State University. “Los Angeles’s Lan Vuong became the first female and, at age 14, the youngest player ever to win the Championship Singles by beating fellow L.A. resident, 13-year-old Chi Ngo in the final. The tournament continued to be popular—over 100 players competed in 20 events—but this was the first time two teenagers ever played for the Championship, and perhaps the first time any two finalists took home so many trophies. Credit for raising more than $300 in prize money should go to Stan Robens, while G. Darrell Olson, Ron Shirley, and the Gentry Shop in Phoenix donated prizes—a Swiss watch, Yasaka shirt and warm-up suit, and a jacket.”

Results: Team’s: 1. Lan, Chi, and Harold Kopper. Championship Singles: Final: Lan over Chi, 13, 15, 15. Semi’s: Lan over Bill Kenig; Chi over Defending Champion John Merkel. Open Doubles: Lan/Stevan Rodriguez over Loc Ngo/Merkel, 18 in the 4th. Women’s: Lan over Patti Hodgins, 17, 14, 16. Mixed Doubles: Lan/Rodriguez over John Harrington/Hodgins, 18, 19. Senior Esquire’s: Sy Kenig over Ken Hoover, 16, 19, 21. Esquire’s: Mac Horn over Dick Badger. Esquire Doubles: Hoover/Baker over Ed Tracy/Horn. Senior’s: Harrington over Badger. Senior Doubles: Baker/Rich Livingston over Kopper/Badger. Junior’s: Chi over Tony Lam.

A’s: Rodriguez over Chi. A Doubles: Azamy Talifiq/Zahid Tufail over Peter Antkowiak/Chi. B’s: Chi over Jim Etherton. B Doubles: Efram Turchick/John Walker over Ed Warwick/David Gemuendin, 18, -18, -21, 20, 17. C’s: Jerry Abbott over Hoover. D’s: Paul Campbell over Walker. E’s: Harry Lu over Gene Lew, 19, -20, 16, 18. F’s: Steve Ryberg over Orrin Joseph, deuce in the 5th. G’s: Harry Wise over Robert Holmes, Hard Rubber: Kopper over Harrington.    

Sangita Kamble (Timmy’s, Apr., 1984, 10) says “the 20 Ontario players left the Feb. 18th Detroit Two-Man Team Tournament feeling great. Zoran Kosanovic/Errol Caetano won Class A; Vaibhav Kamble/Adam Arent won Class B; Kam/Deepak Bhatia tied for first in Class C; Trung Le/Sangita Kamble finished second in Class D; and Steve Lustig/Kalvin King placed first in Class E. Obviously due to our results it was very worthwhile coming.

More important, though, we were highly impressed by the tournament itself. It has always been a pleasure to participate in any U.S. tournament, but this one was exceptionally pleasurable. Basically it was run single-handedly by Chris Wibbelman—and never in my life have I seen a tournament run so well by one person.

Chris received much criticism [Why?], but I felt he deserved only praise. Though players approached him left, right, and center with millions of questions, he always calmly took the time to answer each individual….The time he gave to all the players with his courteous patience did not go unrecognized. Thanks, Chris, for such a superb job of running the tournament.”

Michel Goyette, CTTA Program Co-ordinator, gives us the results (Timmy’s, Feb.-Mar., 1984, 15) of back-to-back Toronto tournaments. First, the Feb. 4-5 Toronto Open: Men’s: Alain Bourbonnais kept up his North American winning streak—here over Bao Nguyen, 13, -13, 20, 18. Women’s: Gloria Hsu over Becky McKnight (now at the National Training Centre in Ottawa) who’d upset Mariann Domonkos in the semi’s (from down 2-1 and—how is it possible?—9-19 in the 4th). Men’s Doubles: Bourbonnais/Mitch Rothfleisch over Chris Chu/Nguyen. Women’s Doubles: Hsu/Thanh Mach over McKnight/Julia Johnson. Mixed Doubles: Steve Lyons/Johnson over Nguyen/Domonkos, deuce in the 3rd.

Men’s U-2000’s: Rene Lewandowski over George Bonigut. Men’s U-1850: Bogdan Kalinowski over Stephane Lucchesi. U-1800 Doubles: Louise Laroche/Patrick Leveille over Lucchesi/Stephane Leveille. Men’s U-1700: Peter Ng over Lucchesi. Men’s U-1550: Sylvie Leveille over Joel Stevens. Men’s U-1400: M. Ladouceur over R. Silva. Men’s U-1200: P. Antunes over S. Leveille, -21, 19, 16. Senior’s: Ron Bickerstaffe over George Bonigut. Boys U-17: T.H. Lam over S. Ubiali. Boys U-15: Ubiali over Peter Ng, -16, 20, 12. Girls U-17: Helene Bedard over Michelle Qurrey. Girls U-15: Crystal Daniel over Nathalle Patel. C. Pacquet over Monica Thimian.

The second tournament played in Toronto was the Feb. 25 Ontario Open, sponsored by the Alan R. Clark Trophy Co. Results: Men’s Open: Richard Chin over Fred Taylor. Women’s Open: Rupa Banerjee over Julia Johnson. Men’s Doubles: Chin/Taylor over Jose Oliveira/George Bonigut. Mixed Doubles: Chin/Banerjee over Steve Lyons/Johnson. Men’s U-2000: Pierre Parulekar over Maurice Moore. Men’s U-1850: Roger Moore over Richard Abbel, 24-22 in the 3rd. Men’s U-1700: Peter Ng over Ron Turini. Men’s U-1550: Tom da Silva over Dominic Lau. Men’s U-1400: Gary Downs over Sam Hazin. U-1200: Barry Lam over Kelvin King. Senior’s: Bonigut over Ron Bickerstaffe. Boys U-17: Robert da Silva over Parulekar. Boys U-15 and U-13: older brother Peter Ng (13) over Johnny Ng (12). Boys U-11: Kirk Vassel over Paul Evans. Girls U-17: Alina Tse over Crystal Daniel. Girls U-15: Daniel over Monica Thimian. Girls U-13: Thimian over Adriana Altic.

Winners at the Ohio Open played Feb. 4th at Columbus: Open R.R.: 1. Randy Seemiller, 3-0. 2. Bob Cordell, 2-1. 3. Bob Powell, 1-2. 4. Jim Repasy, 0-3. Women’s: Jodee Williams over Karen Deveraux. Open Doubles: Cordell/Powell over Seemiller/Dan Walk. Mixed Doubles: Powell/Lydia Balciunas over Seemiller/Williams, 17 in the 5th. Esquire’s: Ron DeMent over Neil Myers. Senior’s: Bill Walk over Greg Brendon, -16, 15, 23, 15. Young Adults: 1. Steve Liu over Dan Walk. U-17: Scott Snelling over Greg Gayer. U-15 and U-13: Snelling over Andrew Myers.

A’s: Repasy over Mark Allen, 17 in the 5th (from down 2-0). B’s: Ray Stewart over B. Walk, 24-22 in the 3rd, then over Liu. U-3800 Doubles: Rod Mount/Bob Miller over Dwight Mitchell/Charlie Buckley. C’s: Brad Hudson over Bob Allen, 18 in the 5th. U-3400 Doubles: Miller/Ron Schull over Jay Nelson/Hudson who’d advanced over Buckley/Bill Johnson, -14, 19, 19. D’s: Steve Zimmerman over Mike Ramey. U-2700 Doubles: Doug Hardy/Balciunas over Eric Maskey/Rick Hardy. Unrated/ Novice: Chuck Haren over John Dewitt. Beginner’s/Novice: Haren over Doug Snelling. Hard Rubber: Cordell over M. Allen.

Results of the Feb. 11th Dayton R.R.: U-1900: Jay Nelson over Randy Cuzzort. U-1650: Kevin Cassidy over John Elwood. U-1400: Alan Johnson over David Born, 25-23 in the 3rd, then over Bill Trivet who got by Dick Kipfer, 18, -21, 18. U-1150: Final: Chester Riddle over Shane Ray. Semi’s: Riddle over Keith Gad, 20, 20; Ray over Bill Carroll, -20, 21, 22. Junior’s U-1000: 1. Ray. 2. Jimmy Ballard. 3. Cindy Shumaker. 4. Angie Shumaker.

Warren Goesle (Timmy’s, Apr., 1984, 18) reports on the Central Indiana Closed, held Feb. 25-26 at the Indianapolis T.T. Center. “It drew a record 95 entrants—plus its usual controversies, lost tempers, scheduling mix-ups…and good matches.” Goesle’s emphasis is on the Open Singles—and he begins with opening-round upsets. Dominant Women’s Singles winner Kim Farrow surprised Dwight Mitchell, 19 in the 5th; and 13-year-old John Elwood’s 18, 18, 19 win over Jerry Marcum “heralded the rise of Indiana’s best Junior.”

In the second round, “Elwood had 5th seed Charlie Buckley down 2 games to 1 before Charlie got more aggressive off of John’s slow topspin. Match to Charlie, 19 in the 5th, on an irretrievable net. In another struggle, Dick Hicks, Sr., up 1-0 but down 18-11 in the second to Bill Connelly, bent over to pick up the ball and did something dreadful to his back. After five minutes of ice he returned to the table, stiff as a board, and lost that second game at deuce before winning the match in four. [Huh? What kind of stiff is he?  The more he hurt the better he played?]

In the quarter’s, Buckley, after having played against spinny rubber all day, couldn’t quite handle Harry Deschamps’ hard bat, so deuce in the 4th to Harry. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Klaus Geske (an exchange student from West Germany) had little trouble with John French’s hard bat. And Dave Russell, despite bouncing off floor, walls, and barriers (knocked three down at once—not bad, Dave, but still two short of the club record), still wasn’t good enough to take a game from Hicks, Sr., stiff back or not.

In the best contested quarter’s, Ricky Hicks, Jr., came from 2-1 down to beat Mike Boyle, 17 in the 5th. Mike was out-countering Ricky, but Ricky out-pushed and out-picked Mike at the end.

The Ricky Hicks-Klaus Geske semi had several interesting points and momentum changes. Ricky out-looped and blocked Klaus effectively to win the first game, but in the second Klaus’s loops landed more often with authority—that is, up to a point. Klaus is up 20-16…17, 18, 19—but Ricky’s rally falls short. 1-1. In game three, Klaus’s loops are off, Ricky’s on—up to a point. Ricky is up 20-15…16, 17, 18, 19, deuce. Ricky gets the ad, and serves into the net. Deuce. Klaus loops long, Ricky pushes off. Deuce. Ricky  blocks one through Klaus, then blocks long. Deuce. Klaus whiffs a loop, Ricky loops through to win a big swing game, 25-23. Klaus is rattled as game four starts and is down early. Suddenly, though, it’s 11-all and Ricky is rattled. Down 19-18, Klaus loops two in to go up 20-19. But now a net for Ricky to deuce it. Then Klaus blocks off and loops long to 22-20 give the match to Ricky.

Hicks, Sr., and his injured back? Three straight over Deschamps in the other semi. Then Dick defaults to son Ricky in the final to rest his back.”

Other results: Women’s: 1. Kim Farrow. 2. Marcia Johnson. 3. Cindy Marcum. Open Doubles: Hicks/Hicks over Geske/Connelly. Mixed Doubles: Hicks, Jr./Farrow over Jerry/Cindy Marcum, 26-24 in the 4th. Over 60: Max Salisbury over Gene Bricker. Over 50: Bob Miller over Salisbury. Over 40: Vince McMenamy over Miller. U-17: Geske over Elwood. U-13: Elwood over David Arterberry.

U-1850: Mark Weber over Gary Blakely, 15, 22—“Mark with his double-sided Phantom hit through Gary’s hard bat.” U-1750: Mitchell over Loung Nguyen, -16, 19, 15. U-1650: Brad Hudson over Richard Badessa, 14, 21. U-3300 Doubles: Joe Shumaker/Elwood over Mike Boyle/Chao Bao Nguyen. U-1550: Elwood over Scott Robinson, 20, 19, then over Gary Patmore (“Elwood both dropped and drilled Gary’s lobs”). U-3000 Doubles: Merko Dotlich/Buckley over Miller/Hong Nguyen. U-1400: John Riley over Richard Riley. U-2700 Doubles (24 teams): Scott Robinson/H. Nguyen over Mike Hamm/Mike Potts. U-1250: Vernon Oliver, Jr. over Chuck Keaton, 19, -20, 16. U-1100: Potts over Bill Shepler. U-900: Joey Howard over Susan Young.

Winners at the Vienna Valley Open, held Feb. 18-19 at McLean: Open Singles: 1. Sean O’Neill, 5-0. 2. Ron Lilly, 3-2. 3. Richard Chau, 3-2 (lost to Lilly). 4. Barry Dattel, 2-3. 5. Dave Sakai, 2-3 (lost to Dattel). 6. Morris Jackson, 0-5. U-2300: 1. Sakai, 8-0. 2. Lilly, 6-2/14-6. 3. Dattel, 6-2/13-6. 4. Chau, 6-2/12-6. U-1900: 1. Don Yabiku, 7-1. 2. Flip Carico, 7-1 (lost to Yabiku). U-1400: 1. Tom Anderson, 3-0. 2. Dave Silvera, 2-1.

Larry Hodges (Timmy’s, Feb., 1984, 26) covers the Feb. 5th Howard County Circuit #5 Tournament, and has this to say about the Open Singles final between Brian Masters and Sean O’Neill: 

“An all-out spinning game by Brian Masters enabled him to defeat Sean O’Neill to win this month’s Howard County Open. It was a surprise to many that he should win, considering he has lost some of his racket-flipping advantage due to his different-colored surfaces. But after watching these two play the last few years, you come to realize that neither can hold the advantage over the other for long.

In their previous match this year, Brian had gone out to the table with the idea of looping every ball as hard as he could, and had bullet-looped his way to a 9-2 lead. But Sean had closed the gap rapidly, picking his shots carefully to win easily two straight. Trying to loop every ball for a winner just doesn’t work against someone with Sean’s touch and ball control.

So this time Brian slowed down, got the first loop on, and kept looping until the right one came to be put away. Sean made some incredible smashes and counter-loops right off the bounce, but too often was forced just to block. After losing the first at 19, he couldn’t get anything started, and Brian won the second easily at 12.” 

Results: Open Singles: 1. Brian Masters, 3-0. 2. Sean O’Neill, 2-1. 3. Don Garlinger, 1-2—d. Feldstein, -20, 16, 18, 4. Steve Feldstein, 0-3. “Everybody loves to watch a chopper, but nobody wants to play that way—Tim Boggan once wrote that of Japan’s Norio Takashima. But a number of players may have different ideas about that after they’d lost to defensive-minded Steve in the preliminary round robin; indeed, Masters himself was forced into the third with him.” Doubles: O’Neill/Pat Donahue over Keith Minnich/Barney Reed, -15, 15, 19, then over Pier Galie/Garlinger who’d squeaked by Hodges/Pat Lui, -20, 19, 14. Junior’s: 1. O’Neill. 2. Curtis Wong.

U-2000: 1. John Wetzler, 5-0. 2. Lui, 4-1—d. Hodges, 19, 20; d. Nazarbechian, 21, -17, 21. 3. Thomas Nazarbechian, 3-2. U-1800: 1. Keith Minnich, 5-0. 2. Carl Kronlage, 3-1. U-1600: 1. Warren Wetzler, 3-0. 2. Steve Kong, 2-1—d. Erich Haring, 19, 20, 20. U-1400: 1. Robert Fallon, 2-0. 2. Kevin Walton, 1-1—d. Pat Donahue, -23, 15, 18. U-1200: Jae Ho Song, 5-1. 2. Martin Flynn, 5-1—lost to Song. U-1000: Hui K. Pak, 2-0. 2. Mark Jenkins, 1-1. Handicap: Fallon over Nazarbechian. Butterfly Handicap: Kronlage over Chun Brown, 48.

Hodges says the Circuit “has proven to be very successful. Currently, 77 players are trying to get enough points to qualify for one of the top prizes.” Leaders after Tournament #5: 1. Erich Haring (63). 2. Sean O’Neill (57). 3. Prakash Chougule (56). 4. Ha Chi Dao (40). 5. Robert Fallon (40). 6. Pat Lui (39). 7. John Wetzler (35). 8-9. Kevin Walton  (30). 8-9. Irving Goldstein (30). 10. Mort Greenberg (29).

Results of the Feb. 25-26 Westfield Open: Open Singles: Gustavo Ulloa over Rey Domingo. Best early matches: George Brathwaite over Fu-lap Lee, -17, 17, 21, -17, 15; George Cameron over Roger Sverdlik, -18, 9, -16, 18, 16; and Eyal Adini over Canadian Bao Nguyen, -19, -17, 21, 19, 19.  Best quarter’s match: Canada’s Alain Bourbonnais over  Brathwaite, 19 in the 5th. Canadian Coach Paul Normandin (Timmy’s, May, 1984, 11) cites this match as an example of how unselfishly Paul and Alain Bourbonnais, “of different times and ideas,” have been working together, combining their skills, to achieve desired results. After Brathwaite had won the first game 21-11, Paul urged Alain, and he agreed, that “tight rallies with attempts at quick one-two winners” wasn’t gonna get the job done. So Alain switched to “longer rallies in which he patiently maximized the efficiency of his rapid attacks” and squeaked out a winner. This collaborative effort pleased Paul very much, and he’s encouraged that Bourbonnais has left Ottawa and returned to Montreal where Coach Normandin is based.

Open Doubles: Ulloa/Brathwaite over Adini/Sverdlik, -17, 22, 15. Women’s: Alice Green over Vicky Wong who’d outlasted Ai-ju Wu, 19 in the 3rd. U-2200’s: Horace Roberts over Paul Bishop, 24-22 in the 5th. U-2075: Green over Sugaru Araki, 19 in the 4th. U-1975: O. Cortazar over Alan Feldman. U-1875: Michael Henry over Thomas Nazarbechian. B Doubles: Tim Boggan/Bill Sharpe over Cortazar/Elvis Gomez. U-1775: Keith Minnich over Mike Egner. U-1625: O. Nazarbechian over Hazel Santon, 19, 20. U-1475: T. Darigo over R. Santon. D Doubles: Hall/Henry over Allen/David Marcus. U-1325: H. Gee over Norman Haase. U-1150: Larry Stein over A. Brissett. U-1025: N. Nicolaidas over Howard Teitelbaum. F Doubles: Smith/Mike Coke over Steve Kong/Al Matlosz. Unrated: F. Lebron over R.Gagnon. Esquire’s: Benny Hull over Bob Barns. Senior’s: Peter Holder over Brathwaite, 19, -12, 15. U-17’s: Ovidiu Nazarbechian over Hyman Gee who’d advanced over Rajiv Dosi, -13, 19, 17. U-13’s: 1. James Yoo. 2. Dwayne Thomas.

Winners at the Feb. 26 Worcester Closed: Championship Singles: Chris Kalagher over Jonas Nortey who’d escaped Marta Zurowski, -19, 24, 19, 11. Women’s: M. Zurowski over Katherine Zurowski. Championship Doubles: M. Zurowski/Kalagher over Nortey/Roach. U-1500: Ben Melendez over Dennis Scavone, 20, -15, 17, 19. U-1300: Ray Maesto over Russ Person, 17 in the 5th. U-2600 Doubles: Richard Hancock U-1100: Hancock over David Goss. U-900: 1. Russ Person. 2. Ed Wheeler. Novice: Richard Jessop over Nina Anton. Over 45: Hancock over Robert Leblanc, 21, 16, -19, -19, 18. U-18: M. Zurowski over Melendez. U-13: K. Zurowski over Anton. 

The $1,830 Second Annual Chinatown Open was played Feb. 4-5 at the Chinatown Rec Center (once a fire-house) on Lafayette Street in New York City. Prior to speaking about the play, I’ll start off with a few words of acknowledgement and appreciation to those responsible for the tournament.

Thanks to Ken Chung, Chairman of the Board of the NYC Chinatown Rec Center, and to experienced Tournament Directors Doon Wong and Hing Wong (abetted by Ray Ching, Hong Lee, and Jimmy Tam among others), this Second Annual $1,830 Chinatown Open was a smashing 103-entry success.

The tournament was not only graced with the area’s premier players but prominent City officials as well. Joining us in watching some of the table tennis action, and listening to an ensemble group from the Center play a short, sensitive program of Cantonese music, then delivering a brief address of welcome emphasizing the community importance of the Center, was the Honorable Harrison Golden, Controller of the City of New York.

His prestigious support of the tournament found company in other well known New York politicians. Thus it was another plus that Marian Fiedlander, representing City Council President Carol Bellamy, was on hand to give out trophies and checks to all the smiling, camera-caught prize-winners. The City officials’ concern for the retention of the Center proved that it was indeed an important cultural asset not just to Chinatown but to New York City. And surely the point was strengthened by the intermingling of the ethnically diverse players and spectators in this excitingly alive and well-run tournament.

Clearly a spirit of cooperation prevailed on these courts. One couldn’t have gotten a sense of any fairer play in the conscientiousness with which the draws were made or in the honesty and mutual respect which U.S. Champion Danny Seemiller shared with the tournament organizers. Danny’s professional request for a replacement of the feature table was quickly, unquestioningly agreed to.

It’s so nice on a Sunday afternoon to go to a tournament where after some spirited preliminary play the sole remaining matches are played on only two tables, then on only one, as non-playing spectators begin to appear from all parts of the City and its environs. All were coming to this New York Center as to a small-scale United Nations to enjoy others’ expertise, and, in seeing friends from many places, to just have FUN. The Chinese really know how to bring together interest in table tennis—so that a day’s shared activity at the Center gives many people a lot of goodwill for the Chinese community at large. 

Early Rounds of the Open

At the top of the Open Singles draw, #1 seed Danny Seemiller advanced to the semi’s with wins over David Valoy and Barry Dattel. Dominican dynamo Valoy, who still has as much enthusiasm for the Game as any of those juniors he used to train in Santo Domingo, scored a 19-in-the-3rd upset of Israeli Eyal Adini in the A’s before he went out not with a whimper but a bang to George Cameron in the quarter’s. David also played well in the B’s before losing in the semi’s to Julian Millan, winner over Man-ling Shum.

As for Dattel, after being down 1-0 and at 23-all in the second to Fu-lap Lee, damned if he didn’t pull out a winner that got him to the quarter’s of the Open. “I’ve been working with Igor Klaf at Westfield recently,” said Barry, “and he’s been teaching me to backhand topspin my opponent’s initial loops. Here I did that against Fu-lap, and since he didn’t have as much time as he wanted to loop and re-loop, that made the difference in our match.”

In the companion top half of the draw, Rey Domingo advanced with straight-game victories over Klaf, Senior runner-up to George Brathwaite, and A semifinalist John Allen.

For years Klaf played and coached in Russia (his most famous pupil was European Women’s Champion Valentina Popova). Then he was in Australia for six years (producing champions there too). Now he’s come to the U.S. to join his wife and children and begin a new table tennis teaching career.

Not long ago, Allen came back from a nine-month training session in Japan…           

Breaking the silence

Of an ancient pond,

A frog jumped into water—

A deep resonance… 

In that short time he’s not yet become…well, world-class, but he did (haiku-splash!) knock off Senior Champ Brathwaite with surprising ease—a win that got him to the quarter’s of the Open Singles. Said Allen’s strongest New England practice partner Lim Ming Chui, “Often John plays only at a 2150 level, but when I press him, he plays 2350.” But of course Ming always does bring out the best in people.

In the A’s, both Klaf, who earlier had beaten Class B runner-up Man Ling Shum and Allen, lost in three to Fu-lap Lee, who did NOT play the final against Chuang Yang (alias Steven) Mo. Why didn’t they play the final? Hey, mind your own business.

Fu-lap said he was in better shape when he was younger and playing Chinese poker into all hours of the night. Now, he said, he’d soon better hurry off to see local master Fai Chan and study a little kung-fu—not to be able to kill anybody of course, just for his own body-conditioning.

At the top of the bottom of the draw, separated from brother Danny, was Ricky Seemiller. He moved into the semi’s of the Open Singles with wins over Richard Ling and Chui.

You expected Ming to be intimidated by Ricky’s serves? He’d been explaining to me how the Chinese—in Peking, not at the Rec Center—were already threatening to circumvent the new two-color rule. Trick was to hold your racket at the moment of serve so that the EDGE of the blade was facing the opponent, and then, just before making contact with the ball, twirl, whirl the racket 90…180…270…360 degrees—whatever was humanly possible—so that the poor fellow opposite couldn’t be at all sure what color he was seeing and when. “In matters of warfare,” said one Chinese general long dead, “there is no such thing as too much deception.”

Meanwhile, as innocents the world over talk of having to serve the ball from the BACK of the hand, or having to throw it up at least head-high, Chui, down 2-1 and 17-16 in the 4th, watched as Ricky squatted, and served…Ming intimidated? Of course not. He killed it in: 17-all. Now another good return of service by Ming, followed by a beautiful angled-away forehand placement and it was 19-17 Chui. But then Ricky got an edge. And now Ming served—something VERY unlike the newest Chinese innovation—and third-ball blocked Ricky’s return into the net. Then he served again…and again…and both times Ricky quickly took the offense and so ran out the game and match. “That’s fighting, man!” he said to self as he shook Chui’s hand.

In the companion bottom half of the draw, Arunkumar struggled through to the semi’s after scoring an easy win over Alice Green that did not prepare him for the five-gamer he was to have with Steven Mo.

As the Kumar-Mo Open quarter’s match was the most interesting of the tournament, I’ll delay describing it and pick it up with my ending semi’s and final.

Before meeting Kumar, Mo had dropped a game to Paul Bishop, a relatively new player on the U.S. scene who used to be ranked in the 10 top juniors in England. “Yes,” said Paul, “I was once a hard-liner—played five nights a week.” And what did it get him? A 1984 win over Eyal Adini in the first round here, that’s what.

As for Alice, she had nobody to play in the first round of the Open? Her intended, Horace Roberts, had withdrawn—perhaps because the day before he’d been dumped into the depths of despair on losing 19 and 19 to a fired-up Guy “Tommy” Castronovo. Listen, Robbie, take consolation in this: you weren’t by any stretch of the imagination Fireman Tommy’s hottest win. Some years ago he flared up and burned “The Chief”—Brathwaite of course—in a league match…and, to add insult to injury, at George’s workplace, the U.N.

Did I say Alice had nobody to play? Well, at the last minute I was substituted in. But, never mind, I was right the first time.

Alice kept insisting to me that she’s in her best physical condition ever, and I, huffing and puffing against her out there, can certainly believe it. In a recent issue of “Equal Opportunities International” magazine, Dr. Elizabeth Ferris, a former Olympic springboard-diving medalist, makes the point that it’s social conditioning not genetic and hormonal factors that traditionally urges one to think of women as the weaker sex. Lately, says Dr. Ferris, the gap between highly-trained male and female athletes is closing—in marathon running, in cycling, and in free-style swimming. Why not in table tennis?

 Alice’s endurance capacity was tested not so much in the Women’s but in her early three-game A matches with, first, Dattel (she won), then with Allen (she lost).

Playing in sweat togs against Dattel, Alice had built up a 1-0, 19-11 lead—only to see not father/coach Hal begin shaking his head at 19-13 (as if to say, “That’s careless, Alice, careless”) but Barry who, as if mesmerizing her, had climbed steadily to 19-all. Then (“YES!” shouted Alice) 20-19. This drew a (sotto voce) “Take it easy” from Hal Then (“YES! YES! Whoooh! FIGHT!” a staccato of screams from Dattel: 20-all. But then Barry faltered on a routine loop, and Alice 22-20 finished him with a lucky net-edge. “That’s using your brains!” yelled Hal. A remark that drew a counter-remark or two from Barry, and then from Alice (“JUST KEEP OUT OF THIS, DADDY!”), and then from Hal again, “Alice got desperate at 19-11.” Really, these fathers.

Against Allen, Alice, down 1-0, held strong to eke out a 19 second game, but couldn’t win the third. 

Women’s

Green won the Women’s over Flora Ng and runner-up Vicky Wong in straight games—Vicky’s abortive rally from 20-15 down in the third going for naught (at 20-19 she passed up a ball to hit, eventually pushed one into the net). The other most harrowing moments saw Middlesex’s recently arrived 20-year-old Hazel Santon get by Ai-ju Wu to make the semi’s. “I won alright,” said the English girl with a laugh—“thrashed her deuce and deuce.” 

Junior’s

But though 14-year-old Vicky on beating Santon didn’t win the Women’s, she did win the Junior’s—and in quite a gutsy fashion. Down 1-0 and 20-15 quadruple match point to U.S. Closed U-15 finalist Billy Lipton, Vicky, with Coach Rey Domingo’s help, persevered to bring about a startling comeback. “Serve short,” said Rey, “and look to hit more. When Billy serves and loops, block soft.” Down 17-13 in the 3rd, Lipton staged a rally of his own, drew to 17-all. But young Ms. Wong remained calm (When have we seen her otherwise?) and so was triumphant. Said Vicky (who last I heard didn’t much want Coach Domingo to watch her matches), “I would have lost if Rey hadn’t been there.”

In the one Under 17 semi’s, Wong beat Rocky Cheng, Class C winner over K.C. Sang.  Rocky had taken out Chi-sun Chui in the quarter’s in straight games (after being down 14-6 in the first). In the other U-17 semi’s, Lipton downed Dien Banh, who’d gotten past Chi-ming Chui in three. But neither Chui brother seemed upset about his loss. Chi-sun wanted to play bridge (“He has 2 Master Points from tournament play,” Ming said proudly). And Chi-ming, with his Dad’s permission of course, probably just wanted to go have a beer…or, well, a sip of one.    

In the D’s, there were a number of interchangeable matches. Despite surviving both Keith Ng, deuce in the 3rd, and Lyle Seale, 19 in the 3rd, after Lyle had stopped Darren Liu deuce in the 3rd, Dien fell to the winner. That was Ovidiu Nazarbechian over Mike Rose (also runner-up in the E’s to Liu). No wonder after 7 hours of play, Dien, who somehow got to be good playing on a single USTTA-obscure table in the Bowery, and who says his schooling’s a lot more important than table tennis, was a little tired  when he 21, -18, -16 lost to Lipton Saturday evening. Although Dien plays many different sports and trains with weights, he said on Sunday that his body “hurt” from all the t.t. matches. 

Ending Open Singles Matches

O.K., back now to watch Kumar and Mo in their five-game quarter’s endurance battle.

After winning the first, Kumie went cold—at his worst was down 19-9. Steven, coached and cheered on by Chui, was learning from Ming that since the former Indian International had extremely good footwork, and his corner to corner defense was extraordinary (how well he chopped angled-off balls), he, Steven, should loop precisely to Kumar’s right shoulder, underneath his armpit. Moreover, since Steven had very flexible wrist action and, in picking up the ball early, was getting a good high hop on his ball, he was to refrain as much as he could from taking big swings at “sitters.” “Ma’s the only guy in America,” said Chui, “whose loop looks like Guo Yuehua’s. Only thing is, he isn’t as steady as Guo.”

But from 7-6 up in the 3rd, Steven ran it to 14-6—and Kumar, looking as if existence was suffering and suffering ceased when desire did, barely went through the motions before 20-9 backhand-abandoning the game (and perhaps the match and world in which it was played).

Ah, but what’s this? The noble truth is that Kumie, though separated from his usual form (“I can’t play”), suddenly reestablished himself in the 4th and 5th games. And, as in a recent tournament when he’d been down 11-4 in the 5th to Adini, so now he outlasted Mo to reach Ricky Seemiller in the semi’s.

And, as we all know, and brother Danny good-humoredly says, “Ricky doesn’t have any problem reading Kumar’s spin. He just can’t do anything with it.’ How true. Said Ricky, “Loop to Kumar’s red sponge and the return hasn’t any spin. But when he pushes with that red side, then the ball’s got spin.” But despite more analytic talk like this, Ricky again couldn’t come through a winner (he’s never yet beaten Kumar).

In the first, he was repeatedly smashing Arun’s high return into the net, and, though he still had a very good chance, at 19-all he whiffed one, and then, down 20-19, he whiffed another. In the second, Ricky started by flying a serve over Kumar’s head. Then, when down 6-5, Arun scored on a fantastic counter, Ricky was shaken and got behind 12-7 before regrouping. However, having closed to 16-14, Ricky again whiffed (“The ball STOPS!” he complained)—and so couldn’t connect. In the third, again closing, from 14-9 down to 14-12, Ricky failed to return two serves, outright whiffed a third, then hit a ball on the edge of his racket, and was 19-12 helplessly gone. Perhaps, mused Ricky, he was having trouble meeting the ball because of the table slant, the slope of the floor? Perhaps.

In both the semi’s and the final, Danny was just too much in control, too strong, for both Domingo and Kumar. Not that on his recent trip West he’d been practicing. “The first time I went to California,” he said, “I worked 20 out of 21 days.” Not this time. “I gave some private lessons, ran six miles a day in the water along the beach, and played some basketball for fun and to test my balance and coordination in different ways from table tennis.”

Only in the second game did Rey, once charging painfully into the table, challenge. But after a beautiful lift and perfect placement had tied him at 19-all, Domingo pushed one into the net, and then after Danny had missed a game-winning loop, Rey erred again, whiffed a ball, then could not help himself as Danny’s ball ticked the net and threw off his timing.

Against Kumar in the final, Danny got off to a 4-0…10-4 lead in the first, just did easily what Ricky couldn’t do—earned his points the now old-fashioned way: just looped hard through him. Only once, in the third, when Kumar was 17-15 close, did he appear to have a chance. But two very hard winners from Danny slammed first the outer then the inner door on Arun—and his salvation, at least momentarily, would have to be found elsewhere. Perhaps something in the fish, flesh, or fowl feast so generously provided by Ken Chung for the players afterwards would give him worldly strength? I myself particularly savored the pigeon—which was said to give the robust-eater stamina of a very special kind.