Tom's Ping Pong Holiday (1999)
I had a great time at the US Nationals Table Tennis tournament. It
was a wonderful, family-atmosphere event at the Las Vegas Convention
Center, with cheap hotels, big buffets, and 830 registered competitors
to practice with, all of them friendly (except for two racist
Armenians that just had to harrass this one sweet black kid from New
York; they made me so mad!).
Table tennis is SO GREAT!
In what other sport can you go to the national championships and meet
the top players in person, and watch them play for free? It's great.
It doesn't discriminate.
Table tennis is a great equalizer. Sex, age, ethnicity, and handicaps
mean a lot less in table tennis. Among the top players (with a rating
above 2200!) was one in a wheelchair, and another who was a 'little
person'. The top woman in the US is also the fourth best player
overall in the US -- they aren't all men. The top player in the US is
over 40. Kids of 10, 12, and 14 years of age, as well as oldsters in
their late 60's, win (age-unrestricted) major events. Immigrants and
native born Americans, people of all colors are all to be found at the
highest levels in the sport.
How it works
There are doubles, paralympics, age-restricted, rating-specific, and
open events. I played in the "Ratings" events. Any player is
eligible to play in a range of 5 consecutive rating-level events,
where players compete roughly within their level. You play each of
the other three players in a round-robin group, and then the winner of
the group goes on, eventually to quarterfinals, semi's, and a final.
Unrated players are disqualified from winning their round-robin
groups, since winning means they probably belong in a higher level
How I did
Since this is my first tournament, I am unrated. But it doesn't
matter since I didn't win any of my round-robin groups, except in my
lowest, under-1100 group. In the next two levels, U-1200 and U-1300,
I lost to Sergey Gutkin, who was just 10 years old; check him out.
I have to say it was kind of wierd to try to serve a concealed
side-topspin into the corner against a player whose chest is below the
table top. And even more wierd when he smashed it for a winner,
He was legit, though; last year's US National Champion among
under-10 kids this last year, winner overall in the U-1200 group;
third overall in the U-1500 group, so I didn't feel too bad. In total
I had 15 matches, and won 10.
U-1500 2 wins, 1 loss (in 3 to a 1477-rated guy from Austin)
U-1400 2 wins, 1 loss (in 3 to Paul Intagliata)
U-1300 1 win, 2 losses (in 3 to Peter Young and in 3 to Sergy Gutkin)
U-1200 2 wins, 1 loss (in 2 to Sergy Gutkin)
U-1100 3 wins, no losses
From the USATT website:
Bruce Liu (CA), who had already won Under 1300 (with a 1226 rating),
started out "slow," having to win three-gamers in the eighths (-10,
14, 16 over top-seeded Ly Hien Le), and in the quarters (-14, 13, 10
over Rodney Lock). But from the semifinals on, the event was his, as
he defeated 10-year-old sensation Sergey Gutkin (CA) in one
semifinals, 14 & 16 (see Bill Lui-coached Gutkin's picture as next
week's "Photo of the Week" on the USATT Web Page, going up on Monday,
Dec. 21), and Nazih Elhayek in the final, 10 & 19. Nazih had defeated
Gary Alcares (CA) in the semifinals, 12 & 20.
UNDER 1200 SINGLES
10-year-old Sergey Gutkin (CA), a student of Bill Lui and Avishy
Schmidt, defeated Henry Han (CA) in the final, 16 & 16. Gutkin, who
would be wealthy if his energy could be bottled and sold, attacked
all-out throughout the match. Said Gutkin of the final, "I looped
spinny to set up the shot, then smashed." Henry, who after a bye and
two consecutive defaults, found himself in the semifinals against
Lewis Chan, winning at 18 & 13. Gutkin had barely defeated Gene
C. Pool (MI) in the semifinals, -19, 21, 6.