$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC October Open
(By Larry Hodges, tournament director)
“Smoosh-whap!” That’s the sound of Yichi Zhang ripping another backhand loop winner. At the 2600 level, ripping loops are a dime a dozen, but most don’t do it as fluently as Yichi does in rally after rally. The 23-year-old flew up from Mississippi College, where he’s studying computer science (perhaps programming with his left hand while shadow-stroking with his right) in the hopes of taking home the $1000 first-place money and glory.
The stars aligned for him right from the start. He came in rated 2559 (after reaching 2638 in August), which tied him for second seed in the Open with Jeffrey Xun Zeng. We had the computer do a virtual coin flip to see who would be second seed in the draw, and Yichi won. This was rather huge as the players who were seeded third and fourth (MDTTC coaches Jeffrey and Bowen Chen) each had a 50-50 chance of facing the top-seeded and defending MDTTC Champion, the deadly Jishan Liang (2694). Yichi had never beaten him, but that’s true of just about everybody, including (with an extremely high level of certainty) you, the one currently reading this article. That’s what 2694 means, not to mention his previous high of 2712.
There wasn’t too much excitement in three of the quarterfinal matches – see results below. The exciting one was the war between fellow MDTTC coaches Bowen Chen and Martin Jezo. Martin, from Slovakia, had joined the MDTTC coaching staff about two months before. A bit out of practice and perhaps nervous about his first USA tournament, he played poorly then and came out way under-rated at 2366. Against Chen – recently over 2600 but now down to 2540 after a bad tournament – Martin struggled at first, then won a pair of deuce games to force a fifth game. Ever seen a video of a Tasmanian devil on steroids played at double speed? That’s Bowen in the fifth game, minus the steroids, as he ripped one forehand winner after another in winning 11-2. But Martin would later get consolation by winning Under 2400 and $150.
In the semifinals Jishan continued to buzzsaw the competition, this time over the twice-unlucky Jeffrey Xun Zeng, who also lost the flip with Chen over who had to play Jishan, who advanced, 5,5,7. (The match was supposed to be best of seven, but both requested best of five, and I obliged.) But the other semifinal – not so fast. Now we had two Tasmanian devils going at it, rip for rip, as Bowen and Yichi went at it. Bowen perhaps had a tiny edge in pure forehand power (though when either of them got a hold of one, you could almost hear the ball scream, “No!”), but Yichi won on the backhand side, both in consistency and with those “smoosh-whap!” rips. Yichi went up 3-1 in games, but then Bowen played one of the best games I’ve seen him play – Yichi played great to lose only 11-4 – but then Yichi finished out the match, 12,-8,5,11,-4,9.
A quick interlude where we discuss the four semifinalists and their styles. At first glance, they are all the same – two-winged inverted loopers. But there are differences. The lefty Jishan simply does everything really, really well (perhaps add “really” a few dozen more times), and can play both close and off the table equally well. Yichi has the most pure backhand rip power. Penholder Bowen is the most forehand oriented and has the fastest footwork and most forehand power. Jeffrey is the steadiest, but doesn’t have the power of the others as he steadily loops, counter-loops, and blocks.
So it’s on to the final. One again Jishan is a buzzsaw as he easily takes the first, 11-5. It’ll be another quick final, and another $1000 to the 2700 star from New York, right? Well, in games two and three, Yichi gave Jishy an “icy hi” (yeah, an anagram of “Yichi”) as he went up 2-1 in games. Jishan tied it up with an easy 11-6 game four win, and then it was on to deuce in the fifth and sixth games. In the quarters, semis, and final, Yichi had five deuce games and two 11-9 games – and won all seven of them. The chances of that are two to the seventh, or one in 128. In other words, either he bucked the odds, or he’s a heck of a player when it gets close. Match, Open Singles Title, and $1000 to Yichi Zhang, the 2017 Butterfly MDTTC October Open Champion. (Jishan won $500, and Bowen and Jeffrey $250 each.) “Smoosh-whap!”
As usual, a great thanks goes to sponsors Butterfly and HW Global Foundation, which sponsors the Talent Development Program that trains at MDTTC – which swept all four semifinal spots in both junior events. A great thanks also goes to Mossa Barandao of PongMobile, who helps run the tournament – he’s at the control desk the entire tournament doing most of the data input, collecting money, and taking pictures. (Mossa also sets up a station at our tournaments and leagues so players can easily look up via PongMobile, their ratings and ratings histories, both in numbers and graphic form. The station is always surrounded by players looking up all their friends, coaches, and rivals.) Thanks goes to referee Paul Kovac and umpire Stephen Yeh. And a great thanks to the 79 players who competed in the tournament!
Complete results are available at Omnipong. Here is a summary – click on event links to see pictures of the finalists! Here are the post tournament ratings.
Open Singles – Final: Zhang Yichi d. Liang Jishan, -5,8,3,-6,11,10; SF: Zhang d. Chen Bo Wen, 12,-8,5,11,-4,9; Liang d. Jeffrey Xun Zeng, 5,5,7; QF: Liang d. Mudit Dani, 6,10,7; Zeng d. Gabriel Skolnick, 6,3,1; Chen d. Martin Jezo, 7,9,-10,-11,2; Zhang d. Wang Cheng, 5,9,10.
Under 2400 – Final: Martin Jezo d. Gabriel Skolnick, -10,9,8,7; SF: Jezo d. Mudit Dani, 10,9,-5,-7,8; Skolnick d. John Wetzler, 9,9,8; QF: Jezo d. Aron Zhang, 13,6,-6,6; Dani d. Abbas Paryavi, 8,7,10; Wetzler d. Kevin Zhou, 1,7,11; Skolnick d. Richard Bowling, 7,7,6.
Under 2200 – Final: John Wetzler d. Vladimir Poradich, def.; SF: Poradich d. Spencer Chen, -6,8,-8,8,6; Wetzler d. Mohamed Kamara, 6,5,4.
Under 2000 – Final: Kevin Zhou d. Naveen Vaddadi, 9,9,7; SF: Zhou d. Ye Qiang, 7,7,13; Vaddadi d. Stanley Hsu, 7,6,-11,-5,9.
Under 1800 – Final: Adrian Yang d. Michael Clarke, 4,10,6; SF: Yang d. Mu Du, 7,9,7; Clarke d. Andy Wu, 19,5,7.
Under 1500 – Final: Nikhil Naravan d. Allan Anzagira, 6,-6,9,6; SF: Naravan d. Anoop Srivastava, -4,-6,5,7,7; Anzagira d. Kurtus Hsu, 10,12,-11,-8,7.
Under 1200 – Final: Feng Xue d. Eugene O’Bryan, 7,8,-9,5; SF: Xue d. Danny Wan, 7,7,6; O’Bryan d. Eugene Zhang, -9,-6,10,8,9.
Over 50 – Final: Thomas Sampson d. Sun Xiao Jian, 6,7,-9,-6,5; SF: Sampson d. Jozef Simkovic, 10,5,8; Sun d. Xinsheng Michael Huang, 8,3,4.
Under 15 – Final: Stanley Hsu d. Jackson Beaver, 2,9,6; SF: Hsu d. Hanfei Hu, 7,5,5; Beaver d. Mu Du, 7,7,-13,-7,8.
Under 12 – Final: Mu Du d. Lance Wei, 10,3,-7,5; SF: Mu Du d. Andy Wu, 7,14,-8,7; Wei d. James Zhang, 5.-5,7,-9,7.