First Impressions: Fischl (USA) v Szilagyi (HUN)

I’ve been focusing a lot on the big names, for obvious reasons, but there’s some nice fencing out there from a lot more than the usual suspects. Today’s edition stars Andrew Fischl, who is probably best known as the guy who runs the CyrusofChaos fencing video channels (and is one of the most tireless promoters of the sport in the world).  He’s also an eminently respectable fencer: tall, with a good turn of speed and a pretty sophisticated tactical understanding of the game. Here he is in the USA v Hungary team match at the 2014 Moscow World Cup, towards the end  of a 9/3 run against Aron Szilagyi. No big deal:

Fischl went in to the match cautious of Szilagyi’s 4m game, aiming to draw him out of the centre. Having never faced Szilagyi before, he had the element of surprise in his favour and was, in his words, “looking to create a memorable first impression”. Right from the start of the bout he was looking relaxed and had some nice flow going:

Note the footwork when the spool got in the way. Very smooth.

Unfortunately there’s no full video of this team match, but there’s just about all the other sabre in the world on CyrusofChaos so you’ll just have to make do with that. I can’t recommend this enough: this blog, and indeed Sydney Sabre, can trace their inspiration back here.

Thanks, Andrew, and nice fencing!

Failure to connect: Montano (ITA) v Anstett (FRA)

Sabre is a game built on distance and footwork above all else. This is an idea I try to instill into new fencers from their first hour in the sport. In most cases, it’s an issue of getting into the right distance to hit, but sometimes even that isn’t required. Here’s a pretty funny exchange between Montano and Anstett in the round of 16 at Kazan, which reinforces that it’s never necessarily a bad thing to fall short:

All sniggering aside, Montano’s footwork throughout that whole thing is absolutely superb. The relentlessness of his attacks have been noted before, particularly with this excellent analytical video from CyrusofChaos.

The full match has just been posted to our YouTube channel, and has some pretty cracking hits in it from Montano.

There are some magnificent parries, from the dramatic:

To the emphatic:

And an almost but not quite magnificent parry from Anstett:

And here’s the full bout:

Montano seemed to be having entirely too much fun in this comp right up until he came up against Kovalev in the 8. Things went rapidly downhill from there.

Feel the rhythm: Kovalev (RUS) v Buikevich (BLR)

Nikolay Kovalev won the World Championships this year with some utterly extraordinary sabre in the final rounds. Highly experienced coaches have remarked that he was almost unrecognisable towards the end of the day, a changed man capable of astonishing things. His day started in more laid-back fashion, with a very nice clean bout against Aliaksandr Buikevich of Belarus. Here is a cool little exchange with some very nice bladework: slowing down a bit leaves a lot more leeway for this sort of thing.

Buikevich is a lanky, low-energy fencer with a lot of neat timing tricks and just a little bit more acceleration than you expect.  He’s fencing pretty well here, and it’s very interesting to watch how Kovalev adapts his tempo to match a slower opponent. Contrast his movement here with what he does later against Kim, for example. Unfortunately the match video is only partial, starting at 4/5:

This squares very nicely with what I used to think was a weird bit of coaching advice: be fast, but not too fast. You always want to be just a little bit faster than your opponent.

The Prodigy: The sabre game of Aron Szilagyi

Here’s the next in our series of compilation videos profiling the most exciting fencers on the FIE men’s sabre circuit and what makes them cool. Totally subjective, no particular technical analysis thrown in, just amazing stuff.

Here is the golden boy himself, reigning Olympic champion, world #3, most beloved by coaches and technical sabre buffs everywhere. He manages to combine both exquisite refinement and ferocious savagery into a single spectacular athlete. The bladework. the footwork, the distance.

As always, crank up the music.

It’s roughly divided into sections:

1. Holy mother of god, what was that?? How is that even a thing? That was set up, right?

2. Parries. So much parries. They looked like they might have hurt.

3. Counterattacks.  HOW DID HE DO THAT? 0_o

4. Marching attacks. Just give up, other guy, you’re not getting out of this one alive.


It’s a trap: Reshetnikov (RUS) v Gemesi (HUN)

Veniamin Reshetnikov is not really known for flashy sabre. His game is one of precision and control. It’s spectacularly effective, but doesn’t produce much in the way of grand actions or high drama. However, I don’t want to get typecast as only being into powerful marching attacks, hilariously unexpected stop cuts and Gu Bongil falling over.  I also appreciate a good vicious and well-planned trap every now and then, and Reshetnikov is a master of them.

Parrying is a risky business. Against an attacker who is doing things on their own terms, it’s usually an exercise in futility. There’s a whole repertoire of defensive tricks for drawing an attacker into hitting when and where you want them to, but sometimes it takes the genuine threat of a real counterattack to provoke them. If you’re happy parrying at incredibly close distances, you can pull off something like this:

The full bronze medal match between Russia and Hungary at the 2014 World Champs is available on our YouTube channel:

A delicate dance: Szilagyi (HUN) v Gu (KOR)

The final of the 2014 Padova World Cup was a masterful performance by Szilagyi. The whole thing is crammed full of spectacular sabre, but there’s a pair of  hits  which start with almost identical setups and end with diametrically opposed finishes. The technical details on display here are absolutely superb.

First comes this gorgeous attack. This is a perfect illustration of a composite march.  The footwork is minutely responsive to every action by the defender, allowing Szilagyi to get out of range of Gu’s beats and counters and then flow forward again in an immediate resumption of priority. It’s beautifully executed, and leaves Gu seriously demoralised.

After a tense string of simultaneous hits, Szilagyi uses almost exactly the same setup to draw Gu into his parry and take control of the attack. This time Gu, keen to avoid a repeat of the previous point, pushes more aggressively on the defense and manages to take a beat, but Szilagyi’s bladework and distance are ultimately just too good.

Too easy.

After that, it pretty much looked like Gu just wanted to go home.

The full match is available on CyrusofChaos‘ YouTube channel:

The first half is close. The second half is a bloodbath. But it’s an interesting bloodbath with lovely fencing, so I guess that makes it OK.

Fatal error: Szilagyi (HUN) v Kim (KOR)

Szilagyi and Kim are two of the quickest fencers on the circuit, and their matches are reliably spectacular. The speed of Szilagyi’s bladework is legendary: he often seems to be doing two or three blade actions in the time it takes his opponents to do one. All his pretty preparations and feints, though, are all too often the intro to a seriously brutal final hit. This exchange from the final at the 2014 Coupe Acropolis in Athens is a classic illustration:

Ouch. Nice distance.

This the second time this pair faced off in a World Cup final in 2014. During the first match, in Budapest, Kim pulled ahead after trailing significantly throughout the early stages to score a major upset win, but not without being injured in the process by a powerful hit to his right hand. He’s had a recurring string of hand injuries all season, including one during his semifinal against Yakimenko in Athens. By the time he had his rematch with Szilagyi in the final, he was a little more cautious than usual, which allowed Szilagyi to dominate the bout. Video from CyrusofChaos:

Cat and mouse: Gu (KOR) v Szilagyi (HUN)

Gu v Szilagyi is usually a matchup seen in the final, rather than the round of 8. The last time these guys fenced, in Padova at the start of 2014, Gu got comprehensively curb-stomped. This time, however, he had things well in hand. Szilagyi seemed a bit off-form and was relying on a very aggressive 4m game to attempt to neutralise Gu’s primary weapon, his long attack. His was not pretty sabre. He got a few brutal power hits through early on, but as soon as Gu switched to parries and counterattacks, he was in serious trouble.

Gu was relaxed, focused and in command of the situation. Here’s a lovely little object lesson on the power of patience:

Yes, it’s a sabre exchange which is too long to fit in a 15 second GIF. Well done, gentlemen. I particularly like the nasty little rage-slash from Szilagyi right at the end, it’s all class.

As Gu built his lead, Szilagyi got angrier, and fell prey to some pretty hilarious stop cuts:

By and large, Szilagyi’s characteristic technical flair seemed to be missing, although he did get a couple of legitimately nice hits:

The full match has just been posted on our YouTube channel. There’s a great deal of posing, arm-waving, shouting and general theatricality. Highly amusing.

Gu’s war cry at the end is one of the all-time greats. I think he was pleased.

Alert but not alarmed: Berrè (ITA) v Apithy (FRA)

Continuing the old-school footwork theme today, here is Enrico Berrè using his smooth and relaxed march as a platform for a very nice piece of countertime against Bolade Apithy in the 32 at Kazan:

He’s generally a very stable fencer (with legs that long, you kind of need to be), but he’s been known to indulge in a bit of a skip from time to time. His last hit in the same bout has a beautiful flow to it:


Apithy gets some textbook attacks in, too. He’s a very different fencer to Berrè, with fantastic power and acceleration. Here he is displaying both, with very good use of distance:

Full match has just been uploaded to our YouTube channel. It’s a very classy affair, with lots of nice fluid exchanges. Well worth checking out.