Do not pass go: Limbach (GER) v Homer (USA)

We return to our regular segment: Nicolas Limbach Parries Things.

It’s fair to say that Daryl Homer is known for his flunge off the line. It’s a shock-and-awe move. It blindsides the best on the circuit.
Limbach wasn’t having a bar of it. We usually feature flashy, crazy, nutball 1% moves, but this right here is pretty much the opposite extreme. This is the benchmark in how to take quarte parry right:

Oh, I’m sorry, were you using that sword?

The rest of the match is pretty killer as well. Go watch it.

I’m going to stop you right there: Montano (ITA) v Limbach (GER) and Szatmari (HUN)

Skyhooks, draw cuts, whatever you want to call the: after falling off the radar for a couple of seasons, they’re now as trendy in sabre as beards.

Aldo Montano can usually be relied on for a little flair, and he wasn’t letting anyone down in Seoul. We’ve previous looked in some detail at his bout with Limbach in the 16, but the drama in that bout wasn’t all about refereeing. There was also some epic sabre to be had:

I know it’s hardly an original observation,  but jeez that guy moves nicely.

He’d done a test deployment in the previous round, where it made Andras Szatmari very sad:

The match was classy as hell, right up to the part where Montano punches Szatmari in the face:

Slick moves.

Things kind of escalated after that. It’s all up on CyrusofChaos, and is worth a look. There’s plenty of drama here as well, although not quite as good as the next round against Limbach. Szatmari is well and truly fired up, which to be fair often happens after you get punched in the face.

Just like the old days: Oh (KOR) v Berrè (ITA)

Well, I lasted a whole two days without posting any Koreans. Then I watched Oh Eunseok v Enrico Berrè at Madrid.

I’m just going to leave this here. Pure, absurd, quintessential Oh. Berrè pulls some pretty crazy moves here as well. It’s just a fabulous hit.

It fills me with delight to see Oh back on his game again. I speculated last year that the return of his old coach could lead to a late-career revival: I didn’t seriously think that it would happen. But here we are.

Full match is up on CyrusofChaos:


There’s been enough good stuff from Oh recently for me to finally complete my video cycle on the Korean Big 4.

Don’t turn up the bass or your house will fall down.

Serious Business: A cautionary tale on the role of the referee

I’d like to address an issue in referee training which been recently highlighted in my club, but which I am sure has broader applications.

Much ink has been spilled and much angst expended on technical elements of referee training. This is a fine and noble thing. Incompetent, biased or inconsistent refereeing can break the game. However, undue emphasis on the difficulty and subjectivity of refereeing raises a second set of problems which can be equally dangerous.

Let’s turn for illustration to a aggression-laden bout from the 2015 Seoul Grand Prix:

The real fun starts about 11 minutes in. Its roots originate in the high-pressure nature of the Olympic qualification season, where the lack of a men’s sabre team event at Rio means that for the big nations, everything hinges on a handful of individual events for critical ranking points.

The more immediate problem, though, lies with the referee. And it’s not technical. The calls are fine. There’s nothing particularly controversial about any of them. The truth is that sabre refereeing is really not all that complicated: if you ignore all the shouting and drama and debates, it’s an exercise in pattern recognition. It’s a sport with rules and conventions, and the job of the ref is to effectively and consistently apply them. This referee does a perfectly adequate job of that.

What he is unable to do is to control the bout.

It’s often said that there are three people in a fight, and you can’t beat the ref. What this case graphically demonstrates is that in reality, you can. You can undermine and stress and rattle the referee until their confidence wavers, then exploit that weakness to lobby harder than ever. As their ability to make calls falters, a feedback loop is generated.

It is not the role of the referee to be engaging in debate with the fencers in the middle of a match, but that’s what’s going on here from about the fifth minute, and it’s a disaster. The fencers realise they can act out with impunity, and the situation degenerates as they (and their coaches) expand their challenges to the ref’s authority.

It’s natural to want to avoid rocking the boat too much, but when you have a situation where a coach walks onto the piste and demands that the match be stopped because he has no confidence in the decisions,  even when the coach is as senior as Szabo, a line needs to be drawn.

I am not intending to cast scorn on this particular referee, who was dealing with a hideous situation as best he could. While fully qualified, he’s not one of the big-name refs, and he was up against two World Champions, each on the raggedy edge of qualification for the Olympic Games, each with a powerful coach and a large and rowdy camp of supporters behind him. This match serves as a cautionary tale on the too-often unacknowledged importance of discipline and resolve by referees, and the difficulties they can face in maintaining control.

Everyone loves to bitch and moan about referees who are capricious tyrants, but the opposite extreme is just as destructive. We need to kill the cliche that refereeing is a fundamentally subjective exercise, open to personal interpretation. Consistency and professionalism are being built at FIE level, and need to be encouraged and protected from the base.

Limbach v Montano referee
That, and referees should be given tasers.

More of this kind of thing: Limbach (GER) v Rousset (FRA)

Ok, let’s just get this out of the way first. Are we done? We’re done.


I’m going to start this post with a confession.

Officially, we’ve been absent for ages because we’ve been crazy busy with club stuff and migrating the blog to a new host. But that’s not the real reason I didn’t post anything from the Seoul Grand Prix.

When Junghwan Kim, the last Korean standing by the round of 8, got his second red card for crossing feet and was then knocked out of the tournament on a dirty counterattack from Rousset, I may have thrown something at the television and stormed off like the partisan fangirl I am. I saw the final was Rousset v Limbach and made numerous rude remarks about how I’d rather watch paint dry.

Turns out I’m an idiot, and the final was fantastic. And not just because of the exuberant French and German cheer squads in the stands, displaying the kind of spectator engagement fencing could generally do with more of.

It was a bravura display of ballsy and flamboyant defense from Limbach, who was showing a flair I’d never previously associated with him. He’s still not exactly the most graceful fencer I’ve ever seen, but the combination of precision footwork, hilarious range and exuberant creativity is spectacular.

In that vein, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our first installment in the new Epic Sabre series:

Epic Sabre Seoul Edition: Nicolas Limbach Parries Things


To quote Andrew Fischl: “Yeah, let’s start like that.”

Lovely bit of countertime. Won Wooyoung would approve.

“Was that a prime? That was totally a prime.” Yes, yes it was. Off a feint seconde.  Anyway, we know who won that sword fight.

Neat. Effective.

Who does prime twice in one match? Limbach, that’s who. Very nearly very awesome, but unfortunately off the strip.

Anyway, then he got sick of prime and decided to go even further down the list of 1% moves.

That, kids, is a classy way to win a grand prix. I suspect point-in-line is easier when you have the kind of wingspan typically associated with exotic Soviet-era cargo aircraft, but still.

Here’s the full match, also featuring a truly vicious counterattack from Rousset, an enthusiastic audience and typically wry commentary from Mr Fischl.

I promise we’ll be back with more in less than 3 months.

Tomorrow in fact.