Category Archives: Comps and news

Cheat sheet: A form guide to Rio 2016

The following is a thorough and in-depth analysis of the Rio men’s sabre field, based on only the finest in armchair-quarterbacking, internet rumours, random encounters in nightclubs, and gossip overheard at tournaments. It has been delayed by several weeks due to the machinations of WADA, CAS, IOC and FIE, thus proving that we’re fundamentally pretty naïve at heart because we though the field might actually change. Haha!

THE FIELD

The field this time around is noteworthy for the sheer percentage of dirty old fencers who are in it for one last desperate shot at glory before the game gets thrown down the toilet by the upcoming rule changes, which will ruin everything well past the point where a 30-something with sore knees and decades of finely-tuned responses can be bothered trying to adapt. The Olympics is traditionally won by some fresh-faced young hotshot, but we have a feeling this time will be different. So who are the contenders?

1. ALEXEY YAKIMENKO (RUSSIA) Age 32, World rank 1

Seen here trying to decide if biting the ref will get him in too much trouble.
Seen here trying to decide if biting the ref will get him in too much trouble.

An ugly brawler with a unique prep game which for some reason nobody else on the circuit has ever been able to pull off. Has had an astonishing season so far, largely based on his willingness to use whatever means may be necessary to get that hardware. The result has been the World Championship title, a world cup hat trick and a stack of podium finishes. To see his name against you on the tableau is to see the crushing weight of inevitability. Just let it happen.

2. JUNGHWAN KIM (KOREA) Age 32, World rank 2

Maybe when this is over he'll finally be allowed to sleep.
Maybe when this is over he’ll finally be allowed to sleep.

A fragile speedster carrying a decade of injuries, it will only take one big hit or bad landing to ruin Kim’s day. On the plus side, he’s a lunatic street-fighter and is the most likely one there to be simply too crazy to bow to the weight of inevitability listed above. Got a strong lead-in with gold at the final Grand Prix of the season in Moscow, and, unusually for him, does not appear to be starting this event with any damage worse than an unfortunate haircut. Will finish the day either on the podium or in a fetal position on the floor.

3. ARON SZILAGYI (HUNGARY) Age 26, World rank 3

Shut up and give this man all of the points.
Shut up and give this man all the points.

The defending champion and universally beloved golden boy, he of the most exquisite technical repertoire and collection of wounded-but-noble facial expressions for his video appeals. He’s perfect and beautiful in every way, but unfortunately since 2012 he just hasn’t been very good at coming first at tournaments. He’s got good odds of finishing on the podium, but the probability of lightning striking twice just ain’t that high. It’ll all be excellent television though

4. BONGIL GU (KOREA) Age 27, World rank 4

Also the winner of our prestigious "Hungover Fencer Of The Year" award.
He’s easily startled.

An alien cyborg sent to Earth with an inexplicable mission to win all of the sabre medals, Gu was an unstoppable powerhouse for the last two years and then just… stopped. I mean, he’s only won a single world cup this season. Pathetic. Either he got bored, or he’s in an extended reboot cycle after a firmware update. Will it be completed in time? That question will determine the gold, because when he brings the fire he can and will eat anyone else on this list for breakfast. If not, then he’ll have to extend his mission a bit longer, and we’re not going to object to that.

5. VINCENT ANSTETT (FRANCE) Age 34, World rank 5

My god, we've finally found someone who uses those giant frilly guard pads!
A very serious dude, and the only known user of those oversize frilly guard pads.

The dark horse in the top 8, Anstett has muddled around the middle ranks of the OK-that-guy-is-pretty-good-I-guess fencers for years before exploding into the top of the scene with a series of strong results in 2016.  He’s out to prove to the kids of today that sometimes, you just need to take things a little more seriously. They might not like it, but he’s brought the data. He gives hope to everyone who wants to believe that a normal human being can win at sabre. We’re expecting good things, even if his stop cuts make us cry a little inside.

6. TIBERIU DOLNICEANU (ROMANIA) Age 28, World rank 6

Rumour is he's not a massive fan of the tropics.
Rumour is he’s not a massive fan of the tropics.

Tibi is one unit strong nice sabre fencer. He is the undisputed master of the eternal, grinding 4m slog game, but if you cut all that out of his videos then he is a thing of magnificence. He’s had a rough season filled with injury so far and it will be interesting to see if he’s able to bring it back to full power, because if he does he could smash them all. Then it will be time for us to hit the editing again, because man it will be pretty. Totally misleading, but pretty. If you’re planning on watching his fights live, bring a good book.

7. MAX HARTUNG (GERMANY) Age 26, World rank 8

Has started running with a bad crew recently.
Max has started running with a bad crew recently.

Even Hartung admits he’s not a nice fencer. The big German relies on the weird, the awkward, and the brutal, plus a line in kicked-puppy video appeal expressions that would give even Szilagyi a run for his money. That said, he’s refined things a lot in the last year or so and it’s all starting to gel together into something that occasionally passes for spectacular. So far in 2016 he’s made a strong habit in coming 5th in just about every tournament. It’s admirably consistent, but it’d be nice to see a break in the pattern.

8. NIKOLAY KOVALEV (RUSSIA) Age 29, World rank 9

He seems like such a nice boy.
He seems like such a nice boy.

On a good day, Kovalev is an unstoppable beast, a tour-de-force of lighting reflexes and dazzling high-energy footwork. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have that many good days. More commonly, he’s just a little bit too jittery to carry off the hype. That being said, he did stage a massive upset in Seoul by knocking junior colleague and all-round team darling Kamil Ibragimov out of his Olympic spot, thus totally ruining our previous predictions for this event. He was the favourite for London but dropped the ball at the last minute: maybe with a little more of the mellowness of age he can pull it off this time. Or maybe he’ll start giggling maniacally in the middle of matches again.

9. DARYL HOMER (USA) Age 26, World rank 10

Didn't this sport used to involve jackets?
Didn’t this sport used to involve jackets?

Every so often, Homer has a day where is actually fences as well as he should, and when that happens it’s the best thing ever. He’s dynamic, he’s powerful, and he’s pretty. He just needs to chill out a bit. The whole Olympic Games thing could either throw him one way or the other. Either way, there’s going to be a fair bit of drama by the end.

10. ALDO MONTANO (ITALY) Age 37, World rank 11

Oh, for god's sake.
Oh, for god’s sake.

The Greatest Of All Time, according to the internet, and who can argue with the internet? This maniac ageing gym-rat has been been out since January after having his shoulder patched together with carbon fibre and adamantium, which is the only reason he’s this far down the rankings. Montano has made good use of his rehab time by posing for ludicrously sexy Hot-Fencer-Of-The-Day bait in Italian fashion magazines and owning everyone else in the field on Instagram. Sure, he’s a bit out of practice at the whole tournament thing, but he’s been doing this since 2004 and it’s in the blood. Not to be underestimated.

11. ELI DERSHWITZ (USA) Age 20, World rank 12

The first of the fresh-faced rookies on the list, Dershwitz had a very good day in Seoul over Easter with his first big senior title. He’s exactly the kind of fencer we’d usually expect to do well at an event like this: young, fast, strong and kind of weird. Gets just a little bit too worked up, and is almost guaranteed to be the loudest one in the room, which is no mean feat. Could get lucky.

12. DIEGO OCCHIUZZI (ITALY) Age 35, World rank 13

Everyone wants you to believe Occhiuzzi is the bad guy. His villain schtick been around for so long it’s a cliché. When you get past the drama and look at him, he’s fantastic: a caring family man whose sabre game is unfailingly sharp, brilliant and beautiful. The inevitable blow-ups are almost an obligation now, and honestly there’s worse offenders around these days. We love him, and we love seeing him cause trouble.

13. MOJTABA ABEDINI (IRAN) Age 31, World rank 15

The most exotic and rare of creatures, Abedini is a normal moderate fencer with good technique and sensible tactics. Has quietly snuck up into the upper echelons of the ranking list with a series of solid results against much more flamboyant opponents. He’s there with a job to do.

14. ALIAKSANDR BUIKEVICH (BELARUS) Age 31, World rank 16

The slowest fencer in the world, Buikevich takes the tall-lazy-leftie thing and elevates it to an art form. Noteworthy for starring earlier this year in The Worst Sabre Bout Of All Time against #15, Sandro Bazadze, for which both of them stand eternally in disgrace. Can actually fence OK when he wakes up.

15. SANDRO BAZADZE (GEORGIA) Age 23, World rank 19

Much scream, very drama, wow. Look out for his famous “big screen” video appeal signal. Actually quite a clean fencer when you edit out the hours and hours of simultaneous attacks and posturing, with a draw cut that will take your arm off. Could cause some serious trouble for the big dogs if they don’t watch out.

16. ALI PAKDAMAN (IRAN) Age 25, World rank 21

Not a particularly subtle fencer. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s very good at treading on people’s feet.

17. RENZO AGRESTA (BRAZIL) Age 32, World rank 22

Home town favourite who will probably have the wind at his back all day, and will need it.

18. MATYAS SZABO (GERMANY) Age 24, World rank 25

Szabo should be way further up the list than this. A notorious prankster with gorgeous delicate footwork, he is for some reason Gu’s kryptonite. Is almost certain to ruin someone’s day.

19. ANDRIY YAGODKA (UKRAINE) Age 28, World rank 29

We’re not saying Yagodka’s counterattack game is the reason for the timing change, but it’s the best excuse we’ve heard. A massive, ungainly kid with a wingspan more typically associated with exotic soviet cargo aircraft, his sabre is so hideous that it’s kind of cool.

20. JOSEPH POLOSSIFAKIS (CANADA) Age 25, World rank 30

Polo’s career best result was a top-8 at the 2015 Moscow Grand Prix, which was sustained with a sprained ankle. Maybe someone should hit him in the kneecaps with a baseball bat before Rio. Aww, just kidding, Polo, we love you.

21. SEPPE VAN HOLSBEKE (BELGIUM) Age 28, World rank 32

For all the noise about the importance of height in this sport, there are not many people on the men’s sabre circuit who, when met suddenly around a corner, cause us to go OH JEEZ YOU’RE REALLY BIG. Van Holsbeke is one of them. He’s also sadly renowned for building crushing leads and then losing on a heartbreaking 15/14 for the stupidest of reasons. Would be nice if he could get out of that habit. Has his own website, which is pretty slick.

Author’s note: At this point, we largely plunge out of the territory where we can make informed comment on the fencers, besides as guys we’ve seen the big dogs beat up in the first round at worlds. We’re very sorry about this, but there are only so many hours in the day and we have jobs. If anyone would like further coverage, please submit a portfolio of your most spectacular hits and/or an entertaining personal bio to info@sydneysabre.com for consideration. Thank you. If any of you guys win, we promise to buy you dinner.

22. THANH AN VU (VIETNAM) Age 23, World rank 33

Fast, tense, and holds like crazy. Will probably love the new timing next season.

23. ILYA MOKRECOV (KAZAHKSTAN) Age 32, World rank 39

Loves him some 4m forward parries. Not the most graceful thing we’ve ever seen, but at least it’s ambitious.

24. FARES FERJANI (TUNISIA) Age 19, World rank 40

Never seen this kid fence, so who can tell?

25. TAMAS DECSI (HUNGARY) Age 33, World rank 51

Wait, what is Decsi doing down here? He’s a beast. If he turns it on, he has an attack almost indistinguishable from a runaway locomotive. You might get the attack on prep, but it ain’t gonna save you. Could do some serious damage to someone expecting an easy first round.

26. YEMI APITHY (BENIN) Age 27, World rank 56

Has terrible taste in nightclubs. That’s all we’re saying.

27. WEI SUN (CHINA) Age 23, World rank 72

Got some range on him. Might be good for a shock upset if he’s having a strong day.

28. KENTA TOKUNAN (JAPAN)  Age 28, World rank 75

Has a nice line in foil counterparries. Quite fun to watch.

29. MOHAMED AMER (EGYPT) Age 19, World rank 85

We’ve never seen this guy fence except in training, but he’s the youngest one in the comp so that’s pretty cool.

30. JULIAN AYALA (MEXICO) Age 24, World rank 123

(We’ve never seen this guy fence)

31. YOANDRY IRIARTE GALVEZ (CUBA) Age 30, World rank 142

(We’ve never seen this guy fence)

32. PANCHO PASKOV (BULGARIA) – Age 22, World rank – wow, there are that many guys on the FIE ranking list now? How nice to see the sport grow.

We’re not really sure who this kid is. There’s a rumour his mum got him in to the Olympics, and we guess that’s as good an explanation as any. Hey, if you can manage it, why not?

SO WHO WILL WIN

The scientific answer:

There is absolutely no way to tell. Anyone in the top 20 or so could take it with a good day and a prevailing wind.

Draw names out of a hat.

The sports-wonk answer:

The Olympics is a weird tournament due to its small field and extensive advance notice of the draw. The ability to spend up to a week planning for a known set of opponents traditionally gives younger, less well-known athletes an edge over the guys who’ve been on the circuit for years and had some nerd in Australia make compilation videos showing all their cool moves (SORRY GUYS).

According to this logic, it’ll be someone young, good enough to have at least a couple of serious world cup results under their belt but not enough good results to be a major target yet. Also by this logic, the fencers who rely on the awkward and the random may have an edge. Look for Dershwitz, Bazadze, Yagodka, Sun, Szabo, maybe even Hartung if he keeps his head down.

We will admit to a slight bias.
We will admit to some mild favouritism.
The sentimental answer:

We want one of the wily old bastards to take it, in this last tournament under the good old rules.

Anstett, Dolniceanu, Gu, Kim, Kovalev, Occhiuzzi, or best of all Cyborg Montano: show the kids how sabre is done right before the FIE blows it all to hell.

Aldo, get out of the pool, put some clothes on, and show us what sabre is supposed to look like.
Aldo, get out of the pool, put some clothes on, and show us what sabre is supposed to look like.
The cynical pragmatist answer:

Yakimenko will win.

He just will. We’re putting money on it, just to make us feel better when the inevitable happens.

Hopefully we'll make enough to pay for the TV we're going to throw something heavy at.
Hopefully we’ll make enough replace the TV that we’re going to smash.

ENJOY THE SHOW

If you’re watching, we hope this guide enhances your spectator experience. Pick a favourite or two, heckle loudly and throw stuff if appropriate. Depending on who your favourites are, having a stiff drink and a shoulder to cry on may also be advised, but hey, that’s part of sport.

If you’re fencing, have fun on the piste, and may the odds be ever in your favour. You guys are all awesome, and we’re very sorry if we said anything mean, unless it’s true. You’re still pretty awesome though.

The Russian Box of Death: A quick taste

The other week, USFA announced it was implementing the “Russian Box Of Death” start line rules at all tournaments during the FIE test period. The internet freaked out. We decided to join the party by running a full tournament with Box Of Death rules.

We’ll be providing an in-depth analysis later, but for now, here’s what was quite literally the third hit of the tournament.

To quote the fencer on right (me):

“What??? That’s not supposed to happen!”

Either we’re doing it wrong, or putting people and lunge distance doesn’t magically stop simultane. But how could that possibly be true?

Hero time: Our Very Serious 2015 World Cup Awards

Budapest was the final tournament in the 2015 World Cup calendar. I have delayed publication of a proper recap because watching the final again will make me cry, and because everyone in the sabre world has already heard about the grotesque farce that was the Yakimenko/Rousset semi. Instead of serious analysis, we’re going to be announcing some awards.

In case you’ve been on Mars and haven’t seen the juicy  bit yet, here it is: have something around that you can punch.

Budapest was the third gold a row for Alexey Yakimenko, winner of our inaugural award for “Fencer Most In Need Of A New PR Agent”.

Seriously, Alexey, call us. We can help.
Call us, Alexey. We can help. This is just embarrassing. It’s not like you can’t afford it.

The actual “Fair Play” award goes to Nicolas Rousset, for all-round gentlemanly restraint in not doing what I would have done under the same circumstances:

This guy is classy.
This guy is classy.

Meanwhile, Kim Junghwan takes home the “Glass Cannon Award for Unstoppable Badass Who Is Actually Surprisingly Easy To Stop”, narrowly edging out Tibi Dolniceanu.

Seriously, again?
Seriously, again?

Now that Aldo Montano has dealt with his unfortunate man-bun issue from earlier this year, Kim also was a clear winner in the “Fencer Most In Need Of A Haircut” category.

Something must be done.
Something must be done.

Serious business

Now it’s time for our major category: “The Big Damn Hero Award For Most Dramatic If Ultimately Futile Points Chase In A Team Event”.

With the team captain on the bench with a mangled ankle and the alien cyborg apparently malfunctioning, it came down to the 22-year old Korean reserve to put up a fight against an overwhelming Russian offensive.

Here is hero time for Ha Hansol:

Poor Kovalev, I think he got a bit tense towards the end there. To be frank, he got a bit lucky on that last point too. That was the theme of his day:

This time, he got away with it by the skin of his teeth. The last few comps have not been so forgiving. As a result, Nikolay Kovalev gets the 2015 award for “Most Inexplicable Team Anchor”.

And so we reach the winner of the actual 2015 World Cup, about which it seems nobody cares at all.

We're accepting his late entry into the 2015 Fencers In Sharp Suits awards, though.
We’re accepting his late entry into the 2015 “Fencers In Sharp Suits” awards, though.

Mr Gu was responsible for our single favourite moment of the Budapest tournament, and claims our prestigious “Most Gu Bongil Thing Ever” award.

That GIF encapsulates everything that he is, in 5.2 seconds. It’s perfection.

Gu also took out another award, “Fencer Most Likely To Successfully Get a Call Flipped By Hugging The Ref”

Finally, a shout out to the winner of the award for “Fencer Most Likely To Be Found Strategically Positioned Next To All The Best Fights With A Video Camera”, our good friend Andrew “CyrusOfChaos” Fischl. Love your work, dude.

Apithy v Kim
He gets cameos in all the coolest action shots.

That’s all for now!

A sad departure: Retirement of Won Wooyoung and Oh Eunseok from the FIE circuit

We’ve been busy with a few major projects as late, but have been prompted to break radio silence by some unexpected news from Korea. Their national qualification tournament was held over the weekend:

korean nationals tableau
Spoiler alert: Gu Bongil didn’t win. Also if anyone has video of the final between Kim JH and Kim JH, they will be handsomely rewarded.

The new 2015/2016 squad was announced shortly after the event.

  • Gu Bongil
  • Ha Hansol
  • Kim Junghwan
  • Kim Junho
  • Oh Sanguk
  • Song Jonghun
  • Sung Junmo
  • Yu Gyutae

Two names are conspicuously absent from that list.

Where is this guy??
Where is this guy??
And this guy?? Where is this guy??
And this guy?? Where is this guy?? Where will I get my hilarious counterattack GIFs from now?

Oh Eunseok and Won Wooyoung  have retired from the Korean national team and will not be competing internationally this season. While some fallout from the team’s disappointing run at Moscow was expected, I think most observers were anticipating that the Big 4 would stay together until after Rio.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one sad to see these guys go from the FIE circuit. Both Won and Oh are among the most creative, exciting and influential fencers of their generation. They’ve introduced radical changes to our understanding of what sabre can be, and in doing so have made it a lot more fun to watch.

In the spirit of getting all nostalgic and sentimental, I’m going to be watching these on loop over the next few days, possibly while drinking red wine and crying:

This is, of course, all part of the great circle of life. Where the old guard falls, a new generation of absurdly trollish K-pop warriors and genetically engineered superfencers arise.

On that optimistic note, I’ll conclude with this ridiculous maneuver from Oh Sanguk, because why not.

I’ll be watching his future career with interest.

Still going to miss the original, though.
Still going to miss the original, though.

Saw that coming: A World Champs recap

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015 World Champion:

(Photo credit: FIE)
No, not the giant heroic-looking German guy. The one next to him in the white, who looks like he’s flipping off the photographer behind his flowers. Yeah, that guy. (Photo credit: FIE)

I’m going to allow myself a little smugness here. I totally called it.

CALLED IT
I gotta start putting money on these things.

In fact, I called it at around about an hour after Kovalev summarily dispatched a hapless Gu in the final of the 2014 world champs in Kazan. Slouched among the empty wine bottles at about 4am (watching live sabre in Australia is strictly an exercise for the hardcore), we started looking at the host venue for the next year: Moscow.

Well that’s easy, I said. Yakimenko will win. Calling it right now.

All hail our new Russian overlord.
All hail our new Russian overlord.

We’ll be going through things in  detail over the next few days as the videos go up. There were a few surprises and a few notable omissions at the top of the table:

2015 wch top 10

Moscow, it seems, does not agree with Gu Bongil. The world #1 crashed out in a shock upset loss in the quarterfinals for the second time in two months. This was his first defeat by Daryl Homer, delivered by a crushing string of parries. Homer was having a killer day, and continued the insane parry theme through to the semifinals:

He was generally in classic trick-shot form:

daryl homer does the thing
Cool! (Photo credit: FIE)

Yakimenko, meanwhile, was busy making people very sad. First came Kim, who was the only one to pose a serious threat to the eventual champion, with an aggressive start to the bout:

Intense.
Intense. (Photo credit: FIE)

Then things went less well for the Korean:

Photo credit: FIE
Kim is not happy. (Photo credit: FIE)

In fairness, though, wasn’t all Yakimenko’s fault. I’d probably cry too at this call.

With that out of the way, it was Hartung’s turn:

Hartung is not happy
Hartung is also not happy. (Photo credit: FIE)

And then finally Homer:

Photo credit: FIE
Daryl Homer isn’t too happy either. (Photo credit: FIE)

 

It was very nice to see Homer and Hartung get so far. Both displayed career-best form and produced some spectacular fencing. In the end, though, the result was profoundly conclusive.

Yakimenko smash
Hail Russian overlords, etc. (Photo credit: FIE)

Our prediction for teams, meanwhile, is clear: The Koreans are going to murder everyone.

Always ok to take photos with fans
Yup. These guys. Murder.

They were by far the most consistent squad on the day. Oh Eunseok returned to form with a furious vengeance, demolishing Limbach and Kovalev in the coolest bouts of the tournament. His trademark upper body work was letting him pull off extraordinary sneak hits in the 4m, which we’ll have a look at later in the week as soon as the videos go up.

Anyway, after the outcome of the quarterfinals, I suspect Team Korea is going to be out for some redemption. Or at least blood. Stay tuned for Friday!

In other news, Gu got the last laugh in the end: his 5th place finish was enough to keep him in the world #1 spot he’s occupied the entire season, and seal his second consecutive overall World Cup title.

That doesn't warrant a smile though. Sabre is serious business, Mr Szilagyi.
That doesn’t warrant a smile though. Sabre is serious business, Mr Szilagyi.

 

There’s no neat videos of individual bouts yet, but the full streams are available on YouTube.

Finals:

T32-8:

Sudden Death: Montano (ITA) v Wagner (GER)

The Moscow Grand Prix was on the weekend, and boy, was it something.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many extraordinarily tight 14-14 matches in one tournament before. We’ll be taking a look at some of the best bits over the next week, but I only have time today for one hit. This little beauty was the first one of the night to leave my jaw on the floor:

The most exciting thing to come out of this whole event is that OMG, the FIE have actually done their job and posted every single match, edited and searchable, on the FIE Video YouTube channel, which means I don’t have to spend 12 hours doing it for them. Hooray!

More of this, please!

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

11258580_10153363423215407_203182681_n
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.

Young guns: Padua World Cup recap, part 1: Oh Sanguk (KOR) v Aldo Montano (ITA)

The first men’s sabre World Cup for 2015 was in Padua over the weekend. A number of interesting things happened, but the main theme is that the kids these days just ain’t go no respect for their elders.

I’ll be looking at them one at a time over the next few days as I get a chance to go through the videos. First up, I think we’d better get the really big news of the comp out of the way, and that’s Aldo Montano’s rockin’ topkot.

Montano topknot

The other substantive news was that Kamil Ibragimov absolutely smashed it. The lightning quick 21-year old has been a fencer I’ve been keeping an eye on for the last year, and weirdly enough I was actually going to post him this week in my Fencers-I-Want-To-See-More-Of series.  We got to see an awful lot of him on the weekend, and it was pretty great.

ibragimov jump
As seen on the right, flying.

ibragimov gold

Ibragimov taking gold at a world cup is cool and possibly a little unexpected, at least this soon, but he’s got a pretty solidly established rep. What was not expected was that a 19-year old rookie, fresh out of high school with zero international comp experience at any level, would be on the podium with him. But that’s what happened.

Look at the size of this kid.
On the right. Look at the size of this kid.

Oh Sanguk entered the comp seeded 999. The first sign of trouble was when he smashed up the poules, seeding second behind Aliaksandr Buikevich. He then preceeded to cut a swathe through the competition. First came Szatmari:

Then he drew Montano. For a while, it looked like nature was going to take its course and the score blew out to 11-6 Montano’s way. Then he began to tire, and Oh did not show mercy.

It’s like someone thought “Hey, Gu Bongil’s advance lunge is pretty good. But wouldn’t it be better if he was 7 feet tall?”

By the last point they had both fallen several times and were both looking a little delicate, but the young Korean brought it home:

The live stream of the 64 to 8 is here, with Oh v Montano from 1:36:00 in. I’ve already given away the ending, but it’s worth a look anyway.

The youth of today, man.

Photo credit: Augusto Bizzi
Photo credit: Augusto Bizzi

More to follow!

Guest post: Match analysis of Russia v France, Kazan 2014

This is a guest article by Rob Cawdron. Rob is a Sabre coach based at Shakespeare’s Swords Fencing Club in the UK. You can reach him on Facebook.
 

France v Russia – Kazan 2014: Analysis and Commentary

 

France v Russia should always be fascinating match up, but recently these matches haven’t quite lived up to the billing. Russian sabre is in a really dominant position, and has been since the appointment of Christian Bauer. French sabre has been, by comparison, stuck out in the wilderness a bit: they had poor results at London 2012 and haven’t had any fencer ranked consistently in the world top 10. But when you’re talking about top performers on the big stage, the form book can go out the window, and this match had some really interesting twists.

Let’s look at the lineups.

French men's sabre team 2014

Team France is made up of Bolade Apithy, Vincent Anstett and Nicolas Rousset as the finisher. There’s nothing too revolutionary here, the French have basically picked on form from individual results.

Rousset is enjoying the best results of his career to-date and, at 26, is the youngest member of this French team. His fencing exemplifies everything I love about French sabre: he’s really dynamic, his movements are powerful and he loves nothing more than sweeping down the piste with a big attack.

Next we have Anstett. He’s the oldest fencer on the team and has been around since 2002, but is currently enjoying a bit of a revival, with his best results since 2007. Probably the most consistent performer of this French team, he may not have the same penchant for outrageous flair that the other two do, but he’s a powerhouse and brings a great work-rate to the team.

Apithy is a name well known to a lot of people who follow the circuit, he’s exciting, he’s powerful, he’s fast and when he’s “on it” he can be utterly irresistible. He enjoyed a great period in the run up to London 2012, although he’s fallen away a bit recently. I’d love to see a return to peak form.

Russian men's sabre team 2014

The Russian line-up makes for interesting reading. Alongside Italy and South Korea, the defending world champions make up the real “Galacticos” of modern Men’s Sabre. All four of these guys are ranked in the world top 15: Veniamin Reshetnikov, Nikolay Kovalev, Alexey Yakimenko and Kamil Ibragimov. Reshetnikov and Yakimenko are both ranked in the top 10, Kovalev has just won the Individual title in Kazan, and Yakimenko came third. Reshetnikov was Senior World Champion in 2013. Ibragimov was Junior World Champion. Need I go on?

The thing to notice about their selection though, is two big calls; 2013 World Champion Reshetnikov is on the bench and the new boy, Kamil Ibragimov, is finishing. Both of these will shape the match to come.

Now we know the teams, let’s look at what to expect. One of the things that makes this most interesting is that both Russia and France generally favour similar tactics, but get there in very different ways. Both nations favour a more defensive outlook in the 4m, looking to defeat their opponent’s initial action, then scoring themselves, but the way this is achieved by both nations is very different.

The French favour fencing at a wide distance, in the 4m and out, and this informs their decision making. They generally look to make their opponents miss before setting up long attacks where they sweep in with a step-lunge. The Russians by contrast fence much closer, looking to get to lunge distance and work there. This means they are able to immediately punish mistakes and consequently score a lot of parry ripostes and attacks on preparation. This very different but also strangely similar ideology is evident throughout the match. Let’s take a look.

The first match up is Rousset against Yakimenko and right away we can see the different distance games at work from the two fencers. Rousset has some early joy keeping the distance wide in the 4m enabling him to make Yakimenko miss and score with a long attack on the first point. Textbook French sabre.

He also uses this distance very effectively on defence, scoring three counter-attacks to Yakimenko’s wrist as Alexey rushes into a wider distance than he’s used to. Yakimenko recovers with a change in emphasis. Looking to attack aggressively in the 4m, he takes advantage of some less than fully committed attempts by Rousset to make him miss and helping him get to 4-4.

Rousset closes out with some more classic French style, making Yakimenko miss before sweeping him down again.

5-4 France. The line in the sand has been drawn early.

Next up is Apithy against Ibragimov and it doesn’t get much more dynamic than these two! Ibragimov is a superb 4m fencer, he’s brave, he starts slow and he gets close. He reaps the rewards early on here, scoring two very clean attacks on preparation, but Apithy is no mug and scores a parry riposte by drawing that same attack on preparation and dealing with it. Emphatically.

Like Yakimenko, Ibragimov struggles to deal with the French distance while he’s attacking and he too gets picked off with some counter-attacks on the wrist. He keeps in touch though, largely thanks to his superb 4m game, and takes the score to 9-9. The last point is a biggy: Ibragimov gets the attack, but makes a big change to his finish, instead of closing the distance and looking to score with a lunge as he’s tried, and failed, to do previously, he attacks from a much wider distance with an accelerating step-lunge, completely catching Apithy by surprise.

Anstett and Kovalev are up next and this one starts off a bit scrappy. Both of these guys like to prepare deep into the 4m and both are pretty offensive. They pick off each other’s mistakes in decision making and sharpness early on, but neither feels in control. We do however have a continuation of the sub-plot which has been developing of Russians struggling to find the distance to finish their attacks. Kovalev is the one who makes the change in the 4m and since he’s trailing, that’s understandable. He starts making a shorter preparation and the match cleans right up. He takes a really sharp parry riposte off an Anstett reprise, a proper Russian hallmark.

But in the end it’s Anstett who comes out on top. Kovalev widening the distance gives Anstett license to be really aggressive with his own preparation and he takes advantage with a big committed attack and a big parry riposte to close.

We’re now a third of the way through and there’s some themes evolving. The Russians are really struggling to deal with a wider French distance while attacking and it’s causing massive headaches, but the French aren’t able to capitalise in the 4m because of how strong the Russians are when it’s close. Pretty much stalemate, but momentum slightly with France for now.

Apithy and Yakimenko take us into the fourth and it’s the same story playing out. Yakimenko is preparing deep and making good decisions in the 4m, able to rattle off the points. However he’s still having an absolutely mare on his attack, Bolade seems to be aware of this because he attacks seemingly without fear of missing, backing himself on defence. The scores tick up, the highlight being a trademark Apithy attack (Allez Bolade!!!), full of dynamism and explosive speed.

In the end though, it’s French defence and Russian attacking woes which seals the fight. Apithy capitalises on Yakimenko’s struggles with an outrageous counter-attack after opening the distance massively.

20-17, advantage; France

The fifth match is Rousset-Kovalev, and right away Rousset gets himself into trouble like he did against Yakimenko with some non-committed attempts to make Kovalev miss. He’s punished and quick as a flash, scores are level. Rousset however, goes back to doing what Rousset does best. He gets the distance wide in the 4m and goes to work on Kovalev with the same counter-attacks to wrist we saw earlier and then injects some real French Va-Va-Voom on his attack.

Kovalev gets one back with a classic Russian parry-riposte, but in the end it’s Rousset who closes it out. That makes it 25-22, Russia still with it all to do.

Anstett and Ibragimov take up, what could prove a big leg. Both fencers continue with deep preparations, picking off points. Ibragimov scores in the 4m, Anstett when it goes long. Ibragimov then begins to change up his preparation, sometimes preparing short, sometimes deep. Anstett looks rattled and Ibragimov is able to take Russia into the lead, continuing with his change of attacking from wider distance that we saw against Apithy.

30-28, the lead changes hands thanks to some really intelligent fencing from the young Russian.

Russia make the big call for the seventh match against Apithy. Reshetnikov in for Kovalev, 2013 World Champion replacing 2014. Reshetnikov is one of the absolute best defensive 4m fencers out there and he sets about proving it here with a mix of counter-attacks, parries and attacks on preparation. He’s preparing deep and punishing the slightest mistake. Apithy scores with a trademark flamboyant sweep down the piste, but Reshetnikov answers with an equally emphatic little number of his own.

35-30 to Russia and Reshetnikov has given the Russians a real lift. It’s on Anstett now to try and kill this Russian momentum.

The tension is apparent in this crucial eighth leg. Lots of simultaneous actions, both fencers keen to avoid a mistake. Its Yakimenko though who’s the more creative with his preparation in the 4m and his bravery pays off, his attack finally clicks into gear at the right moment and he finishes Anstett off with some brilliantly varied actions in the 4m.

40-31 now, the lead is extended and it’s all on Rousset now to cause the upset against Ibragimov who’s been simply brilliant this match.

The young Russian does it in some style. His 4m game has been on all match, but he’s got the distance perfectly tuned on his attack now and it’s utterly unstoppable in this final leg.

He seals it with one of the cleanest Attacks on Preparation in the 4m you’re likely to see.

And there we have it. Russia advances to the semi-finals of the World Championships as 45-34 winners over France.

France started really well, and were pretty dominant out of the 4m. The Russians really struggled to adapt to the French distance, but the French were unable to really gain any control in the 4m, and that kept Russia in it. Kamil Ibragimov was superb, the star performer of the Russian team, he made the crucial adjustments to get his attack going and led the Russian fight back. Reshetnikov’s seventh leg really took it away from France, and they couldn’t recover at the end.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this commentary and found it entertaining and/or informative. Comments and discussion welcome!

Regards,

Rob