Category Archives: Comps and news

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry: Chung (KOR) v Dolniceanu (ROU)

Welcome back to Epic Hit of the Day! First up, have a bloody gorgeous counterparry, then I’ll give the backstory.

That’s a thing of beauty, right there. Tell me again about how the Koreans have bad bladework. No really, do go on.

On the left we have Tiberiu Dolniceanu. He is an incredibly competent and powerful fencer, probably the best all-rounder on the circuit. Everything about his game is clean, solid and well-executed. He’s been world #1 on several occasions and has won swathes of world cup medals. I watch his bouts when I’m having trouble sleeping, and they fill me with a soothing reassurance that some things are still right in the world.

On the right we have Chung Hojin, one of the new generation of Korean sabreurs trained by Lee Hyokun in Busan, following in the footsteps of Gu Bongil and, before him, Oh Eunseok. He’s very young and has developed remarkably just in the last twelve months, and is turning more and more into something really interesting, but he’s yet to break into of the world top 50 despite a couple of top-32 and top-16 finishes.

The two met in New York in the 32 and the first section of the bout went pretty much exactly as you’d expect: Dolniceanu was strong, confident, assured and curb-stomping the fast but jittery young Korean. Then Chung went off-script, abandoned the 4m, and pulled off a series of jaw-droppingly cocky fall-shorts,  stop hits, and counterattacks.

Wait, that didn’t go according to plan. Try again.

Well that was horrible and traumatic. Better close the distance just a- OH WAIT

Angry now! More power! Big attack is big –

Right, dude, get your act together. He’s given up ROW again, just settle down into the march, you got this – FAIL

After that little performance, Chung led Dolniceanu staggering into the 8 point break with a two-point deficit.

After the break Chung returned to the 4m, and Dolniceanu got his act back together and tightened his attacks. Even got a lovely flunge in, as he likes to do.

Ooooooooooh nice.

He built back a solid lead, but the tension left both guys a bit jumpy and Chung wound up with a yellow for an early start. Then this happened:

If anyone can explain to me why it’s Chung who gets the card here, I’d appreciate it. The refereeing in this bout was excellent, but this just seems a little weird. Chung certainly did not appreciate it, and unleashed a can of weapons-grade whupass on the Romanian, starting with that magnificent parry at the top. God only knows how it would have turned out if he’d had more than one point left to lose.


That was a Gu Bongil attack on prep, right there. That footwork hurts. You don’t do that footwork unless you seriously want to mess someone up. Chung’s a pretty chilled out kid, but I think he was annoyed.

The whole match is available courtesy of Andrew Fischl at CyrusofChaos, to whom this sport owes a great debt. Seriously, the guy is the best. Go check out his page.

Meanwhile in Australia: National Championships and a distinguished vistor

Sorry for the lack of updates! When I’m not writing this, I run a large sabre club in Sydney, and last week we had a rather exciting visitor:

master and apprentice

The gentlemen on the right is Hyokun Lee, the new head coach of the Korean men’s sabre team and the man responsible for unleashing this upon the world:

To say that the information gained in the past week has changed the way we think about sabre is to put it mildly, but we’re still trying to figure out how much is allowable for publication. Even if most of it isn’t, it’ll still be reflected in updates to the analysis we’re doing of matches, particularly in the technical aspects.

HKL DHK Lesson day 1

The reason Mr Lee was in town was to visit another one of his students, Donghwan Kim, who fences and coaches at our club. We all took a lovely road trip down to Canberra, a 3 hour drive during which many extraordinary things were learned about the history of Korean sabre, about which I will write later. We were visiting Canberra for the Australian National Fencing Championships. Here’s the final, which was a bit lacking in tension but had some nice sabre:

Hopefully I’ll have some more time to get back into some analytical stuff over the next few days. Then, the New York Grand Prix!

et voilá: Gu (KOR) v Szilagyi (HUN)

First off, apparently I’m not that bad at this sabre prediction thing!

The 2014-2015 FIE season got started in spectacular fashion last night in Budapest. There were some major upsets in the 64 and 32, with Kovalev, Kim, Won, Samele, Homer and Dolniceanu losing early, and Berrè and Wagner injured. There was a whole herd of dark horses in the 8:

Budapest T8

From the 8,  nature took its course pretty quickly, with Szatmari, Yagodka, Hwang and Huebers being fairly comprehensively overpowered by the top 4. The full stream is available here:

Szilagyi and Montano’s bout was tense and dramatic, with some excellent fencing on both sides. Yakimenko v Gu, on the other hand, was a massacre. By the time they were about 5 points in, I’d already called the comp for Gu.  The only thing that could have stopped him would have  would have been Szilagyi at the absolute peak of his game. There were two possibilities for the final:

  1. Under enormous pressure to win on his home turf in the 100th anniversary year of his national federation, Szilagyi would rise to the occasion with incredible heroics and the greatest fencing of his life.
  2. Under enormous pressure to win on his home turf in the 100th anniversary year of his national federation, Szilagyi would lock up, and Gu would toy with him in the same way he’d earlier toyed with Limbach and Yakimenko.

Take a careful look at the following clip and try to figure out which scenario happened:


The first half of the match was cold-blooded murder. It wasn’t until around 10/4 until Szilagyi finally stopped thinking about the big trophy and started taking things point by point.  By 14, Gu was just slightly tense, and Szilagyi started to fight back.

This one in particular was a classy hit:

Gu’s lead was so commanding, however, that it was a futile effort, and Gu brought things home with a ludicrously fortuitous counterattack. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is your epic hit of the day:

Gu will, fairly obviously, maintain his #1 world ranking with an expanded lead. Szilagyi will move into second place, ahead of Kim. The next comp is in just three weeks, in New York.

Budapest podium

Nice work, gentlemen.

Changes to the 4m

A proposal from Russia to the FIE Congress:

“t.17.3. In saber fencing The Referee places each of the two competitors in such a way that the back foot of each is 2 meters from the center line of the piste (that is, in front of the ‘on-guard’ lines).”

I’d like to address this in the kind of serious and systematic fashion it deserves:

lol wut?

I guess they’re sick of getting hit with this:

2014-2015 FIE men’s sabre season starts tonight!

It’s that time of year again: The first comp of the men’s sabre FIE season, the Budapest World Cup, starts tonight.

  • Preliminary rounds: 12am AEDT Saturday
  • IndividualTableau of 64 starts 8pm AEDT Saturday
  • Teams starts 6pm AEDT Sunday.

Live results will be available right here. Live video streams are here.

Here’s a reminder of how last year went down:

There were some concerns that last year’s champion, Kim Junghwan, was out of action due to injury, but it seems he’s there and ready to defend his title. It’s the 100th anniversary of the Hungarian Fencing Federation, so I suspect they might be out for some gold themselves. Wonder who might be the favourite here?


Impossible to say.

Szilagyi, like the rest of the top 16, will be having the day off today, but if you’d like to get yourself in the mood for tomorrow, try this out if you haven’t already:


Battle Royale: Gu (KOR) v Kim (KOR)

Today’s epic hit comes from the much-anticipated deathmatch between two team mates, World #1 and World #2, Gu Bongil and Kim Junghwan. The winning point from Gu in the 2014 Asian Games final is one of the most beautiful fencing actions I’ve ever seen. It’s the last word on attack-on-prep in the 4m.  Here it is from a bootleg HD version of the official coverage (which unfortunately only covers the last 3 points):

It also gave us what must be just about the best sabre photo of all time, captured by David Sim. Incredible.

Gu v Kim

Anyway, after a month of searching, we’ve finally got video (albeit unofficial) of the whole match. Took a lot of wrangling of the Korean fencing grapevine, but we got there in the end. Unofficial video of the full match is available on Youtube, thanks to Lee KyuJun:

Pretty full-on match. Rowdy crowd is rowdy. Much excitement! Kim is crazy tense, and Gu knows exactly how to exploit that, as that last attack makes only too clear. My only question is why Gu gets so many video appeals: I counted at least 4 unsustained. If anyone can enlighten me, please do.

2014 World Championships: Men’s sabre teams start tonight

Men’s sabre teams starts today with the round of 32 from 2pm Kazan/8pm AEST. Here’s the big table:

World Champs teams big table

We’ll be watching France v Georgia (go France!) and Iran v Egypt. Live results are available here.

The round of 16 onwards is tomorrow from 1pm Kazan/7pm Sydney. Given the way the individual fencers were performing on Friday, I’d love to see an epic showdown between Russia and Korea in the final. This will depend on both Russia and Korea being able to get past their traditional kryptonite opponents; Germany and Italy respectively. I have a fair bit of faith in the Russians being able to pull this off, but the Koreans are less of a sure bet. They’ve never had a great deal of trouble against Romania, but their record against the incredibly consistent Italian team is weak.

If Gu is well rested and Oh and Won continue their sudden return to form, they may  be able to pull it off even if Kim is still injured. If the other three are even vaguely awake and Kim stages the kind of recovery he did two weeks ago at Asian Championships, they should have it in the bag.

A Russia v Italy final would also be highly worth watching. The Italians showed a few weeks back at European Championships that they’re capable of taking down the Russian team on their home turf, and a rematch is pretty sure to make for some good television.

2014 men’s sabre world champs: individual wrap-up

First off, congratulations to Nikolay Kovalev of Russia for landing his first individual World Championship title. The 28 year old right-hander is known for his very dynamic fencing style and has long been my favourite sabreur on the Russian team, and it’s great to see the him return from a long spell of bad luck and ill health to the top of his game.

Image:  Mikhail Shapaev
Image: Mikhail Shapaev

To say that an a-grade sabre competition was tight and had a lot of upsets is enough of a bland cliche as to be almost totally meaningless. As noted in my last post, the margins in this sport are so small as to make a mockery of attempts at casual punditry.  I don’t think Kovalev had many serious backers predicting gold at yesterday’s event, with the numbers favouring Kim, Szilagyi and Reshetnikov and most coaches favouring Szilagyi in particular.

The results last night played out very differently from these comfortable expectations.

1 RUS KOVALEV Nikolay 1986
2 KOR NZ GU Bongil 1989
3 RUS YAKIMENKO Alexey 1983
5 HUN Vasas SZILAGYI Aron 1990
6 ITA MONTANO Aldo 1978
7 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen HARTUNG Max 1989
8 KOR WON Woo Young

9 KOR KIM Junghwan 1983
10 ITA Fed. Italiana Scherma BERRE´ Enrico 1992
11 ITA OCCHIUZZI Diego 1981
12 FRA 09 DIJON CE ROUSSET Nicolas 1988
13 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen LIMBACH Nicolas 1985
15 ROU BADEA Alin 1988
16 KOR OH Eunseok 1983
17 RUS National team RESHETNIKOV Veniamin 1986
18 ITA SAMELE Luigi 1987
19 USA HOMER Daryl 1990
20 RUS National team IBRAGIMOV Kamil 1993
21 BLR RCPhES BUIKEVICH Aliaksandr 1984
23 UKR Netishyn PUNDYK Dmytro 1989
24 KAZ MOKRETCOV Ilya 1984
25 UKR Musketeer Odessa YAGODKA Andriy 1988
26 USA SPEAR Jeff 1988
27 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen WAGNER Benedikt 1990
28 HUN Kertvaros DECSI Tamas 1982
29 GEO FC Kutaisi BAZADZE Sandro 1993
30 FRA 09 DIJON CE APITHY Bolade 1985
31 GER NR TSV Bayer Dormagen SZABO Matyas 1991
32 IRI ABEDINI Mojtaba 1984

Reshetnikov was taken out in the round of 32 by Won Wooyoung, who was fencing well above the form he’s shown so far this season. Kim was on track to cruise to a comfortable victory over Kovalev in the round of 16 when his hand was injured yet again, a moment which ended any chance he might have had of claiming the gold. Szilagyi, as I had feared, was clearly worn down by an arduous bout against a thuggish and unsubtle Sandro Bazadze and was subsequently outclassed by Gu Bongil in the round of 8.
The result was a top 4 which had only one of the pre-comp favourites. Dolniceanu had a pretty easy run of it up to the quarterfinals, but was crushed by Kovalev in a brutal and one-sided semi. The bout between Gu and Yakimenko showed all the classic hallmarks of the Korean’s game, with Gu trailing 8/5 at the break before surging back to a 15/12 win.

Gu's chasing game is almost as characteristic as his lunge.
Gu’s chasing game is almost as characteristic as his lunge.

After those performances, I do not think I was alone in expecting a close final. I felt that Gu had put in a stronger performance on the day and probably had the edge on Kovalev, who had benefited from a series of lucky breaks (Kim’s injury, favourable refereeing against Aldo Montano, a fairly lackluster semifinal from Dolniceanu). Then this happened (start from 2:30:00, fixed start times are not possible from the streams for some reason):

Not a nice bout.

Up to about 6/0, I admit I was wondering when Gu was going to quit playing around and initiate his usual game plan: allow his opponent to build a convincing lead, then launch a vicious 10/0 run of heavily-angulated flat hits and point-counterattacks. By the break, 8/0 down, it became apparent that the cavalry was not coming, and that the notoriously delicate young Korean sabreur had run out of gas even more catastrophically than he had against Szilagyi in the final at Padova earlier this season.

In the end though, it was a very well-deserved win by Kovalev, and a podium which neatly reinforced the perils of idle speculation before sabre competitions.

Photo: FIE
Photo: FIE

In the aftermath of the comp, the rankings table has undergone a major reshuffle. Gu had done enough to leap to world #1 for the first time since 2010, narrowly edging out his team-mate Kim, who retained his #2 spot. Reshetnikov has suffered a major fall from grace, allowing an impressively consistent Italian team to round out the top 10 behind Szilagyi, Yakimenko and Dolniceanu.  Kovalev has been joined by a resurgent Won to jump back into the top 16.

Current FIE rankings MSI, 2014-07-19
Current FIE rankings MSI, 2014-07-19

I know I’ve just declared that prediction is a mug’s game, but I sure am looking forward to a tight race between Russia, Korea and Italy in Monday’s team event.

I guess that means stay tuned for a Romania v Germany final.