Category Archives: Comps and news

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 ROU CSM IASI DOLNICEANU Tiberiu 1988
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

1982
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
14 FRA 24 SOUFFELWEYE ANSTETT Vincent 1982
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
22 BLR SC TUFB PRYIEMKA Valery 1983
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.

Using Elo to pick winners

Facebook turned up something interesting this morning, via the guys at the fantastic Swordsport Productions page:

msi elo

It comes from the guys over at The Fencing Coach. They’ve used the Elo rating system, which was developed for chess but is now used across a range of sports to track player performance and predict match results. It’ll be fascinating to see how it stands up to the experimental test tomorrow in Kazan. It pretty much exactly mirrors my predictions last week, which have been based largely on anecdotal observation of the 2013/2014 A-grade season. Here’s to a Kim v Reshetnikov final!

Those of you who’ve trained at Sydney Sabre may already be familiar with Elo: it’s the system we use for our internal ranking scoreboard. The data we collect is not as useful for predicting the results of a standard competition, as we include the results of matches fenced with handicaps, but it is  an extremely powerful predictor of match outcomes under our standard club training conditions, and functions very well in its primary role as a matchmaking system.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t based on the win/loss results over the season, as a true Elo model should be, only on the FIE ranking at the end of the season. The aim is apparently to do a proper Elo model over 2014/2015, and it will be very interesting to see how that stacks up against the more traditional FIE points-based rankings.

How about tomorrow’s comp? Here’s the big table:
World Champs table

As far as Friday goes, my personal suspicion is that an on-form Szilagyi has the edge on Reshetnikov if the two should meet in the semifinal. Szilagyi, however, is likely to face a couple of difficult early matches against the kind of awkward fencers he traditionally has trouble with.  Given the table above, my pick is for a Kim/Szilagyi final, in which Szilagyi will probably have the upper hand given Kim’s recent spate of injuries.

That said, margins in sabre are so small that attempts at casual punditry are unlikely to end well. This is why a true Elo model for 2015 would be so tremendously exciting.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Russians are back just in time for Kazan

The FIE rankings have been updated before World Championships, which starts next week in Kazan, Russia.

After their utter domination of European Championships, where they took 1st, 2nd and 3rd in individual and 2nd in teams after a nail-biting 44/45 loss to Italy, the Russians are back on top, with 412 points giving them a commanding lead over Italy (332) and Korea (328). The won the world team championships in 2013, and are looking pretty unstoppable again this year.

Image: News.Xinhua
Image: News.Xinhua

In individual men’s sabre, Veniamin Reshetnikov has narrowly edged out Jung Hwan Kim of South Korea to take the world #1 ranking, which he had previously held at the end of the 2013 season. The experienced left-hander was also the 2013 World Champion, deafeating team-mate Nikolay Kovalev in a surprise upset in the final in Budapest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Kim lost his position after being elimated in the round of 8 at Asian Championships after being injured in a (frankly highly questionable) bout against Ali Pakdaman (Iran). He now trails Reshetnikov by just 5 points (308 to 303).

Video presented without further comment.

Kim, however, recovered his form three days later in the team event at Asian Championships, putting on a spectacular performance in the final against Japan.

Pretty convincing.

Narrowly behind Kim in 3rd place on the individual rankings is Aron Szilagyi, on 194 points. Both Kim and Szilagyi have fenced Reshetnikov this season, and both defeated him.  I’d be pretty happy to see a rematch of either bout in the finals in Kazan next week.

Moscow 2014: L4: Kim v Reshetnikov

Athens 2014: L4: Szilagyi v Reshetnikov

However, if he’s recovered from his injury scares and is fencing the way he was last weekend in the teams in Suwon City, my money is on Kim to regain his individual #1 spot. The open question is whether he, along with a recently revitalised Gu Bongil, can drag the Koreans over the line to their first team World Championship title.

Image: AP
Image: AP

Whatever the outcome, Kazan is shaping up to be an interesting comp.