2011.08.06 – IAHC Singles Part 2

7 Nov

So after defeating Mark for the first time in  a set, my next opponent was Davis Lee Huynh.  Here’s a video of an interview Dan did with Davis at last year’s Houston tournament:

[vimeo 13515141]

Now, the previous day in doubles, Davis lit Dan and I up for the most part and I was hoping I’d at least get a game, maybe 2 against the 2 time champ.  There was a moment before our match though where after I knew that Davis and I would be playing that I saw Davis and Ehab up by the tournament chart talking.   Ehab gave me a head nod and as I walked up I heard Davis saying “It’s fine, all he has in a right wall, cut attack” to which Ehab made a gesture that I was behind Davis and Davis turned around laughing saying “Hey, what’s up” with a lil bit of a smile.  I had jokingly responded with well that’s the attack I needed to use against Mark and I have a lil something planned for against him.  I’m pretty sure they were joking around with me because Ehab then said, “Good Davis, you just gave him all the motivation he needs now”.   In fact, I knew it’d take a great performance to compete on the level of part of the new guard during a set. (i.e. Davis, Ehab, Danny, & Billy)  We’d see if I would be up for the challenge this time.

Game 1:

Leading into the set, I was thinking that my cut/RW is my stronger attack so I need to feature that but at the same time I need to adjust quickly.  One thing Billy has mentioned is that at the higher tier of play/skill of the higher players, adjustments need to be made quickly in order to have a shot.   Davis and I went point for point up to 3-3 which was one of the longer points of the set.  We each had 3 or 4 possessions and Davis broke that tie to go up 4-3 after I had been called over on a transition cut up near the line that went in.  I still think the puck was on the line or way too close to have been called but alas I did not get that call.  Davis gets up to a 5-3 but I am able to tie it back up after another time delay cut that he moves for and a left wall under that was slightly off target but ends up going off his mallet and in.  5-5 in a game is one of those vital points.  The next to score has a great advantage over the opponent.  Davis scores first and makes it 6-5.  I’m able to tie it on a RWU from the line and stop Davis’ ensuing possession.  I take 6 seconds and call my timeout.  I’ve scored thus far with LWUs, cuts, and RWUs.  My overs have been off target so I decide that I will go with a cut.  Davis flinches slightly and I win game 1, 7-6.

Game 2:

I was lucky to get out of game 2 with a win.  I had a few turnovers and scored on myself once.  My first 3 goals were right wall shots and after that I mixed in some left walls and both straights.  Davis read one of my crosses and charged it off of the table which made me go away from that more than I should have.  Unlike game 1, there wasn’t any point that seemed quite as long as the 3-3 tie in game 1, but yet again though, I found myself down 6-5 and after tying it up 6-6, I was able to chase a puck at the line and get possession from Davis.  The next shot I hit was a cut that fell in to give me a 2-0 lead on Davis.

Game 3:

Davis came out aggressive in game 3.  Scoring on a hard RWO, he was charging  a lot of my shots on defense and overall it was not as great of a game as the other ones.  I lost my mallet on a possession, had one of my missed shots go in as a double bank against Davis, and overall may have played a little too rushed from watching the video.  Davis wins game 3, 7-5.

Game 4:

This game was just about weathering a storm a little bit for me.  Davis seemed to win the possession battle this game but his shots were just missing their mark when he got me to move.  I was able to chase and play the line well and battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie it at 3-3 including a very gutsy and probably ill advised charge at 3-1.  Davis got frustrated with the lack of line calls against me and I think it cost him one point this game because he was saying something to Mike about me being over at one point after losing the puck but I got a left wall in on him while he was off guard. (15:55 in on the video linked below).  Regardless, I am able to win game 4 7-5 and get up to a 3-1 lead.  I just have to win 1 of 3 games.  I knew it would still be a challenge against a player like Davis but the odds at this point were shifting to my favor in this match.

Game 5:

I was able to battle out at the beginning of game 5 and get out to a 4-1 or 4-2 lead.  I hit a touch of bad shot selection at one point after this I think.  I had 2 or 3 right wall unders that were not staying on the table and I kept on going back to it.  The fact that it was flying off of the table wasn’t the issue…the issue with the shot selection was that I think Davis would have blocked them either way.  Davis is able to fight back from that lead and get to a 6-5 lead again.  I’m able to tie it at 6-6.  Here I am at game point for Davis, set point for me…Davis with possession.  I block a right wall shot of his off of the table and get possession.   The cut has been my go to shot in pressure situations in this set and I decide to go back to it.  I get Davis to move slightly but off target.  I try a left wall shot that Davis charges correctly.  I had another shot, maybe a cut and then have to hit a transition right wall off of a chase.  None of which fall.  Davis gains possession and scores with a good right wall under for the game 5 win to reduce the deficit to 3-2.

Games 6 & 7:

Unfortunately game 5 was the only shot I ended up getting at winning the set.  Davis steamrolls me in game 6 for a 7-2 or 7-3 win.  Game 7 ends 7-5 Davis where I believe I didn’t have the lead except maybe early on.  (I didn’t rewatch games 6 and 7…i turn the video off after game 5 each time so I’ll let someone else tell me what happened 🙂 )

Without further ado…video of the set between me vs. Davis.

[vimeo 27813486]

I was very close to making a big impact in this tournament early on the first day.  I played really well against Davis but just shy of what was necessary to beat him.  I got a lot of congrats on the effort during that set afterwards which was great to hear from some of the veterans in the sport but now I have to regroup because while I may be down…I’m not out of the tournament.  Off to the loser’s bracket I go, the first opponent would be Ramiro Castano and then the winner of Dan v. Goran…

… to be concluded…

2011.08.06 – IAHC Singles Part 1

31 Oct

On to the singles portion of the tournament.  After my challenge match win versus Dan (4-3) leading up to Houston and then defending my spot against Donovan (4-0) and Goran (4-3) , I had a great seed going into the singles tournament and I wanted to play well to prove that the spot was deserved….to quote Billy from the forums after I beat Dan (but before playing DLB or Goran):

“I think that Q is playing better vs. Dan, but I’m not sure if Q is performing better against the field. Q needs more tournament experience in order to forge nerves of steel that won’t falter under those stressful situations that only tournaments and challenge matches can provide. In the last three months leading up to the US Open, Q will have played in two major challenge matches and two major tournaments…the US Open could be a huge breakout tournament for him.”

I’m going to save a post solely addressed towards seeding practices and the spinoff structure of IAHC for later on….regardless of that, I was going in as a top 16 seed due to some top players who were not at Vegas.  I’d get 2 rounds of byes from the bottom half of the field into the round of 64.  My first match…against Pete Lippincott.  My first nationals tournament the previous year I lost my first match and I was not going to do that this year.  But as John Song found out in Vegas, you can’t take anyone lightly…even your first match because it could potentially be a player like Javier Pulido.  I don’t recall too many details about this match except for one specific thing.  There were two points where Pete just pulled his mallet off the table while the puck was in play and I had possession.  It was the equivalent of spotting me points which in a national tournament, I would gladly take.  Based on his finish, Pete played really well in this tournament, almost knocking out Phil Arnold at some point and I believe winning his spinoff…either way, I get by PL 4-1, 31-20 (he won game 3, 7-3).

My next set was against Mark Robbins.  Mark almost dropped his first set to Doug Taylor, who played great against Mark and Mark seemed to be a little off in the early get go of that set but Mark rallied and won in 7 against Doug.  I’ve played Mark twice now in a tournament setting.  He’s gotten the best of me both times.  We’ve played pickup games when he’s come to Illinois to practice and they are either close where I can win them or blowouts for Mark.  This would be my first major test this tournament.  Now, I knew I was going to have to play Mark…or at least saw it as a possibility leading into IAHC after examining the possible brackets when we were looking at what our draws would be back home.  I watched a few of the videos of Dan’s match against Mark….mainly the ones where Dan played well and got a set in the match.  Dan used a combination of cuts, right walls and “Bizzaro cuts” to get Mark….The “Bizarro cut” is what we call a shot that goes to the cross side but is shot with the cut motion….I was going to come out after Mark with the same game plan.    Mark wins game 1 7-6 but sticking with the game plan, I am able to rally 7  to 5,4,4,6 for the 4-1 victory.  The first time I’ve beaten Mark in a set ever….this is already a great accomplishment in the tournament and next up in the bracket is going to be Mr. Davis Lee Huynh….

…to be continued…

2011.08.06 – IAHC Doubles

24 Oct

Dan wrote all about the doubles stuff here so I thought I’d add my spin on things and how they went down.

I was debating playing in doubles or not mainly because Dan was saying how he felt tired on the Sunday the previous year in Houston after playing in doubles and I was playing in the weekly as well.  But we had been playing so much air hockey lately at that time where I felt my arm would be okay and it could even be a neat warm up for the main draw.  The weekly the previous night even helped begin to calm some nerves I was having and the doubles would do the same for singles.  The one thing I wanted in doubles though was to have some fun.  Rood and I tore up the amateur division the previous year but he wasn’t going to make the tourny this year so I could only think of one person to play doubles with…Mr. Meyer.  It took him awhile to decide he was going to do it but he came around eventually 🙂  Now as for a team name, I really wanted to go with Rainbows, Unicorns, and Pixies…mainly because they exist in my world.  And what team would be complete without uniforms:

This is our wonderful team logo designed by none other than the amazingly talented Mrs. Sarah Quezada.  (which was the most awkward thing to ask for over dinner one night).  Now what color did Dan I choose to go for with our shirts?  That’s right …. Wild Orchid.  Here we are in our uniforms complete with rainbow wristband accessory:

(note, combined these guys are now >35 lbs lighter…in prime AH shape)

On to the tournament itself:

We pulled our draw of Jacob and Avery.  Rood and I faced these guys last year and they nearly knocked us out.  They’ve been practicing with Tim as their coach I believe and it’d be great to see where they’ve gotten to over the past year.  These guys play pretty good.  There are some really great shots taken by both throughout the match in the video.   You can see that their skills are improving and they are approaching their games in a similar way that Dan and I started.  Learning proper mechanics for complimentary shots, trying to set up those shots, and it’s what worked at the early stages of learning the sport for Meyer and me.

After a shaky start – and really, a very close set.. Q and I overcome these young upstarts. (Meyer, 2011) <–see Dan, it’s okay, I referenced your post, its not copying then.

Now our next set…..well it’s proof as to why people should play in doubles as well.   As a relatively new guy in air hockey, I’ve not played as many different players as others have….for a trip out to such a large player base, if solely playing the singles tournament, the number of opponents you have is limited to your draw and how well you do (obviously).  Doubles, while a completely different strategy than singles is a time to have fun and perhaps you get to try some of your best shots against other top players you wouldn’t normally face.  Such was our next match with Danny and Ehab…the current 1 and 2 in the sport.  I’ve only seen these guys play, never squared up against them.  Dan and I wish we had this set on video….but random thought…there are some photos taken by J.Flores that are awesome from this match of Dan and I playing with Billy in the background watching. I may have to get one of those.  The true highlight for me this match, was a run I made in the middle of the match.  I think I scored 4 points straight against them:

It may have been a fanboy moment but it felt great to get some of those shots in against those guys.  I forget how Dan played but I think he too got a few shots in against them which made him feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.  We thoroughly did enjoy this match though and if anyone has video of it, I would really really like it.

Over to the loser’s bracket.  Our match is against Travis Luscombe and Joe Cain, team FTMFW.   All of the games in this match were close.   It was a good test for Dan and myself.   Dan put all the pressure on me though.  He successfully got us up to set point 5 by scoring on Travis but then proceeded to score on himself to make it 6-6 and give us the puck.  I call time out because I felt I had both the RWU and cut to go at Joe with.  Dan and I discuss and we went with what my gut had said and that would be a cut (time delay, from left of center).  Joe and Travis discussed what shot they thought would come during that time out and thought the cut as well so before I could notice and adjust Joe charged my cut but luckily sent it off of the table.

One of the shots that I hit out of the same look as the cut is my cross-hitch shot and I thought if Joe was going to charge again, he would think cut and the cross would go.  He didn’t charge but I hit a great cross to end the set.  Dan and I do a flying chest bump and on to the next match.  I haven’t figured out which one of us is a bigger Chipotle fan yet but Travis and I joked around and had a mini-side wager going on this match.  The loser would buy the winner a Chipotle burrito.  Dan didn’t remind me of this during the match but luckily that boost of motivation is what I needed to persevere.   Travis was great and bought me and Dan both a burrito for the win.

We went on to play another team – Mark Butler and Tory Evans.   Mark plays a very fast rapid fire type of attack and Tory seems to try to overpower his shots with a superhard mallet.  I don’t remember the exact scores but Dan and I steamrolled I believe.

Our next match was against Davis Huynh and Anthony Marino.  Again, a chance to play a couple of highly ranked players you wouldn’t normally play against at practices and may not see in the main draw.   I think this match lasted a little over 5 mintues to be honest.  We got a few pretty shots in but felt like anything Davis hit found the back of the goal.  Oh well, out of the main draw.

This tourney featured spinoffs… so we got one more chance to elevate us one more place higher. And we got to play a couple very old-school players, Tom Baldus and Robert Hernandez.

They like to play a back rail defense and do some bizarre shit. Tom hit tons of one-twos or just straight up volleyed. Hernandez also featured some great shots… but a defense that should have been much easier to score on.  We lost this one but our highlight match was definitely the “Chipotle bowl” for the Chipotle bowls against Cain and Travis.  We got to play some other top ranked/rated players and most importantly have fun doing it.  Till next years’ doubles….where Dan and I will hope to amaze and amuse again if he’ll have me as a partner 🙂

Till next week reader….ta ta.

2011.10.16: 31-84

16 Oct

So I’ve been playing a lot of air hockey in 2011 (I’ve played 115 Mitic sets!) and it’s one of the reasons that I’ve gotten a lot better over the past year…behind having great sparring partners and an awesome mentor.  What I have not done is gotten better about blogging which will change.  I’ll promise to write something up each Sunday for awhile now.  There are a lot of great things happening on the air hockey front.  There are a lot of players rising in the sport and it’s going to make for some really exciting tournaments in the very near future, the rating system is making a great amount of progress for being implemented in seeding, Mark R. is getting closer to having a table emerge from his company, Shelti….lots and lots of cool stuff.  So to you, my reader (singular since there is probably only one of you) I promise to make a huge effort to write more.  If even just a short little blurb about what has gone on recently on the AH front.  Stay tuned….

2011.08.04 – My First Weekly

27 Aug

The weekend of August 4th-7th was the International Air Hockey Championship….including the Houston weekly handicapped tournament on Thursday night.  I had debated with going and playing in the weekly or not for multiple reasons.  I eventually decided that I would just fly down to Houston on Thursday whether I play in the weekly or not in order to not fly on a day I would have to play in the main IAHC doubles competition.   The only reason I would not play in the weekly would have been if my elbow started acting up since I’ve been having some minor pain while playing air hockey and disc golf. (tennis and golfers elbow and cubital tunnel syndrome….the latter which I still have going on).  Turns out playing in the weekly before the doubles before the singles may have been just what I needed. (more in later posts).

I get to SRO early on Thursday after checking in at the airport and after saying hi to some familiar faces I sit and chat with Blade and his friend Jamie who I met in Vegas.  Blade can be hilarious.  I think his acceptance speech at Vegas had something about needing oxygen and air hockey table providing air so the oxygen we breathe or some shit.   Now, my other strategy which was completely different than the previous tournaments I had played in was that I was going to only warmup on the table with 1-2 games against another IL player…no picking up random games outside of the tournaments for the sake of saving my arm in case I happen to make it to playing on Sunday.  Blade poked fun that I was obviously itching to play because there were a bunch of players playing pick up games until the tournament would start.  “The air was saying my name”  Oh, and I mentioned that Billy would be hopefully making the weekly as well to which Blade said “Oh yeah, I know that Mr. Stubbs.  I saw some old footage of him from like 1979 with him wearing some kind of hat and that announcer was there.”  I had no idea what or who he was talking about but he seemed convinced that he saw footage of Billy play from the late 70s.  I think he mixed up a lot of the archive footage from Way of the Puck.  I just rolled with it.

So after a few hours of hanging out at SRO the weekly tournament starts.  I was playing as a level 4 although the system had me listed as a 3.  The classification levels are used as a way to determine the handicap in each game of the best 2 of 3.  Players can choose to waive their point spot if they choose to do so.   My first set is against Tad Gibson.  I’ve met Tad briefly before but never played against him.  He was also a 4 so this would be a neat way to start off my weekend.  It turns out I really needed to play in the weekly before doubles and doubles before singles to help shake off some pre-tournament jitters.  I can’t recall too much about Tad’s attack but I came out and just played my game.  Time delayed RWU and cuts, with the occasional RWO.  If I needed to I would break out the LW/cross but I beat Tad 7-5, 7-4.  Tad had said this was his first real games/set for a couple months bc of some back issues and after the set he was talking to one of the tournament directors about the lighting….I think it was definitely more the former that hurt him since we’ve been playing a ton of air hockey in Illinois as of late.  I looked into it and since 1/1/11, leading into Houston, I had played over 100 sets (rating sets, tournament sets, or challenge match sets) plus any pickup games/winner stays kind of things we’ve done.  Which reminds me of another point in that while we may have a smaller player base in Illinois, I think the amount of table time per capita is second to none in Illinois and soon this fact would really show with the finishes from the main draw.

While the rest of the first round was being played, I didn’t look at the tournament chart but from talking with Mike Cummings and others, I heard that Colin was playing as a 4 and has been progressing a lot since last year.  I was actually hoping to face Colin just to see how well he has advanced in just a year.   Turns out I would have the chance in the second round.  Colin and I play straight up no point spot and using the same attack that I used against Tad, I was able to win game 1 7-5.  Colin came out really strong in game 2 and I couldn’t stop his overs.  Colin’s main drift from watching him the entire weekend seems to be a fast diamond drift that he hits primarily out of the top of the diamond.   This fast forwards a little bit on the weekend to Sunday but here he is playing against Avery in the Youth 18 and under finals:

[vimeo 27852990]

Now going into game 3, I wanted to really use my cut.    Colin’s defense seemed to jump a lot, often times pulling back all the way to the back rail on every shot, and my cut has really been working for me as of late so with highlighting the cut (maybe 2 to 3 cut to RW) out of an open V off the left rail and my standard drift with a time delay I am able to win game 3 7-3.   Colin, with the right mentors, has the potential to be really great if he sticks with this sport but for now, I was able to win the set against him.

Next up, Steven Accrocco.  I think I spotted Steven 2 or 3 points…not sure which.  In either case Steven plays a very relaxed defense, charges a lot and from watching him play some games doesn’t seem to have too much of a setup to his attack but hits fast overs from the back half of his side and tries to hit a lot of power straights.  The newbie cut and RW attack works extremely well and I win 7-5, 7-4 despite the point spot.

My next set is against another Gibson…this time Chris Gibson, Tad’s son.  Chris plays as a 3 so a 1 point hole…not too bad.  Chris is one of the taller kids so he’ll be able to play the line a bit more easily than others if that is part of his game.  Prior to this, I’ve only seen Chris play in warm up games and I think he uses a super hard mallet.  Now, I understand the appeal of super hard mallets for offense….same swinging power plus harder mallet = faster shots.  But you sacrifice some puck control and a lot of the kids that use these super hard mallets turn over the puck way too much.  I think that was the reason early on in Illinois that Billy told me to switch from my translucent to one of Chris Green’s supersoft mallets.  I had enough power on offense with either mallet but lacked the puck control.   This is what I saw in Chris’s game from watching pick up games.  He tended to be flashy and hit okay shots but lost the puck a lot.  These games were close.  Both games were 7-6s and I was able to win both of them.  I think in the first one I was up 6-5 and the second Chris was up by the same margin.  Billy and I look at the chart and we’re going to be facing off in the semifinals.  Kind of neat that the two Chicago players that show up to the weekly are the two in the semifinals. 🙂

I decide to wave my 2 point spot against Billy.  In a best 2 out of 3, I stand a better shot than a 4 of 7 against him so I thought it’d be good to try to play him straight up. ( 😉 )  Billy wins game 1 7-4, I take a 7-6 game 2, and Billy wins game 3 7-5.  Off to the loser’s bracket I go.  Win this set and then it’s up against Billy again.

My next match is against Anthony Munez.  This kid….he plays a razzle dazzle type offense but has some really ridiculous shots out of it including hitting the puck off his back rail as a shot against his opponents.  They were on target, but slow and extremely easy to read.  But from watching him all weekend, he does have some potential if he removes a lot of the BS that just wouldn’t work against the majority of the player base from his attack.  He was able to win game 2, but games 1 and 3 were good wins for me (7-5s with giving up a 2 point spot).

Next up…again…Billy Stubbs.  Again I wave my point spot.  And again Billy beats me 2-1.  This was a better set though the scores were 7-5, 6-7, 7-5 and I finish second in my first Houston weekly only losing to Billy.  Not bad…not bad at all and after my first set with Tad, I got over some pre-tournament jitters which would make doubles that much more fun…and after all I was teaming up with Mr. Dan Meyer and what would be more fun than that.

2011.05.21 – Because I Got High: Mark Nizzi

21 Jun

So my last post about Colorado.  As I may have mentioned, when I put a msg up on AHW I originally had 3 matches scheduled…Chris, Nick, and Randal.  Randal hurt his arm so left me a voicemail on Friday that Nizzi would be up for playing in his place.  Nizzi had also sent me a message to such effect.   This was going to be a lot of air hockey to go play Nizzi and being so close to a major tournament the adrenaline was telling me to play but the guys back in IL thought another match would be too much air hockey and a risk to injuring my arm before nationals…to which they ended up being right but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to at least play some games against Nizzi if he was up for it.  Luckily for me he was.  After I finished getting beat down by Nick I licked my wounds and gave Nizzi a call.  We were going to meet up in the Rec Center out near Boulder, CO.  This rec center was awesome and is actually makes me want to look for a similar local rec center up by me.  The rec center has 2 prostyle tables available for play at the low cost of a $6 entry fee for non-residents.  If I lived here, I don’t think I would go one day without going in and hitting the puck around for a bit. Nizzi gets there and after some introductions and backstories I decided that it’d be best for me to just have some for funsies games.  I was on a bit of a high from beating Chris and while losing to Nick, getting a set off of a top 12 player so I thought maybe I’d be able to show Nizzi a little something.  First game is a warm up game…..now Nizzi has, what I think is a unique primary defense.  If I remember correctly one arm is on the side rail, his mallet (which I’ll get to in a moment) is playing back rail on what would be his right side.  From there it’s a very aggressive charging defense.   I’ve played a couple of people who charge but nothing like what I saw from Nizzi and hopefully other veteran players can put his defense a little more in perspective in terms of uniqueness.  Oh, Nizzi’s mallet.  Nizzi uses a low top mallet but the thing he does is core out the center (fill it with epoxy?) and the dremel/mill that down to be basically a mold of his grip so that it’s almost and extension of a fist that he can create.  This gives him a very strong punching motion on his charges.  And his charges….Geoffroy had told me what to expect from this defense and said unless I can hit hard fast super accurate LW shots to expect them to be shoved right back down my throat.  Out of curiosity I did try one eventually and sure enough before I could react Nizzi exploded off the back rail and sent the LW right back at me as a RW shot.

We played a ton of games and the take away points are…

  • I won only 2 out of about 20-25 games.  Both were 7-6 games.
  • Nizzi played his secondary defense, more of the traditional diamond, for the last 2/3 of those games.
  • Average score across the 20 games was probably something like 7-3 or 7-4.
  • Nizzi tried for about 1 full game to score primarily with an offspeed straight.  He got one eventually and it was great because somehow I managed to circle around the puck and not stop it.

By the time the games were over my arm was Jell-O and I had to graciously bow out.  I also became jumpy and aggressive on defense where I was trying to charge everything and it was getting a little sloppy on my end so I didn’t want to really push it any further.   Playing the master level players is always great though as it shows how much further there is to develop for me…very humbling.  After the games Nizzi and I went out for a drink and chatted about air hockey for awhile.  He gave me a few pointers to work on and told me that soon I’d have people coming after me since I was starting to climb up the leaderboards…that my win against Chris would cause some to start to take notice.  Also said I was playing at a solid pro level which is great given that it was just under a year since Houston tournament and I was barely playing at the expert level there i think.  And in just under a week or so from CO would be Vegas to see if I could keep up the level of play.

A lil’ Preview

16 Jun

My current to do list:

Rest of the CO trip

Vegas recap

Recent progress/practice/challenges upcoming…as a little teaser, see my last two set scores versus Dan.

2011.05.21 – Because I Got High: Nick Geoffroy

12 Jun

So driving back to the hotel after my match Chris, I was exhausted.  The text messages were flying in and I was setting up the next day.  I got a decent night’s sleep probably based mostly on the exhaustion from the previous match.

Nick was first up on Saturday.  I had talked to Nick briefly when he was in town for IL state.  As I said last time, he had recently gone to Houston and cleaned house against the people he played and then came to IL state and made a good run finishing at his seed. (Except for a couple minor jumps everyone finished where they were seeded….yay the Mitic System)  He played a set against Dan after IL state and I think walked away 4-1 victor there.  From looking at Nick’s history, he’s been playing for awhile and has gone up the ranks into the near master/master range….hell, he won a challenge match against Goran who at this point in time was still someone I couldn’t even get one set off of.  I met Nick at his place where he has a great ProStyle place in the basement.  Much much better than the table Chris and I played on….Nick even offered for Chris and I to switch venues mid match but I didn’t really want to impose or to shift locations mid-match on that one.  We got started and Nick was really in control the whole way in set 1.  I can’t even remember what he was primarily using but I had watched some of his videos from IL state trying to pick up on any tells which I didn’t really see.  His attack seemed very well balanced and I couldn’t really get much going.  Nick coasts 4-1 in set 1.  Set 2 my RW and cut were on.  Nick made some mistakes and turned the puck over where I was really able to capitalize on those mistakes.   After the set Nick said I definitely deserved to win that set.  I wish I had more details about the play on this one but it felt like my offense had to be deceptive and precise.  If it wasn’t a perfect shot, it felt like Nick was blocking it.  Sets 3 through 5 were all Nick and very little Q.  He coasted through to a 4-1 victory in each of those.  This still even as a loss really is a great moment in my air hockey career.  Nick is at this point on 5/21 now the highest ranked player that I have been able to get a set off of.  He’s constantly near the master level and I was able to get a set.  I still fought hard and while it’s not the only reason I lost, I wanted to get feedback from Nick.  And here is a sidetrack comment about all of the people in air hockey that I really find awesome.  Everyone I’ve ever played has been willing to discuss technique or strategy and the higher ranked players are always willing to help out the up and comers.  I felt in sets 3-5 that I had to hit perfect shots on him in order to score.  He gave me very little room for error.  He told me that I fell into a pattern where I was hitting my cuts from a little more left of center and the RWs from right of center.  I was able to use that in set 2 because it was new but once he noticed the pattern he adjusted and I didn’t notice that I was becoming predictable.  Makes sense…I do that every now and then and the improvement in the variance in my attack just didn’t come through this time.  Still…I learned and I took a set off a master-level player. 🙂   A first for me, but not the last time it’ll happen either.

2011.05.20 – Because I Got High: Chris Lee

11 Jun

Great, now I have this song in my head…

The job was sending me to Denver for a conference so once I knew I was going, there were two things on my must do list while in Colorado….1 was go to the original Chipotle (my mecca) and 2 was play some air hockey.  I knew there were a bunch of great players up in that area…..Mark Nizzi, Nick Geoffroy, John Stucky, Keith Fletcher, Chris Lee, Mike Thomas and also a new player who has yet to play in a major tournament but did take a match against Stucky…Randal Leistikow.   To AHW I went and put out a gauge of interest in playing the weekend I was out there and a few of the guys got back to me.  At this point I was ranked in the low 50s and with my practice regiment I was really looking to gain some ranking spots before Vegas, gain some Mitic points to get up the rating system, but most importantly get experience playing other people in other places on different tables.  I had enjoyed flying out east way back when to play Britton and I was really interested to see how the weekend would go.  Geoffroy had done the same in Houston….he flew out, played in their weekly and played 3 challenge matches winning all of the matches and I believe the weekly as well.

The weekend ended up falling into place nicely and the original agenda was to play Chris on Friday night, Nick Saturday early afternoon and Randal in the evening.  Friday night…I drop off my boss at the airport and head over to a Brunswick Zone.  The nerves were going a bit, I was sending text messages left and right and as usual I got to the place insanely earlier than I had to.  I wanted to really check out the place before hand and it was the typical BZ vibe….loud games, lots of kids…stuff I was worried about but Billy reminded me that I was used to it and to just focus on the air hockey to be played.  I did my usual bit of warmup/puck chasing on the table to get a feel for the Photon that was there and Chris showed up.  Chatted for a bit and we got the match going.

Set 1:

I think the main thing I had going through as a gameplan here was to really establish my RW/cut as a primary attack.  The RW is the better of my two banks but I can hit a good left wall.  With the RW/cut, I’d be able to hit my cross and really be deceptive.  My offense was really clicking in set one.  Combine that with a really good transition game playing at a slightly faster pace than I have been at practice and maybe some initial rust from Chris for not having played a lot in the previous weeks and I coast through for a 4-1 win in set 1.

Sets 2-5.

I wish I had written this sooner.  I was sending text updates to the guys back in IL so I had good record of what was going on but these middle sets were a really hard fought back and forth adjustment period.  Chris had eventually shut down my initial attack that was working and I shut down his attack from his reverse diamond further back on the table.  He switched a very slow, very methodical borderline still puck offense with a lot of straight shots and it really got me jumpy on defense.  I switch my offense away from primarily RWU since he had shut that down.  We basically were playing a big game of chess.  I would adjust to something Chris was doing, then he’d adjust to that and back and forth we seemed to go.  Set 2 went 7 games with Chris winning definitively in game 7….Set 3 I was able to come out and start using my LW more and got up 3-0.  Chris then won 2 7-6 games in a row knocking on the door of a possible comeback in that set but I luckily got the 7-6 win in game 6.   Set 4 was probably the point where Chris really started switching to that slower puck offense and he got up 3-1 before winning the set 4-2.   Set 5…really a pivotal set since we were tied 2-2.  I think one of the biggest sets in a best of 7.  We went back and forth a little bit but Chris again wins 4-2 to take a 3-2 set lead….

Set 6:
Set 6 was looking grim for the Q-ster.  Down 3 sets to 2, on my higher ranked opponents home court, a do or die set.  Chris comes out super strong with his slower puck attack with a great mix of crosses and cuts with the occasional bank mixed in to keep me honest, gets up to a 2-0 lead.  This next game was going to be huge for me….it had to be.   One of the lessons that the guys in IL have taught me early on in sets and in matches is, if you find something that works, just pound it home until they block it.  It makes sense, why fix what ain’t broke right.  I think this moment after game 2 was probably one of the first times that I can recall truly analyzing my opponents attack and finding a pattern.  I probably have done it before but this time felt different….definitely was an ah-ha moment  I thought that while Chris’s shots were great, accurate….Billy had told me a still puck offense will tire out the attacker more than the defense if you do it long enough….also I really got mad at myself for my jumpy defense and even text that to the guys back in IL as an update.  Was something like “Chris up 2-0.  My f-ing defense is way too jumpy, keep on moving on straights”  At that moment, I realized that Chris wasn’t hitting too many banks…I’d say out of that still attack it was probably 80/20 if not higher straights to banks and out of those banks 1/5 or so was the LWU which was the shot I kept on flinching for when he hit the cross.  I thought “You know, this is it….I’ll let him have the perfect LW but I am not moving on straights….I am not getting beat on straights”.  As for an offense, Chris really shut down my RW earlier on in the match so I needed to find my LW which I was slowly working in all match.  My straight shots are both playing a high level so I was able to start scoring with those three shots from just left of center up near the line.  The cut from left of center is probably one of my favorite shots right now.  I win the next 3 games to make it 3-2 (2 of those games were 7-6 wins…..which reminds me of one thing that is a reflection on this match.  Chris and I are both great at playing from behind.  No lead felt secure.  I’d get out to a 4-0 lead, Chris would tie it and the exact opposite would happen on occasion.  Something I will need to work on is my ability to close) Chris wins a 7-6 game to force a do or die game for me…game 7, set 6 down 3-2.  My new attack and defensive adjustments were holding so I came out with the same game plan I had for the previous games and BAM a 7-5 win in game 7.  We’re going to a 7th set.

Set 7:

Brief recap here…I don’t know if Chris ran out of steam or just couldn’t adjust again but after he takes game 1, I win 4 in a row to take the match.  I was energized in that last set especially after I got a lead at 2-1.

Overall:

This was a great great match.  Chris is a great competitor and I really appreciate the opportunity to have played him.  It was a battle of adjustments.  We both had to adjust to the few random quirks of the table but really I mean the adjustments to each other’s playing style.  We both took away each other’s primary attack and it was the second to third level of offense that really determined it I think.  I was able to just edge out the win with that last adjustment and now I could see all the practice and hard work pay off on the table.  A year ago, or even a month ago, I don’t think I would have been able to pull this off but I’ve tried to dedicate as much time as I can to improving.  And after some congratulatory text messages rolled in….I get a few interesting messages.  The first is from Dan saying “Consider yourself challenged. :)”  Good joke Dan…the next from Mark Nizzi saying that he was interested in playing this weekend and unfortunately one from Randal saying that he busted his arm and was not going to be able to play.  So the new plan for the rest of the weekend…..play Geoffroy in the early afternoon and Nizzi at some point thereafter.

2011.05.01 – IL State – Fast Recap

10 Jun

So I fell behind in doing a proper writeup but there are a few points I want to bring forward from IL state.  At the conclusion of part 1, I mentioned having to play Geoff Oidtman next.  The video of the match is shown below…

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As you can see it was a barn burner.  I got out to the early lead but Geoff fought back and we went to a 7th game.  In post game analysis I wanted to really look at my shot selection which going in against Geoff, I knew wanted to feature a lot of straights and the per game breakdown is shown below.  When two numbers are on top of each other, that’s the number I shot that missed, and the number of goals I scored with that shot.

In summary:  the breakdown was

ross: 15 for 53
Cut: 12 for 49
RWU: 4 for 30
RWO: 3 for 10
LWU: 4 for 33
LWO: 3 for 12
Offgoals: 15
Double banks: 1 for 1
Horrific Miss-hits: 3
Charges that worked: 2
Geoff own goals: 2
Lost mallet: 2 (1 would have been goal)
Q’ed puck: 7
Own goals: 5

Geoff tends to play a back rail defense and from this breakdown of shots that worked, I should have been more straight-centric and lowered or even eliminated the straights probably.  Either way, my first win versus Geoff puts me up against Billy next.

I’ve taken games here and there off of Billy but never a set.  I got close once I think where we played at CuePhoria, where I got up to a 2-0 lead, then Billy went on to a 4-2 win.  I think I played Billy well in IL state but I just couldn’t get the possessions on defense and against Billy I need more possessions to have a shot at taking games off of him.  The one thing I remember was Dan recording this for me and then afterwards going “Damn Q, that only lasted 10 minutes”….thanks Dan, but it lasted 10 minutes 41 seconds. 🙂

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Off to the loser’s bracket where I would have to face “Good” Jon Kittner.  (I think Kittner got through Nick Harbacek to make it to this round of the loser’s bracket but I’d have to check)  Jon’s worried me a little bit lately.  He’s gotten the better of me in some practice games and I thought going in that it would be a close match.  Something must have clicked because I made relatively quick work of Jon 4-0.

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Next up would be Mark Robbins.

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Dan played Mark relatively recently and I tried studying what Dan did in the one set he won to try and beat Mark.  I’ve gotten a game here and there off of Mark lately but the few sets we’ve played I’ve had little luck.  Mark’s offense just seems to get the best of me and add in the face that I became super jumpy on D and Mark won definitively in that set.  As I’ll point out in my Vegas writeup upcoming, there are a few guys that I am aiming to get sets off of now who I think I should be able to beat in a set, if even only 1 of 4 or lower percentage….and Mark is one of them.

Well that does it….two losses and I’m knocked from the main draw.  Looking at Dan’s draw, he’s going up against Goran I believe in the loser’s bracket in the same round.  We joked that we wanted to swap draws.  I felt a little better against Goran just because I had been playing him well at that point but still away from my first set against him….and Dan I think felt the same about Mark since he’s taken a set off Robbins before.  Alas, Dan lost and that sends the two of us into the 7-8 spinoff.  Now we had to play our spinoff at the same time that Billy was playing Jose I believe for the first time that night and I told Dan we had to put on an epic show to try and draw some of the spectators over.   Dan and I have a fun little rivalry going….at least I think it’s a rivalry.  Dan may say that I think I’m better than him and while I joke that I don’t think that, I know it…..truth is since Dan and I play each other so much I’d say at the time of IL state he was a 65-75% favorite in any given set.  The thing with playing Dan is that I usually find a way and grow as a player to the point where we become 50-50 then Dan jumps up further/higher. I like to think of it as an enabling relationship wrt air hockey.  He sets the bar, I get there, then he raises the bar a little bit more.  It’s happened once or twice over the past year.  Unfortunately turnovers hurt me here.  It was a good match but Dan got the win.

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That does it for my tournament.  Billy went on to win against Jose Mora which I have to include video of in my blog because the offenses going in this set are just crazy.  Till next time!

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All of the other videos are in this album: http://vimeo.com/album/1589654