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.