Saturday, March 3, 2018

Battle in Seattle 2018, Vet Men's Epee

Good old Battle in Seattle, vet epee. My fourth time? Fifth? Something like that. Obligatory result links:

I did a bit better than I feared, in both the vet and the senior events. In both I felt I could have done slightly better, but was fine, even happy with the results. Winning a DE in both was key to being satisfied. Curiously, perhaps, the vet event felt somewhat harder—there are some tough vets! Plus, the vet field seemed rather top heavy. There were an awful lot of A-rated fencers.

As usual, the vet event felt more socially relaxed and enjoyable the way vet events so often are. Not that people don't fence hard and intensely, but outside of the actual fencing there is a sort of calmness about everything. It's nice.


I had a seven person pool, so six bouts. Nice. I often have trouble in my first pool bout (or first several bouts), but this time things began very well with a 5-0 win against Denis Bridger, a leftie I hadn't fenced before (or even met, I think). Later he asked if I fence lefties at my club a lot, because "you took me apart", as he put it. I said there were a couple in my club I fence semi-regularly (thinking about Chris, Anna, and Shyamala) but not many these days. Still, I said, I was pretty comfortable fencing lefties. I didn't write down anything about the bout. The best I can say now, weeks later, is that it felt relatively straightforward—although I don't remember exactly how so. I think I did a lot of feints and disengages, and was careful about distance. More than that I'm not sure.

I lost my second bout, 3-5, against another Dennis, this one with two Ns: Dennis Clinefelter. Again I don't remember the details. My scribbled notes just say: "Did dumb things. Was unsure, hesitant. Awkward attacks and bad timing." Okay...

Won my third bout, 5-3, against Francis Irwin, another fencer I didn't know. And again I can't remember the details except that he was a leftie and I felt my focus and determination was much improved from the previous bout. As the pool bouts continued I found it easier to get into that mental place of determined focus and semi-anger. Knowing there might not be much fencing left, especially if I did poorly, makes it easier for me to get into that higher energy, somewhat angry headspace. In fact, I deliberately kick it up by thinking about how it might be over all too soon. This, it turns out, seems a decent way to get myself riled up and "angry", making it easier to find that higher energy, focused, determined, competitive groove that sometimes eludes me.

I didn't realize it at the time, because I make a point of not checking peoples' ratings and such beforehand, but apparently my first three bouts were against the lower rated fencers, and the remaining three were higher-rated, very good fencers. I had some suspicion about this, since I had seen the next three before, in other tournaments, and knew they were good, and would be challenging. Still, I don't think I had fenced any of them before—maybe Loeffler and/or Wallace—but long ago if so...I think. In any case, I knew it would be hard, but felt prepared to give it my best. At least I had found something of the right competitive groove.

So, next up with Carl Loeffler. I went in with a vague plan and a notion of what to expect. He seemed fast and strong. Worried about strong blade actions I used some absence of blade, hoping to at least somewhat nullify being taken with binds and beats. What I wasn't expecting was 1) His excellent flicks, and 2) His ability to draw me out with footwork, distance, and general invitation/baiting stuff. In short, he won quite easily, 2-5. My notes say: "Damn flicks! Many times I thought I saw openings and attacked, yet flicks counters and other counterattacks got me." It was a frustrating bout, but impressive too. I mean I was impressed, and think/hope I learned some things.

Then I had the fencer I thought would be the hardest: Mehmet Tepedelenlioglu. Before the December NAC in Portland I had only vaguely heard of him (that last name is memorably long if nothing else). At the NAC I watched him in the vet combined semis and then his victory over Walter Dragonetti in the final. It was quite impressive, watching him and Dragonetti. So I was simultaneously worried and eager to fence him. Worried he might destroy me. Eager to experience and maybe learn something.

I didn't expect to win, although I certainly tried. And I didn't. He beat me 3-5, which was not as bad as I had feared. I had been vaguely planning to try to be very careful and defensive, and okay if the score didn't get to five (losing 0-3 is better than losing 0-5!). But he got me a few times with very good fleches that came out of the blue and hit before it seemed they should—even knowing he's a French grip pommeler and that he is known for his fleches. After getting hit by a couple of those I tried to be ready and better prepared for more—giving myself extra distance, thinking I might be able to duck one, etc. Yet he got another one or two. I realized after that those fleches came immediately after exchanges, when I was least prepared, having been distracted by the exchange, and perhaps a bit off-balance, or leaning, or not at an ideal distance, etc. Still, I did get 3 points and felt okay about that (3-5 is better than 0-5!).

My final pool bout was with Patric Wallace. I'd watched him in the past and knew he was strong and fast. Despite feeling prepared and working hard in the bout, he decimated me, 1-5.

So I finished the pool 2-and-4. Fourth place out of seven, with a -4 indicator. ...well, could be worse.


My little section of the DE tableau:

When the DE tableau was posted I saw I'd have James Neale. I think I've fenced him before and lost (though I now realize I had partially confused him with David Jensen—at least misremembered some past bouts). I knew he was a very good fencer and I was worried. Later I checked and he's an A2017 from Fencers' Club). But, thinking this DE could well be the end of the day's fencing for me helped me get more fully into that "angry" headspace I "discovered" at the Portland NAC ("damnit I'm not ready to be done!"). I think that headspace helped me quite a lot in this DE. I was energized and on. And I won!

John Comes had been in the same pool as Neale and very helpfully gave me some intel and advice. He said Neale was good at hand hits and binds, so I had to be very careful about sticking my blade and arm out. This info, along with my misremembering past bouts with Jensen and Neale (one of whom beat me using lots of binding fleches), made me decide to try using a strong absence-of-blade approach.

It seemed to work pretty well. I might be wrong, but I got the feeling that my absence-of-blade effectively denied him his strongest tactics and attacks, and, maybe?, frustrated him somewhat. It felt a little like putting some of the ideas from Epee 2.0 into practice and having it actually work: "Identify your opponent's strengths and don't give them the opportunity to use them". The other main concept being "draw your opponent into your own strengths." This, I felt, I did not do as well, but perhaps to some degree I was able to.

In any case, as we fenced and it seemed that this absence tactic was working pretty well, I continued and made it an even stronger absence—that is, holding my blade down and back far enough that he couldn't reach it (or my hand) at all, at normal distance. I remembered Marshall taking about absence of blade a month or so ago, and demonstrating just how far back it "should be". Farther back than my instincts tend to want. Tip quite near the floor.

The absence tactic made things into a game of distance, feinting, and drawing out. I made a couple of foolish attacks early on, but wised up and got better at drawing him out while not getting drawn out or overextended myself. We went back and forth, more or less tied to about 6-6 (with vet DEs only to 10). As we fenced I felt like I got better at this absence-and-drawing-out distance-game approach. I got some singles, making up for my early foolish mistakes. Then a lead of a point or two, giving me confidence and helping with the drawing-out.

The first period ended 9-6. This felt quite nice. I tried to not get complacent during the break. The second period began and I kept "doing what worked". Too often after a break I think "oh they will change tactics so I should too, as a preemptive measure". No no! Especially with a lead, stick with what was working. Maaybe have something to change to if what was working no longer works, but only then.

Anyway, after a short bit he attacked and I counterattacked to the leg. We doubled. So I won, 10-7. Woohoo!

So I made the 16. My second DE was against Mark Segal, a leftie fencer I had seen in various tournaments over the years, and enjoyed watching, but had never fenced myself. We had a great bout, mostly tied off-and-on to about 6-6. I even got up a point or two a couple times. I got some nice-feeling prime ripostes—reminding me of fencing leftie Chris at SAS. I also got some results from broken time stuff. However, he got me too many times with a relatively simple advance-lunge to my thigh/knee. I should have wised up after two of these, but he probably got me four times that way, including the final touch.

The first period ended 6-9—he having gotten a nice lead after the 6-6 tie (and a curious inversion of my previous DE). I think I got a single early in the second period. Then he got me with his leg shot. Just after he said "that's all I got!", with the implied suggestion that I had done quite well otherwise. Still, that leg shot was enough. I wonder if I fell for it so many times because, in part, I was misjudging the distance I needed due to his left-handedness. I needed just a bit more distance than I thought, and I find I sometimes misjudge how much I need with lefties: Sometimes they are closer than it feels.

Still, it was a good, enjoyable bout. I felt like I could have won—he didn't destroy me. I held my own pretty well. Perhaps if I had made a better distance adjustment...? Not only was the fencing fun, but I liked him. He seems like a fun guy. Hopefully I'll get to fence him more in the future.

In summary, I was okay, even happy with my fencing overall. My pool was a bit frustrating, but the DEs felt quite good. And I made the 16. But because my pool wasn't great I ended up finishing at the lower end of the 16: 14th out of 34. Not bad, given my pre-pool seed of 21 (and post-pool seed of 20). Mark Segal went on to finish 3rd, beating Erich Cranor 10-3 (!), then losing to Mehmet Tepedelenlioglu 10-6. The final was Tepedelenlioglu and Dragonetti—a rematch of the vet combined final at the Portland NAC. I didn't stay to watch, but saw later than Metmet won, 10-8. I wonder if it was as odd a bout as the Portland final.

Here's the upper part of the final results. I feel like I'm in pretty good company.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Portland NAC, December 2017

My first NAC, and it was a blast. That it was in Portland and I could drive was a key factor in making sure I went. So far the only tournament I've ever flown to was Summer Nationals 2015. That was my first National level tournament, and this NAC my second. But being a NAC I was able to fence Div2 without having to qualify, which was nice.

Here is the USFA results link, although I'm not sure how long it will continue to work:

There are a million things I could write about this NAC, and would like to. But if I tried I would never finish and never post. So instead I'm posting some fairly quick notes and a general write-up. Here goes.

As a C had a good preliminary seed: 20 out of 57. Went down from there. I didn't look at any opponent's rating or anything all weekend, screw that.

Here is my pool results and some brief notes I scribbled out.

My pool bouts:

Eric Wang. Lost 4-5. Fast lefty. Got down 2-3. Doubled to 3-4. Nice single to  wrist, 4-4. Tried  patience and distance waiting for opportunity. Then, his fast fleche, my flat foot not-retreat. Nice touch, 4-5. I felt okay for at least catching up to 4-5.

Nikolas Corrales. Lost 2-5. Flicky beaty guy—took a few touches to wake up, morning fencing ugh. Got focused and active, but too late. Down 1-4. He'd beat and repeatedly flick. Upped my energy and footwork. Scored with what I've nicknamed (and written about in other posts) "Dragonetti fleche", 2-4. Final touch—thought it was a double but no, so I lost 2-5, ouch. Russ gave good advice after. Hard to figure people out in 5 points.

Alexander Kim. Lost 4-5. Energy up, great start. Got up 4-2. Had some nice, fun infighting-y primes. Thinking i could pressure him into a mistake I increased pressure but ended up actually attacking, and too deep. He adjusted, catching my deeper feints and attacks. I had a nice beat thigh attack—half inch short while he made a lovely weird hit to my back. Then he surprised me with a fleche almost off the line, damn, 4-4. Final more of same—my pressure and his good distance and blade catching. 4-5, damn. Being up 4-2 and losing is so frustrating.

Tobyn Dessauer. Won 5-1. Finally won one. Push push push pull. Shallow shallow. Got a couple nice "4-6 opp" (incl. the final point). Felt great—can handle this, and won't lose all bouts.

McPherson ("Mack", I think) Beale. Lost 1-5. Ouch! Very nice NWFC guy. I had a plan from watching him—low lines, thigh, foot; perhaps strong takes, even the Penner crossover attack (didn't find chance to try it). He hit my arm a lot. I tried a high line, he hit under my wrist. I went low he hit top wrist. Jeez!

Gau-Shieng Lin. Lost 3-5. Gah. Russ said I kept getting caught in 6. Weird how sometimes people catch my blade and i don't understand and cant escape, but it is just a plain old 6. Often from a 6 parry i pronate, prime-y, easily, instinctively, fast. Sometimes i feel caught up in a trap i don't understand, even instinctively, like this.

So, bad pool: one and five, -7 indicator. Made me 52nd seed out of 57 for DEs. Made me anxious about what high seed I'd get for DE, but at least no one was higher rated than C.

Went better than the pool. Here's part of the DE tableau and my notes.

First I had Edward Worth. 13th seed, E16 (would have guessed C or maybe D, fenced very well). from Bend I think (High Desert FC, Oregon). His pool: 4 and 2, +5 indicator (I didn't look at any of this before DE, just that he was 13th seed (actually i thought 12th, but whatever)). Feeling pissed about my bad pool and having to face a high seed. Realized/decided to channeled my pissed feeling into a kind of anger and energy, determination, which turned out to work quite well (and again on Monday). A new approach for me? Controlled anger?

Edward almost didn't show up in time. The refs called and called, while I was on strip all ready. Announcement on PA called him 3 times, "final warning". They knew he was there and gave him a minute more than strictly required. I was fine with that. Didn't want to win that way (but a little voice was hoping anyway). Finally he ran over, seeming flustered, and knocked over a rail en route, heh. He got a red card for "over 3 minutes" (after final call? not sure how that works). So i started with one point. Seeing him looking flustered I thought to start hard and maybe take advantage of his flusteredness. Plus i had that "angry" thing going (not really anger? need better word).

I got up 5-0 or 5-1 rather quickly, maybe in part due to the flustered thing? Maybe in part the "anger-determination thing? One touch on his hand as he lifted his blade, nice. Another toe touch, nice! Feeling good. Then maybe he finally got over flusteredness, and/or I started to get complacent. He started scoring, and I stopped. He caught up and took the lead. I think 5-8 at the break. Russ said infighting wasn't working for me and to avoid it (my usual prime-y infighting failed). Also that I was freezing with blade contact—needed to retreat not freeze! Make him fall short, etc—kinda the usual advice but so helpful to have Russ tell me anyway, even if its mostly the same thing he usually tells me, heh.

Fought hard and caught up, 8-9, 9-9. Patient and active. Not freezing, better footwork, mostly staying shallow, better distance. We were tied-ish to about 10. Then i got one, then another, 12-10. Did a up-beat and hit under wrist, nice. Ended with a double. So won 15-11. Felt awesome, having screwed up my good start, adjusted (with Russ's help), and not becoming stupid near the end (like I often do), and for beating this high seed from my lowly seed spot. Made the day.

Second DE was with Joseph Smay. Seed: 45T. D17 from Boise (only looked this up after). Young (late teens? early 20s?), nice (we chatted several times after the DE and over weekend). He ended up 15th (earning a D I think, but was already a D17).

I fought very hard—maybe too hard, ie, apt to risky and impulsive stuff. We were mostly tied-ish all the way to 13-13. Russ was elsewhere, and in my one break Kundry offered what she could. I don't think she saw too much of the bout and couldn't offer larger picture strategic advice, but it was nice to have her there. She told me I hadn't retreated from one of his attacks and should have, etc. Later, Jeff Lucas, who was watching and had had Smay in his pool (I think) said he wanted to tell me to hold back a little more and draw Smay out (I had had a lead yet kept pressing and attacking, and was a point or two up at break I think), and that Smay is more a counterattacker and I could have drawn him out and then gone straight in. But with Kundry coaching me he didn't think it was his place to (which was probably right—you can't have two people coaching you in the break, but maybe one and then another is okay, I'm not sure).

Smay was using a French grip and I had been beating a lot. At 13-13 had plan, based on various observations made up til then: beat hard, feint hard to foot, then catch the high counterattack. But my foot feint was too deep and became real attack instead of feint, maybe? He got my shoulder while I was still low. Damn, 13-14. I tried something similar (second intention, beat-feint-catch), but it failed. So I lost 13-15. My scribbled notes say: "damn—close! still, fine, won 1st DE and felt good. gave it my all and then some". At the end Smay shook hands and said something like "whoa you had me sweating", and he was clearly tired out. We fenced hard—maybe I fenced harder than he expected or wanted. I wished I could fence him again—figured a lot out by the end. Felt I could beat him if I had another chance. Ah well. Still felt fine about the event overall, mainly due to that first DE.

Final results (table cuts off, there were 57 fencers). Thanks to winning my first DE I made the 32. But due to my bad pool I came in 31st.

On Saturday I did not have an event, but went and watched a bunch. Also spent a couple hours or more practicing with Jeff Lucas, which was awesome. I wish we could do that more. We're great "fencing partners/buddies". Lots of talk of tactics and various actions, drilling a bit, etc.

Sunday was Vet50. Slighty better pool than Div2 but lost first DE, ended up pissed—turned that feeling into "anger" next day for Combined Vet Epee. In Vet50, my preliminary seed: 45 out of 65. There were (counting now), god, 20 As and 13 Bs. Huh, that helps me feel better now (two As in my pool, four people with national points). Again, did not look at ratings or anything at all until after/now.


Edward Bourguignon. U, 61th seed; ORION, Oregon. Won 5-4.
Tied-ish, me up a bit. Beat a lot, mostly resulting in doubles. Stopped beating and worked on distance—Marshall approved afterwards (he called out some helpful things during bout). Energy felt good, focus..ok.... Got up 4-3, saw opening and went, but deep, doubled. So 5-4. Okay. Marshall commented on my going too deep a lot. He was right—except once i tried Jeff's fleche-to-back-shoulder Cody Mattern thing; it was a double but felt pretty good, though still something to work on.

Stephen Lee. E17; 57th seed; HLBRSDT, North CA. Lost 3-4.
Crazy..ish. Kept pushing him to end of strip. Tried forcing him off, but carefully! And almost did once but got hit. Ref said she was really almost almost about to call halt for off strip end, it was so close (after i realized I could use practice when other person is pushed to end—i get impulsive (though better this time than usual)—Marshall had some good advice about it, should ask him more later). Anyway, had trouble getting through Lee's parries, sweeps, etc. He got a lovely hand hit—maybe i was too active (big)? Trying to overwhelm. He retreated a lot when I feinted (feints to foot a lot). Got a nice leg touch. Still, got to 2-4, guh. One exchange I couldn't tell who got—turned out I did. Close close. I got one the ref called for me, then changed her mind and said floor—I agreed. Wasn't 100% sure but it probably was floor. Got a single, 3-4. His defense was great. I kept pushing and looking for openings and feeling good, and...time ran out!? Being at his strip end i couldn't see the time—was this tactic of his? Keeping me in a place where I wouldn't notice the time running out? Anyway, I lost. Still, 3-4 is better than 3-5. Then again, 4-4 and overtime would have been better. I had no idea the time was running out, was quite surprised.

Robert Malleck. C15/55; 36th seed; FENCERS, Metro NYC). Won 5-2.
Bit uncertain at first—but got tempo control. Good leg hit. Bizarre infighting, he scored (I thought I did, but no). Then i got a nice prime touch. Ended 5-2. Felt good, felt I controlled the bout.

Bela Suveg. A16/24; 16th seed. Lost 3-5.
Based on another tournament where I beat him 5-0, I had plan involving hand hits/threats, but I overfocused on hand & disruptions. With his big sweeps I thought I saw openings and went—but deeper than intended—he parries well, and strong, and holds his parries, preventing my remises, resulting in singles for him. Down 2-4 then finally got nice hand hit (after refocusing on shoulder instead of hand!). fFnal action—another sweep and opening?? I go hard, he parried and hit he solidly in chest. VERY FINAL point, heh. Ah, 3-5, not too bad with Bela (although I did beat him 5-0 that one time, usually he beats me badly).

John Jones. B16/43; 25th seed; TCFC Marx Fencing New England. Lost 4-5.
Got to 4-4. final point: we both went for the same thing at the same time, clashed bell guards and my tip missed, his hit—pure luck, as Chris Aher said (who was watching), and Jones too, afterwards. Jones got first point when I got too close, trying some absence. But as Aher said I adjusted to good distance such that jones couldn't do that attack again, so that's good. And again there were a couple of exchanged I couldn't tell who had hit/scored. Good bout. Bit distracted. Must focus! Also, nice having Chris Aher watching—I felt like our club was particularly good at having someone watching clubmate bouts, even in pools, most of the time. I think Kundry helped make sure that happened (she had a spreadsheet of all SAS fencers and events, making sure at the very least we all had someone to coach us in DEs). There were also quite a lot of us there, and I felt like most of us tried to watch each other's bouts when we could.

Jeffrey Hudson. A17/7 (7 points), 5th prelim seed; Ohio. Lost 2-5.
Amazing fleches, surprised me. Varney called out "distance!" (nice to have clubmates watching!). I adjusted and thought I had plenty of distance. He fleched again and I felt like i had plenty of time to deal with it but he still got me, after 2-3 blade actions during fleche and my retreating (beats and then ending up like infighting). Then more of same. Afterward Varney and Hudson both said I needed 5 inches more distance than what I had thought sufficient—and that my distance was okay for most fencers, but Hudson's fleches really require a bit more. Also, Varney said i needed to retreat more, I was freezing a lot when fleched. Gotta keep working on that.

So, out of pools, I was 48th seed out of 65; two and four, -3 indicator. Not too bad.

Did not go so well. Here's part of the DE tableau and my notes.

My DE was with Earl Hergert, A16/38; Medeo FC, New Jersey (his pool: 4 and 3; +4 indicator).

He got up a lot fast. Period ended 2-5, I think (Vet so only to 10). Marshall (who was coaching me because Russ was busy with someone else) gave excellent advice: I was leaning forward too much and couldn't retreat and needed to, and i was reacting to him, because i was unsure: Lefty, me trying to be cautious and careful, maybe draw him out, and looking for shallow stuff, but it wasn't working. Marshall asked "Can you fleche?" "Heh oh yes." "Do it." "Really??" Against this guy that seemed very risky, as far as I could tell. But I tried a fleche and scored. Marshall called out "same thing"—and I scored again. Then again, though felt a bit lucky the 3rd time.

By then it was about 7-8 and i got cautious again—close score now! It had become a real bout. Also, three fleches seemed pushing my luck, especially with the 3rd one having felt kinda lucky. Surely he'd be expecting it now and have a defense ready, right? So I became careful again, like earlier in the bout. Wrong idea—he scored and scored and won. Marshall said I should have kept doing what was working (those fleches), not gone back to what hadn't been working. But said otherwise I adjusted well, fixed my lean/balance and retreats, etc. Hergert said "nice comeback". It was too! If only the bout was to 15 i might have had a chance to adjust one more time. And if only I hadn't gotten down so far at the start, I could easily imagine winning. Should have kept fleching! Interesting insight—opposite of usual situation (shallow shallow!).

Still, pissed to have it all over so soon. Channeled that into determination the next day, which was much better. My place in final results (can't see it here, but John Varney came in first place, woo!):

Monday was the Combined Vet Epee event. I did well, for me, and was very happy with the result. I didn't take notes during the event (and sometimes I think I'm better off when I don't). So I don't have the kind of play-by-play info of the previous events. I could write quite a bit anyway, but can't spend forever on this post. So instead, here's screenshots of my pool, DE, and final results, followed by a more general post I wrote about the NAC as a whole. It repeats some things I wrote above, but also has some info about the Combined Vet event. Perhaps I'll try to add additional notes, details, insights, etc, later.

I went to the Portland NAC, my second national-level event, and holy crap I loved it. I did Div2 and vet epee. Watching the Div1 people was very cool. So many are scary good.

My Div2 pool was pretty bad. In one bout I got up 4-2 only to get stupid and complacent, thinking I had it, and "fencing not to lose" as someone put it, and losing 4-5. Bad pool, low seed, so I faced a much higher seed in DE. I was angry about my pool and successfully channeled the anger into focus and determination. Although I love tournament fencing I'm not a naturally competitive "must win" kind of person, which makes is easier to deal with losing but also makes it harder to actually win. Trying to find the right mental balance and ways to get my head into a "winning" headspace has been a challenge. So it was very interesting and encouraging to channel that pool frustration into anger into focus and determination.

In this DE I quickly got up five points or so. Then my opponent got his head on right, while my anger-focus flagged, and soon he caught up and got three points ahead. That was enough to rekindle the anger-focus thing. The rest was hard fought, more or less tied to about 10-10. Then I got a couple points up, say 12-10. Now I'm extremely good at managing to lose when I'm up a couple points near the end like this. There's a ton of mental stuff that plays into it, which I've been struggling to figure out for a while. This time I didn't blow it and won.

That made up for the bad pool, but more so, I felt like I learned quite a lot about the mental stuff I've been trying to figure out for a while now. Went into the second DE with even more determination and "anger"-focus-energy, deliberately turning it up. It was a great bout, more or less tied to about 13-13. I turned it up even more and tried a second intention thing that was probably a good plan, but in my new-found anger-energy headspace the feint came out overcommitted and I got hit with a counterattack. Tried again, same result. So I lost but felt like I learned more about this mental stuff—just where is the point between productive determination and too much. Felt good, like I was just reaching a new and very useful mental level.

But then I got trashed in vet50. My pool was ok, but not great. In my DE I tried to be careful and cautious, looking for shallow targets and such, but could not figure this guy out, could not figure out what to do. I was letting him control the bout and was paying for it. I think the period ended 2-5 (and vet DEs only to 10). In the break my coach corrected a couple things and, to my surprise said instead of being cautious I should just fleche this guy. I was surprised because I felt like this guy had a strong defense (thus my being cautious). I was like "seriously? you're saying I should start fleching? well okay, if you say so I'll try it".

Surprise surprise, coach was right, and during the second period I scored several singles with fleches, getting the score to 7-8, iirc. Then my stupid brain did what it likes to do and started to think I could win after all, which made me nervous, which made me revert to being cautious. The last fleche I made hadn't worked quite as well (though still a single light), and my stupid brain said "he's sure to have adjusted and fleching won't work now". So I ended up returning to the way I was at the start of the DE, with predictable results, in hindsight anyway.

All this made me really frustrated. The next day was vet combined and I very deliberately made myself feel angry about the vet50 event, and very purposefully channeled the anger into energy, determination, and focus. It was similar to what I had done in div2, but better. I was able to tap into the mental stuff I had figured out in div2 and do it again, better. Result: I had an acceptably decent, even good pool, for me. Three and three. Every single bout ended 5-4.

Before the DEs I continued working on this anger-channeling mental thing. It was weird because I am not naturally angry. I had to actively make myself mad. I walked around forcing myself to frown and seethe—to myself anyway: whenever anyone actually talked to me I was suddenly all smiles and happiness. Then I'd go back to stalking around with a vengeful grimace. These DEs would be the last fencing of the NAC, and damnit, I was going to win.

Well, to cut to the point, after the pools my seed was 44 out of 95. I won my first DE. It was with Leo Caamano (U; NAFAN, West Rock; 85th seed; won 10-6). It wasn't a blow out or anything, but I think I had the lead all the way. Second DE was the best. It was with Bruce McGuffin (C14; New England; 21st seed); won 10-5). Not only did my funny anger-focus mental thing seem well balanced and very useful, but twice I saw problems and solutions, and made tactical adjustments that worked. And that is something else I've been struggling with for a long time. Seeing a tactical problem isn't too hard, but seeing a solution has been very hard for me. And even then, seeing a solution and being able to execute it at a higher level event with someone I've never fenced or even seen before, well that's not something I had experienced before. Winning that bout felt so good, like I had reached a mental place I had been trying to find for years. In a funny way I felt simultaneously overjoyed, "finally, major progress in the mental stuff!" but also "of course I won, damnit, and nothing can stop me from continuing to win!"

My next DE was with Erich Crannor (A17; NWFC, Oregon; 12th seed). I lost 5-10, but so what? I gave it my best, fenced well, and learned, and afterward easily let go of the anger and was happy, yet still determined for the bigger future picture.

Finally, to end this long post, let me say I really enjoyed spending the weekend with everyone there. The fencing community is truly a wonderful thing. I'm extremely happy to be a part of it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Seattle International Veterans Cup, 2017

Seattle International Veterans Cup, 2017


How nice to have a tournament and feel like I did well. Beyond my expectations at least. There were 26 fencers and nearly all of them were as good or better than me, on average. Also, the Battle in Seattle was still fresh in my mind, where I had more trouble in the Vet event than the regular Senior event. These good vets may tend to be a little slower than the 20 year olds, but they are wily and smart. I expected to struggle in this one.

But I arrived with plenty of time to check in and warm up, and quickly felt growing confidence. I warmed up with several people and perhaps worked harder than necessary for mere warm up bouts. But I think I get more out of warming up hard than easing into it. Several people over the course of the day told me I was moving really well, which was great to hear. I felt like I was—putting my all into the kind of in-and-out footwork I’ve been working on for so long now. And also trying to change up footwork stuff a lot, opening up space, closing, slowing down, speeding up. Lots of check steps and half lunges, trying to set traps. I think I got some decent results from “retreat check steps”—starting to step back but not actually, and perhaps turning into an attack instead.

Anyway, to the pool.

I was in a pool of seven, so six bouts for me. Three people were left handed, sigh. And among them, Erich Cranor and Bela Suveg, both scary good fencers. The third leftie was Ommer Bruce, who I’ve seen a few times and maybe fenced. I didn’t quite know what to expect of him. I thought he would be quite tough for me, but perhaps not quite as tough as Erich and Bela. There was also John Comes, who over the years I’ve been more or less on par with. And Jonathan Brace, a clubmate who I “should” be able to beat, but you never know. And finally, Ed Bourguignon, who looked familiar but I don’t think I’d fenced before.

The very first pool bout was Erich Cranor and me. I hooked up and almost on a whim checked my epee’s screws. I had checked everything the day before and upon arriving, but who knows, maybe something happened during my warm up bouts. To my surprise a screw was missing. These NEPS, “new epee screws”, almost never fall out, in my experience. I replace contact springs and whole tips far more often than screws these days. But I was definitely missing a screw just then, good thing I looked.

I quickly switched to my second epee. Although I’d like to have three or four identical epees I have not yet figured out “the perfect setup”. So I have 4-5 Frankenepees instead. For a while I had more or less settled on LP’s standard “FIE blade”, and have a couple LP bladed epees. But a few months ago Marshall, after watching me fence a bit (at the Leon Auriol Open perhaps?) said I would benefit from using a nice stiff BF blade. After a while I got one and have been enjoying it very much. That was the one missing a screw, of course. So I switched to one of my LPs. Would I have done better with Erich if I had the BF? Who knows. Probably not, or not much.

But I can pretend it is an excuse: Erich beat me 5-0. I felt like I had not fenced badly. He scored several lovely touches on my hand and forearm. Once or twice I might have over-committed and opened myself up to easy counterattacks. But generally I felt simply outmatched rather than feeling like I fenced badly. Still, not the best start. On the other hand, I figured I got the hardest bout over first and things could only get better.

And they did. My next bout was with Bela Suveg. We hadn’t fenced in a long time, but when we have he’s decimated me. And I’ve watched him enough to know how good he is. Still, I put my all into the bout, doing footwork as fast as I could, all the in-and-out, check steps, and so on. Also, after Erich I had quickly put a new screw into the BF epee and used it for the rest of the day.

For whatever reason, I was in the zone that bout, seeing things as they happened in that wonderful focused way that can be so hard to find sometimes. I watched him do his strong sweeping low line parries when I probe at his hand. After trying to set up a little pattern of probes I did another in a half lunge, disengaged his sweep and put my point right on his hand. It felt just right. Must be that extra-stiff BF blade, haha. Well, maybe a little—it sure seems like the tip stays far more stable than on my other epees.

Anyway, I kept up the same stuff and after a bit managed to hit his hand again, in a similar way. It wasn’t as pretty, but hit more directly on his hand and felt quite nice. After that we maneuvered around and he seemed more careful about protecting his hand. After a while I managed to make the distance close a bit using a “retreat check step” which he advanced into, at least a little bit. I made some kind of feint, half lunge, then renewed deep to his body, hitting. He counterattacked, but a bit late, too close and too high. My deep lunge had brought my head down and his blade ended up over my head.

After that I worked on being patient—I was up three points after all—yet still as active as possible footworkwise. Time passed as we probe and maneuvered. Finally he fleched. I had my blade turned to point a bit to my left, and lowish—part of something I’ve been practicing and exploring ever since watching Joseph Choo at the Battle in Seattle. I think Bela attempted some deceptive blade action as he fleched, but from my blade’s lowish, somewhat septime-y position I was able to lift up into a high septime, basically nullifying whatever Bela was trying to do with his blade. That was exactly the kind of thing I had seen Choo doing and had been trying myself. It wasn’t pretty in this case, but got Bela’s blade out of the way. Then, as he passed on my left I was able to drop the point and angle it to hit his thigh. Perhaps in this case it helped that he’s left-handed and was thus closer as he passed, maybe. Still, I was a little surprised that I had hit. And I wasn’t sure if the ref (Zoey) would give me the point—maybe he had passed? But she gave it to me. So yay, 4-0, wow.

So then, being nicely up, I continued trying to be very patient, yet active on my feet. There was a decent amount of time left, but still, Bela had to come to me. I could just wait. I tried using footwork stuff to draw his attack, but he was careful. After a while he was edging forward while I kept trying to draw him out. I also tried to keep pressure toward his hand, looking for another hand hit possibility. After a bit of this there was a moment where it seemed like he had edged just close enough and was, perhaps, concerned about my focus on his hand. I made another half lunge toward his hand then renewed and dropped to his foot. My point landed perfectly. His counterattack was high and late. I won 5-0! Against Bela, wow. And ending with a toe touch? Wonderful! I was elated. He was not happy and shook my hand with a grim firmness. As I walked back and unhooked John Comes congratulated me with an impressed expression.

That win was so unexpected and unexpectedly good, I figured I would be quite pleased even if everything fell apart in the rest of the pool. I felt super good—not really because I beat Bela, it could have been any “very good” fencer and felt as good. Mostly it was the wonderful feeling that comes from being in the zone, working my hardest, seeing details at speed and, most of all, being able to capitalize on it all, with two or three touches that felt pretty much perfect.

Also I figured the 5-0 win exactly made up for the 5-0 loss. After the bad start I was perfectly even. And those were the two toughest fencers in my pool, I figured. So I felt pretty good about the situation.

Next bout was with John Comes. We’ve fenced in tournaments quite a lot since I started at SAS. Sometimes I beat him easily, sometimes he beats me easily. Sometimes we have very close bouts. This time it was a very close bout. Things began well for me. I think I got the first two points. One with a hard beat attack, the other a retreating counterattack that landed nicely on his hand. Then, maybe I was overeager, but I attacked too deeply. My point landed, but deep, while his counterattack hit my shoulder. A single light for him. Then, after a bit, we attacked simultaneously and had a clashing double touch, making the score 3-2. I started trying to be more careful but also, I soon realized, slowed down my footwork a bit. Somehow we ended up infighting. I made a decent parry but couldn’t get a riposte in before he was passing me and going off strip. As he did he made a last-ditch prime-like attempt. His tip went into my shoe and scored. So it was tied 3-3. Hmm.

I don’t exactly remember the next couple of points. I think I scored one, then he scored, taking us to 4-4, la belle. We maneuvered for a while, trying to find openings and set traps. Finally I saw an opening and went for it. A nice lunge that landed near his shoulder or collarbone. He had made a counterattack, but it seemed like his blade was too far out of line. I won! But when I looked at the lights, his was on and mine wasn’t. I realized his counterattack had *just barely* managed to nick my elbow. So he won, 5-4. Afterwards he said it was a very close bout and that final point could easily have gone either way. And he had also thought it might have been mine until seeing the lights. We both agreed that it was a good bout.

Next I had Jonathan Brace. We fence now and then in the club, so I had an idea about how it might go. And it went pretty much as I thought it would. He kept attacking from too far, giving me fairly straightforward counterattack points. In this way we got to 4-0. Then he attacked just as I was lifting my blade for some reason. He hit my arm nicely. I got the final point and won, 5-1.

Then I had Ommer Bruce, the french-grip leftie who I didn’t know well. I had watched him in other pool bouts and gotten some sense of his style. His footwork was interesting: He tended to stay rather still, giving the impression of being slow, but he could suddenly fleche, surprisingly fast. He could also retreat faster than his rather static stance would suggest. Having seen that I knew I had to at least be careful. Mostly I did the same stuff I had been doing—very active footwork, lots of feints, attempts to set traps, etc.

We had a good, hard fought bout. I have forgotten how the first few points went, but somehow or other we got to 2-2. Then he fleched. I managed to parry and riposte in a prime-y way as he passed. Then he scored in a way I can’t remember, tying it up again at 3-3. Again he fleched and again I managed a parry-riposte. It was awkward and ugly, and I barely stayed on the strip. As I scored I half-fell off strip, stumbling back-first into the wall. Still, I got the point. More maneuvering and then, maybe remembering my toe touch with Bela, I went low, after trying to pressure his hand. Bad timing though—right as I dropped my blade low he fleched. My tip was nowhere near his foot and his fleche easily landed. So we were tied at 4-4. I don’t remember the last point exactly, but it was mine. I think there was an opening and I took it, but it was close.

So now I had a 5-0 loss, a 5-0 win, a 5-4, and a 5-4 win. Very symmetrical. Plus the 5-1 win against Jonathan. Not bad, not bad. My final bout was with Ed Bourguignon. I had started the pool with almost no idea about his fencing. But I had plenty of time to watch him fencing others and felt like I had a good chance. He seemed susceptible to traps. I got the sense that he hadn’t been fencing all that long, or maybe not too frequently. Anyway, it turned out he was susceptible to traps. I won 5-1, and almost all the points were fairly simple traps. Things like low line feints until a high counterattack was drawn, which could be taken with a six opposition lunge. Or several beats followed by a fake beat, disengage, six take. At 3-0 I began some kind of setup trap prep and he made a straight lunge into my prep, scoring. I simplified for the last two points.

So I ended up four and two, with a +8 indicator. Far better than I had expected I’d do. I ended up getting the 6th seed, out of 26 mostly very tough fencers. Yay. With 26 fencers the top six got byes for the round of 32. So to my surprise I got the last of those byes. I’d almost rather not have, so I could have had a winnable DE. Somehow getting a bye doesn’t feel as good as winning a DE. Then again, with only six byes I felt pretty good about getting one.

Once the tableau was up I saw I would face the winner of a bout between Joel Howard and Travis Exum. Seeing that my heart sank. It seemed highly likely that Travis would beat Joel, then beat me. And that’s exactly what happened. In fact Travis went on to beat everyone, taking 1st place in the end. Before the DEs Travis said he didn’t do so well in the pools. Tobias had beaten him in the pools and talked to me a bit about it, and other tactical and strategic stuff. Watching Travis fence Joel, plus having warmed up with him a bit, I thought maybe he was having an off day and I had a chance.

Also, after some of the things Tobias had talked about, especially stuff about fencing better fencers, I considered trying to keep the score as low as possible with Travis. Perhaps I could try for non-combativity. Maybe I should have. But I worried about my own ability to stay focused and highly active if I went that way. Also, I knew from practice that if I let Travis set stuff up he tends to score on me. Could I have gone for non-combativity while also actively disrupting his set ups? Maybe. Next time?

In any case, things began decently enough. I think we tied at 3-3. Then I attempted a surprise attack fairly quickly off the line. It failed. Then he got another point, and another. Before I knew it I was behind and felt I had to attack if I hoped to catch up. Travis was happy to play a defensive game, although he certainly kept the pressure on. Things went badly and soon the score was 3-7. I killed time until the period ended, hoping I could somehow reset and come up with a desperate plan in the break.

In the second period I was more careful, knowing I needed lots of singles. I managed to get one point, but he got the rest, winning 10-4. Ah well, here is where I need to be happier about getting a bye instead of winning a DE before losing one.

Anyway, the bye put me into the 16, and Travis kept me out of the 8. Thanks to my decent pool I ended up coming in 11th overall, just before Erich Cranor and Jeff Johnson, and above people like Eli Delgado and Fred Frank. So that’s good! Still, after the pool I had been hoping I might make the 8, since doing so would renew my C rating, which is getting dusty.

On the other hand, if I had seeded one or two places higher I would probably have had to face Sean Ameli, Fred Frank, or Eli Delgado, or Bela Suveg. I can’t imagine I’d have done much better with any of them than I did with Travis.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Catching up!

Haven’t posted here in a year. My last post was on the 2016 Battle in Seattle, and the 2017 Battle in Seattle happened just a couple weeks ago. Time to get back on it.

I stopped posting after several tournaments in which I did poorly and felt no desire to write about. Then inertia and life built up. Also, since getting my C I have had far fewer tournaments to go to, and tend to do meh. Last weekend there was a C and under tournament in Tacoma that drew over 20 fencers. That would have been ideal, but alas, I could not go. On the plus side, Alex Rwamashongye came in 1st and got his C. We fence a lot at the club. It was nice to see him do so well.

Looking at AskFred, it seems that I’ve had 11 tournaments since my last post here:

Three small “Open Epee” tournaments at SAS. I did alright at these. Middle of the pack.

The 2016 WWD Divional Qualifier. I came in dead last.

The 2016 Rain City Open. I came in 2nd to last. This was just a couple weeks after the Qualifier tournament, and the double whammy of bad results played a big role in my not posting here. There was also a vet epee event at Rain City Open, at which I came in second! But there were only four fencers, so.

The 2016 Seattle International Veteran’s Cup. I did alright.

The WWD Division Championship. I did horrible, coming in second last. Sigh.

BladeFest 2016. I did poorly in the Senior event but good (2nd out of 15) in the Veteran event.

The 2016 Leon Auriol Open. I did meh, but could have been worse.

The RCFC “Home for the Holidays” tournament. I did pretty good and hope to write more about it in a later post.

And finally the 2017 Battle in Seattle. I did meh in the Vet event and wasn’t too pleased. In the Senior event I did better than I feared and was happy enough with my fencing. I should write a post about it.

And that’s it since last year. I went to more tournaments the first couple of years of this blog, and of my return to fencing. Many were events I could not do now—U and under, E or D and under, etc. I miss those in some ways. Sometimes I imagine dropping to a D rating, if I don’t renew my C within a couple years, and being able to do Div 3 stuff again. But….I’d rather get better, haha.

Maybe the next thing for me is to start going to NACs, especially the Vet ones. I might be able to go to the April NAC in Baltimore, for the vet events. And then, looking farther into the future, I’ll age into Vet50 in a couple years. I daydream about becoming a much stronger competitor in the Vet/Vet50 category. Maybe if I work hard, go to NACs, etc, I could be a high/highish level Vet fencer by the time I reach Vet60.

We’ll see. I certainly don’t plan to stop!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Battle in Seattle 2016, Senior Epee

Battle in Seattle 2016, Senior Epee

As expected, I got fairly stomped on. But on the bright side I had a good pool bout with Matson Lalor, despite losing, and a good DE bout, also despite losing. But mostly I got stomped. Kinda embarrassing, but oh well:

While writing about the Battle in Seattle vet epee I looked back and discovered I had had a downward trend over the four years I've done it, until this year. The senior epee Battle in Seattle event is much harder and I usually don't do very well. But do I have a downward trend there too? Let's see...84th out of 112 (2014), 72nd out of 89 (2015), and 82nd out of 91 (2016). Yep. Damn. ...well, actually, last year was very similar to this year (basically getting stomped on, winning just one pool bout), while the year before was the time I won one pool bout, eeked out another, and came close in two more. And oh yea, that was also the year my DE was with John Varney, which I lost of course. I ended up in a slightly higher spot thanks to the better pool.


I did poorly, so let's see if I can keep this write-up short.

My first pool bout was with Patric Wallace, who I had never seen before. He was friendly. We chatted a little during the pool. Apparently he is from New Jersey. I didn't check anyone's rating until just now. Patric is an A13. He killed me 5-1. He was strong and used lots of beats. My one point was when he fleched and I smacked his blade in 8 and riposted to the body as he passed.

Second bout was with Matson Lalor, a Canadian from Dynamo I had seen a few times before. I don't think we had fenced before, but maybe. I thought he was an A, but looking now I see he is a B15. Anyway, this was the one pool bout I felt pretty good about. Mostly because I got two toe touches. I rarely even try for them in tournaments. Now and then I've gotten one. I don't think I had ever gotten two in a single pool bout.

He kept pushing me back. I would retreat, but tried to keep up some in-and-out footwork. Early in the bout I noticed his foot seeming rather close. In the midst of other things I went for it and to my own surprise, hit. After that we got to 2-2 somehow. Then he fleched. I parried but could not riposte before he passed. He managed a remise as he passed and scored. The ref took a moment to consider whether he had passed before hitting, but he hadn't. It was a good hit. Then he was pushing me again and I pulled off another toe touch, making it 3-3. The first one had felt nice, but the second one felt even better. Something about getting those. I was hoping they might demoralize him a bit. Maybe they did. He seemed a little more cautious. But maybe they also made me overconfident or something. I made an impatient attack at a bad time and got hit. Then, down 4-3, while we were energetically fencing I tried to pull off another toe touch, but it wasn't close and I got hit.

So I lost 5-3. As I unhooked Patric said "two toe touches, yes, but three? yea, no." He went on to say my toe touches were very nice and well hidden. It was nice to hear. I felt good about the bout.

My next bout was with Dillon Grewell. I had seen him before, and maybe we had fenced before, but I couldn't remember details. I thought I'd have a decent chance. I thought he was probably a C, and looking now I see he is. Watching him, and chatting with Patric, I got the idea that he tended to telegraph his fleches. But when we fenced I fell into a weird mindset where I was either too passively spacey or too impulsively reckless. He killed me 5-0. Ouch.

Then I had Glenn Biasi. I think he had come mainly for vet foil, but was doing epee as well "just because". He did poorly overall. I didn't think about any of that going in. I was annoyed with my spacey mindset with Dillon and eager to refocus and re-energize. So I fenced hard and high-energy. I won 5-1. Afterward Patric, who had been watching, said I didn't have to work so hard to beat him. I said I was trying to get my mind, and body, back in the groove, which he seemed to find reasonable.

Next bout was with Henry Lange, the tall leftie who won the whole tournament. I had fenced him once or twice before and always had a hard time. And he's only gotten better. I had something of a plan, but it didn't work at all. Another 5-0 loss, ugh. Twice he got me with a long lunge into my feint check-steps. Twice with lovely fleches. And once while I was trying to worry his hand while keeping distance. Sigh.

My final bout was with Zach Shaw, a kid who I've fenced a few times and feel like I should be able to handle, but somehow never do.


With a pool like that I thought I would get an impossible DE, but it turned out better than I feared. I still lost, but it was a good, fun, fairly close bout. It was with Michael Desimone, a guy I had never met, which is one of best things about these large events: fencing people I don't know at all. Especially in the DEs, where you have time to scope them out, do early "reconnaissance", try to figure out tactics and apply them, adjust to changing tactics and new information, and so on. I felt like this DE bout had all that.

By the end of the first period I was down 3-5, but felt like I had learned a lot. Where the proper distance was, recognizing some of his invitation/traps and getting ideas about how to take advantage of them. He kept doing an invitation, opening his outside forearm. I got one hit there early on, but also made some overly deep attacks that failed. During the break Russ emphasized shallow attacks and said something about using a double disengage if I wanted to defeat that arm invitation.

Over the next two periods we both got some nice touches, we both made some mistakes, and the score remained close. I never quite managed to tie it up, but was never more than two points down. I tried to make that double disengage idea work, but never could. Mostly I tried to stay very shallow and keep the distance rather wide. He mostly did the same. Once or twice he fleched and I parried and just missed my riposte. Once he got a nice knee touch on me. Another time I was showing a hand invitation and he hit my hand. Got too close.

At 12-10 I got a touch that felt quite nice—a bit of subtle distance work and broken time, creating an opening. Then, at 12-11 he fleched and almost caught me unready, but I eeked out a double. That made it 13-12. I felt like the next point was particularly important. I could tie it up. But if he got a point, even a double, he'd be at 14. I was doing my best to work the distance, throwing out lots of little feints/shallow target probes, and showing little invitations. He was doing much the same. At some point I made a little invitation just as he made a little feint and pop, he hit my hand. It seemed almost accidental, maybe lucky, but damn, 14-12. He fleched for a double to win.

Afterward we talked a bit. We both thought it was a good, fun bout. We had both been thinking similarly in terms of tactics. I think we both had had a good time seeing what the other did and trying to figure things out. We had never met before. It was a good example of a problem-solving DE. I think we both thought it could have gone either way. We both had several semi-lucky hits and several almost-hit misses.

I watched Michael's next DE, against Zhice (David) Que, who had seeded quite a bit higher (Michael was 48th, Que was 17th). I thought maybe I would see how a better fencer might deal with some of Michael's stuff—maybe I'd see things I could have or should have done. I watched as this "better" fencer kept getting way too close, it seemed to me, and getting hit. And he kept doing it, apparently not figuring out the right distance. The bout wasn't even close (15-5). Michael and I chatted a bit after that. I said that other guy kept getting too close, and he was like I know, wtf?! I watched his next DE, which he also won, against Bela Suveg, who had seeded closer to Michael (49th), but is tough—I've never come close to beating him anyway. Then Michael faced Kaiden Crotchett, who was the top seed, and lost 15-4. Anyway, I had already felt pretty good about my DE. Seeing Michael go on to do as well as he did made me feel even better, despite having lost.

As always with these kind of events, I enjoyed watching the rest of the DEs, checking out all these amazing fencers, trying to learn stuff. The most exciting bout I saw was Svetoslav Dimitrov and Jason Lipton. Lipton got a nice lead and seemed to figure out how to deal with Dimitrov's nice fleches. But Dimitrov, who I think is like 14 and has only been fencing a couple years or so, did really well adjusting his tactics and timing, hitting again and again with such fast fleches. He clawed his way back to tie 14-14. He lost the last point, but even so he did well enough to come in 8th and jump from a D to an A rating. Before facing Lipton he beat Kyle Yamasaki, impressive. That one was also very close, 15-14.

In the end it came down to an unsurprising few, such as Kaiden, Sam Larsen, Henry Lange. In the final 8 Sam and Kaiden had a very close bout. Kaiden had the lead for most of it, but Sam came back in the end to win 15-14. Then Sam took out Jason Lipton 15-3. That made the final Sam and Henry Lange, which was another very close bout. It went to 14-14. Lange won.

PS, it looks like Lipton uploaded videos of his bout with Dimitrov:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Battle in Seattle 2016, Vet Epee

Battle in Seattle 2016, Vet Epee

The Battle in Seattle! One of the biggest tournaments in the Pacific Northwest. I always look forward to it. People come from far and wide. It is a Div-1A ROC, which means, well I'm still not quite sure what it means—something like, if you do well you earn points that effect your competitive ranking and qualify you for various national events. I don't know exactly how it all works, since I am not good enough for it to matter. But many people are, so tournaments like this tend to attract good fencers from all over the western US and Canada. The points and qualification stuff matter less for the vet events (for people over 40) than for the senior (over 14). Just showing up at a vet ROC qualifies you for summer national vet events.

A few years ago, after I had only started fencing again about six months earlier, I went to the Battle in Seattle vet epee event but skipped the big senior event because it looked scary—but I went to watch, then wished I was in it. Since then I've done both vet and senior epee every year.

That first time I did surprisingly okay. Looking back I see I went four and two in the pools, beating Maria Copelan, William Walker, and Jim Henderson (all of whom I've lost to in later tournaments). How weird, especially given how raw a fencer I was back then. In that first year DEs I beat John Comes before losing to Erich Cranor. I came in 17th out of 33. Huh. Not bad at all. Maybe that was what gave me my love of this tournament.

Let's see how I've done since then <sound of looking stuff up>. The next year, 2014, I did worse in vet epee, coming in 21st out of 35. I did alright in the pools (3 and 2), beating Mike Perka and Mark Blom, surprisingly. But my DE was with James Neale and I lost badly. Then, last year I did even worse, 25th out of 30, losing every pool bout but one and losing my DE to William Walker.

So I've had a downward kind of progress in the Battle in Seattle vet epee. I hadn't realized that until just now. Well, this year I turned it around. I didn't do great, but well enough. I ended up 14th out of 28, the exact halfway spot. That's slightly better than my first year, where I ended up slightly below the halfway spot. My pool result wasn't quite as good this year, but in my defense it was a harder pool.

Overall, well, something I look at is how well I do compared to my initial seed. In this case I ended up 14th and my post-pool seed was 15th. My initial seed? It was 13th. But I was seeded highest of the four C15 fencers. I think the seeding is random within fencers of the same rating and year. So my initial seed could have ranged between 13th and 16th. But whatever, my final result and seeds were more or less the same: right around the middle of the pack. I'm okay with that! The Battle in Seattle attracts a lot of great fencers.


My pool had two good A-fencers I doubted I could beat (Ameli and Perka), two guys I "should" be able to beat (Lucas and Robinson), one guy who is tough and maaaybe I could handle (Moore), and another guy I didn't know at all (Goossens).

My first bout was with Sean Ameli. Might as well get the hardest one over with, eh? Maybe Mike Perka is better on average, maybe not, I don't know. Perka did just slightly better in the pools this time (tied victories and indicator, one more touch scored), getting 2nd seed to Ameli's 3rd. But I figured Ameli would be harder for me. I've fenced Perka more, even won a pool bout once, and had ideas about how to fence him. I've only fenced Ameli once, I think, several years ago when I had only recently started fencing again. All I knew was that he beat me badly that one time and I barely understood what had happened. I remembered that he's left-handed, and that had been hard for me back then, and that I felt like a noob, heh. It may have been my first serious experience with lefties. I got hit on the outside line a lot.

This time I felt a lot more comfortable. Less of a noob! Still, he got the first two points, then quickly got up four to my one. I'm better than I used to be, but still have a long way to go. I hardly remember the points, they went by so fast. I think he got me nicely on the leg with an accelerating lunge. Another time I attempted a flick to the inside wrist but apparently mismanaged distance and got hit on the arm.

I had been trying to play it safe, but at 4-1 I changed to riskier tactics. Playing it safe sure wasn't working. I held my blade up in a semi-absent position, making an obvious invitation to the lower arm. I even stuck my arm out a bit, trying to tempt him. He clearly saw this as a blatant invitation and made a few feints into it, perhaps to see how I would react, what my plan was. Or perhaps to hit, as I was being rather risky sticking out a target like that. I let one of his feints come awfully close, trying to dare him to really try. I think I instinctively pulled my whole arm back a bit. After a little bit he made a more committed attack to my arm and I did what I had planned: retreated a step, straightening and raising my arm while angling the blade down a little. It worked perfectly, my tip landing on his arm near the elbow, while his tip went below my arm.

That felt very nice. It was something I had in my mind from watching videos of Max Heinzer earlier in the day. Watching Heinzer do this thing was odd, because it looked so obvious, yet he was getting people to walk into it. That's kind of how I felt here. It felt too obvious to actually work, but it did.

That made is 4-2, still not very good. Next I tried another thing I've gotten watching Heinzer. Not that I think I'm doing what he does by any stretch—more like stuff I've been inspired to try after watching the way he fences, and developed into something of my own. In fact, I think I've developed a small set of inter-related tactics inspired by both Heinzer and Dragonetti. Maybe I could call it my Heinzeretti tactics? I don't know. Anyway, this next one involved holding the blade level but angled maybe 45 degrees to the inside. I'm still working on this and figuring out how and why it works when it does. There are a number of things that can happen. If nothing else the blade position is another semi-absent type of thing, and sets up several invitations. I've found that some people are tempted to attack into my high outside line, and that it is easy for me to move into a strong six parry. I've also played with holding my blade out rather far in this position, then slowly bringing it in, combined with footwork and other blade movements, with the goal of stealing distance. In any case, I haven't tried it much with lefties and thought it might not work very well. But I tried it anyway. We maneuvered about a bit and I at least tried to do the stealing distance bit. I think he probed my high outside line and I responded with motions toward a six parry. Eventually he did attack high and outside, with more speed and more angulation, perhaps thinking he could angle around my six. That is a common leftie thing, isn't it? Being able to get around a "normal" six? But I saw his attack coming and instead of going to six I counterattacked low and inside. In doing this I dropped my body down and inside a bit. As a result his blade went just over my head and I hit his body.

After that 4-1 start those last two points both felt very nice. I had made it 4-3, a much nicer place to be. But I still needed two singles and was running out of ideas. Going back to the line I thought if I was in his place I might just try to double out, get it over with. Perhaps I could do something to encourage an attempt to double, then deal with it? I decided to make a fake charge right off the line. I'd act like the last two points had given me some kind of momentum and I was going to do some kind of fast advance-advance-fleche or something. But I'd break off suddenly and if he attacked into it I would retreat and counterattack. So that's what I did. At the call "fence" I came forward quickly and, hopefully, aggressively, then stopped abruptly, ready to counter and retreat. But I botched it. I had advanced a little too far and perhaps a little awkwardly, and he had advanced too. So when I stopped he easily hit me before I could retreat or counterattack. Whoops. Still, a 5-3 loss was better than 5-1, especially against the guy I thought I'd have the most trouble with.

My next bout was with Michael Moore. I like him. He's fun to fence. Lots of energy! I fenced him once before, in a DE at last year's Columbia Cup in Portland, vet epee. I mentioned it to him, chatting, but he didn't remember that specific bout. I had also watched him at another tournament or two. In particular I remember watching George Raush beat him in a DE, but only by putting everything he had into it, leaving George "out of gas" for his next DE. I mentioned that to Michael too and he said something about how he likes to fence hard, such that even if he loses his opponent will have paid a price for it.

So we fenced, and it was a great bout. I think we have somewhat similar styles. Strong blade actions, for example. Not someone you want to try to power through. We both fenced quite patiently though, which surprised me a little. I thought he would attack more, but we both worked hard to get the other person to attack. And we both seemed to want to use strong bladework counterattacks. So the bout was a fun, very active game of distance and feints. A game of seeing how close you could get, trying to draw an attack, without getting too close.

He got the first point, basically because I was less patient and attacked from too far. Then I began to see how it should go and tried to work the distance right, taking plenty of time. I don't remember who started the next attack, but it wound up a double, making it 2-1. Then he tried an attack right off the line, perhaps because we had just spend a good bit of time setting up patterns of baiting and waiting. He almost got me by surprise. I managed to get my point out and make it a double, 3-2. Then we had another lengthy distance and feinting game, which finally ended up in a bunch of action and...another double? No, I had a single light! Tied 3-3. He had the ref check his weapon, which seemed like a good idea. I had no idea if he had hit me or not. Maybe he had. His weapon checked out. Perhaps he had hit flat.

Then we had another long but high energy distance game, finally resulting in a double, making it 4-4. Exciting! We started up another distance game, but I stupidly got impatient and attacked at a non-ideal time. He got a single and won, 5-4. Why did I attack impatiently? I don't know. Maybe the excitement got to me?

Next I had my friend Jeff Lucas. If I remember right I got up 2-1, then he got a simple pick under my forearm. He put his tip out and I stuck my arm onto it. I felt like it was at least half my fault for sticking my arm out, but later he said he has been working on picking under the guard like that. Then we maneuvered around a bit and I got a touch on his outside arm. I don't remember the details. I think he had let his guard drift a little to the center, opening his outside line just enough for me to pick it off. Then, he got the next point, making a 3-3 tie. I forget what happened. My notes for that point just say "oops, uh oh". Whatever happened I thought I could do better. I tried to up my game, be more careful and tricky, more dynamic.

I got the next point with a "Heinzeretti" type thing—I think it was the "blade to the inside and steal distance" thing. On the last point, he kept making feints and probes, putting his blade out, but from a reasonably safe distance. Somehow I got into my head the notion of closing distance quickly and "taking" his blade in prime. It is something Russ has shown me a few times but I have not practiced much recently. I tried it, advancing fast and moving my blade into prime, with the idea of pushing his blade away as I closed. But he retreated and pulled his blade back faster than I advanced, so my prime "take" missed his blade. By that point I was committed to some kind of attack, so I just made a weird, very pronated fleche out of prime. He tried to retreat and do something about my blade, but I managed to hit. So I won 5-3. Right after that last point he said, incredulously, "what was that??" I said something like "I'm not quite sure, it wasn't supposed to go like that!"

My next bout was with Bruno Goossens. I had never met him or seen him fence before. I lost 5-2 and ended up somewhat confused about what had happened. He had a style that looked like just the kind of thing I like and could do well against—French grip, holds the blade out a lot, that kind of thing. But he was tricksy and smart, and amazingly controlled and accurate.

I think he got the first point, then I got one. Then I tried a fast attack off the line, maybe because he had a calm demeanor and seemed surprisable. He wasn't. Now down 2-1 I took a more cautious approach and tried to find a way to deal with his French grip and extended arm tactics. I tried some kind of beat attack. It worked, but he got his point back on very quickly. We doubled, 3-2. So I tried being more cautious. He was patient and let me edge in. I made various feints and beats while slowly advancing, looking for openings, trying to figure him out. At some point, while my mind was occupied with his blade and how to get it out of the way he went for a toe touch and got it easily. It was nicely done. I was overly concerned with his blade and focused on beating and feinting combined with advancing. He waited for the perfect moment when my weight was on my front foot. I had an instant of time in which I saw the attack coming but was unable to do anything about it. He timed it just right. Next, if I remember right, he made an attack off the line and I wasn't quite ready for that. He scored and won, 5-2.

I watched him fence a bit after our bout, and chatted to a couple other people about him. I was not able to "figure him out", but got the idea that he had a "French style". I think he is French. At least his jacket said FRA on it, although he lives in Oregon and is a B13 in the USFA. He came in 8th overall, winning two DEs, including one against Joel Howard. In my pool he did well, beating everyone except Sean Ameli and Mike Perka.

My next bout was with Doug Robinson, down from Canada. We've fenced a few times and although I couldn't remember the details I felt fairly confident. But I started off a bit awkwardly and he got up 2-1. Then he attacked into my six line with a disengage to the inside. Instinctively I went into prime and scored. That felt nice. After that we doubled, making it 3-3. At that point I started using "Heinzeretti" tactics more. I had been trying to use them less, but when things got close I tended to fall back to them, and they worked pretty well for me, late bout. Maybe, for pool bouts, a slight change of tactics toward the end, to something I am comfortable with, is useful.

So I was doing a slightly blade-up thing, showing a bit of arm invitation. He made an extension, probably just a feint. I did a double beat advance fleche and scored, which felt good. After a meh start things were feeling better. Confident again I tried to use better footwork, bouncing in and out, looking for openings or trying to draw attacks. Eventually he attacked and I was able to bounce back and counterattack, getting a single light. So I won 5-3, yay.

At this point in the pools I was 2 and 3. My last bout was with Mike Perka, an A-rated fencer who often wins or places high in vet events. I had almost beaten him a couple years ago, in the pools of an earlier Battle in Seattle vet epee event. I remembered thinking he seemed a bit slow, at least footwork-wise. Also, someone in that pool had suggested I attack "straight up his arm" when he does  "blade wiggle" things. So I went in with those things in mind, planning to use quick in-and-out footwork while looking for chance to go "up his arm".

I don't remember the first few points exactly, except at one point he got me with a lovely hit to the hand—to the finger even. And another time he fleched with disengages or "wiggles", getting me to go for a prime parry while his blade ended up on the outside. Wrong parry! Soon he was up 3-2. Then, maybe getting a better sense of timing I attacked "up his wiggle". I scored on his arm, but he managed to get my arm from below, doubling. Now we were at 4-3 and again I turned to Heinzeretti tactics. As with Doug I tried a slightly blade-up position, using in-and-out footwork, hoping to tempt him toward my lower arm. He extended, perhaps just a feint, I beat hard and went up his arm, getting a single. Yay, 4-4. Then I tried my Heinzeretti "to the side" guard. I was not at all sure this was a good idea, but wasn't sure what else to do. At some point he made a "blade wiggle" and I went for it, and got him on the arm again. Single light. I won 5-4, woo!

So I came out of the pools 3 and 3, which was what I had been hoping for, but didn't think I would manage after losing to Michael Moore and Bruno Goossens. Sean and Mike did the best, both winning five, and both with a +11 indicator. Bruno had won four, +8. Michael and I had both gone three and three. His indicator was zero while mine was -1, so he seeded higher.


I seeded 15th out of 28. Not bad. Michael Moore was one spot above me, but looking at the DE table I don't think it would have been better for me if I had had his spot. He started with Mark Blom, who I may or may not have been able to beat. Then he had 3rd seed David Jensen, who I probably couldn't beat. Then again, I don't think I've ever fenced Jensen, so that could have been cool.

Instead I started with Gerald Duffy and then had Mike Perka, again. Still, although I've fenced Perka before, and just had in the pools, it was interesting to see how things differed between the pool bout, which I had barely eeked out a win, and the DE, which was a lot harder.

But first my first DE, which was against Gerald Duffy. I had never even seen him before and went in with no idea at all about his style. But that is one of the things I like about tournaments like the Battle in Seattle: Getting to fence people I've never even seen. Especially in a DE where there is more time to figure things out.

I started out cautious and probing, trying to figure out how this guy fences, what might work, what to be careful about, etc. I used a lot of in-and-out footwork, trying to set distance traps, and Heinzeretti-type blade stuff, combined with probes, feints, and shallow attacks. I also tried to use a lot of tempo changes—switching up being bouncingly aggressive with slowing down, breaking off, or even suddenly freezing for a moment. I was planning to keep the first period score low while I tried to figure things out. But he made attacks perhaps a little too quickly, or into my traps. I got a lead, and soon a sizable lead. The first period ended 7-3 or 7-4. A comfortable lead in a DE to ten.

In the second period I felt comfortable being patient and killing time, while doing the same sort of stuff I used in the first period. Maybe he attacked more than was wise because he knew he had to catch-up. In any case I got the three points I needed while he only got one, or none. I won 10-4. I enjoyed the feeling of being in control of a DE bout. After the first few points I felt relaxed and confident. I felt like I was in control of the tempo, like I had the initiative, while he was more reactive. That was nice because it is something I have definitely been working on, and have too often been on the wrong side of—being reactive to someone else's tempo.

I was near the bottom of the DE table, so my second DE was with the 2nd seed, which was Mike Perka. Seeing that made me laugh. The odds of winning were slim, but I had just beaten him in the pools. Then again, I had barely beaten him and felt there had been at least a little luck involved. Well, a DE should show if either of us had learned something useful in that pool bout.

He got a lead early on. I tried to do the kind of things that had worked in the pool bout, while also trying to see and adjust to changes he might make. He made some nice attacks, confusing me with his blade wiggles. Once he was up two or three points I got a little smarter and started scoring doubles. Or maybe he was content to double. Either way we reached 9-5 before the first period ended. Not a good score in a vet DE to ten points!

So it was a long shot, a very long shot. Still, I wasn't about to give up, especially since this would be the last bit of fencing I would get that day. I went into the second period determined to at least get a good point or two. I got a single light on his arm, attacking "up the wiggle". Okay, good. Then, although it is risky, I tried that high-low-outside fleche. It came off well and gave me another single light. Good, good. Then, after a little maneuvering, I tried it again, which was probably not the best idea. As a tactic it depends on the other person responding to the high feint with a parry or high-line counterattack. The first time he made a counterattack, which went over my shoulder. This time, however, I could not surprise him and he counterattacked lower, perfectly nailing my arm long before I came close.

I lost 10-7. But those last two points of mine had felt nice, so I was pretty okay with it.

Perka went on to lose 10-8 to Carl Loeffler. I don't know Carl, but he did well. He went on to beat David Jensen to face Sean Ameli in the final. I watched the final closely, knowing that Sean is very good, but Carl had been fencing very well. Should be good! But it wasn't even close. Carl won 10-3.

Videos from Battle in Seattle 2016

Three videos from the 2016 Battle in Seattle, senior men's epee:

Mark Segal (L) v Jason Lipton (R), table of 16:

Sam Larsen (L) v Kaiden Crotchett, table of 8:

Henry Lange (L) v Sam Larsen (R), final gold medal bout: