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By Tim Boggan | May 28, 2012, 9 a.m. (ET)

History of USA Table Tennis Volume 12


             1983: USTTA Potpourri.

             The USATT’s Film Committee Chair D.P. (“Don”) Story reports (TTT, Dec., 1982, 6; Feb., 1983, 6; May-June, 1983, 19) on the establishment and progress of its Video-Tape Library:

“Eleven video tapes and one 16mm film are now on file and available for rental from the Kent State University Films Library, Kent Ohio. The KSU Films Library is one of the largest rental libraries in the nation, serving mostly corporations and academic institutions [Story teaches at Kent State]. We are lucky to have professionals handling our videotapes. Cataloging, posting, billing, and follow up are only part of their service.”

In the past, volunteer amateurs tried their best to make something of the USTTA Film Committee but with little success. Now Story presents in Topics a “catalogue listing [including a short summary of the film], as well as rental costs, and a rental order form.” Some of the films available to the membership through the USTTA are those showing excerpts from the 1979 and 1981 World’s, the 1981 USOTC’s, and the 1981 and ’82 U.S. Opens. Don says, “The tape is in one format only—VHS. And of course there are copyright restrictions. Borrowers agree not to video duplicate or use on TV. Also, the rental period is only for five days. You must return the tape promptly so that others can enjoy the same tape.” [Jack Carr, for one, thinks five days isn’t enough time—“the postal system isn’t that good, and if film is wanted for a club banquet it might need to be reviewed first before being decided on.”] In the beginning (Dec. Topics), there’s only one copy of each tape available. But I’ll let Don have more to say about the distribution of the tapes in a moment. First, however, he wants to thank those who’ve helped him.

“The collection could not have been collected without the tireless support of my good friend and committee member, Mr. David Strang. We both have spent many hours working on this project together, but it was through Dave’s personal efforts and expense that the ’81 U.S. Open at Princeton (except the finals) was filmed. My thanks as well to Bowie Martin who first suggested I take over the Film Committee, and who donated 12 hours of World Championship tape filmed by the Tamasu Butterfly Co. In addition to the support offered by USTTA Executive Director Bill Haid, and the USTTA itself for providing our Committee with some necessary financial help, I thank our V.P. Lyle Thiem who purchased the very fine Tischtennis instructional tape, and Cam Clark who took films of the ’79 Pyongyang, North Korea World’s. Along with my own 1982 filming of the Cleveland Open (in which you can study Sweden’s Appelgren in action) and the ’82 U.S. Open, I must also include the TSP films of the 1981 World Cup and Norwich Union Masters—these came from Danny Robbins of Robbins Sport who’s always been most helpful in my never-ending quest for quality videotape.”

 Six months after the opening of this Video-Tape Library, films had been rented with enthusiasm—students of the sport could learn new techniques from them, and those giving exhibitions could use them as an accompanying promotional tool. However, shortcomings had to be acknowledged. “The major difficulty we have encountered was that the quality of some of the tapes was not up to the expectation of some. At present, duplication of tapes is done on my own machines, without the benefit of black boxes to minimize the loss of signal during the duplication process. Combine this with the fact that our ‘masters’ are, in some cases, 2nd or 3rd generation, and that many times editing of the ‘master’ reduces the generation again, the library copies need not be ‘movie’ quality. My own opinion is that all copies are good enough for personal viewing—for the purpose of studying game styles and tactics. For audience viewing, some tapes are clearly not adequate.”

“In some cases, the Film Committee had a choice of offering outstanding table tennis action of poorer quality video, or not offering it at all. Our failure was not to advise the public in advance which tapes were adequate for personal viewing and which were best for large audience viewing. As we now make clear this distinction, I ask for members’ understanding and patience. To improve this Table Tennis Library we need a system of people with video tape equipment (recorder and color camera) to film the top national tournaments, both for our membership and the general public.” 

Dr. Michael Scott says (TTT, May-June, 1983, 18) that his Sports Medicine Committee “has been able to obtain biometric analyses and tests of highly skilled table tennis players for studying various parameters of these athletes. Specific factors that were studied by Dr. Jack Groppel involved the transfer of force from the floor through the lower extremities, to the hips and trunk, and finally to the upper extremity moving the paddle. This testing was performed at the National Closed Championships in Las Vegas and with the cooperation of the USOC in Colorado Springs. The costs of these procedures were paid by the USOC, and we’re indebted to Bill Haid, Sol Schiff, and Houshang Bozorgzadeh, as well as the players, for their assistance.

It is hoped that the tabulation and films obtained will enable the players to improve their efficiency in stroke production and movement patterns….” 

Of course if ambitious player after player could not only see films of world-class players in action, but see films of himself in matches, that would help, especially if he/she had an experienced coach as commentator. Gradually over the years such a practice will catch on. Meanwhile, Jack Carr in his monthly column (TTT, May-June, 1983, 18) gives much more lip-service attention to the need for a school LETTER program than he does to our need to succeed in the Olympics. He says he doesn’t, and neither does our E.C., know how to get table tennis into the schools as a Letter sport—but he knows it would make all the difference in being recognized by the public. He also concludes that “there isn’t any doubt that the general public would recognize table tennis as a sport if some way, somehow, in 1988 we could win the Olympic Gold.” Jack, without a clue, asks, “Is winning the Olympic Gold any more unrealistic, any more of a dream, than the U.S. victory in ice hockey?” Then he continues abstractly on, “But if we are to win the Gold, we have to start now; 1988 is only five years away.”

Start now—how? “Well, since the Olympic Committee has budgeted the USTTA with a reasonable salary for a National Coach, we can and should hire this coach, someone who speaks English and in my opinion preferably an American.” Like who? Who might be our experienced American choices? “Maybe one of our U.S. Professionals who is ineligible to be an Olympic participant. This coach would be with all of our U.S. teams from now on through the 1988 Olympics [with salary increments?]. I suggest Danny Seemiller or Eric Boggan.” But Jack, at this moment, these are the two best players in the country. True, in country after country, many of the best players when they retire become coaches. Indeed, Danny Seemiller will eventually make his living as Coach of National Champions at his South Bend, IN Club, will in fact be our National Men’s Team Coach, but for the moment let him continue to be a player. As for Eric Boggan, have you ever asked him, still a teenager, the #1-rated player in the country, if he’d like to give up being an international star to be a coach (with how much coaching experience?). That suggestion is ludicrous.

But Jack really isn’t serious about Eric. He has a different agenda, one that he’s repeatedly suggested before—as witness his continuation. “If we’re going to have a chance for the 1988 Gold, we have to give our eligible players exposure to international competition. So, starting now, our U.S. Teams (including the World Championship U.S. Team [that’s those players, preeminently Danny and Eric, who’ve gone through the Trials and made the ’83 World Team] should be composed only of players who fulfill the Olympic requirements which at this writing are amateurs who are U.S. citizens. As Bill Haid has written, ‘Our ultimate goal is to represent the United States with a strong opportunity to capture the coveted Gold Medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.’’ The blind leading the blind—but at least Haid knows the ’88 Olympics are in Seoul, and that Seoul is in South Korea. M’god, the parochial thinking—make that the non-thinking that continues to be happily advertised—how entrenched it is in this country. For years and years I’ve had to rail against it.

Of course I‘m most interested in International and National tournaments where our top players participate. However, I’m also partial to local human interest stories. Mel Eisner devotes an “Upbeat” column (TTT, May-June, 1983, 18) to one of those people who “bring their minds, hearts, and energies towards making things happen.” Here’s the letter written by Dennis A. Steele of East Peoria, IL that so captured Mel’s attention (perhaps because he’s run so many tournaments and knows the usual publicity problems): 

“It all started about one year ago when I generated my first news releases about a spring tourney. One or two papers picked it up, but no TV….Immediately after seeing the release in print I wrote to the editor thanking him and the paper for their support of the club and the sport.

I can’t overstress the importance of thanking the media anytime they run your releases. If it was a paper, I wrote to the managing editor with copies to the sports editor and reporter; if it was TV I wrote to the station manager with copies to the sports director and the on-the-air reporter. The first reason for doing this is basic, common courtesy. To let the folks know you appreciated what they did for you. The second reason is that in writing you keep your name, the Club’s name, and the name of the sport in front of the media. You want a long-term, positive relationship with the media, not just one quick media ‘fix.’

The next thing that came up was the Junior Olympics for TT in Illinois. I let out all the stops on that with multiple releases and invitations to the media to cover. I called sports editors/directors in advance to tell them I was going to write them, then I called several times again, including one or two days before the tourney. For those efforts we got a 40-second TV spot and a full-page feature in one of the weekly papers. I spent much time with reporters at the event, telling them about particular kids, the Club, the sport. They went away with lots of information.

When the next tourney came up I didn’t have to work as hard to get releases published. They knew us and we had established some credibility, some key points.

The TV guy asked to be kept informed on how the local kids did in Memphis, so I let him know and he aired it. Many letters of thanks followed….

Two months later the daily called and said they wanted to do a feature on Table Tennis. I buried them with information—copies of Topics articles, copies of the rules, price sheets from mail order TT businesses, and some data I’d collected on the international, national, and local T.T. scene. I gave out phone numbers of key folk, calling them to alert them….

Some weeks after that the weekly called….They wanted to focus on the Club and the sport. So I buried them with information too….

I went to the paper’s headquarters the day the article was to have appeared….The reporter ended up interviewing me for nearly an hour. I’m not particularly newsworthy, but I was handy and accessible, so that’s why I was so exclusively quoted….

In order to present a better image, I devised some ‘letterhead’ and ‘news release’ stationery….

As to the immediate future, the Club has a tourney in April. Last week I ‘broadsided’ some 20 releases to area media….I have a list of about 20 area youth serving/youth athletics/youth club organizations. I’ve prepared a draft of an announcement to them to pique their interest and ask their help in getting the word out….” 

Naturally, a not so “upbeat” tournament director’s article also appears (Timmy’s, Jan., 1984, 16). Here’s Patrick F. Herman’s “Incentive?”:

“Was Charles Dickens talking about table tennis when he inked his immortal ambiguity? Really, Tim, is it the best of times? I would like to think so, but perhaps the optimism shared by so many of us is merely wishful thinking.

Where is all the incentive hidden? A better question may be, ‘Was there ever any incentive to begin with?’ Please excuse me if I offend anyone with the following commentary.

In May of 1980 I organized the first ‘annual’ Quaker State Penn Open Table Tennis Tournament. A serious undertaking to say the least. When the tournament was held in July of that year I anticipated a banner event. Players came from all over, braving 100-degree heat in the gymnasium for their part of nearly $2,500 in cash and prizes. It almost went off without a hitch.

Except I heard: ‘When are you going to turn on the air-conditioning?’ Yeah, really, in a high school gym? Come on! Perhaps I should have had the tournament in January when the air conditioning is free.

And heard: ‘Fifteen tables. Too bad only three of them don’t rival the lunar surface. By the way, it’s too damn hot in here!’ Perhaps the complainer didn’t realize I drove the whole way to Pittsburgh, a distance of 90 miles, to secure the tables so the tournament could he held in the first place.

And heard: ‘I hope you have it next year, Pat, but try to make July a little cooler.’ Sure, I’ll get right on it.

Well, believe it or not, in 1981 I did make July a little cooler. A lot cooler, in fact—I rented an air-conditioned gym. It all went off without a hitch.

Except I heard, ‘I can’t lob—that damn unit is blowing my ball all over the place.’ Try looping.

And heard: ‘I can’t loop—the chill in here has changed the property of my rubber.’ Try lobbing.

The 1982 tournament went off without a hitch.

Except I heard: ‘Ten tables. Too bad only one doesn’t rival the lunar surface.’ I’d heard that comment in 1980.

And heard: ‘God, is it hot in here!’ Try sponging off between points.

I must say from a personal standpoint the ’82 tournament was very disappointing. Just two weeks before, we lost our Quaker State sponsorship—though through no fault of theirs or the tournament committee. An unforeseen scheduling conflict. I must give the players credit because for the most part they were very understanding. It must have been a shock to see the prize money cut by 60%. I thank them for that.

What I’m trying to say is there is no use complaining unless one can offer a better way. I truly believe even the most ambitious person is capable of absorbing a degree of constructive criticism.

To be fair to all parties involved in any of my tournaments, the vast majority were perfectly satisfied. This group includes many of the ‘top’ players. The few who complained may simply be masking their own feelings of insecurity by complaining of the seemingly endless number of ‘moon’ balls they’ve been battling all these years.

No, I’m not saying I’m beyond criticism. I actually appreciate new ideas if they come from considerate, objective sources. But constant bickering is not the answer to any problem and is not, as I am told, the way of civilized men.

There may be another tournament if only I can find the INCENTIVE.” 

Lee Ross in his “Sponsorship Game” article (TTT, Feb., 1983, 11) tells us, though not

as  unrelentingly warrior-like as did Dennis Steele, of the importance of Preparation—in player Ross’s case, of finding a sponsor (Lee’s currently sponsored by the IZOD CORP). He begins by pointing out that “a sponsor doesn’t have to be a big company, like Harvard or Butterfly, it can be the neighborhood drug store or the local supermarket, and sponsors don’t always mean money, it could be clothing, transportation, food, who knows? But it’s up to you to find out.

            …A Portfolio is essential in your quest for a sponsor. It lends a slick, professional look to any athlete seeking a business to help him. Any photo/letter display book will do; these books are usually found at any stationery store. If you’re wondering what you should put in it, first thing is: a letter to a prospective sponsor. It shows you’re serious. The letter should introduce table tennis as a growing sport, it should tell who you are, where you’re from, age, t.t. accomplishments, and national, state, or city ranking (more understandable than rating). Other items you should include are any photos of you with your trophies and medals. And if you don’t have any, make them up because they always help [Tim’s italics—“they always help”…until proven bogus]. If any photo of you playing has ever been made, include that if you can.

            Now you’re ready to make a list of possible sponsors….Try to pick businesses that are sports oriented, like a sporting goods store or a sports clothing store….Try to pick businesses that are large enough to give a small donation. Also, take note—your list shouldn’t be less than 15 companies….Good luck!” 

            Eugene Wilson (TTT, Feb., 1983, 12) also emphasizes that players need help, especially young players. He sees how the Professional Golfers Association and his own Oakcreek Country Club in Sedonia, AZ encourage Junior Golf (Club members donate golf clubs, enthusiastic youngsters begin by getting to use the driving range and putting green, and as they improve they get to play on the course free). In table tennis, a country like Sweden “has clubs that pay tournament entry fees for their juniors, and offer functional prizes such as bicycles, ice skates, tennis rackets, and barbeque sets. We in the U.S. need new ideas to entice juniors into the sport. How about at the next U.S. Closed, we have a Las Vegas Junior Closed (open only to those of various ages who live in Vegas). Don’t charge any entry fee, award merchandise prizes, and see how many kids and their spectator-parents come out. [Publicity for such an event would be key to its success. If need be, and it would be, send Dennis Steele out there for a month ahead of time and get local players to give him hospitality?]” 

            Bill Walk, Trustee Manager of the USTTA’s Capital Development Fund (CDF) is proud to announce (TTT, Apr., 1983, 12) that “the initial fund drive drew 54 responses resulting in donations of $3,500.” In seeking more donations, Bill reminds everyone that “unlike most charities, the CDF will never spend your donations. Instead, they will be invested. The dividends from these investments will be turned over to the USTTA for specific purposes. Any dividends over 10% will be retained and re-invested in the fund. Thus the $7,000 we now have will mean $700 to the USTTA every year forever. …Can you imagine what we can do when we get $100,000 in the fund?

            More good news for Walk. By the time the next Topics came out, Mrs. Ruth Bacon had donated $2,000 to the fund in memory of her late husband Ed who’d died May 17, 1980. He was a tournament player for a long time out of New Jersey and after his retirement he also played at Newgy’s  Club in Miami, FL. Thanks from Bill to Ruth. 

            Another Newgy veteran, a “Senior of the Month” (TTT, Feb., 1983, 11), is Sam Hoffner. Gene Wilson has a story to tell about him:           

“Sam Hoffner was born in New York City on Nov. 28, 1918. He won his first table tennis trophy in 1933 when he was on the same Tomkins Square Boys Club with Lou Pagliaro and Vic Gurrado that won the New York City Team Championship over Sol Schiff, Ed Pinner, and Cy Sussman. He graduated from Stuyvesant High then later joined the Air Force, and spent the entire period of World War II in Puerto Rico where he learned to speak Spanish. There, in 1942, he married and had three children. The mother of his children died in 1958 of a blood disease. Sam and his second wife, Paula, have been married for 23 years. Sam made a living in insurance, real estate, and now, in retirement in Miami, he has a small direct mail business.

…At the 1979 Caesars Closed in Las Vegas, Sam was leading Bill Hornyak, 20-19 in the third, in the semi’s of the Senior Esquire’s when he seemed to lose all control and lost the next three points. He’d suffered an aneurysm of the aorta. He was rushed to the local Desert Springs Hospital where his life was saved. To those of you who might not be familiar with the problem, an aneurysm is a sac which is formed by local enlargement of the weakened wall of the main artery of the body carrying blood from the left ventricle of the heart to the arteries of all organs and parts. Death is usually within five minutes unless skilled medical attention is received. Sam was in the hospital for 45 days and was in critical condition for 30 days. While he was still in the hospital recovering from the aneurysm the blood circulation in his left leg was obstructed, causing gangrene to set in. It was necessary to amputate his left leg above the knee.

Anybody with less courage and determination than Sam at the age of 64 and having lost a leg would forget about playing table tennis, but not Sam. He had a prosthesis for his left leg but it didn’t work out too well. He now has another prosthesis which fits better, but while waiting for the muscles to tone up he plays table tennis holding a walker for support. He must position himself and remain there for the duration of the point. He continues to play table tennis in this fashion and enjoys it. His current table tennis rating is 1383, which, in my opinion, is outstanding considering his age and lack of mobility. We wish him and his wife Paula many years of happy retirement.”           

            Obviously Wilson thinks he has a good idea what a person with a 1383 rating plays like. But Pennsylvania’s Tom Steen (and some of his friends) don’t. That’s why Tom suggests in a Letter to the Editor (TTT, Mar., 1983, 19) that “New Rating Classes Are Needed.” He proposes “a system similar to the one used in chess. A player over 2400 could be a Grandmaster, over 2000 an Expert, etc. This would give players something to shoot for, rather than an unexplainable computer number. Once a player reaches a level, there would be no turning back. Although his computer rating might fall he would still be considered a Master (or whatever) until attaining the Grandmaster stage. [But can’t you just hear a spectator say, as the player ages or he’s absent from the game for a while, and his rating falls, “That guy’s a Master?”] Tom says, “this proposed system would give added status [“I’m not a Class B player, I’m a Master”], make the levels of competition more comprehensible to spectators, and standardize tournament events. I feel that this system would encourage all players to strive for the next higher classification with the overall result being a general improvement in Table Tennis in our country. [I personally appreciate Tom’s thought, but I can’t see any improvement in his proposed system.]

            Mel Eisner notes (TTT, March, 1983, 14) a complementary suggestion made to him by Cliff Metzger. Metzger “recommends that there be a number of ‘classes’ of competition, based on rubber restrictions (Open, Smooth Bat, Pimpled Bat, Hard Bat, Limited or Mixed Bat) with separate rating records for each class.” Obviously, the ever-proliferating rubbers available on the market is a USTTA-membership preoccupation. Mel himself is concerned primarily with what he calls not “Junk” but “Defensive Rubber,” and so sends out a Questionnaire soliciting readers’ responses to the pros and cons as to its use (one question echoing Metzger’s suggestion—“Would you like to see classes of competition defined by limits on type of racket?”).  

            However, it’s Lou Bochenski’s published results of his Paddle Palace poll (TTT, Apr., 1983, 20) giving explicit but varied answers to a cluster of questions that Table Tennis History would be most interested in preserving. So, do your presentation, Lou: 

            “A change in regulations to allow the opponent and spectators to be able to tell which side of the racket is being used is the main demand of over 200 respondents to the Paddle Palace opinion poll.

            Most players felt that it was not necessary to ban switching sides of a combination racket, but a two-to-one majority felt that the spectators and players alike would benefit from being able to see what the opponent was doing.

            To the question about whether a short rally is not good for the sport, a narrow majority said that the length of a rally was not important. Sixty-five percent said it was not necessary to change the regulations in order to make the rallies longer. [Not much thought then of extending the length of the table to, say, 10 feet?]

            Some players felt that too many points were decided by the serve, but 76% said that this did not call for some sort of regulation so that the serve could be returned more easily.

            Seventy-three percent of the players answering used inverted rubber on both sides of the paddle. Three percent used hard rubber. And a surprising [why surprising?] 24% used a combination of inverted rubber and either pips out, long pips, or anti on the other side.

            Ninety-seven percent said that present techniques are more advanced than those in the past, and 84% said that the game is more dynamic. Eighty percent thought that the total thickness of a rubber sheet must not be changed to exceed 4 mm on a side.

            As for switching sides of a combination racket during a rally, 31% said that switching should be banned; 54% said it was not necessary to ban switching—it was just necessary to make a regulation so that the opponent could tell which side of the racket was being used. Only 15% said no regulation was necessary.

            In regard to serving, 24% of the respondents said that switching the sides of a combination racket while serving should be banned; 35% said it should be allowed; and 41% said it should be allowed but the rules should be changed so that the opponent could see which side is being used. 


“I would like to see the formation of a ‘standard’ rubber division. I mean a division where everyone utilizes the same type of rubber (not necessarily the same brand) on both sides of the paddle.”—Robert W. Waters.

“I had to go to anti rubbers. Younger players and men could render me nearly helpless with their serves. But with anti rubber they have to play a little harder.”—Anna Lynn.

“Have you ever gone to a tennis tournament? A squash tournament? I’ve played in a bunch, and even the beginners wore nice uniforms. TT tournaments have 2000-class players in jeans, long johns, etc.”—James Coombe.

“I feel table tennis is not only for the top-rated players but for everyone to enjoy. The fact that Scott and Eric Boggan, or the like, can read long pips (or at least say they can) is not applicable for the majority of players. There are more under 1800 players than over 1800. Also, either enforce the service rules or change them. Can one imagine McEnroe foot-faulting on a serve in tennis with the umpire ruling it fair because ‘he didn’t use it for his advantage’?”—Buddy Melamed.

“Making players who use anti have different-colored rubber on each side of the racket is a joke. One of the main purposes of anti is to deceive one’s opponent, and if the above regulation went into effect one of the main purposes of anti would be undermined.”—David Austin.

“I like the new technology of equipment and think it should be further explored and invent new sheets and rackets.”—Scott Baker.

“I feel banning the use of two different rubbers on a paddle is pure craziness! It would take a lot from the complexity of the game. Also, switching should be allowed. This adds much more variety to the game of table tennis.”—Earl Strohmeyer.

“I am a 2000 player who has recently retired, due to junk rubber in large part….Boggans & Seemillers have assured the minor status of table tennis. They are great players, but kill the beauty of the game. I think there are too many different types of rubber sheets. Any rubber that is tricky enough to pick up a ball should be outlawed.”—R.D. Goble.

“The use of ‘junk’ makes the person concentrate on the ball more and therefore will improve his game. That is the main part of the game—concentration. If a person can’t take ‘junk’ rubber, he shouldn’t be playing the game.”—Mark J. Vrabel.

“Combinations such as very fast-rated blades and very fast rubber (2.5 Sriver) are too fast for competitive play and I feel should be banned. I hear so many negative responses concerning so-called ‘junk’ rubber but nothing about the super-fast combination rackets that are too fast for most humans. I think the paddle point is a bad rule and should be changed. TT is a fast and fun game. I will always play with fast rubber and am not afraid of ‘funny-rubber” players. Thanks for letting me sound off.”—Bill Fortney. 

Lou’s conclusion from this survey:

“A rule change should be made by the ITTF to require a different-colored rubber on each side of the paddle. This would allow players to take advantage of modern developments in equipment but would also allow their opponents to see what is happening and to counteract it.

It seems to me that if the colors were different, the Game would be fun and a challenge to face anyone with even a radical difference in rubber from one side to the other.” 

This seems, then, a good time to bring in USTTA Rules Chair Mal Anderson’s description (TTT, May-June, 1983, 12) of the new two-color ruling that’s about to be approved by the ITTF at their upcoming General Meeting in Tokyo: 

“The following is a regulation, not a law, so it applies only to the World and Continental and ITTF-Approved Open Championships, and it becomes effective on Jan. 1, 1984.

The colors of the two sides of the blade shall be clearly different.

The criterion is that the Referee shall be able to clearly distinguish between the two colors at a distance of 10 meters under an illumination of 400 lux (38 foot candles).

Although this regulation does not apply to any U.S. tournament, the USTTA E.C. and the Canadian TTA will both probably pass it as a law, so all tournaments in both countries will observe it after Jan. 1.”