Table Tennis Tidbits #23

By Robert Ho | April 10, 2018, 9:23 p.m. (ET)

2016 Pyongyang Open


TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS # 23  By Robert Ho  7-4-16

North of Korea’s Mason and Dixon Line

The ITTF sanctioned PRK Open (6-29—7-23-16) was held in Pyongyang, People’s Republic of Korea (PRK).  The tournament was reminiscent of the party that was given to which (almost) no one came—at least no one who was “anyone”.  Reflecting the pariah status of North Korea relative to the “western sphere of influence”, the main participants at this tournament were from North Korea and its closest “ally” China.  The only exceptions in the matches listed were from Mongolia and Russia!  Those from China were none of the “elite” although China has so many good players that they could be as yet the unrecognized elite.

Whereas in other national “opens” it is common to have 64 or more competitors of each sex, there were probably less than half that number in this tournament.

The host nation must have been happy with winners in the men’s and women’s singles events: they were North Koreans!

In the men’s event, Kang Wi Hun beat Xu Ying Bin of China 7, -8, 10, -8, 8, 6.  Each was a right handed looper and there were numerous exciting exchanges.  There even was a hometown cheering section with women and men in white T shirts, each with a miniature PRK flag led by a similarly clad and flagged man who orchestrated the synchronous vocalizations and flag waving reminiscent of the political pageantry of thousands for which the PRK is known.  The timing of each animated vocalization was critical in maximizing the use of the interval between points without encroaching on the rhythm of the game—how much practice….?



The women’s final featured 2 choppers, each a North Korean: Ri Myong Sun and Kim Song I, each right handed and using inverted on the FH and some sort of pips on the BH. Neither flipped her blade except when using a BH serve with inverted.  In the first 3 games whenever Ri’s chop went to Kim’s FH half of the table, Kim would attack but didn’t attack with her BH.  The few times that Ri attacked during the first 3 games were exclusively with the BH  There were numerous extended rallies suggesting that one or the other might be working toward an expedite match.



However entering the fourth game, the heretofore relatively passive Ri began attacking effectively with both her BH and FH and won 3 straight games.  Carrying that momentum into the 7th and deciding game, things were looking rosy for Ri.  However, her error rate rose and Kim emerged the winner: 8, 8-6 (perhaps TV transmission problem—this was the maximum score recorded of the second game), 7, -4, -8, -6, 9.

This was certainly both a political and athletic success story for the PRK with inadvertent (?) support from the world table tennis community.  Now on to the Olympics (8-6—17-16) in Rio de Janeiro.