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Pattern Sophistication and Practice

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mjamja View Drop Down
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    Posted: 08/22/2019 at 4:31pm
In the "Style, Strategy, and Tactics" and "Knowing, Predicting, and Anticipating" threads there has been some disagreement on the idea of planning your shots before the point starts versus the idea of reading what the opponent is doing and reading the ball and then deciding what shot to make.  In this thread I would like to discuss a way to bring those ideas together in one concept, Pattern Sophistication.

Pattern Sophistication is the concept that a simple fixed pattern of play can incrementally be made more complex until it essentially becomes extremely option oriented based on reading the opponent and the ball.  A key element of this concept is that the complex option oriented pattern is best learned by practicing the lower incremental levels until some proficiency is developed and then moving on to practice the next more complex level.  This is just like learning to loop by first learning to loop just Fh against blocks rather than first learning random Fh/Bh counter looping.

As an example consider the simple fixed pattern of serving to the wide Bh and then hitting every shot to the opponent's Bh.  There are several potential problems with this tactic including:
1. Not taking advantage of opportunities to hit relatively easy winners with your Fh to the opponent's wide Fh.
2.  Giving your opponent an opening for a difficult to return angled Bh to your wide Bh if you have to move to your Fh side and still return to the their Bh.
3. Having to execute a fairly difficult down the line Fh when opponent plays a shot wide to your Fh
4. Being vulnerable to a "pivot around the Bh corner" style attack.

You can modify the pattern with some "until" options in order to address these problems:

1. Hit to Bh until I have to move toward my Fh and then hit to the wide Fh.
2. Hit to Bh until the ball comes to my Fh and then hit to the wide Fh and move to my Fh side to cover return angle.
Neither of these require any decision making or judgement during the point.  Once you practice and can execute these options you can add:

3. Hit to Bh until I get a short and/or weaker return to my Bh, then hit to the Fh
4. Hit to Bh until I get a short and/ or weaker ball to my elbow the step around and hit my Fh to opponent's Fh
Both of these require judging the quality of the shot coming at you and making a decision about what kind of shot to play.
Once you can do these add:

5. Hit to Bh unless I see my opponent stuck standing out on the wide Bh side of the table, then hit to the Fh.
6. Hit to Bh unless I see my opponent pivot around the Bh corner, then hit to the Fh
7. Hit to the Fh based on options 1-4 unless I see my opponent moving early to cover the wide Fh, then hit to the Bh.
Each of these require you to use your peripheral vision to read your opponent and decide on whether or not what they are doing and the quality of their shot allows you to change your pattern at the last instant.

Each of the 7 options can be practiced instead of using a simple Bh to Bh drill.  Even if your partner is not good enough to vary his returns on purpose,  you both can agree that on stray or weak returns you will execute one of the options instead of just reurning to the Bh.

Start with option 1 and work your way up through the more difficult options until you get good at all 7.  Once you can consistantly execute an option in practice or practice matches start using it in serious matches and move on to practicing the next option.

Hope this helps bring the ideas of fixed pattern play and playing by reading the opponent and ball into a unified theory.

Mak - Who if he had set his mind to hit could have solved the problem of bringing General and Special Relativity together.

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