In the blink of an eye: Gu (KOR) v Wagner (GER)

Gu Bongil is rightly famous for his absurdly long advance lunge, but it’s not his only party trick. He’s also got a vicious point-counterattack which is both devastating and, it seems, infuriating. He seems to particularly enjoy deploying it at the most aggravating possible times, like when he’s on 14 having just fought back from a major deficit. I feel extremely sorry for Wagner in this one: I fall for this sort of thing far too often, and boy does it suck.

Gu’s other distinctive characteristic is his habit of trailing in the first half of the bout, sometimes dramatically, before fighting back very aggressively towards the end, with 10-0 runs not unheard of. It remains an open question how much of this is a result of his tactical style, which is very heavily reliant on predicting his opponent’s reactions and always takes a while to set up; and how much is just trolling. He certainly seems to do it a lot less against higher ranked fencers. This could be the result of having fenced them more often and studied them more closely, allowing him to go into the match with a better plan; it could also be the result of him just not wanting to screw around against someone he’s genuinely scared of.

The full match against Wagner is available on our YouTube channel, and is a perfect example of Gu’s chasing game.  Wagner’s playing a very effective defensive game in the first half, using very powerful parries to neutralise Gu’s attack in the 4m. It takes Gu much longer than it probably should to adapt, switch over to less aggressive tactics and start scoring with counterattacks and counterparries.

Here’s the official version:

Here’s an unofficial version from CyrusofChaos, from a different angle and with some commentary:

As it turns out, this was a bit of a foreshadowing of the team final between Korea and Germany a couple of days later. What is profoundly mysterious to me is why Gu, who learned the hard way in this match that the Germans had a lock on his 4m attacks, seemed to completely forget it a couple of days later and fell into exactly the same traps. He’s got a reputation as a seriously smart tactician, which makes it all the more baffling.

If anyone can provide some insight about what’s going on with the Korean tactical game here, please do.


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