Feel the rhythm: Kovalev (RUS) v Buikevich (BLR)

Nikolay Kovalev won the World Championships this year with some utterly extraordinary sabre in the final rounds. Highly experienced coaches have remarked that he was almost unrecognisable towards the end of the day, a changed man capable of astonishing things. His day started in more laid-back fashion, with a very nice clean bout against Aliaksandr Buikevich of Belarus. Here is a cool little exchange with some very nice bladework: slowing down a bit leaves a lot more leeway for this sort of thing.

Buikevich is a lanky, low-energy fencer with a lot of neat timing tricks and just a little bit more acceleration than you expect.  He’s fencing pretty well here, and it’s very interesting to watch how Kovalev adapts his tempo to match a slower opponent. Contrast his movement here with what he does later against Kim, for example. Unfortunately the match video is only partial, starting at 4/5:

This squares very nicely with what I used to think was a weird bit of coaching advice: be fast, but not too fast. You always want to be just a little bit faster than your opponent.

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