Triples Progress Report 2011

© G.Arndt 2011 

Something's not right here! – Is Team Table Tennis really played by




J.v.Randow in collaboration with G.Arndt


Preface (Jurij von Randow, TT Association Württemberg-Hohenzollern, Germany)

Before embarking on the more theoretical part of this article, allow me to make a few personal remarks, to stimulate the reader into thinking seriously about a great innovation in team table tennis.


Table tennis as played by the individual, i.e. singles, is still the absolutely dominant factor in that sport, at least on an international level. The one and only classification for the ability of a player is his or her placing in the world ranking list. But the further one goes down to the district level, the less important the individual becomes, with more and more emphasis being placed on companionship and team spirit. And that is a good thing, since up to a certain level, let's say the 'Oberliga' (top league) in Germany, one will never get so far as to earn one's keep as a table tennis professional. Innovations such as the new classification system on will undoubtedly increase personal ambitions, and you get caught out by the thought of actually wishing a defeat on your team mate, in order to be able to overtake him/her, and be able to play in the next highest team next year. And yet, in doing so you have a bad conscience since you quite like that team member, and actually want to win together with him/her. Such systems therefore only upset the team fabric, and now already promote a certain rivalry which is unnecessary, and which can endanger club harmony.


I was fortunate to become acquainted with a man who is ahead of our time with his ideas. When he told me about his invention, the 'round table tennis table', I first thought of gags like small bats or huge table tennis balls, with which we are all familiar. However, as I went into the matter more deeply, it became clear to me to what new dimensions table tennis could in fact advance.


Günter Arndt's invention offers an alternative, from the individual focus right up to a real team sport. It is a true revolution of our sport, which since time immemorial has been rather conservative - although recently some innovations have occurred (40mm ball, games to 11, prohibition of smooth pimples, etc).


For all those who love and treasure the comradeship in table tennis the invention opens up new avenues. – So have a good time playing Triples !


A New Idea


In most Team Competitions in table tennis the teams usually consist of three players, and one claims that 'team A plays against team B'. Is that so?


Actually - and unfortunately - that is never the case. The whole team, i.e. all its three players, can never face the three players of the opposing team together. One is therefore forced to play singles and doubles matches, and tactically arranges the three players within the team to arrive at an optimum result. – The team, in the true sense of the word, therefore never plays as such, and one assumes that the accumulation of a number of singles and doubles matches of the 3 players represents the strength of the whole team.


Does it? And who exactly has achieved the 'team victory'? Is it the players, who never play together as a team, or is it the coach who has strategically positioned them? – Many will know the situation, for example in a championship final, when one tactically schedules the player with the 'tricky' rubber/bat to play against that opponent who is least able to cope with it. And many will remember the Olympics final 2008 in Beijing, when the Chinese coach positioned his players such that Timo Boll had to play against Ma Lin and Wang Hao (both penholder players), and not against Wang Liquin, the only player in the Chinese team using the European style.


Conclusion: the fundamental characteristics of a team are missing – that is to say the simultaneous cooperation of the team members for achieving the common goal. For that to happen, and as applied to table tennis:


1.    all three players take part together in the current game proceedings

2.    one shares among each other

3.    one communicates with each other – even during the game

4.    one works out the game tactics together – as for example in soccer

5.    one constantly has in mind the strengths/weaknesses of one's team members

6.    one is willing to make sacrifices, for example by letting the ball be returned by another team member


Only if all members of a team, simultaneously and in keeping with these characteristics, fight together as one 'entity', is it possible to determine which of two teams, as a team, really is the better. In order to achieve that in table tennis it would be necessary to find a solution in which all three team members simultaneously, i.e. six players in total, participate on one table. Unfortunately that is not possible on the standard table. It is simply too small. – And in any case: how on earth should the three players 'operate' together?


Recently a solution has been found:


The Innovation


Originally from Stuttgart/Germany, a qualified toolmaker who for the last 35 years has occupied himself mainly as professor of manufacturing engineering in Australia and New Zealand – and who for over 50 years now has been a passionate table tennis player himself – has pondered over this 'team problem' for a long time. His main focus initially was not so much on the above team problem, but on the downright fact that at most 2 or 4 players can sensibly play table tennis on one conventional table – the others meanwhile have to 'wait their turn'. - How can one improve that?


As one solution to this 'problem' Günter Arndt in the '80s developed the round table tennis table. On it up to 12 people could simultaneously play individual games 'for fun', and 6 players serious competitive table tennis, i.e. three per side: the 'Triples' team! The invention was published in various journals but, although a number of round table tennis tables were constructed (in Germany mainly made of concrete for outdoor use), that was it – unfortunately the professor had other things to do.


The 'revival' of the idea then came in 2007, in which he (now as Honorary Professor) published his scientifically-founded book Table Tennis Triples – a New Team Sport.


Although the International Table Tennis Federation ITTF – whose president wrote an inspiring foreword to it – then distributed this book to all of its member associations worldwide, the response to it was rather less inspiring. If it was passed on to the appropriate persons at all, the book and its message seems to have come largely to naught. Many ingrained table tennis enthusiasts who nevertheless came to hear of 'Triples' brushed it aside as 'just another of those gimmicks '– and not as a new team game that should perhaps be taken seriously, - sadly without having ever tried out the game for themselves.


Apart from one exception. Australia.


There the 'Triples Professor' patiently pursued the realisation of his idea, constructed prototypes, organised and presented scientific studies, trained players of all standards up to top level in the Triples game, and organised public demonstrations and exhibition matches. In his local table tennis association IDTTA Triples competitions furthermore are now a regular fixture in the yearly competition program for seniors and juniors, since 2009.


Because – lo and behold – it works!


But now one asks oneself: exactly how does it actually work?


Very simple: one plays 'ordinary table tennis', but has three courts on either side. All services are from the Centre Court, two to each of the opposing courts/players. After that it's 'free play', with return shots played randomly by any of the 3 players, to any of the opposite courts/players - only limitation: no more than 3 consecutive shots from anyone. During 'free play' players are free to change position. After each set of six services the serving team advances/rotates by one court and service changes sides. Games go to 31 points. In case of a 30:30 score play continues until one team leads by three (3!) points. Alternatively - and for maximum (spectator and player) excitement - one may opt for new Triples game closure rules ('Triples Tie Break', Triples Shoot-Out', 'Golden Triplets').


And why is the Triples game not known, let alone being played, in other countries?


Presumably the main reason for this is that (a) table tennis organisations/associations around the world, although most will have known about it since 2008, do not regard this variation of table tennis as 'really applicable' in practice, and that (b) they baulk at the financial and organisational investment that necessarily comes with the realisation of an innovation of that kind. That is understandable.


However, no progress is made without risk. But based on this article it could now be argued that the positive results achieved during the 4 years of 'Triples-testing' described here considerably reduces that risk and gets more people playing our sport!


So – who will make a start? Would it not be nice to demonstrate a real team game at the World Team TT Championships in Dortmund 2012 – and/or the London Olympics?


For then, at last, the term 'Team Table Tennis'  would be right.




Further Information und Literature


  1. 10th ITTF Sports Science Congress, Zagreb 2007: Triples in Table Tennis: a Promising New Team Competition Sport – Introduction and First Findings
  2. Triples Book 2007:Table Tennis Triples: A New Team Sport – Theory, Equipment, Rules, Strategies and Future Possiblities of a New Form of Table Tennis
  3.  'Triple Fun is guaranteed'swiss table tennis 'Top Spin' #4 2007/08 (p. 18-19)
  4. - Television programme: 'Modular & Triples Table Tennis'
  5. Table Tennis illustrated ITTF 2009: 'Participation, Pleasure, Professional'  No 75 (p .36-38),
  6. page
  7. PiTech Industrial/Recreation: Triples News & Triples Fact Sheets (since 2009)







 Jurij von Randow

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Prof. Günter Arndt

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University of Wollongong, Australia.
Director, PiTech Industrial (Aust.)