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How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis: Essential Tips & Tactics

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis

Facing a chopper in table tennis can feel like battling a brick wall. Their defensive playstyle, returning every ball with heavy backspin, can quickly turn the tide of the game.

I believe that most of the articles you usually read online are written by offensive players, and it’s rare to have a chopper personally explain in detail how to defeat a chopper.

As a chopper, I have participated in leagues in both Spain and China for many years, so I am confident that my experience can help you. I’ve got some strategies that’ll help you break through their defenses. We’ll dive into the importance of placement, spin variation, and patience. With my tips, you’ll turn the tables on choppers and start dominating the game.

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis

Understanding Choppers

Before mastering the battle against chopper players, I need to dive into what exactly defines this unique style of play.

What is a Chopper in Table Tennis?

In the realm of table tennis, a “chopper” is a player who excels in a defensive style, primarily using backspin to thwart opponents. This technique involves striking the ball with a downward motion, causing it to spin back toward the chopper once it hits the other side of the table. The chopper’s main goal is to force errors from their opponent by varying the length and spin of their returns.

Actually, this style of play is quite entertaining to watch, especially a match between a defensive chopper and an offensive player—it’s a battle of attack and defense. I recall staying up late in front of the TV to watch matches like the ones between Ma Long and Joo Sae-hyuk. However, learning the chopping style is not easy. Friends who want to try it can read my previous article, “How to Master the Chopping Technique in Table Tennis.”

Characteristics of Chopper Players

Chopper players exhibit certain traits that are key to their defensive game:

  • Stamina and Footwork: Choppers are typically some of the fittest players on the table tennis circuit, with exceptional stamina and footwork allowing them to return a barrage of offensive shots.
  • Consistency: They also possess the ability to consistently return shots, making them an immovable object at the table.
  • Mental Fortitude: Perhaps one of their most underrated qualities is their mental fortitude; choppers remain calm under pressure, meticulously wearing down their opponents. The words our coach tells us the most are, “Keep patient until your opponent makes a mistake.”
  • Equipment Choice: Many choppers prefer using pips-out rubber on their paddles to enhance the backspin and control of their chops.

The Strategy Behind Chopping

The art of chopping isn’t merely to keep the ball in play, but rather it’s about “Controlling the Game” from a position that many would consider defensive. Choppers aim to:

  • Disrupt Rhythm: By varying the spin and trajectory of returns, choppers disrupt the offensive rhythm and flow of their opponents.
  • Incite Errors: The consistent backspin makes each shot difficult to attack, often leading to premature errors from the opponent.
  • Extend Rallies: Long rallies favor the chopper, as they bank on the opponent making a mistake due to fatigue or frustration.
  • Create Opportunities: An opportunistic chopper will look for that weak return to launch a surprise counter-attack.

Understanding these aspects is essential to figuring out how to break down their defensive barriers and turn the tide of the match in my favor.

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis

Analyzing Your Playstyle

Assessing Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Before diving headfirst into a game against a chopper, I would always suggest you take a step back to evaluate your own playstyle. This means being brutally honest about what you are good at and where you could use some improvement. You have to assess your ability to execute different spin types and consider your footwork and speed.

Am I more proficient with topspin or does my backhand slice give opposing players a tough time? These self-assessments help you highlight my strengths which can be weapons against choppers. On the flip side, I also need to identify weaknesses that choppers might exploit, like inconsistent shot quality or limited stamina that can hinder long rallies.

A Checklist for Self-Evaluation

– Accuracy of serves
– Quality of spin shots
– Speed and agility
– Stamina and endurance
– Shot selection under pressure

Adapting Your Style Against Choppers

Facing a chopper means you need to modify your usual playstyle. While you might love a fast-paced aggressive game, that strategy often falls flat against the steadfast defense of a chopper. You’ll learn that it’s crucial to be flexible and adjust your tactics during the match.

I always tell my students that the key lies in balancing aggression with controlled placement, so you maneuver your opponent around the table, opening gaps for a winning shot. It’s also essential to capitalize on their rare mistakes and turn those into points.

Additionally, having a teammate or club member who plays a chopping style is also crucially important. When I was playing in the Spanish league, some small clubs had quite good players with impressive ranking points. However, because the clubs were small, they might not have had a teammate who played a chopping style.

As a result, they didn’t get effective training against this playstyle and naturally weren’t well-adapted to it in matches, often leading to losses. So, if you want to improve yourself, it’s best to find friends who play a chopping style and practice with them frequently. Training like this is how you can accumulate experience.

Strategies for Adapting

– Mix up shot placements
– Use varied spin to create uncertainty
– Introduce subtle changes in pace
– Exploit choppers’ mistakes

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis

Developing Consistency in Your Shots

Consistency is super important when it comes to improving the game performance, especially against choppers who thrive on errors.  Training drills focusing on repetitive shots enhance your muscle memory, ensuring that you can deliver under pressure. To effectively beat a chopper, the shots must be consistently low over the net and placed in difficult positions. This demands not only physical training but also mental fortitude; staying patient and not going for risky winners too early can tire out a defensive player, tilting the odds in your favor.

Here I list several drills that I tell my students to practice every day, no matter if they are beginners or advanced players because it’s super important.

– Repetitive forehand and backhand drills
– Targeted placements in different table zones
– Endurance training to outlast chopper tactics

Exploiting the Chopper’s Weaknesses

Attack Their Forehand Side

For the majority of chopping players, their backhand is generally better than their forehand, and more stable. Especially for many choppers, the backhand is often equipped with pimpled rubber, either long pimples or short pips. With such a setup, chopping can be particularly advantageous.

Chopping with pimpled rubber tends to be easier, something I have a clear personal experience with. If I counter heavy topspin with long pimples, there’s no problem at all, and the returned ball tends to be heavier and more spinny.

However, if I try to chop with my forehand using inverted rubber, if I don’t time the contact with the ball correctly or hit it in the right spot, it’s easy to make a mistake. That’s why many times I’m quite afraid of the opponent targeting my forehand.

Therefore, I often tell my students that when facing a chopper, they must aim to open up the play, but the final shot should definitely target the forehand area, and they should increase the speed and power. This way, the opponent’s return is generally of lower quality, or they might even give away points directly.

Utilize Heavy Topspin Shots

Heavy topspin shots are my go-to when facing choppers. Choppers thrive on slicing the ball and relying on the opponent’s loss of patience. However, heavy topspin shots can counter this by making the ball dip and bounce high, challenging the chopper’s ability to return with quality. I’ve spent countless hours mastering my topspin to **increase its heaviness**, which is crucial in putting extra pressure on their chopping game. It’s important to vary the spin to avoid predictability, mixing heavy topspin with occasional flatter hits can really disrupt their rhythm.

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis

Aim for Wide Angles

Choppers are masters of the rally, often comfortably returning shots from the center of the table. To break them down, I find that aiming for wide angles is essential. This means hitting the ball to the extremities of the table, forcing the chopper to stretch and possibly create an opening for a winning shot. The game plan involves:

– Playing shots down the line when they expect a cross-court
– Hooking or fading the ball to exaggerate the angle
– Using side spin to make the ball kick away further

If you have watched Xu Xin’s matches, you will notice that his topspin shots are not only of high quality but also have very tricky angles, making them difficult to handle. Moreover, his loop drives often have some sidespin, which choppers find hard to deal with. Therefore, we can see that Xu Xin performs particularly steadily against choppers, and he has hardly ever lost to them in matches.

By exploiting these wide angles, he keeps the chopper on the move and destabilizes their defensive positioning. The key is to execute these angles with precision, making sure the ball lands just inside the table’s boundaries to maintain the element of surprise without overdoing it and risking errors.

Tactical Approaches

Variation in Shot Placement

When it comes to conquering the steadfast defense of a chopper in table tennis, varying your shot placement is key. “Mixing up where the ball lands” on their side of the table can be a game-changer. I’ve noticed that consistently altering the depth and width of Xuxin’s shots forces choppers to constantly adapt their positioning. Here’s what can make a significant difference:

– Aim for deep shots to push the chopper away from the table.
– Incorporate short shots to draw them in, creating opportunities to exploit the space behind them.
– Attack the crossover point where their backhand switches to forehand, often leading to errors.

In fact, alternating between long and short balls is the most classic strategy for playing against choppers. By sending a topspin shot deep to push the opponent back from the table, followed immediately by a short ball, this back-and-forth movement can quickly put the opponent on the defensive, increasing the likelihood of their making errors.

Moreover, avoiding continuous loop shots also reduces the possibility of making your own mistakes. I’ve found that implementing these variations not only confuses chopper players but also “opens up the court” for more aggressive plays.

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis

Utilizing Your Serve Effectively

One of my favorite tactics against choppers is utilizing a smart serve. The serve is the one time in table tennis where you have total control over the ball, and it’s crucial to take full advantage of this. By serving with a purpose, I set myself up for the next shot. Here are some of my go-to techniques:

– Serve with heavy spin to elicit weak returns.
– Use different serve lengths to keep the chopper guessing.
– Alternate between fast-paced and slow serves to disrupt their rhythm.

Remember, the goal with each serve is to prevent the chopper from settling into a comfortable pace that enhances their defensive style.

However, based on my own experience, if a chopper only uses long pips or short pips to receive serves and doesn’t use inverted rubber, it’s much easier to play against them.

This is because we can design our strategy in advance. Some experienced players will serve a heavy underspin ball, and if the opponent receives it with short pips, the ball usually doesn’t have much spin. At that moment, just be ready to launch a strong attack and you can score directly—it’s quite straightforward.

Controlling the Pace of the Game

Table tennis is as much about mental prowess as it is about physical skill. That’s why I always aim to control the pace of the game. It’s about ”dictating the tempo” which can throw a chopper off balance.

Generally speaking, choppers tend to favor a slower pace in the game. They slow down the rhythm of the match, thereby disrupting the offensive player’s attacking tempo, increasing the likelihood of their opponent making errors, and thus creating opportunities for their counter-attacks.

Here’s how I tackle it:

– Speed up the rallies to limit the chopper’s time to react and set up for their returns.
– Slow down the game with measured, precise shots when they start anticipating fast exchanges.
– Be prepared to switch between these two paces to keep the chopper on their toes.

This can keep the chopper from establishing their preferred game rhythm, and effectively, keep the upper hand throughout the match.

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis

Mental Aspect of Beating Choppers

Staying Patient and Focused

Patience is key when facing choppers in table tennis. I always remind myself that rallies will likely be longer and more tactical. My focus is on waiting for the right opportunity to strike. It’s critical to stay calm and not rush shots, as doing so can lead to errors.

An interesting thing is that, as a chopper for over 20 years, the phrase I’ve heard most from my coach is, “You need to have enough patience.” And the phrase I hear most from the coaches of my opponents is also this one, “You need to maintain enough patience.” It’s really quite amusing, and every time I hear it, I can’t help but want to laugh.

Not Getting Distracted by Their Defensive Play

Choppers excel at sending back nearly every shot, which can be incredibly frustrating. You should learn not to let their defensive style distract you from your strategy. Adjusting your shot selection and spin continuously can disrupt their rhythm. Also, keeping an eye on the ball, not the player, helps you avoid overthinking and allows you to react to the ball itself.

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

A positive attitude can be a game-changer.

I understand that many times, playing against a chopper or a player with long pimples can be indescribably frustrating and infuriating. The topspin shots and techniques you practice regularly can be neutralized to the point where you can’t execute them effectively, or you might make unexplained errors, missing high balls that you would normally hit easily.

These situations can instantly cause an emotional breakdown. But remember, no matter how many points you are leading by, you have already lost the match if you can’t adjust your mindset in time. Sooner or later, you will be overturned and inevitably concede victory if you cannot regain your composure.

You know that staying upbeat and confident increases your chances of success. Even when points seem to slip away, you keep encouraging yourself and refuse to concede defeat mentally. Having faith in your skills to overcome the chopper’s play style boosts your resolve and can cause them to slip up. It’s about perseverance and the belief that with the right strategy and mindset, victory is within your grasp.

How to Play Against Choppers in Table Tennis


Mastering the game against choppers in table tennis is as much about mental fortitude as it is about skill. I’ve shared strategies that can tilt the match in your favor but remember it’s your patience and focus that’ll truly make the difference. Stay committed to your game plan adapt when necessary and always keep faith in your ability to win.

With practice and perseverance, you’ll find yourself outplaying choppers and enjoying your well-earned victories on the table. Keep pushing your limits and you’ll not only beat choppers but also elevate your overall table tennis game.


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