The Unusual Story Behind the World’s Longest Table Tennis Point

February 25, 2023

Close up service on table tennis

In 1936, during a match at the World Table Tennis Championships in Prague, Alex Ehrlich of Poland and Paneth Farcas of Romania had an incredible rally that lasted 2 hours and 12 minutes, and that was just on the opening point.

Ehrlich was known as the King of the Chiselers, and chiselers in table tennis (or ping-pong if you like) are players that only play defense and just wait for their opponent to break. This was what Ehrlich wanted to do to Farcas. He wanted to wear him down from the beginning of the match. But things weren’t going to be that easy.

After 70 minutes of play, and still not a single point having been won by either man, Ehrlich had to switch his paddle (also known as a bat) to his left hand. Farcas wasn’t faring much better, but after 85 minutes, it was the umpire that was the most in trouble. He had to be replaced because his neck had seized up.

Things took an even more bizarre turn when Ehrlich had a chessboard placed next to the table. He began to tell the captain of the Polish team what move he wanted to make with the chess pieces. It was Farcas who finally succumbed to the grueling first point as his arm started to lock up. After an estimated 12,000 hits between both players, Ehrlich came away with the first point.

The incredibly long point led the International Table Tennis Federation to change the rules. They decided the longest time a single game could be played was 20 minutes. Whoever was ahead when the time elapsed would win the game. This rule stood until 1961 when the time was changed to 15 minutes. It got changed again when the scoring went from 21 for the win to 11 in 2001 to increase the excitement of each game. The time limit per game was then moved down to 10 minutes. All of these changes started because of that one, long infamous point back in 1936.

Sources: The Guardian, All About Table Tennis

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium, our ad-free subscription sites. I hope you learn many new things here that add to your knowledge.

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