The adjustment from 21 point games to 11 points

Table Tennis Discussion

Last updated 2 years ago

Larry Bodnovich

Larry Bodnovich Asked 10 years ago

I am 60 years old and played a lot 35 or so years ago.  Just started playing again at a local YMCA. Do not get to play often.  Been playing a young high school kid and I can beat him probably 95% of the time.  Most game played there are to 21.  The last 2 games I lost to him were games up to 11 since he has to take swimming lessons and we play the 11 point games due to time constraints.

Maybe I find it harder to get in rhythm in the 11 point game. Only getting 2 serves and it seems like if he makes a couple good hits my mind is worried the game will be over soon. In a 21 point game I can fall behind but know I can settle down and come back if needed and I most always do vs him.

I guess my question is when they changed from 21 point games to 11 how did most players adapt? What was done to change the mental part of knowing the games are over quicker?  I was not playing table tennis when the rule changed.

This is no big deal to me since we play for fun and I really have enjoyed getting back to wanting to play table tennis at all.



Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario Answered 10 years ago

Hi Larry,

I think there is only a minor change.  When they play up to 11 they also play more games so there is still time to catch up.

I know Jeff still likes games up to 21.

I wonder if others still like games to 21.

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Sammy Serea

Sammy Serea Posted 10 years ago

Hmmm, very interesting question.

I have been pondering about this myself and I have actually found that this rule has a deep impact on the outcome of the game.

I am not a strong player by pro standards, but I am a decent player by amateur standards, and when I play to 21, serving 5, none of my regular playing partners can defeat me. NONE. Not one single set. However, when I play to 11, serving 2, lots of them get away with a set or two.

So, while the regulation bodies might think that it's the same, it is in fact not the same, because if I play 5 sets to 21 against someone and I win 5-0, it's totally different than playing 5 sets to 11 and winning 3-2. And even if I only play 3 sets to 21 and win 3-0, it's totally different than playing 5 sets to 11 and winning 3-2.

The fact that it's to 11, and not 21 affects the mindset - you can be more relaxed in a game to 21, knowing that you have more time to win and that any small opponent advantage can be recovered.

And the fact that you serve 2 affects the amount of pressure you can put on your opponent - in a 5 serve set, if you serve first and you have a strong serve, you could be up 5-0 and that sounds and feels a lot more crushing to your opponent than 2-0. And even if you fail to convert one serve, that's still 4-1, and not 1-1 ;)

So, in my mind I have no doubt that the new scoring rule affects the game. What it does is it brings levels closer together. It seems to allow weaker players to compete against stronger players. And I frankly don't know what's the end benefit of that.

That's just my $0.02 :)


Larry Bodnovich

Larry Bodnovich Posted 10 years ago

Thanks Alois and Sammy. I agree very much with Sammy. It does seem like games to 11 are more likely to have an inferior player win some games. Just get a couple net balls and flubbed serves or good hits and the game is just about over.

Of course if playing an opponent better than you, the chance for a win for you is better that way. As I said I recently began playing after a very long layoff and noted the difference in games to 21 and 11 now after never playing to 11. The mental aspect and ebb and flow of the games.

Very well said Sam and thanks for your input.

TheLittleYellowBouncing Ball

TheLittleYellowBouncing Ball Posted 10 years ago

The opinion of The Ball is, that the game of table tennis is better for the change to the 11 point game. I think it is easier for a lesser player to "sneak" a win in a game but harder to win a match as with more games there are more "big" points and the better players generally play the big points better.

Kon Konidaris

Kon Konidaris Posted 10 years ago

I have a similar scenario, returning to the game in my late 40's against a work colleague we try and play most fortnights.  We began playing 21 point games however as we progressed we had discovered the rules had changed to 11, so we began playing to 11 ... all games.  We actually enjoy the new scoring system more!  Sure it puts some more pressure on you to perform well early, and is a little less relaxed than the 21 point format, but it is also more exciting.  We try and fit as many games into our lunch hour that we can, and whoever has the highest game count at the end of the day wins.  My advice is to embrace the change. 

Tim Stephens

Tim Stephens Posted 10 years ago

It seems like you have to think, "I need to play to win every point", and not let up off the gas in a single game but focus.


Jay Bird

Jay Bird Posted 9 years ago

ack ..... i hates change

won't play 11 pt games period !!

21 pts gives better balance and opportunity, just my opinion

Sammy Serea

Sammy Serea Posted 9 years ago

I feel the same way... The 1st thing that I noticed when I started playing to 11 instead of 21 was that matches became tighter and more stressful.

You still win every set against weaker players, but when playing against stronger players they will win sets that they wouldn't win if we played to 21... And if you play 2 out of 3, even matches.

So, I personally don't understand the reasoning behind the updated 11-point sets.

What do you think?

Happy new year, 2015!!!


Bob Jude

Bob Jude Posted 5 years ago

5x11 = 55 points. 3x21 =63. So match is now shorter, and lucky shots can make a huge difference when so few points needed. If a player loses in 3 there is only 33 points whereas losing in 2 with older system meant 42 points. This also makes a difference. Much prefer older scoring method and service change. Can take time to get used to pattern of serves and that was easier when there were 5 serves rather than 2. How about 15 points and change at 3, that sounds a better compromise. 

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 5 years ago

Yeah I still like the scoring system up to 21 Bob. It seems that we are in the minority thought. The majority of people I've spoken to like the suspense of games up to 11.

Mike Deubig

Mike Deubig Posted 5 years ago

Larry, I can relate. I took a break from table tennis for the most part. There would be rare occasions in which I played. When I came back, the ball was much bigger, heavier, and slower. And the game was shorter. The adjustment took a while for me. Unlike my early days where I could play 5 to 6 days a week, I started my comeback by playing once a week. I struggled with the shorter game up to 11. You had to get into the flow fast otherwise the game was over. Playing more games in a match helped but it wasn't the same.

After playing with the bigger ball with the shorter game for a while, I feel it would not be practical to play games to 21. However, I do feel the game could be improved by extending it to 15 and only playing 3 out of 5 no matter what round it is. The bigger ball which is now plastic requires more leg work than ever before, rallies are longer for many players, which would affect older players more as the endurance level would have to be much greater in games that go up to 21. I think the quality of play would drop for older players as a result. So I think 15 would be a good compromise. 

You all can vote me in for ITTF President now! haha ;) 



D K Posted 5 years ago

I have been born at the end of 21point era,thus I have never truly experienced this system of play.
But once one of myfriends pulled out an old (and I mean OLD,OLD,F**** OLD) 38mm ball (it was Donic ball with year of 1983 printed on it).
He is much higher level than me and his style resembles the one of Samsonov,whereas I am attempting to imitate Matsushita's style. We tried to have a normal match with
a)the youngest generation,the Xu Shao Fa plastic balls 40+.
b)mid generation,Yasaka celluloid balls 40.
c)old generation,the old 38mm Donic celluloid.
We played with each ball with the olympic rules that were in effect in the corresponding ball's era,meaning 11 points/4 winning sets/2 serves for the a) and b) balls and 21 points/3winning sets/5 serves.

Note: we havent touched any other than 40 celluloids before seriously.

Although I lost all three matches,the results were:

40+ plastic:

40 celluloid

38 celluloid

Notes: I am in much worse condition than he is,I have slow reaction time,I am a bad server.
I think this says it all.

Neville Young

Neville Young Posted 4 years ago

Hi Larry,

I played over both, 

The change to 11 was hard. You had to get used to the new 11 point system. It took time, the hardest thing was getting used to the alarm bells. 

0-2, bugger

0-3, serious business, you need to win the next point.

1-4, going to be hard work.

0-5 and that's it, you are in big trouble, extremely hard to catch up.

You get used to it and will eventually become acclimatised to the new points system.

It is just a matter of getting your thinking right, A season of play will get you there.

Best of Luck


Jon Ferguson

Jon Ferguson Posted 2 years ago

Bob Jude - I was only discussing this topic at TT last week, and suggested that a 15 point game would be better. I find the 11 point game quite difficult to get into against a player who is as good or better than me. My concentration is not there at the beginning of the game, and with the short game, I have a limited time to catch up.

With 21 points, you had more time to get into the game, find what works against a particular opponent, and develop a strategy. Only having two serves each is another handicap, as you can't set up a series of serves to get your opponent into a pattern, before using a variation to spring the trap.

Waldner wouldn't have won the 1997 World Championships in straight games if he were playing to 11, as he was behind at the 11 mark at least once. He would often lose the first game (perhaps sacrifice is a better word) in order to find the weak areas in his opponent, and develop a strategy, then win every game after that. This is more difficult to do in the shorter 11 point game. You let your opponent get ahead my only a few points, and it could mean game over. It is definitely more stressful.

But then tennis players only have a 4 point game (15/30/40/win) if the opponent doesn't score a point, so perhaps I should stop whingeing......   

Alois Rosario

Alois Rosario from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago


Thanks for your thoughts. Sounds like you are definitely in the Jeff camp on this one.

I think that the extra games tend to balance the opportunities overall.  It is always good to hear alternate opinions.

Jeff Plumb

Jeff Plumb from PingSkills Posted 2 years ago

Larry, you make perfect sense! I think that games up to 21 were bettter for all the reasons you mentioned. It allows for a player to make a comeback more easily than in games up to 11. I also liked how you had 5 serves in a row to experiment with. I don't think we'll get the rules changed back though!

Jasper Low

Jasper Low Posted 2 years ago

I prefer games to 11 short and sweet and it feels more intense. And there are lesser number of points to win to catch up in games to 11. 

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