Theme and Variations

originally published in American Fencing, vol. 57, no. 4 (Fall 2007/Winter 2008)


A fencer hands a DE bout slip to the bout committee staff member running the table for his event.

BC Staff: “Hello. You are . . . ?”

Fencer: “John Smith.”

BC Staff (checks the names on the scoresheet): “And your score was . . .?”

Fencer: “15-10.”

BC Staff (verifies the score, records the winner’s name and score on the DE table, and writes out a new DE scoresheet for the next bout): “Congratulations. Wait just a moment and I’ll have a new slip for you to take back to your strip.”

Fencer (takes his new bout slip): “Thanks.”



A fencer hands a bout slip to the bout committee staff member running the table for his event.

BC Staff: “Hello. You are . . . ?”

Fencer (mystified): “Huh? What?”

BC Staff: “What’s your name?”

Fencer: “Oh. John.”

BC Staff (patiently): “And your last name?”

Fencer: “Oh. Smith.”

BC Staff: “And you won your bout?”

Fencer: “Yeah, 15-something.”

BC Staff: “Looks like 15–7 here.”

Fencer: “Uh, I guess that sounds right.”

BC Staff (records the bout on the DE table, writes a new DE slip and hands it to the fencer): “Congratulations. Take this back to your strip and give it to the referee, please.”

Fencer: “Okay, thanks. But who do I give this slip to?”

BC Staff: “Just go back to the strip you came from and give it to the referee. She’ll know what to do with it.”

Fencer: “Oh, yeah. Right.”


A flushed and breathless fencer hands her bout slip in.

Fencer (bounces enthusiastically): “I’m so excited! I’ve never won a DE before! This is the first time I’ve ever brought anything up here!”

BC Staff (smiles): “Well, then—congratulations! What’s your name?”

Fencer (still bouncing): “Oh. I’m Sally Smith. What happens now? Do you know who I fence next?”

BC Staff: “That’s why you’re here. What was your score?”

Fencer (stops bouncing; looks crestfallen): “Oh, no! I can’t remember. Is that bad? I know I won, though. It was 15-, 15-, maybe 11 or 12. Should I go back and ask?”

BC Staff: “No, that’s okay. The scoresheet says it was 15-10.”

Fencer: “Oh, wow! I thought it was closer than that.”

BC Staff: “Okay, you’ll fence the winner of Jones and Brown, so you can go on back to your strip and wait for that bout to be called.”

Fencer (bouncing again, but worried): “Don’t I need to take something back with me?”

BC Staff: “No, that’s all right. We can’t write the slip until we know who you’ll be fencing.”

Fencer (relieved): “Oh, I get it. Okay—I hope I get to come back and see you again.”


Fencer (presents bout slip): “Hi, my name is Smith. I beat Jones 15-3 in the round of 128.” (Points to his bout on the third page of the DE table.) “You don’t have anything for me yet because I’ll be fencing the winner of Brown and Chen, and they’re just about to start fencing, so I’ll head on back so I can watch them. See you later.”

BC Staff (faintly): “Okay. Bye.”


Dad with camcorder hands in a bout slip.

Dad: “I think I’m supposed to hand this in here.”

BC Staff: “Somehow I don’t think you’re fencing in the Y12 Boys’ Foil.”

Dad (laughs): “Oh, no—it’s my son who’s fencing today.”

BC Staff (concerned): “Oh, is he injured?”

Parent: “Oh, no—I didn’t want him to have to walk all this way. I told him he should rest.”

BC Staff (hands slip back): “Well, actually, we need the fencer to hand in his slip as part of our verification process, so if you would take this slip back to your son and have him bring it up himself, that would be most helpful.”


Dad returns with Y12 Fencer.

Y12 Fencer (peeved as he hands bout slip over): “I told him I was supposed to turn this in myself, but he didn’t believe me.”

BC Staff: “That’s okay—he’ll know next time. You’re Mr. Brown?”

Dad: “He’s—”

Y12 Fencer (shakes head at dad): “Dad, I know how to tell her my name.”

Y12 Fencer (to BC Staff): “Yes, I’m Brown.”

BC Staff: “And your score was . . . ?”

Dad: “His score was—”

Y12 Fencer (glares at Dad): “Dad!”

Dad finally steps back meekly.

Y12 Fencer: “It was two bouts to one.”

BC Staff (hands Y12 Fencer his bout slip): “Congratulations. Please take this back to your strip, and good luck.”

Y12 Fencer (to Dad as they leave): “Dad, you need to relax. You’re driving everybody crazy . . . “


Fencer hands in a bout slip.

BC Staff: “And you are Ms. . . . ?”

Fencer: “I’m Jones.”

BC Staff (holds slip so fencer can read it): “Did you sign this scoresheet?”

Fencer (puzzled): “Yes.”

BC Staff (still holding slip): “Who does it say won?”

Fencer: “OMIGOSH!”

BC Staff: “You might want to take this back to the referee and have him actually write the results on the slip.”


Fencer hands in slip.

BC Staff: “And you are Ms. . . . ?”

Fencer: “I’m Ramachandran-Karchinskaczewicz. I won 15-14.”

BC Staff (laughs ruefully, staring at the tiny space on the DE table for the fencer’s name): “Of course, you beat Ms. Kim. Fencers with long hyphenated names always beat fencers with 3-letter names.”

Fencer: “My sister’s in this event, too. I think we’re even in the same bracket.”

BC Staff: “Yes, you certainly are—you’ll be fencing the winner of Smith and Ramachandran-Karchinskaczewicz.”

Fencer (laughs): “At least our first names are short.”


A junior fencer we’ll call Mr. Top16 hands in his bout slip.

BC Staff (grins wickedly): “Hello, Mr. Chang! How are you today?”

Mr. Top16 (utterly mystified): “Hi. But I’m not Mr. Chang.”

BC Staff (holds up scoresheet so Mr. Top16 can see it): “Did you sign your scoresheet?”

Mr. Top16: “Of course.”

BC Staff: “And who does it say won this bout?”

Mr. Top16: “I did. 15-9.”

BC Staff: “That’s the correct score, all right. Who does it say won the bout?

Mr. Top16: “I won.”

BC Staff: “What’s the name next to the V and the 15?”

Mr. Top16 (finally looks):” Holy #@%&!! . . . Is it okay if I take it back and have the referee correct it?”

BC Staff (hands slip back): “I’m guessing you probably won’t sign another scoresheet without reading it first, right?”


Mr. Top16 returns with his corrected slip.

BC Staff (grins wickedly): “Why, hello, Mr. Top16! How are you today?”

Mr. Top16 (with a huge sigh): “I’m feeling much more myself, thank you.”


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