Top 10 Classic Longsword Matches

This is my list of my picks for top 10 classic longsword matches. This will be a departure from my normal game design/HEMA theory/ecological approach topics, but it was fun so I did it. My list is highly subjective, it is based on matches that I like or that made an impact on me, or I personally feel made a wider impact on the HEMA community at large. I don’t have any specific criteria, some of them I think are culturally important, some of them are exemplary of a specific style or style shift, and some of them I just thought were cool. They don’t necessarily have to be the best matches or even good, but if they were not good, they had to make an impact in some way. These picks are definitely biased towards what I have attended, and what I could find on Youtube. Please give me matches that you think are classic, or send me your own list. I am very interested in the perspectives of others on this, and I also want to watch as many cool matches as possible. 

10: Ties Kool vs Mikko Lehto, Helsinki Longsword Open 2023 (gold match)

Helsinki Longsword Open is growing into the largest European tournament in the post pandemic world, and the gold match from 2023 was great. The fencing was fast and the exchanges were clear. I also am personally drawn to this match because both fencers prefer a left foot forward stance, which is something that I like to see, especially at the highest level like this. 

9: Dustin Reagan vs Axel Petterson, Longpoint 2015 (elimination bracket)

While the match itself is not my favorite, this match makes the list for cultural reasons. Longpoint is the largest tournament in North America, and has historically attracted top level European competitors. Usually the Europeans would end up taking home all of the medals, but this is the first major event where that did not happen. Dustin Reagan went on to win gold in this event, fencing another American in the final, Ben Strickling. 

8: Martin Fabian vs Thomas Couturier, Tyrnhaw 2017 (gold match)

The Slovak scene, and Martin Fabian in particular, have always been a joy for me to watch. I enjoy their deliberate, sharp, thrust-heavy style. They brought a crispness to longsword that I had not seen from any other region. Tyrnhaw was the highest level tournament in the Slovak region pre-pandemic, and Martin Fabian’s “my fights” videos made them highly visible to a large audience. Thomas Couturier has a very different style. He is from France, and his first tournaments were the right-of-way Paris HEMA Open tournaments, before attending and getting good results in some other tournaments with more standard rulesets. Couturier is a left hander, and he is known for his shallow attack to the right arm. That being said, see if you can spot how many times he actually scores with that in this match.

7: Ville Vällimäki vs Antoni Olbrychski, Helsinki Longsword Open 2024 (semifinal)

Helsinki Longsword Open 2024 was the highest rated tournament in the post-pandemic world, and the third highest rated of all time as of writing this listicle (rated using the PB25 algorithm). By all accounts of those viewing the livestream and those in attendance, the semi-final match between Olbrychski (current world number 1 on HEMA ratings) and Vällimäki was the match to watch. It was close, had a lot of good back and forth exchanges, and showed an overall high level of fencing. This match is a good example of the current state of the art in competitive longsword.

6: Antoni Olbrychski vs Sergey Kultaev, European Games Invitational Gala Tournament 2019 (gold match)

The European Games Invitational Gala Tournament was by far the highest rated tournament of all time. The competitors for this tournament were hand selected by community leaders of various regions in Europe and North America, resulting in a huge concentration of highly rated fencers all at one event. The final match was Kultaev and Olbrychski, a rematch of 2018’s Swordfish final. This match makes the list of classic matches by virtue of it being the gold match in the highest rated tournament of all time. 

5: Michel Rensen vs Federico Dall’Olio, Swordfish 2016 (gold match)

Swordfish was the largest and highest level annual tournament in Europe in the pre-pandemic world. Swordfish 2016 was the year that many Americans attended. I remember watching this tournament live, I was at a HEMA event and we were watching the livestream on the side. I also remember liking the third place match a lot better than the gold match. Both of the fencers in this match were known for doing a lot of zwerhaws (horizontal cut with hands high) from side to side, so when they met in the finals, they did a lot of zwerhaws from side to side against each other. Although it is not my personal favorite, this was apparently an influential match. It ushered in the close-in repeated zwerhaw as a staple of the tournament meta, and also (so I am told) popularized the term “zwercopter” for a fast series of side to side zwerhaws. 

4: Jan Chodkiewicz vs Anton Kohutovic, SKUNKS 2012 (gold match)

This is a bit of a throwback compared to some of my other picks. While there were no HEMA ratings at the time, all of the data that has been compiled since 2011 puts Jan Chodkiewicz in the number one spot, until 2013. This is another interesting clash of styles, Kohutovic brings a strategy of explosively entering distance with a deep attack, which I find very cool. Although it may seem a little rough around the edges compared to modern matches, I feel that the fencing displayed in this match was ahead of its time. 

3: Ties Kool vs Sergey Kultaev, Longpoint 2017 (third place match) 

Longpoint 2017 is the highest rated tournament in the US, and the 6th highest of all time. The third place match was very intense, with both fencers known as heavy hitters. The most memorable moment of the match was when Kultaev cut through Kool’s parry, breaking his sword and landing cleanly to the head. Enjoy this long, best 2 out of 3 match. 

2: Dennis Ljungqvist vs Ivan Novichenko, Swordfish 2017 (gold match)

The finals of the 2017 edition of Swordfish were particularly interesting because of the difference in style between the two players. Ljungqvist is the most successful longsword fencer of all time, spending more time in the number one spot on HEMA ratings than all others combined, and having a mixed/men’s record of 295 wins, 24 losses, and 4 draws. Most of his competitive career has been in tournaments using the Nordic scoring system, which is what was used at Swordfish. Ivan Novichenko was less known outside of Russia up until that time, he had a few successful tournament showings, but not nearly as much as Ljungqvist. What makes this match famous (infamous?) is the contrast in styles, Ljungqvist fenced with a nordic-orthodox style, focusing on aiming for the head, while Novichenko used unorthodox movement, particularly one handed attacks. 

1: Jake Norwood vs Lee Smith, Longpoint South 2016 (gold match)

Longpoint South 2016 was a tournament that took place in Orlando, Florida. It was an open tournament, but many of the top fencers from around North America were invited and attended. Aside from being the final match of a high level tournament, there were two things that made this interesting: first, it was broadcast on TV on ESPN3, and second, there was a clear hero and heel, for reasons that I will not get into. The hero won in the end, and left us with some nice post-match interview meme material. Video of this exists somewhere, but I could not find it on Youtube. 

Honorable mention

These didn’t make the main list because they didn’t have as much reach, are more regional, are more personal to me, or are not actual longsword tournament matches. I wanted to mention them, so I’m mentioning them. At this point it’s just fun for me looking at old videos, the real list is over. From here on out, the matches are in no particular order. 

Lopes vs Preto, Swordfish 2010 (nylon, tournament phase unknown)

This is a classic match for me because it exemplifies how far we’ve come as a community. Every single exchange would be a warning or penalty in most modern tournaments. I also greatly enjoy how active the ref is. Sit back and enjoy this dumpster fire of a match. 

Pickup 1 vs Gem City, AG Open 2023 (Longsword relay, bracket)

The Team Longsword Relay event at AG Open may be my favorite event at any tournament. I really like the dynamic of supporting your team, and fencing not just for yourself but for your team. If you did not have enough people from your club or were the odd man out, then you could be put on a random “pickup” team by the organizers. In this match, Jon Paulino faces the entire Gem City team, which is made up of very skilled fencers, after his teammates are knocked out, in order to move on in the bracket. 

James Clark, third place tiebreaker for advanced cutting, Longpoint 2016

This is obviously not a longsword match, but it was done with a longsword, and it was super hype. This was done after the advanced cutting tournament at Longpoint 2016. The judges decided that two competitors, James Clark and Tim Hall, were tied for third place, so they came up with this tiebreaker: whoever could do the most zwerhaws through three parallel mats would get third place. Anyone who has cut knows how laughably difficult this is. This is a more difficult feat than anything else that had been done in the final. The expectation is that they would both fail, and third place would go to whoever failed the least. However, James was able to steal the show by successfully cutting all three mats not once, not twice, but three times. Even though he did not win the event, I guarantee that everyone who was there remembers those zwerhaws more than anything else from that tournament. 

Martin Fabian and Dustin Reagan, sparring, 2018

This is simply a dope sparring video. To date I still think it’s the best sparring video on Youtube. 

Austin Straub vs Sam Ryals, Revolution Rumble 2023 (third place match)

Revolution Rumble is the first tournament that I ever helped run. My club hosts it, and we use a right of way ruleset, which I realize not everyone in the community is fully on board with. Regardless of what people may think of the ruleset, I think it produced some great fencing, and all of the final matches for all three tiers were absolute bangers. I chose the third place for Tier A here even though I could have picked any one, but this one stands out to me in particular. It’s very dynamic, and the movements are sharp, deliberate, and clear. It was a pleasure to judge. 

Jake Norwood vs Travis Mayott, Shortpoint 2016 (gold match)

Shortpoint 2016 was the second tournament that I ever attended. It was the tournament that the Longpoint team used to test out what would become the final iteration of the Longpoint rules, and also an event in that season’s Longpoint Historical Fencing League. This final match was memorable for a couple of reasons. First, there was a cool grapple that Jake did to Travis. Second, it demonstrated how effective a thrust-centric playing style could be, as Travis ultimately won the match with heavy utilization of thrusts. This match, in addition to other events, was influential to me in making thrusting a larger part of my game, as I’m sure it was to others. 

Ties Kool vs McKenzie Ewing, Capitol Clash 2019 (semifinal)

Capitol Clash DC HEMA Open is a large tournament in Washington DC. This match made the list simply because I think it’s dope. Both fencers are very skilled, the exchanges are exciting, and there are big score swings. The final exchange is one of the best final exchanges I’ve ever seen in a match, I won’t spoil it for you. 

Stephen Cheney vs Eddy Louis, Long Island Point 2017 (gold match) 

This match obviously didn’t have a wide cultural impact, but it was a big deal for me personally, because it was my first medal in HEMA. I met Eddy at Longpoint 2016, we were both in the sparring room and no one else was sparring, so we sparred with each other. I was very impressed with his fencing, he was doing things that no one else could do. We both attended a couple of other events, but it wasn’t until the finals of Long Island Point 2017 that we got to fence in a tournament. Long Island Point was a regional tournament that was part of the Longpoint Historical Fencing League that season. It was a long 2 out of 3 match, with back and forth swings, and high scoring actions from both sides. This was the first of several times Eddy and I met in the finals.