Category Archives: reblogs

What you see is what you get

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Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on August 17, 2013

Bert van ManenShe is the most visible personality in women’s 3-cushion, the highest ranked female on the combined UMB list (121st), nr. 1 on the UMB Ladies ranking, and the strongest player in the world today: Therese Klompenhouwer (3 January 1983). With a steady average just over 1.000, she is a step and a half ahead of her female rivals, who are mostly from Japan (Natsumi Higashiuchi, Namiko Hayashi, Orie Hida, Yuko Nishimoto) and Korea (Bo Ra Yeong, Ji Hyun Park, Su Ah Park). Dutch Karina Jetten is also on the level of those Asians, but the others from western Europe (Helga Mitterböck, Danielle Le Bruijn, Gülsen Degener, Marianne Mortensen, Gerrie Geelen) are even further back. I’ll mention the talented Mercedes Gonzalez from USA, she’s over 0.700  but she seldom plays in the tournaments that matter. With the exception of Orie Hida, these girls will all struggle to play at a 0.800 pace, some will stay well below that. Terri, as Therese is affectionately known, is currently in a class of her own. Continue reading What you see is what you get

The run of the ball: we love it, we hate it.

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Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on August 3, 2013

Bert van ManenAny poker fans out there? I don’t play, but I watch it, can’t get enough. To do well in poker, your game needs to have the correct balance between science and gut, between calculation and intuition. You need nerve, courage, and concentration. A bit of personality does not hurt, and neither does… luck. Sound familiar? Does it remind you of any other sport?

Only a decade ago, many European governments were still so ignorant about the game of poker that they viewed it as a “game of chance”, and wanted to apply laws made for lotteries, raffles and slot machines. The advocates of legal poker had it easy: they could comfortably prove that poker is a game of skill, with luck as a MINOR component. Look at final tables of tournaments, be it in the USA or in Europe: the same familiar faces are there, over and over again. Continue reading The run of the ball: we love it, we hate it.

The Carom Cafe in Flushing, Queens

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Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on July 6, 2013

Bert van ManenFrom 17-21 July, there will be another edition of the Verhoeven Open in New York, a USBA summer tournament formerly known as the “Sang Lee Memorial” (2005 – 2008). The SLM’s were absolute highlights in contemporary American 3-cushion history, made possible by significant backing from private sponsors. The event was scaled down and lost a lot of its prestige from 2009 on, but appears to be picking up steam again in 2013. Blomdahl, Caudron, Merckx, Leppens, Forthomme, Ceulemans and Sayginer are announced as participants, and naturally all the top USA players will be there, including the new Pan-American individual champion Piedrabuena and team champions Shooni and  Patino. Maybe even a few good Koreans will attend, and what a pleasant surprise it would be if one or two of the Colombian talents made the trip. The Open will again be preceded by a women’s event and it boasts the strongest field ever, with reigning world champion Higashiuchi and former world champion Hida as 2nd and 3d favorites behind powerhouse Klompenhouwer. Continue reading The Carom Cafe in Flushing, Queens

One size fits all

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Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on June 22, 2013

Bert van ManenA few years ago, I was watching a match in the Belgian league between two guys named Freddy. Same first name, but in appearance they made Laurel & Hardy look like twins. Big Freddy is six feet four and seriously overweight: a mountain of a man. Little Freddy is five-three on heels, and he only eats on Thursdays. Both are good and experienced players: anywhere from 0.750 to 0.900 I’d say. Out of curiosity, I checked both their cues when the match was over. Same length, same weight. Continue reading One size fits all

Men in black

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Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on June 8, 2013

Bert van ManenTruth be told, I’ve never even seen that movie. But the title always reminds me of our referee corps, those anonymous men and women who stand on their feet for hours, paying attention while we play billiards. What a thankless job that is! They make Calcutta sweatshop money (or none at all), and the only time they get noticed is when they make a mistake.

But let’s have a little fun at their expense first, shall we? There’s time for praise later. Continue reading Men in black

Not in the UMB top-1000. Can beat anybody

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Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on May 25, 2013

Bert van ManenThe above headline may be a bit of a riddle for players from the USA or Asia. Dutch and Belgian 3-cushionists need about a nanosecond: Frans van Kuyk. Who is this enigmatic man with the 1980’s porn moustache, and why do we never see him in World Cup tournaments? Let me try to shed some light on that. Continue reading Not in the UMB top-1000. Can beat anybody

Eighteen golden years

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Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on May 12, 2013

Bert van ManenYou may remember the team. You probably remember the tournament. It is actually a girl though: Crystal Kelly. She is the daughter of retired Dutch software billionaire Joop van Oosterom (1937). He named a chess tournament after his firstborn (Melody Amber) and the name of his youngest became forever linked to our sport. For eighteen years, the Crystal Kelly team and the Crystal Kelly tournament were synonymous with success, quality and class.

Van Oosterom excelled on the 64 fields himself, he was twice world champion in correspondence chess. Critics say he “bought” such expert advice that he could not lose. On the other hand, his intellect and superb business instincts are praised by many. He also played billiards, on a more modest level. The 2.30 table balkline team I was in played his threesome in ’82. My young and talented teammate annoyed van O. by wearing brown shoes, rolling up his sleeves, leaving his chalk on the rail, but mostly by not having a clue what an important man his opponent was. The mogul-to-be was harshly beaten by a punk, and he was not amused. His software firm (Volmac) had not yet gone public, and all Van Oosterom had back then were good prospects and a parsimonious 40 million in the bank. It was a tough evening, but he still generously paid for everybody’s drinks.

Which is what he kept doing, from 1994 to 2011. The “Monaco” tournament was unlike anything the world of billiards had ever seen. Some 50 people (players, wives, kids, referees, scorekeepers, relatives, journalists, fans) were flown in every year and put up in a five-star luxury hotel, free of charge. They ate, drank, partied, free of charge. Trips were made to St. Paul de Vence, Cannes, Juan les Pins. If buses were inconvenient, helicopters were rented. The lustrous Mediterranean was always there to be enjoyed, and so was the van Oosterom yacht, the Bon Bini. Nine days in a  sun-soaked paradise, petanque and cocktails by the pool; no bill, here’s your paycheck.

The players rewarded their Maecenas the only way they knew how: by playing billiards better than it had ever been played. An overstatement? I don’t think so. The hard-core billiard enthusiast may go further than just read this article, and take the trouble of downloading the Excel file I have compiled and attached.  It has every match result from every Crystal Kelly tournament, 1994 – 2011. Look it over, and be amazed. Yes, they did sing, dance and throw each other in the pool from time to time, victims preferably dressed, but that one 3-cushion match a day was treated as a final, as a major event. Which it was.

Getting an invitation to play in Monaco was like a knighthood: you had arrived. The level of play was so high, that in the early years a tournament average of 1.5 was reached despite the participation of van Oosterom’s personal friend and (barely) 1.000 player Aart Gieskens. After he had been replaced, the event’s combined average quickly went up to and over 1.7. Players like Nelin, Bitalis and Dielis, even the now aging legend Raymond Ceulemans, were bringing the general average DOWN. By a lot. Zanetti, Blomdahl, Caudron, Sayginer. Just four names of guys who at least once ended SEVENTH in that field of eight.

I’ll do some more cherry picking, but you should download the file and look it over. Really.

1995 is TB’s best year in Monaco. His tournament average of 2.324 is unheard of, and he never even has a match under 2 all week! He gets beaten 50 – 44 in 22 by Sang Lee, wins his other 6 matches decisively.

1997’s most talked about match is the bizarre Sayginer – Zanetti encounter. “Turkish delight” can’t miss and is leading MZ 29 – 1 in 11. Bathroom break. The match somehow turns, and the Italian character player is merciless: SS makes another 6 points, Zanetti produces the remaining 49: 35 – 50 in 23. The year is also Frédéric’s debut, and it’s a nightmare. Seventh place, a poor average, a missed break-off shot in the equalizing inning (from 50 – 49) against Dick. Bitter disappointments are instrumental to great careers.

1998 is Caudron’s first of three wins in Monaco. How’s that for a bounce-back? TB and DJ average over 2, FC “only” does 1.7. But he makes clear once and for all that he is a lot more than just “outrageously talented”. He is a winner.

1999 marks the first time in history a player loses a 3-cushion match averaging 3: Ceulemans beats Blomdahl 50 – 39 in 13 innings. It is also the year that a hotel guest in the lobby hands billiard-attire wearing Jaspers 30 Francs, mistaking him for the guy that put the suitcases in the elevator. Remind me to ask Dick if he gave it back or not.

2002, the most historic win by Jaspers, one of his eight victories in the Crystal Kelly. He loses 50 – 45 in 22 to van Kuijk, which is pretty forgivable, and the other 6 matches just take your breath away. Wins in 20, 27, 10, 18, 21 and 18 innings, tournament average: 2.536. In my humble opinion: best tournament performance by a 3-cushion player, EVER. Beats FC’s 2.4 in Vienna, beats TB’s 2.3 in Monaco 1995, beats Zanetti’s recent 2.5 in Brandenburg, mostly because of the quality of the 7 opponents DJ faced.  He retains the title for three straight years. The run ends in 2006. The pivotal match then is Jaspers – Blomdahl, and TB answers Dick’s run of 14 by making a 16 himself: 50 – 34 in 19. Don’t you wish you’d been there?

What about sensational close finishes? In 2009’s last round, Eddy Merckx loses 50 -47 to TB, being just a supporting actor himself. It’s between TB and FC. Merckx still had the equalizing inning, he runs 3, handing the title to Caudron. 5500 euro’s less for Sweden, 5500 more for Belgium. In case you are wondering why these two Belgian giants get along so well…

You know what? It can be closer. In 2010, the deciding match is between Blomdahl and Zanetti, and it ends 50 – 50. Penalties have to be played, and Zanetti makes 2 from the spots where Blomdahl only makes 1. The title and – once again – a 5000 euro difference in prize money, hanging on the split-second avoidance of a kiss.

The guy who can’t make any impression at all in 2010, Filipos Kasidokostas, wins the final event in 2011. It ends an era. Chalk up 1 for Kasidokostas, 1 for Zanetti, 3 for Caudron, 5 for Blomdahl and 8 for Jaspers. Crystal Kelly, the pretty blonde kid, is now a young woman. She’ll probably marry Jensen Button or some Arab prince. And all over the world, men with cues smile when they hear her name.