A good German. And an even better one.


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on October 18, 2014

Bert van ManenHow do you get a group of Europeans to jump off a bridge? It sounds difficult, but it isn’t.  You tell the British it’s a tradition. To the French, you say it’s fashionable. The Dutch will jump when you tell them it’s free. The Germans? Just show them the paperwork and give the order. And you tell the Italians that it is forbidden.

The two most visible German 3-cushion players certainly are not an old joke, and they are not a stereotype either. Christian Rudolph and Martin Horn must be judged on their individual merits, and those merits are considerable. One has a world title, the other a world cup. What stands out though – and you may feel free to call that “German” – is that they do so well when they play for their country. “Mit dem Adler auf der Brust”, as Horn calls it (with the eagle on my chest). But let’s talk about Rudolph first.

Born in 1965, son of a very successful billiard player (Ernst Rudolph), never bothered with the free game or balkline, went straight to 3-cushion. Lives in Cologne, strongly believes in the psychological approach to the game, and puts in the work to improve his mind. His cueing will not win prizes for effortless elegance, but it’s technically sound, and he is an outstanding problem solver. If you like an unusual solution from time to time, an inspired shot, he’s a good guy to watch. A gritty competitor too, mentally better in his forties than he was in his thirties.

  • German champion in 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2011, 2013.
  • World champion (national teams) in 1993, 1994 (with Aguirre), 1997 (with Schirmbrand), 2002 (with Horn). Runner-up in 2001, 2006, 2013. Always in the last 4.
  • European championship: runner-up to Zanetti in 2013.
  • World champion in Hattingen, 1996.
  • World Cups: Orleans ’92 (QF), Lisbon ’98 (QF), Hooglede ’98 (SF), Corfu ’98 (QF), Torremolinos ’98 (QF), Rezé ’98 (SF), Goynük ’98 (SF), Seoul ’99 (SF), Las Vegas ’99 (QF), Oosterhout ’01 (QF), Antwerp ’04 (QF), Hurghada ’07 (QF), Suwon ’08 (QF).

Rudolph never reached the “protected player” status, his highest position on the ranking was 15th. But if you look at his resume, you will conclude that very few players in his average bracket have achieved more.

Martin Horn (1971) had a very different route to the top. He won a slew of German titles in the classic disciplines, and was even European champion in the free game, 47/1 and 1-cushion in the nineties. A (part-time) professional soldier for 16 years, the “Bundeswehr” gave him plenty of time to practice. Wolfgang Rittmann, the lifelong czar of the CEB took Horn under his wing early in his career, and (at a price) enabled him to travel, climb the ladder. That was fine for the young German promise, but in the new millennium a more mature Horn severed his ties with both the Bundeswehr and his despotic patron. He was an independent professional now, well respected for his ability and living off teaching and playing billiards. After several seasons in the privileged top 12 (highest position: 5th) he made the unexpected decision in 2013 to no longer play the World Cups, accepting his inevitable free fall in the ranking. He’s missed a season now, and we’ve missed him. Martin at his best plays mouth-watering 3-cushion, relying heavily on position play to make his runs. He has the most beautiful control over the second ball, and he makes good use of his former 1-cushion expertise, when there is no option left but to make a very precise hit.

  • German champion in 1995, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012.
  • World champion (national teams) in 2002 (with Rudolph). Runner-up in 2012 and 2013. Always in the last 4.
  • European championship: runner-up in 1998 and 2004.
  • World Cups: Bussum, ’98 (QF), Torremolinos ’98 (QF), Berlin ’99 (runner-up to Zanetti), Oosterhout ’99 (QF), Antwerp ’04 (SF), Lugo, ’05 (QF), St. Wendel ’06 (QF), Istanbul ’06 (SF), Sluiskil ’07 (SF), Hurghada ’07 (runner-up to Blomdahl), Mexico City ’07 (QF), Seoul ’07 (QF), Sluiskil ’08 (QF), St. Wendel ’08 (QF), Hurghada ’08 (QF), Alcala de Guadaira ’08 (SF), Antalya ’09 (winner, beating Jaspers), Matosinhos ’09 (QF), Antalya ’10 (SF), Matosinhos ’10 (runner-up to Caudron), Suwon ’11 (QF), Hurghada ’11 (QF), Antwerp ’13 (QF).

Horn obviously has the edge over Rudolph, in terms of playing strength. Christian will usually average 1.3 – 1.4 over a season, and Martin is several tenths higher, even if he is not in Caudron – Jaspers country yet. But it has to be said: After a decade or so where Horn was the truly dominant player in Germany, Rudolph seems to have come out of the shadow and is again beating his countryman from time to time. I was lucky enough to be present at the latest edition of the “classico” CR – MH, it took place in the Dutch league. A superb match it was, you could not wish for more quality, really. Both players producing well, defending well and showing that “winner” mentality the Germans are so famous for. Horn was leading 12-1 after 3 innings, but Rudolph hit back to make it 13-12 in 5. Another gap at 23-14 in 8 in favor of Horn, but then it was all Rudolph for a while. He turned 23-14 into 27-41 (in 14 innings). Yet another fightback from Horn, but he came up short: 45 – 50 in 21 to CR, who proved that he is still a danger to the greats. Can he keep up with the Koreans? I doubt it. Maybe Horn can, but he’ll have to go the Sayginer route now, if he wants to get back into the top-12. That’s a slippery path. Even Muhammad Ali could get knocked out these days.