Empty chairs, full purse


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on December 7, 2013

Bert van ManenIf only the Agipi tournament could have lived as long as the Crystal Kelly: 18 years. The players would have loved that. But Claude Fath, CEO of French insurance company Agipi, could only keep his brain child alive for six seasons. It’s a cruel law in the field of billiards sponsorship: people may stay loyal to the sport, but businesses lose interest quickly. Sometimes, because sponsorship is just giving money away. Not so in Agipi’s case, there was definitely a quid pro quo. Their name recognition in Europe went up significantly as a result of billiard-related publicity. Google “Agipi”, and you will read about 3-cushion for pages and pages, before you find anything about insurance. But with Fath gone as CEO, so was the tournament. Most of us have watched Agipi matches on Kozoom, and we all remember how strange it was to see that business foyer turned into a billiard arena, rows and rows of the most comfortable chairs you have ever seen, most of them EMPTY. Admission was free, there was world class three cushion, sometimes record-breaking play on those two tables, in front of SEVEN spectators (three of them from Belgium). Is Schiltigheim not on a map? Do Strasbourg and the Elzas region even know what 3-cushion is? I never quite understood that, excuse moi.
What I did understand, was the enthusiasm of the players, which was of course based on the attractive reward system. Generous sums of money for the tournament winner and the runner-up, but the others could also line their pockets by scoring an occasional high average or a good run (10 or more). Telling a billiard player he can make money doing that, is like asking a monkey to scratch its ass and eat bananas, or tell politicians to lie. It’s their “raison d’être”, it’s what they do.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone, that I have gathered the Agipi results and put them in a little Excel sheet (can be downloaded from this page). Let’s pick out some of the highlights, year by year.

In the opening year, none of the big guns make a mistake in the group stage. Forthomme and Sayginer join the then-best six players in the world in the last eight. Jaspers is like a kid in a candy store: he makes 50 in 13 which adds to his paycheck, but nowhere near as much as his runs of 10, 13, 20 and 22 do. Blomdahl loses just one match (to Caudron) on his way to the semi-final, where he comfortably beats Sayginer. The final against Dick is one-way traffic: 50 – 26 in 25 to TB.

A slightly different format, and the first invited player from Asia, Kyung Roul Kim. It will be a cruel tournament for the big guy: he scores 1.8, 1.9, 2.1 and 2.3 in his four matches, but does not even make it to the quarter finals. Another first-timer, Kasidokostas, does get through. Semih can still compete with the best. All that does not change the fact that it’s the same final: Jaspers – Blomdahl. This time, it’s a win for Dick, in a high class (19 innings) match.

French players Duval and Roux had their chances in the first two years; in 2010 the invitations go to youngsters Melnytschenko and Soumagne. Duong Anh Vu from Vietnam is flown in, K.R.K. again a welcome guest. Both Greeks, Kasido and Poly, make it to the quarters but they lose to the home players in that arena: Zanetti and Caudron. The Italian runs 17 and 19, Kasido and Sanchez play a match with a rarely seen combined average of 3.625 (50 – 37 in 12). In the final though, it’s again Dick Jaspers. He beats Caudron 50 – 43 in a disappointing 34 innings. In spite of that match, Caudron still records the highest ever Agipi tournament average that year: 2.399.

Another format change, and more emphasis on the young talents. Sidhom, Hofman, Haeng Jik Kim, Palazon, Amar, Tromas, and again Melnytschenko and Soumagne are drawn into two groups of four. Palazon is the only survivor, but he will lose to Bury in the quarters. Jung Han Heo, Umeda and Sung Won Choi add more eastern intrigue. With all due respect to tournament winner Sung Won Choi, who proves to be a mental giant and one of the world’s best players under pressure, the highlight of Agipi 2011 is Kasidokostas’ run against Jaspers in the QF. From 39 – 29, he makes an unbelievable 21, and every student of the game should watch it 5 times.
http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=6w_MTu5i1TU

Dong Koong Kang and Cenet are new names in the field, and Daniel Sanchez who has missed the main draw more than once, gets a chance to make things right. Jaspers loses to a strong Horn (in 20 innings). You’d expect a high finish for Merckx at some point, but no. Even more so, where is Caudron? Not in the quarterfinals, as he loses a nail biter 49-50 to his countryman Philipoom, and a 25-inning match to S.W. Choi. The closing week is all about Blomdahl, really. He thrashes Kasido 50 – 7 in 20 innings, beats Choi in 14 innings helped by a run of 20, and easily wins the final against K.R.K. A new cue, he says. We think it’s not so much the bike, it’s the legs…

A lot of good 3-cushion and some close finishes in 2013. K.R. Kim and Sanchez recording wins with over 3.000 average, Zanetti running 16, Leppens 18 and Caudron 20, but everything pales in comparison to the FC – DJ match in the group stage. Frédéric is totally outplayed by Dick and trails 44 – 7, when he starts to score. And score, and score. How can a match that is 44 – 7 end 47 – 50? It had never happened before in the history of 3-cushion, and it will never happen again. Jaspers remains in the tournament, but he will later go out 49 – 50 to Zanetti, who is helped by a monumental fluke at the right time. The maestro from Bolzano who looks invincible for months, wins the last edition of Agipi, beating Caudron 50 – 40 in the final.

2008: Blomdahl (2.048). He wins € 28.050. Total purse: € 121.450.
2009: Jaspers (1.954). He wins € 20.550. Total purse: € 124.450.
2010: Jaspers (2.096). He wins € 29.200. Total purse: € 116.800.
2011: Sung Won Choi (1.666). He wins € 25.350. Total purse: € 127.800.
2012: Blomdahl (1.953). He wins € 27.200. Total purse: € 123.400.
2013: Zanetti (1.915). He wins € 24.450. Total purse: € 109.600.