Should we learn how to say “축하 해요”, or “tebrikler”?


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on May 2, 2016

f48c420169d98c23bb6e91a4e5c3c2d14042c610.jpgEvery other year, I like to take a closer look at the UMB world ranking list, and see if the balance of power has shifted. Not so much between the top players, but between countries and continents. Even without checking, we all know Korea and Vietnam are on the rise, but we also know most of the World Cup tournaments are still won by players from Western Europe. So do these two facts cancel each other out? The results of my little evening’s homework may surprise you.

I’ve given the world’s nr. 1 the weight of 8 points. Nrs. 2 and 3 get 7 points, nrs. 4-8 get 6 points. From 9-16, players are worth 5 pts, from 17-32 they get 3, from 33-64 they get 2, from 65-128 they get 1 point.

You are fully entitled to have some objections to that formula, and there’s a good chance I am going to agree with you. A country that has nine recreational players who travel to all the World Cups without ever winning a match, could theoretically end up higher on the list than the home country of the world’s nr. 1 player.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot we can do about that. The more (good) players participate in World Cups, the more honest and representative the world ranking will become. In a perfect world, “where you live” would not be a factor, it would all be about “how you play”. We’ll never get there; all we can and should do is work towards it. As it is, my points system does reveal some interesting things about the direction global 3-cushion is taking.

This was the situation in May 2011, five years ago:

2011 world ranking by country
rank country pts players
1 S. Korea 33 13
2 Belgium 26 7
3 Spain 20 9
4 Netherlands 20 8
5 Turkey 20 8
6 Japan 11 6
7 France 11 5
8 Sweden 11 3
9 Greece 10 3
10 Colombia 8 6
11 Austria 8 5
12 Peru 7 4
13 Egypt 7 4
14 Vietnam 7 3
15 Ecuador 7 2

– The dominant positions of Korea and Belgium are no surprise. There’s a strong presence from traditional CEB strongholds such as Spain, Netherlands, France and Austria. Western Europe (not counting Turkey and Greece) has no less than 37 players in this top-15, even though Germany and Denmark are nowhere to be seen.  Add the two Mediterranean countries, and the total is a whopping 48.

– Asia contributes 22 players, Pan America 12, Africa (not yet a confederation at that time) 4.

– Netherlands gets 8 of its 20 points from the (then) world nr. 1: Dick Jaspers, which goes to show the other Dutchmen were rather low on the ranking.

Here’s the same chart, but in April 2016:

2016 world ranking by country
rank country pts players
1 Turkey 38 20
2 S. Korea 38 15
3 Vietnam 22 9
4 Belgium 22 4
5 Egypt 21 9
6 Netherlands 13 6
7 Spain 12 5
8 Japan 10 8
9 Sweden 10 3
10 Colombia 9 5
11 Greece 9 5
12 France 7 2
13 USA 6 3
14 Peru 6 3
15 Italy 6 1

– The total for Western Europe has dropped from 37 to 21 players, a 43 % decline. Still no Germans or Danes, and fewer Belgian, French, Spanish and Dutch players.

– Asia now contributes 32 players, a 45 % increase mostly coming from Vietnam, not Korea. Pan America has 11, Africa has 9. What a jump Egypt has made! Of course, they had two World Cups in their back yard every year, that helped a lot. But the averages of their players have also gone up considerably.

Here’s the real story though: the biggest development  in international 3-cushion in the past five years, has taken place in Turkey. They had 8 players in the top 128 in 2011, now they have 20. The four Kings in the deck (Tayfun Tasdemir, Murat Naci Coklu, Lütfi Cenet and Adnan Yüksel) are still going strong, two of them – TT and MNC – have even won World Cups. Sayginer has made a comeback (he’s on 28 now), and he is not yet done climbing the ladder. But the most impressive thing for me, is the quality of play by this new generation of Turks.  Murat Tüzül, Tolgahan Kiraz, Ahmet Alp, Can Capak, Ahmet Bayatli, Birol Uymaz, Gokhan Salman, Hakan Incekara, Emrullah Basegmez, Mehmet Gören, Bulent Özdemir, Gungor Bastunali, Savas Bulut, Ali Kemal Gunaydin, these guys can play.

The world is quickly learning how to say “tebrikler” (congratulations), because Turkish players are winning more 3-cushion matches than they ever have.  Mind you, several of these gentlemen are thirty-something, which means they will get quite a bit stronger in the upcoming ten years.

Yes, I know: the Italian guy, the Spaniard, the Dutchman and the Swede can beat anybody. Caudron, Forthomme , Leppens and Merckx are – in my opinion – still the strongest foursome on the planet. But we might as well admit it: the current superpower nations in 3-cushion are Turkey and South-Korea.