The perfect 3-cushion tournament. Or close, at least.


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on March 2, 2015

Bert van ManenViersen 2015 was as good as it gets. You could not wish for better play, nicer ambiance, more excitement. Sure, the organization messed up here and there: playing time schedules were off by an hour more than once, and the draw for the semi-finals was published incorrectly at first. If you saw “Belgium – Netherlands”and “Turkey – Korea A” published in this group as the semifinals,that was the UMB’s mistake. But honestly, the positives did outweigh the negatives ten to one this week.

First of all, the new format worked. The “Scotch double”, a concept copied from the game of pool and introduced in Viersen this year, proved to be exciting and satisfying, unlike the old nonsense of stopping a game on table two when on table one a large enough difference had been made. In the “Scotch double”, if a national twosome team wins one match and loses the other, all four players come together on one table to play a deciding set (to 15), where they alternate point by point. The SD only comes into play in the knockout stage of course, not in the groups.

Second. The four best teams in the field made it to the semifinals. Barry van Beers did a wonderful job in partnering Jaspers (1.7 combined for the Dutch). YĆ¼ksel, likewise, does not have the class of Tasdemir, but he always fights like a mother lion does for her cubs. Belgium and Korea A, what can I say? Jae Ho Cho and Caudron as SECOND in the team, that is all you need to know. Almost 2 (tournament) average for the Belgians, almost 1.9 for Korea. With all due respect to Germany and Spain (and Belgium B!), this was the best final four we could wish for.

Third. The level of play was just awesome. I did see some raised eyebrows on the final day, when the tables started to change and there were some unexpected misses on the short side. But mostly, the conditions were fine and the players found their adjustments very quickly. Horn, Carlsen, Bury, all in the 1.7 area, Blomdahl his usual 1.95. Jae Ho Cho was even better, with a general average of 2.127. Caudron had the tournament high average, with 2.506, and the high run, with a 16.

Fourth. I loved the dynamics of the team play, when one player made a point and left the position for his teammate (or missed, and left the opponent in). Maybe it’s because I can read Belgian faces better than Korean ones, but I felt the two Belgian stars were simply the best, in terms of mutual trust and acceptance of the other guy’s decisions. Merckx never felt the need to explain to Caudron why he did what he did, he just KNOWS that Frederic watched, understood. And agreed. That goes both ways, of course. You need to have deep and plentiful mutual respect to succeed in that situation, and these two guys have it. Is that in spite of the enormous amounts of pain they have inflicted upon each other over the years, or because of? Probably the latter.

Fifth. The final could have gone either way. Caudron would probably beat Jae Ho Cho in a match to 1000 points, 60 times out of a 100. Same odds for Merckx against Jung Han Heo. But in matches to 40, it’s a toss-up. One kiss, one mistake, one favorable bounce can change everything, even decide a short match like that. The players know, and they also know they can’t control every roll of the ball. They have to accept good and bad luck that comes their way. To deal with that, they develop character. The cruelty of the game actually makes them a stronger, better person. It was so visible in Viersen, yesterday. We did not only have great winners, we had awesome 2nd place finishers as well, and the billiard world has quickly learned to appreciate these Korean guys not just as 3-Cplayers, but as friends, the kind you are proud of.

The two Belgians are of course the best, four years in a row now. I would not be surprised if they won “Viersen” for another four years. If the 2016 -2019 tournaments are as good as the 2015 edition, you are not going to hear me complain. This was 3-cushion at its best.