The world ranking needs to be fixed. It’s a mess.


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on August 14, 2015

Bert van ManenA new edition came out on 3 August 2015. Check it out here:

If you just let your eyes wander from nr. 100 to nr. 1, it looks okay. Fairly unknown names in the nineties, familiar names in the sixties, good players in the forties, all the giants of the game in the top 20. But if you actually go over the columns, you’ll see that our current ranking system is built on political compromises. It’s not designed to list players in order of quality. Its main purpose is to keep the federations and the confederations happy.

We are awarding two different types of points, which is inevitable, but also the main source of irregularities in the list.

First category: the World Cups (totally fair rewards) and the World Championship (mostly fair). I make that small distinction, because the World Cups are open to everyone, and the World Championship is invitation only. Let’s call these the “global” ranking points. Second category: points for national and Confederational championships. Let’s call those the “regional” ranking points.

– The nrs. 95- 90 on the current list: Espen Hauge, Alex Lopera, Marvin Pineda, Hugo Sanchez, Javier Vera and Taylor Francisco have one thing in common: they were champion in their country, and rewarded with 30 pts on the world ranking for that. Can you guess what their grand total of world ranking points is? You probably can. It’s thirty. Their entire ranking is regional.

– Antoine Gholam, the world nr. 59 became the national champion of Lebanon. I have no record of his average in those Lebanese nationals, but the sum of his matches in the Kozoom archive (340 in 455) puts him around 0.750. Still, he added 30 pts to his world ranking total. Players like Peter Ceulemans or Jef Philipoom will average 1.400 or better in the Belgian nationals, and end up with 12 or 7 points for that effort.

In summary: players are generously rewarded for living in a country without a strong billiard culture. They are harshly punished for living in Turkey, South Korea or Belgium.

– The Confederate wins are even more lucrative (80 – 54 – 38 – 26 pts) than the national ones. The current nrs. 1, 15, 26 and 28 have won their continent’s title: Blomdahl, Haeng Jik Kim, Riad Nady and Henry Diaz. For Nady and Diaz, it is the bulk of their total. They are on 113 and 104 pts respectively. Diaz has not participated in any World Cup (of the last six held), but his Kozoom record shows a very respectable 1136 in 860, which is 1.320 average over the past two years. Nady has played in four of the last six WC’s, but the one time he was in the main draw, it was on a wildcard. His record since 2013 is 0.951 (513 in 539). That makes them both good players, you have to be to win the CPB or ACC championship. But there is a difference between being a good player and being the world nr. 26. Let’s not forget that with an average under 1.000, you are not even in the top 500 in South Korea.

– To win the 80 ACC points, Nady had to stay ahead of Ragay, Sidhom, Fouda,  El Messery, Salem, Mohamed and Elias. European champion (80 pts) Blomdahl dealt with Jaspers, Merckx, Caudron, Tasdemir, Horn, Leppens, Zanetti, Sanchez. Haeng Jik Kim had to stay ahead of Sung Won Choi, Dong Koong Kang, Jung Han Heo, Quyet Chien Tran, Ryuuji Umeda, Ngo Dinh Nai and Jae Ho Cho.

In summary: players are generously rewarded for their membership of a weaker Confederation, and they are harshly punished for living in Europe or Asia.

The under-appreciation of the World Cups and the over-appreciation of the nationals and Confederationals in the ranking system needs to be corrected, but instead of doing that, the UMB went the other way last year. The number of World Cups that count for the ranking was reduced: from the most recent 8 to the most recent 6. The reason given: “the top 12 should not be rigid and impenetrable, new names must be able to rise to the top”.

About “rigid”: 3-cushion careers are much longer than tennis- or golf careers. Our best guys stay on top for many years, not because they are protected but because they are better. Secondly, if you can reach their level (1.6 and up), you CAN climb the ranking in two years. Haeng Jik Kim did it. Hwang Hyung Bum did it.

What the UMB measure in fact did, was decrease the importance of the World Cups by 25 %, and increase the importance of the Nationals and Confederationals correspondingly. It moved the world ranking further away from playing strength as a measuring instrument.

Do we actually want Caudron to drop out of the protected top 12? Under these rules it could happen, you know. He’s 5th and on 229 pts now, defending 80 in the next World Cup when Luxor 2014 is taken off. A surprise first round loss in Vietnam, and he’s somewhere between 10th and 14th place.

I think we need a little more stability than that, and to achieve it, we must create a (much) better balance between the nationals, the Confederational championships, the World Championship and the World Cups.

My recommendations:

1) Use the World Cup points from the last TEN events, and count the five most recent ones for 100 %, the older five for 50 %. Eighty pts earned this season is 80 pts, next year they are worth 40 on your ranking. If a new tournament is added, the oldest one disappears from your total.

2) Don’t apply that 50 % system to the World Championship, the Nationals and the Confederationals. Results disappear after a year, as they do now. The “impulses” for the ranking will still be there, but the relative importance of the World Cups will increase. A “one hit wonder” will not rise so fast, a player who consistently wins points  will not drop so fast.

3) Leave the 120 / 81 / 57 / 39 reward for the World Championship intact, as well as the 30 /18 / 12 / 7 points for (all) the nationals, even though playing strength is not reflected in the latter. They serve a purpose: as affirmative action and incentive for the smaller countries. It is an acceptable price to pay.

4) The rewards for Confederational titles should be weighted. The CEB (European) and ACBC (Asian) titles are by far the hardest to win, and they should be worth 80 / 54 / 38 / 26 points, as they are now. The CPB (Pan-American) title should be at 60 / 40 / 28 / 18 and the ACC (African) should be worth 48 / 32 / 22 / 14.  That would reflect the playing strength of the continents, and create a level playing field.

I applaud the foundation of the ACC, I recognize the major importance of Egypt as a 3-cushion country, and I could not say a bad word about their players if I tried. But I think it is obvious to everyone, that rewarding the ACC and the CEB champion with the same number of points is stretching affirmative action way too far. It’s simply unfair to the players.

Your world ranking should first and foremost have to do with HOW YOU PLAY, not with WHERE YOU LIVE. Therefore, the global ranking points must always outweigh the regional ranking points. Once the UMB recognizes that principle – and I have reason to believe they will, in the near future – we may see changes for the better.