Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on December 25, 2014
The small town of Zundert is on the Dutch side of the border with Belgium, and Vincent van Gogh’s birthplace is a remarkable little hamlet. Just 20.000 people, but nowhere will you find more expertise about dahlias, strawberries or garden shrubbery. The annual flower corso is to Zundert what the Palio is to Siena, Italy. They love sports, but soccer is not a big deal here. Cycling is nr. 2, and billiards is nr. 3, dodging taxes of course being the nr. 1 most popular sport.
Den Hoek (the Zundert billiard room) is a third-generation family business, Louis Havermans currently in charge. He’s a former World Cup semifinalist (Antwerp 1995) who was once the ninth best player in the world. Louis and his staff know about billiards, and they provide you with conditions that are pretty close to perfection. If you can’t swim here, it’s not the water’s fault. Impressing the audience may prove difficult though: they are rather spoiled. Not only does the “home” team consist of Forthomme, P. Ceulemans, van Beers and Groot, Raymond Ceulemans has been a regular guest in this room for half a century, Dick Jaspers started his career on these tables, and Frédéric Caudron has dominated their traditional Christmas tournament in the past two decades. Two of the four world record runs of 28 (Komori 1993 and Forthomme 2012) were made on these tables.
The Christmas event used to be a pentathlon in the seventies and eighties, with Ceulemans and Dielis as the star players, and Dutchmen van der Smissen, Havermans and Arnouts also doing well. From 1990 on, it was strictly a 3-cushion tournament. The formula was attractive: a mix of Dutch and Belgian players, one or two big guns invited from abroad. Let me just mention Nelin, Sang Lee, Blomdahl, Kasidokostas, Tasdemir, Polychronopoulos and Sayginer. No sets: Zundert has always been about 50-point matches, good averages, high runs. The format? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Who wants to argue with success? This Christmas tournament has never seen empty stands, not that I can remember anyway, and it has been sold out to the last chair many times. What’s not to like? There is fine food, cold beer and world class billiards in Den Hoek, and the price of admission is a few Euros. They do many things so well here, the world of billiards appreciates that.
And now they’ve gone horribly wrong, for once. The Zundert organization has decided to not invite Kozoom over, this year, so the event will not be streamed. To cut the cost, they say (and yes, they save a few hundred). Penny-wise, pound-foolish. The stream has never affected ticket sales in the past, the place will fill up anyway. A good chunk of exposure and publicity, not to mention prestige, is lost. Many international 3-cushion fans who have looked forward to a few days of top class billiards will be disappointed, and they will rightly blame the organization. Sponsors who see an event being scaled down, will certainly not increase their own contribution. I could call this decision questionable, or ill-advised, or unfortunate. But no, I am going to go with a different adjective.
This year’s edition has all the good Belgians you’d expect, and a few extras. Two fine young players from The Hague: Jeffrey Jorissen and Glenn Hofman. Two of the very best Turks:Tayfun Tasdemir and Murat Naci Coklu. Sorry, no Jaspers or Blomdahl. But Merckx and Caudron as always in the field, and of course they are the favorites to win. Starts Saturday 27 December. Drive to Zundert, or miss it.
Flight A: de Bruijn,Merckx, Philipoom, Valentijn
Flight B: van Beers,Coklu, Forthomme, van Kuyk
Flight C: P.Ceulemans, Leppens, Caudron, Jorissen
FlightD: van Havere, Tasdemir, Burgman, Hofman
|Zundert Christmas Tournament 1990 – 2014|
|winner||runner-up||3d, 4th place||3d, 4th place|
|1990||van Kuyk||1.293||Dielis||1.305||R. Ceulemans||1.506||Arnouts||1.150|
|2003||Merckx||1.796||van Kuyk||1.579||Caudron||1.896||de Backer||1.408|
|2006||de Bruijn||1.630||van Kuyk||1.721||Merckx||1.635||de Backer||1.290|
|2013||Caudron||2.091||de Bruijn||1.613||van Beers||1.618||Christiani||1.496|