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Carom Billiard - 3-Cushion - Bert's column (NED)

Not even twenty trips to the table

Posted by on September 2, 2019

Not even twenty trips to the table

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Last week, the UMB announced that the knock-out stage of World Cups and the World Championship will soon be played to 50 points, not 40 as it is now. In the same breath, the Board mentioned that the players overwhelmingly supported this change. The main reason, for both the players and the UMB: increased playing strength. Matches take fewer innings and less time, everybody says. I couldn't agree more, but I felt it was worth checking these facts. If something as important as a format change rests on it, we need to remove all doubt. Is this "increased level" just our impression, or do the numbers confirm it?  

A quick look at my World Cup archive, and I knew the quarterfinals would be the key to check the players' progress. Why not the finals? The sample size would be too small. Why not the first round? That would be more work than I was willing to put in, for just an article. The last eight would give me just what I was looking for. 

2007 (sets). A short trip back in time to the year 2007, and we find Blomdahl in majestic form. He wins four World Cups in that season: Sluiskil, Manisa, Porto and Hurghada. Sánchez wins Suwon, Caudron wins Corfu and Mexico City. In all the quarterfinals of 2007, an average of 1,567 was played. The average duration of a match was 28,25 innings.   

2010 (sets). Three years later, the World Cup cycle consisted of only four events: Antalya, Suwon, Matosinhos and Hurghada. The winners: Kyung Roul Kim, Jaspers, Caudron and Kasidokostas. Not a lot of progress was made compared to 2007: the general average in the quarterfinals was 1.564 and the average duration of a match was 32,84 innings.  

2013. We'd switched to 40 points, and we had five World Cups: Antalya, Guri, Peloponnese, Medellin and Hurghada. Blomdahl, D.K. Kang, Blomdahl, Caudron and Merckx took the wins. The Swede set a new world record general average in Greece (later to be equaled, then broken by Dani Sánchez) of 2.739. The quarterfinals averaged 1.652, a good step up from 2010. Average match duration: 20,70 innings. That's a dramatic difference, compared to three years earlier.

2016. Seven World Cups on the roster: Bursa, Luxor, Ho Chi Minh, Porto, Guri, La Baule and El Gouna. Caudron won back-to-back: Ho Chi Minh and Porto. A single win for Merckx, Jaspers, Bury, Coklu and J.H. Heo. As exceptional as 2007 was for Blomdahl, 2016 saw Jaspers in imperious form. He averaged 2.100 for the season! The quarterfinals in 2016 had a 1.735 general average, with a match duration of 20,17 innings. 

2019. Four World Cups so far: Antalya, Ho Chi Minh, Blankenberge and Porto. Victories for Tasdemir, Caudron, Palazon and Jaspers. The Spaniard's win in Blankenberge was remarkable, because his general average (1.666) was lower than that of the field! Only the third time in World Cup history, for that to happen. Takes nothing away from Palazon's great win, it mostly shows you what a clever tactician he is. All 2019 quarterfinals put together had a 1.800 average, with a match length of 19,26 innings.

That quick stroll through the years DOES confirm what we already thought we knew: the field is getting stronger, significantly so. If a quarterfinal does not even last 20 innings anymore, there are two very solid reasons to increase the points from 40 to 50. First: we are no longer giving the audience their money's worth. Djokovic - Nadal can easily last 4 hours, the world snooker final takes two days. We can't have two of the best 3-cushion players on the planet compete for 45 minutes and call it a World Cup final, it's not fair. Second: luck will start to play too big a role in deciding the outcome. The shorter the match, the better the chances for the weaker of the two players. We are a sport, want to be treated as one, taken serious as one. it is our duty to do what we can to make the best player win.

There will not be a lot of controversy over this change from 40 to 50, I think. It is so common sense that only a small minority of the fans will disagree. The other "news" from the UMB will certainly spark a lot more debate: matches in the K.O. stage will be played without an equalizing inning. This one has a fierce army of defenders and an equally combative legion of attackers.

To give you a few of the possible arguments "pro":

-          The superb suspense of the equalizing inning, and the even more breathtaking shoot-outs. Think about Blomdahl - Kang in 2015 and Jaspers - Bury in 2018! Some of the best moments you've ever seen in 3-cushion, and they would be lost.

-          Is it even fair, to call someone the winner when he's had one more turn than the other guy? How can Caudron lose the 2013 EC semifinal with a HIGHER average than his opponent?  

And the one and only, principal argument "against":

-          The man (or woman) who makes the final point should be able to raise their cue in the air in triumph, and the crowd should be able to cheer. As it is now, he makes the last point, and we all politely stay silent. Then we wait for the opponent to play his equalizer, in silence. Then the opponent misses, and we don't shout, sing or dance. That would be disrespectful, you never applaud a miss in our sport. In the end, a man (or a woman) wins a World Cup or a World title, and there is no good moment to break the tension and honk your horn, grab your vuvuzela. That's not right.   

My personal opinion: sadly, there is no win-win solution here. It's a trade-off, we're going to have to pick the slightly better compromise. I am very sensitive to the "pro" arguments and I do think this change puts a ton of weight on the lag. Which, by the way, is a skill. Some players are simply better at it than others. I'll miss the shoot-outs, but I think this step was inevitable. We ask enough of the crowd already; let them shout when it's time. 


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My Comments

Equalizing inning
I don’t understand, if the equalizing inning is being used, why the first player stops at 40 (or whatever the number is.). Why not keep shooting till he misses and then the second player can take his run at it. He should shoot till he misses and the shoot-out only comes into play if the second player misses when the game is tied. One benefit of this is there might be some longer runs in the last inning! I’m sure this has been discussed before, but it seems more logical to me. Thanks, Bert, for your many thought-provoking columns. Mike Miller

Message 1/3 - Publish at September 2, 2019 11:16 PM

To mikemiller
What a very good point! If equalizing inning being used, this is a very logical way. Otherwise, many players will intentionally loose on the lag to go second, so they can have the slight advantage on the equalizing inning. Make 40 points as the last cut off but not the last point of the last inning.

Message 2/3 - Publish at September 3, 2019 1:07 AM

Equalizing inning should remain
Without the equalizing inning, winning the lag has a disproportionate amount of importance. The spot shot is a natural and frequently initiates a substantial run. This is too much of a reward for what is probably a miniscule difference in where the two lagged balls wind up.

Message 3/3 - Publish at September 3, 2019 6:10 AM

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