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

The luckiest / unluckiest guy in billiards

Posted by on December 19, 2018

The luckiest / unluckiest guy in billiards

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The continent of Africa is about three times the size of Europe, and it is home to 1.2 billion people. If we are serious about spreading the popularity of 3-cushion, it would be a mistake to just focus on Europe, the Americas and Asia. Twenty years from now, there could (and should!) be billiard rooms in the streets of Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos. A building needs a foundation, so in 2013, a billiards Confederation for the African continent (the ACC) was founded.   

Is the ACC already a "confederation" in the true sense of the word? No. Are there national championships in Congo, Tanzania, Ivory Coast? No. The ACC currently consists mostly of Egypt, the only member country where billiards is popular and properly organized. This confederation is a work in progress, not a finished product.   

As a result, young and talented mister Sameh Sidhom finds himself in an unusual and extremely fortunate situation. He is by far the best player in Egypt, which automatically makes him the best player of his Confederation. If he wins the ACC title, which he has done in the past years, he is rewarded with the same number of ranking points the other Confederational champions get: 80. No need to explain that it is much more difficult to win the CEB, the ACBC or even the CPB title. 

And it goes further. Sameh should be able to win the Egyptian national championships as well, that's another 30 ranking points. Given the fact that he is a seeded player in World Cups, he will always collect 8 points there, even if he loses in the first round. With the last 8 WC's counting for the ranking, that's 80 + 30 + 64 = 174 ranking points. Add an automatic invitation to the World Championship (also a minimum of 8 points), and he can get to 182 points without ever beating a player who is over 1.200 in average. You currently need 190 points to be in the protected top-14, which will make sure you are seeded in every World Cup and your expenses are taken care of. 

Compare his situation to that of European players who are good, but not good enough to win the CEB championship. Or, for that matter, Koreans or Vietnamese who can't win the ACBC. These guys will usually not collect 30 points in their nationals, but 12 or 7. In their Confederational championship, they will not win 80 points, but - if they are lucky - 24 or 12. As a result, they have to pay for every trip to every World Cup, out of their own pocket. Some of these guys have the same playing strength as Sameh Sidhom. 


Sidhom 2018


Before I start the second half of this column, a word about Sameh. He is a truly likeable fellow. There is not a trace of arrogance in him, he can win with style and lose with grace. His game is a joy for the eyes: he's fluent, natural, with a Polychronopoulossian mix of erratic and brilliant. He has improved in the past few years: gone from 1.250 into the 1.500 region, and I hope he'll get even stronger. I see him as a great ambassador for the game, he'll inspire Egyptian youngsters to play 3-cushion, and hopefully he can do the same in other African countries.  

So, is he the luckiest guy in billiards? Let's take a look at his 2018. 

-          Antalya. Sidhom - Leppens 39 - 40 in 26.

-          Ho Chi Minh City. Sidhom - Morales 40 -40 in 24. Sidhom loses the shootout 0-1.

-          Blankenberge. Sidhom - Capak 40 - 40 in 25. Sidhom loses the shootout 0-1.

-          Porto. Sidhom - Zapata Garcia 38 - 40 in 20.

-          La Baule. Sidhom - Nelin 28 - 40 in 24.

-          Seoul. Sidhom - Sung Uk Oh 40 - 40 in 25. Sidhom loses the shootout 0-1.

-          Somabay. Sidhom - Haack-Sörensen 40 - 30 in 27. Sidhom - Jaspers 40 - 40 in 21. Sidhom loses the shootout 3-4. 

In seven World Cups, averaging 1.588, he won one match. He lost one by a big margin, two by a small margin, and went out in a shootout, with a single point difference, FOUR times. All of these, he could have won. Some of these, he SHOULD have won. A general average of 1.588? I'll say that is rather excellent.

Is he the unluckiest guy in billiards? 

Don't think so. The arguments for making him the luckiest guy are stronger. After all, you can't win shootouts if you keep missing the break shot. I am sure he will have given this some serious thought himself. We've said it before, when the pressure gets to the very peak, it's not about knowledge anymore, or about systems, not even about position play. Other things matter: can you keep your heart rate down? Can you control your nerves, your emotions? You learn more about yourself in the seconds of a shootout than you do in days of practice.

But if you are a billiard player and you look at Sidhom's season, you HAVE to feel sorry for him. How many disappointments can a man take? How often can you make 40 in 24 or in 21, and not be through to the next round? What a cruel sport we play.

It is my personal opinion that the 30- and 80-point rewards for National and Confederational titles are too high, especially the second one. The first one does not do all that much damage: it will only put a few national champions of smaller countries a little higher on the ranking than their actual playing strength warrants. Nobody really cares though, if you are 73d or 95th on the ranking. But the Confederational 80-point rewards weigh too heavily on the business part of the world ranking list. Especially in the situation we have now, where a top-14 and a top-20 position (3CC!) can and will have significant financial consequences, players must have equal chances, equal conditions, regardless of the country they live in. I hope the UMB board sees the value of looking into this and possibly fine-tuning the point scales.  


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My Comments

Öndal Demirci
Öndal Demirci
About ACC
Good article , Bert ...
Our sport should be fair .
A confederation which consists of almost one country should not give the same points like the others .
Maybe 40 or 50 ?

Message 1/6 - Publish at December 22, 2018 1:27 PM

Adib (DQ)
Adib (DQ)
Confirmation bias
Van Manen's words concerning the friendliness of Sameh do not fool anyone. In fact, he gave us a typical example of a confirmatory bias by his tendency to search for and recall information in a way that confirms his preexisting beliefs and hypotheses.

Message 2/6 - Publish at December 29, 2018 10:02 AM

Good article
Excellent observation Bert. It is more than correct to give the right value depending on the confederation in which we play to make equal opportunities to all the players in the world of a sport that is perhaps among the most difficult.

Message 3/6 - Publish at January 2, 2019 6:43 PM

True points..
Depending on the volume of quantity and quality of players should determine the given points. Even though KOREA, Vietnam, or Turkey are individual countries, but the volume of quantity and quality players are very high and challenging competitions.

Message 4/6 - Publish at January 3, 2019 5:22 AM

This is easy to fix
All you have to do is to take into account relative strength of each tournament. You can do that by taking the average number of points currently carried by the top 10 (or top 8, top 12, top 20 etc. Basically just pick a number). Then you can multiply that with a factor (maybe 0.25 for national events, and 0.5 for confederational event?). That will be the number of points the winner of the event get.

That way, winning the African championship will net you relatively few points (since the strength ofo the top 10 players will be rather low). So will winning the championship of a country where there's only 1-2 stars and many amateurs. But winning the championship of a strong continent (Europe) or country with many strong players (South Korea) is a lot harder, and consequently should give you a lot more points.

Message 5/6 - Publish at January 3, 2019 11:46 PM

You can apply the same system to work out the number of points any arbitrary tournament can bestow, not just national and continental championship. You can work out the relative strength of a tournament by taking the average "point score" of its top N players (not all players, mind you, just the top N, to avoid the strength being diluted by outsiders. However N should be at least 8 to reflect true strength).

Once you have the true strength, it's only a matter of multiply that with a proper coefficient (to reflect the importance of the event, for example national, regional or world cup/world championship) to arrive at the number of points each winner should have. For those that leave the tournament earlier than the final, just assign an appropriate number of points (for example 10% of top point if out in the group stage, 20% at 1/16, 35% at quarter final, etc)

Message 6/6 - Publish at January 3, 2019 11:52 PM

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