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

Ugly 3-cushion is bad 3-cushion

Posted by on May 22, 2017

Ugly 3-cushion is bad 3-cushion

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You can't win any prizes in our sport for having a stylish game. If you make the points, the referee will count them, regardless of your technique. But I can't help myself: I often root for the player who makes the game look good.  

Many things can ruin the "pretty" of your play, and I am referring mostly to body parts that move. If you watch beautiful 3-cushion, you always see a cue moving and a player standing still. And even that cue moves in minimalist fashion: back and forth only, straight as an arrow. It will not move up and down, it will not go sideways. Watch just a few minutes of an old Raymond Ceulemans match on YouTube, and you know what I mean. Feet planted, body frozen, left hand like a rock. He taught us all. 

In the German, Belgian and Dutch leagues where I've played, there are hundreds of players with proper technique - many better or prettier than mine - but also a few dozen who make a mockery of sound billiard basics. This may not even be their fault at all; not everybody was blessed with a good teacher early in their career, and a self-taught player may struggle a lifetime to get rid of bad habits.

But oh boy, it can be such a pain to watch them play. They move their head on the shot, or lift their bridge hand in mid-action. Knees are bent during the warm-up strokes, but the body comes upright during the stroke. The cue sometimes approaches the ball from up and left, but gets hooked into it low and right. And finally: you would not believe what some people do with their stick in the seconds after the hit, with referee and spectators in actual physical danger.

I have wondered at times: do these people realize it's a billiard cue? Or do they think they are wielding a hockey stick? The other day, I saw a guy with the longest rubber grip on his cue, it covered 90 % of the butt. There was about 3 inches of wood left at the back, which was where he held his cue when he played. Chalk would never be this Einstein's problem: there was plenty of it on the side of the ivory ferrule. Good thinking. 

Many years ago, an older gentleman in my club used to end the stroke of every draw shot by pressing his tip on the table and then pulling it back over the cloth, with a little pretzel-like twist in that motion. The sound it made still haunts me. After he had played a match, the billiard had about 25 blue commas on it. The man passed away in the nineties and I don't think any of his family read this column, so I can safely say now that I hated him with a passion, and wanted to have him persecuted in The Hague for "crimes against cloth". I did always enjoy his violent miscues though, because he would instantly reach for another shaft, which gave me the chance to say: "Not your fault at all. Definitely a bad shaft".   

Some of these Wayne Gretzky's with a cue can become above-average players, 0.6 or even 0.8. But that is about where it ends. If you want to get to 1 average or over, you'll have to discipline your body, and get rid of all the unwanted movement. Proper technique is what you fall back on, when the pressure is high. Frédéric Caudron and Dick Jaspers will ALWAYS be able to hit an object ball wafer-thin from distance, no matter if it's in practice or at 38 -39 in a World Cup. The undisciplined players will stumble and fall then and there. Their arm lacks the strength that only comes from endless repetition. The great 3-cushionists are like ballet dancers or Circe du Soleil artists or ninjas. They can perform certain physical tasks to perfection in their sleep.  

Have you ever seen a 100 meter sprint, won by an athlete with an ugly style of running? I haven't. Carl Lewis, Linford Christie, Usain Bolt, it is invariably the best guy who LOOKS best. Same in our sport: better-looking 3-cushion is almost always better 3-cushion. 

The new wave of Korean players all seem to be able to take the 1.5 hurdle and make it look easy. (Why do many European talents get to 1.3 and then stop progressing?)  Sung Won Choi, Jae Ho Cho, Jung Han Heo, Haeng Jik Kim, not robots at all, they have a distinctive style of their own. But all are technically proficient and disciplined. Choong Bok Lee can do the most subtle things with his stroke, like Zanetti. Dong Koong Kang does not even HAVE a stroke, he has a nuclear power plant fitted into his right arm. And never, ever, will his sledgehammer shots look ugly.  

There IS no ugly 3-cushion in the World Cup main tournaments. Not everybody will look as fluent as Fred, but all the players with bad stance, bad stroke or bad habits otherwise have hit their individual ceiling before they get that far. The game itself has been the selection committee. Access denied, if you have neglected your basics. 

There's no escape, there's no way around it: you must stand still and stroke straight. .





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