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

We want them on a tightrope

Posted by on March 26, 2019

We want them on a tightrope

© Kozoom

Every follower of 3-cushion is aware of this significant fact: averages have gone up sharply in the same time period that match length has been drastically reduced. That means: a single high run gains in importance, a single mistake also. In the old days, there was time to recuperate. You could have a bad spell, play a few poor innings, make a comeback and win anyway.

Between 1962 and 1982, Ceulemans and Scherz battled for the European title eleven times, the Belgian (who won all eleven encounters by the way) usually averaging between 1.200 and 1.400, the Austrian between 0.950 and 1.150. And they played to 60 points! Their finals lasted, on average, a little over 45 innings.

As a contrast to those 45 chances to win, look at the ten most recent World Cup finals: they lasted, on average, not even 18 innings. Matches were first reduced to 50 points, then the set system was introduced. Now that's in the past as well, we are playing to 40 points, which is another sharp reduction.  With quality of play ever rising, 40 points is no longer a middle-distance match, it's a sprint.

If you skip over the details and paint with a broad stroke, you could say that from Ceulemans to Caudron, we went from 45 to 18 innings to decide who wins a major title. In extreme cases, such as the World Cup final in Bursa 2017, the decision can fall in seven innings. All this puts a ton of pressure on the players, and we love that. Nobody wants to watch guys who are strolling on a beach, not worrying too much about a possible misstep. We want them on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon, with a pot of gold awaiting them if they make it across.   

Why does top player A, who has a 1.7 year average, beat top player B, who also has a 1.7 average, by 40 points to 21? And why does top player B get his revenge three weeks later, beating top player A by 40 points to 17? What causes these big swings, between players of comparable strength?

The answer is: momentum shifts. They will make or break you.

What is a momentum shift? It's a significant point, missed or made, that breaks a regular pattern in a match. Without momentum shifts, every match between two 1.7 players would end 40-37 or 36-40. I'll give you four examples that widen these gaps, but you can think of your own, the list is longer.

1)      Let's say your opponent has had you nicely in prison for a few innings, you haven't scored. Now he's messed up and left you with a yummy starting position. The pattern says that it's your turn now, to be the boss of the table. You should make four or five, defend well and capitalize on that defense. You are supposed to score 8 - 10 and not let your opponent get more than 1 or 2 in the next three or four innings: the exact opposite of what he did to you before. Only you miss that easy starter! The cost will be much higher than one missed point, it could be as much as ten. It's a momentum shift.

2)      Your opponent ran three and he's afraid of the dangerous fourth. He decides to play a cowardly defensive shot. He'll never make the point, but at least he's certain to leave you something dreadful. And he does. But you break the pattern, and make that very difficult shot! It could turn into a run, but even if it doesn't and that one point is all you make, it's still a momentum shift. You have the initiative now.

3)      You play a difficult shot with defense in mind. The red is ten inches away from both rails in the corner, you leave your opponents ball on the opposite short rail and play towards the red. If you miss and leave your ball deep in that same corner, you have 100 % perfect defense. If your ball rests 2 inches away from the two corner rails, you have given away an easy ticky. If that happens, it's a momentum shift. And brutal bad luck, because not even the best players in the world have speed control good enough to prevent these things from happening.

4)      Either you or your opponent make a crucial fluke. Need I say more? We have all seen this happen so many times. Runs made from flukes are legendary, and the stories about them are like stories about fish caught years ago. They get bigger and bigger. Some flukes are inconsequential, but some are momentum shifters.   

If you are in a match and the momentum is against you, try to think like a top player. No matter if you are 0.400, 0.700 or 1.100, it is always useful to ask yourself: what would Zanetti / Sung Won Choi / Coklu / Piedrabuena say to himself if he was sitting in my chair? This is their internal dialogue: "Okay, I am 21 - 6 behind. But what he did to me in the first half, I can do to him in the second half."

You will not find a top player who says to himself: "Why do I always have such bad luck, the world is against me, I hate this table, I want to go home." They have fought those thoughts and won. That's why they are in the world's top 50. These guys can create their own momentum. 

 

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My Comments

kokoace
kokoace
Thx Bert
Perfect identification and nice article. Congrats.

Message 1/2 - Publish at March 26, 2019 7:12 AM

Doug
Doug
Match length
For myself, I'd much prefer 60-point matches. These days, with the averages as high as they are, this should still be a test of championship 3C.

Message 2/2 - Publish at March 30, 2019 6:00 PM

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