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

Whatever happened to the Free Game?

Posted by on May 2, 2019

Whatever happened to the Free Game?

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In the category of "Billiard trivia questions", this is a perennial favorite: "Who is the reigning world champion in the Free Game?" The answer, as I am sure quite a few of you will know, is: Raymond Ceulemans. He won that particular world title in Linz, Austria in 1969. That was also the last time a world championship was held in that discipline. Fifty years, half a century has passed, and no club or federation on any continent has ever said: "Let's organize a world championship in the Free Game!" Why is that?

It is considered too easy a game. Too many players are able to finish a match in 1 inning, be it 400 or 500 points in the "Serie Americaine", where the balls are gathered in a little triangle and delicately pushed alongside the rails and around the table. The legendary Willie Hoppe reportedly made runs of 2000 on more than one occasion, around 1915. Even the rules that were later implemented (you can only make one point with all three balls inside the corner triangle, and if the balls are frozen, you must start again from the break-off position) did not fundamentally change the Free Game. The precision players found better challenges in 47/2, 71/2 and 47/1, they moved on.   

An already dying game was given its "coup de grace" in the Netherlands in 1988. Harrie van de Ven was a formidable Free Game player who found himself in the final of the Dutch championship without ever having missed. In the group stage, he had won all his matches in 1 inning, and he had done the same in the semi-final. He was well on his way to end his final match against Raimond Burgman in a single inning as well, when after 253 rapid-fire points the referee sent him to the chair. The man in black said one of the two object balls had not completely come to rest before van de Ven hit the cue ball. Opponent Burgman calmly made 400 points and won the championship, averaging 160.00. Van de Ven averaged 375.50 and had not missed all week, but he had to settle for the silver. 

Players, spectators, journalists and the billiard world realized: this is ridiculous. It was basically the weekend that "Libre", as the Free Game is also called, died as a billiard discipline for professionals. For the amateur player, it lives on of course. Whether you have an average of 1 or an average of 10, whether you play on a 2.10 or a 2.30 or a 2.84 billiard, playing the free game can be intensely challenging, difficult, rewarding, beautiful. Few things in billiards are more visually pleasing than playing a successful gather. The game has every right to live and be played, and the learning curve is fascinating. It's only when you've MASTERED the Free Game, that it becomes repetitive, easy, and (sorry to say): a bit boring.  

The ongoing European championships in Brandenburg have no Free Game title for male seniors. There are events for juniors U17 and U21 and ladies, that's it. I think there's solid reason for that. I am only wondering why we have European titles in 47/2 and 71/2 but not in 47/1, is that a reasonable question? The Brandenburg event focuses on the two disciplines that have commercial potential and a future: 3-cushion and 5-pins. Individual, club teams, national teams, small table, match table, ladies, juniors, wheelchair players, you name it, Brandenburg has it.  

I'll stick my neck out and try to answer a question that comes up with regularity: "Is it necessary to "go to school" and learn how to play the Free Game before you try your hand at 3-cushion?  


Some very strong players have a background in the technical disciplines, others do not. Some have switched to 3-cushion from pool or pins. Some 1.000 average 3-cushion players have a 100 Free Game average, others could not average 5 to save their lives. Some of the new generation of Korean and Vietnamese stars have only played 3-cushion, from day 1 of their careers. Your ability in the Free Game (or balkline, for that matter) hardly relates to your 3-cushion potential. What IS crucial is a solid technique, a straight and quality stroke, leave your bridge hand on the table, have no body movement.  You can acquire all these qualities without playing the Free Game or balkline.   

Am I forgetting something? Yes, I am. The one discipline that bridges the gap between the technical games and 3-cushion, is 1-cushion. An astonishingly demanding game that will test every aspect of your ability as a billiard player. If you have a weakness anywhere, 1-cushion will expose it. You need to be able to visualize the lines and make the big points, two, three and more rails. You must also be able to make the finesse points, the razor thin caroms on a square inch, the miniature masse's and pique's, and the amortized shots where the object ball travels the world and your cue ball moves twelve millimeters.    

One cushion is a harsh mistress. Yesterday, Dutchman Dave Christiani and Belgian Eddy Leppens, both all-round players at the expert level in balkline AND 3-cushion, struggled for two and a half hours with positions that were beyond difficult. They did not play to the best of their abilities, but boy, were the balls cruel to them. Call me a sadist, but I've watched it with fascination (and admiration). If there was no suffering in the game of billiards, it would not be the metaphor for life it is now. 


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My Comments

the Texas Carom Club
the Texas Carom Club
well said bert
i think patrick niessen is the only high level player that participates in freegame tournaments,
the blankenberge tournament each yr

and i gave him great thanks for not abandoning this great game

its only easy for the elite/professional players
for the rest of us not so much

Message 1/4 - Publish at May 2, 2019 2:59 PM - Edited at May 2, 2019 3:29 PM

Sad and pentathlon is also not played for decades
Yes it is sad, but maybe too boring and monotonous, but it should still be played. The world championship in pentathlon has also been forgotten.
Some of the reason may also be that it is difficult for the top players and the tournament leader to find room in the calendar.
PS. I will never forget when I was in Belgium in 2007 and see the Belgian championships and Frederic Caudron ended all his matches in free carom in the first innings ...

Message 2/4 - Publish at May 8, 2019 4:37 PM

the Texas Carom Club
the Texas Carom Club
It takes a great mentality to run the balls around the table
To never lose position, to make 400 consecutive points

It takes tremendous mentality and focus
I cant overstate this and only those who have actually tried will understand the mental fortitude required

As bert has said in the past
If it looks easy, its because its being executed extremely well

Cheers from the us

Publish at May 10, 2019 5:45 PM

Logically thought!
The calculation is actually quite simple:
The schedule is full and many players spend a lot of time traveling. An example: In the first German Bundesliga, the time for travel for each player is about 5 hours per match. It was assumed 100 km / h as the average speed. If you take 1.5 hours for each game, the travel time is more than three times the time players spend at the pool table. Does that really make sense if there is another way to play the games from your own club or from home?
In addition, it is the clubs and not the streets are animated.

If we feel like it, then it's possible to organize a Pentathlon in this way.

Most billiard players have a job and a family and the day only has 24 hours.

Also, the CO ² emission is always more an issue. I would be interested how the billiards think about it?

Nice greetings to all Billiard fans --- Jimmy

Message 3/4 - Publish at May 9, 2019 12:10 AM

One question as a starter
Can anyone tell me what exactly is the "free game"? tried to google it but nothing really came up...

Message 4/4 - Publish at June 19, 2019 4:00 AM

the Texas Carom Club
the Texas Carom Club
straight rail, freegame, libre,
look up straight rail, libre billiards
it has several names
its only called freegame in europe so probably wont come up much on google
go to youtube, theres tons upon tone of straight rail aka libre aka freegame videos

here is caudron explaining and demonstrating the game
your welcome />
if your a premium member here go to the video archive and it has freegame videos
Thank you
Thank you :)

Publish at June 19, 2019 9:10 AM

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