Eddy Merckx New 3-Cushion World Champion

VILA NOVA DE GAIA – The highest step on the World Championship podium in Vila Nova de Gaia was for Eddy Merckx, in the conclusion of a tournament that dramatically shook up the order of the world ranking. The Belgian winner who days ago feared he might be kicked out of the top-12 has now regained status as a top-3 player.

The final could never turn into a match of classic status, because Merckx was just too good, and Choi fought with himself more than with his opponent.

Eddy Merckx laid the foundation for his victory in the opening innings, starting off with a 9 – 1 lead in two. The margin grew to 10 points in the 11th inning (14-24), and in the second half of the match, a loose and relaxed Merckx was never in danger from his struggling Korean foe: 40-24 in 23 innings.

Adding to the Korean’s pain, was the fact that the ministry of sport will reward every world champion a 100.000 euro premium, or 200 euro a month for the rest of their life.

In conclusion, this WC has seen the power balance shift all over, with the exception of Frédéric Caudron’s untouchable first position on top of the ranking.

Dick Jaspers, who lost the title he won last year in Lima, is one of the main casualties in this carrousel of position changes. The Dutchman dropped from second to ninth place. After these World Championships, Frédéric Caudron has an enormous lead over his main rivals Sung-Won Choi, Torbjörn Blomdahl and Eddy Merckx.

The 65th world championship was the tournament of innovations, there was much criticism from the players about the format (40 pts), which according to the players reduces the quality. It was also the tournament of spectacular quarterfinals (three times 40 – 39) and the questionable room capacity, undoubtedly inadequate for a WC, even after the room had been rearranged for the final matches.

For the final match on the last day, between Eddy Merckx and Sung Won Choi, about 120 seats were available. Seventy spectators, among them many players with great status, could not get in and had to watch the final on a tv-screen in the hotel lobby.

There were few matches with very high averages. Murat Naci Coklu shoene in the qualifications with 2.105 over two matches, ahead of Dick Jaspers with 2.000, Kyung-Roul Kim with 1.951 and Lütfi Cenet with 1.904. In 48 flight matches, one run of 10 was recorded: an 11 by Murat Naci Coklu.

The undisputed star player in the next three rounds was Eddy Merckx with averages of 2.666 in de 1/16th, 2.222 in the quarters and 2.105 in the semifinal. He was the only player over 2.000 in those rounds.
The axe dropped for several top players in the flight stages already: former world champions like Torbjörn Blomdahl, Filippos Kasidokostas and Ryuuji Umeda, but also Jae Ho Cho, Javier Palazon, Nikos Polychronopoulos, Raimond Burgman and Adnan Yüksel did not survive the qualifications.

Heriberto Artisabal was one of the surprises: the Colombian eliminated Blomdahl. Sameh Sidhom and O Takeshima did even better. The Japanese player sent Dick Jaspers and Filippos Kasidokostas home, Sameh Sidhom defeated Kyung-Roul Kim in a strangulation fight (40-39).

The Belgians, who for so long dominated three cushion in the Ceulemans era, have a new world champion after a six year drought. Eddy Merckx is in that sense his own successor: he won the title in Sankt Wendel in 2006 and was a losing finalist against Kasidokostas in Lausanne in 2009.

The new champion is back: Merckx opens his season by beating Frédéric Caudron for the Belgian title, won the Superprestige in Lommel two weeks ago, and crowned his year with the world title.
He was head and shoulders the best in this tournament, beating Miguel Canton, Adnan Yüksel, Martin Horn, Sameh Sidhom, Frédéric Caudron and in the final Sung-Won Choi.

The Koreans, who have been starving for a world title for years, can cherish Sung Won Choi’s silver, but will have to keep chasing gold in the years to come.