Frederic Caudron is Champion at the 2006 Sang Lee International Open

Frederic Caudron

The players burned up the heated carom tables for eight straight days as eighty-two world class three-cushion players from 18 countries descended onto Carom Cafe's ten-table arena from August 13-20 for a grueling round-robin competition to vie for the $85,000 prize fund and to determine who would be this year's strongest billiard player. After playing over five-hundred matches from start to finish, two players remained standing - and it all came down to a single momentous point between defending champion Torbjoern Blomdahl of Sweden and the great Belgium carom player, Frederic Caudron, in the final match.

If Blomdahl would score his last point, both players would then have an identical 6-3 record and thus force a sudden-death 15-point playoff. Caudron, who is undisputedly the supreme straight, balkline, and one-cushion carom player of all time, was on a mission to prove that he stands above the greatest giants in three-cushion billiards – by winning this Sang Lee title. To start the final match, in the presence of a huge crowd and in front of the TV cameras, Caudron literally burst out of the gates with a sudden 19-6 lead over Blomdahl in a race to 40 points. Intent on defending his "home-turf", as Blomdahl affectionately terms New York – due to his numerous titles taken down in the 3-cushion city, Blomdahl fought back aggressively to narrow the gap 28-26. Caudron immediately responded by surging ahead and was the first to hear the referee's call, "Playing for three" – leaving his opponent trailing desperately behind 37-28. In typical "Blomdahl" fashion, the great champion stepped right up and ran an amazing ten points - missing his 39th point by a single hair. At this critical moment, both players traded unbelievable near-misses while they simultaneously hedged themselves with carefully planned safety moves - bringing the score up to 39-39 while every single audience member inched themselves to the very edge of their seats in anticipation. Then, Caudron unleashed a breathtaking out-shot and immediately upon delivering the winning blow, shook his cue tightly with two clenched fists and let out a deep victory roar that was heard all around the three-cushion world. As he hoisted the massive Carom Cup trophy over his head, the enthusiastic crowd gave him a highly spirited and lengthy standing ovation for his monumental accomplishment.

The overall level of performance during the final round was spectacular. Prizes were awarded for "best game" and "high run" honors and every player pushed hard to raise the performance bar higher and higher. The final round saw a total of twenty-one runs over 10 during including; four runs of 12 by Raymond Ceulemans, Peter Ceulemans, Murat Naci Coklu, and Miguel Torres; a run of 13 by Semih Sayginer; a 15 by Dick Jaspers; a 16 by Blomdahl; and an bewildering series of 20 consecutive 3-cushion shots by the champion, Caudron. There were twenty-four games played with an average of over 2.000. Blomdahl finished one 40-point game against Roland Forthomme of Belgium in 11 innings (3.636 avg). But best game honors went to Dick Jaspers - for his blistering average of 5.000 (40 points in 8 innings!) against Korea's number-one ranked player, Kyung-Roul Kim. Kim, incidentally, posted a high run of 17 during his semi-final round and a general average of 1.758 over the course of those 7 games. Also, during the semi-final rounds, both Caudron and Jaspers finished 35 points in 8 innings for a 4.375 average. Jaspers and Blomdahl finished their semi-final rounds with 1.960 and 1.929 averages respectively.

During the final ten-person round robin, Caudron finished with the best record of 7 wins and 2 losses and a grand average of 1.881 and a best game of 3.077. Jaspers, who posted the highest grand average in the final-round of 2.026, suffered five unusual losses and settled for very surprising 6th place. Blomdahl averaged 1.851 for his last nine matches – falling short of his usual 2.0+ New York performances. The total tournament average for the final ten players was a sizzling 1.653.

Among the top ten finishers at the event were two top-ranked Koreans from a younger generation (both in their twenties) that both delivered upset matches for Blomdahl; Kyung-Roul Kim; who made his NY debut one year ago finishing 5th, finished in 7th place this year; and Sung-Won Choi, a new face on the international three-cushion scene, finished in 4th place. Choi completed his final round robin with an impressive 1.607 general average and a best-game of 3.077. Former US National Champion Pedro Piedrabuena finished in 10th place.

The Sang Lee International Open is the largest open three-cushion event in the U.S. played in round-robin format attracting the world's greatest players. The 2006 memorial event was held at Carom Cafe in Flushing, NY within the 25,000 sq/ft ten-table carom billiard facilities created by the late carom champion, Sang Lee. The competition was played on the finest equipment available: the official table of the event was the Gabriels Imperator heated 3-cushion table; the official cloth was ultra-fast and super-accurate worsted 300 Rapide from Iwan Simonis; and the official balls were the Pro-Cup Aramith spotted balls.

Photos courtesy of Joseph Ratke