Dick Jaspers has made a statement to the world as he decisively won the 2018 UMB World Cup #3 held in Blankenberge, Belgium. After winning his semi-final match with runs of both 16 and 14 Jaspers could not have looked more ready. And ready he was in the final as he won the lag, ran 7 and never looked back in defeating a determined but outgunned Semih Sayginer.

As with many world cups the early days were filled with the hopefuls from the organizing and nearby countries, as well as from around the world. And as has been true in the past, they may create some fireworks early on, but eventually flame out when they meet up with the world's best who enter the event in the Qualification round as lead-up to the main event.

As the field was whittled down the Asian contingent fell one-by-one as the European representatives moved to the inevitable clash of titans. The players who were active on the final Sunday each left their mark on this World Cup. Nikos Polychronopoulos of Greece, a crowd favorite for his swift and easy style, opened the main event with the best match of the week: he beat Turkey's Birol Uymaz 40-29 in 9 innings. A tense shootout got the Greek past Korean Hyung Kon Kim (40-40, then 4-0). He found his Waterloo in similar fashion: a 40-39 against Semih Sayginer, the Turkish magician If only Nikos had given the last point of his run an inch more speed!

Eddy Merckx was the tournament favorite after three rounds. At that point, with wins in 12, 15 and again 12, he had made 120 caroms in 39 innings: a world record breaking pace. With world champion and world number 1 Caudron gone, Merckx would have loved to win for Belgium in front of his home crowd. But it all went wrong in the semi against Jaspers, who won the lag and ran 16. With difficult positions on the table, Eddy never really recovered: 40 – 23 in 19 to the Dutchman.

Semih Sayginer proved to be the Houdini of Blankenberge. He escaped time and time again, twice in a 40-39 match (v. Eddy Leppens and Nikos Polychronopoulos, once in a shootout (v. Italy's Marco Zanetti). The Turk lost the final, but he can be proud of his week. His long absence from the international stage is over, and he is once again a contender for major titles.

Dick Jaspers almost went under the radar in Blankenberge, but he recorded steady wins. Tonny Carlsen (40-30 in 20), Can Capak (40-32 in 24), Myung Woo Cho (40-35 in 17), Merckx (40-23 in 19) and finally Sayginer (40-33 in 17) were unable to beat the focused Dutchman who makes so few unnecessary mistakes. His 23d World Cup win keeps him in second place on the all-time list, behind Torbjorn Blomdahl (44 wins) but ahead of Frederic Caudron (19).

20180617JaspersSayginer250X116The final match between Jaspers and Sayginer was tense for more than the usual reasons. A minor controversy almost erupted over a close point, and the debate carried through past the end of the tournament.

It originated with a contentious point by Jaspers in the 12th inning. The referee called the point good.  The replays that were viewed later revealed that it was - at the least - up for debate. And the players were certainly not shy about joining in. As it turns out that point was the third point of Jaspers run and he continued for a total of 7. That stretched his lead to 29-21 at a critical point. "I was not in the best position to see it, but I was convinced it was good because the referee was so certain. That's why I did not hesitate and played on.'' explained Jaspers.

Semih Sayginer was more than a little annoyed, and he showed it after the match. "That ball missed, 100%. It was later demonstrated. Dick was on top of it, he must have seen it. I don't think he's a gentleman. If he says he did not see it, he needs eye surgery.'' Wow! Pretty harsh words there, but who can blame him?

Both players, and their colleagues, did agree about one thing: professional 3-cushion billiards as a sport should implement "Hawkeye" the system used in tennis for determining close points. Nikos Polychronopoulos stated, "Now that we are professionalizing to this degree, every point is crucial. We deserve a second chance, in cases of doubt.'' Sayginer added, "I should have had the option of asking the referee to watch that point again in slow motion replay. That would have made it clear it was a miss.'' Jaspers agreed. "Because if Sayginer would "steal" a point against me, I would be upset as well.''

But the match is in the books and Jaspers is the champion. The players will have to wait for another day to settle the score -- on the tables.

Final standing of the 2018 Blankenberge World Cup:

1 Dick Jaspers 2.061-16
2 Semih Sayginer 2.010-14
3 Eddy Merckx 2.465-15
3 Nikos Polychronopoulos 2.208-11
5 Myung Woo Cho 1.982-9
6 Minh Cam Ma 1.824-18
7 Tayfun Tasdemir 1.810-10
8 David Zapata 1.759-9
9 Frédéric Caudron 2.464-15
10 Jung Han Heo 2.078-13
11 Sung-Won Choi 2.071-9
12 Dani Sánchez 1.674-7
13 Hyung Kon Kim 1.568-10
14 Eddy Leppens 1.549-7
15 Can Capak 1.469-10
16 Dinh Nai Ngo 1.461-10

Congratulations to Dick Jaspers who breaks a 2-year drought in wnning the third World Cup of the 2018 season.

Thanks to UMB and Kozoom for results and pictures.