On the last day of the Blankenberge World Cup, the odds were on three different players: Jung Han Heo, Torbjörn Blomdahl and Martin Horn. The Korean had impressed with his win over Caudron in 14 innings, and he looked in better control of his nerves than ever. The German had brought his “La Baule” game to Belgium, and looked a candidate for his third World Cup. The Swede had eliminated Jaspers and was eager to climb a few spots on the ranking. A new victory would be his 45th!
But no. It was the junior of the four: 31-year-old Javier Palazon, former world junior champion, who took the title. Not with the best averages, not with the most finesse in his solutions. His weapons were a steely determination, courage, and solid defense. Especially in the second half of his semifinal against Blomdahl, and in the final against Horn, the Spaniard drove his opponents to desperation with the positions he left them.
Blankenberge 2 (the first edition was in 2018) turned out to be an extraordinary World Cup, with all the drama and excitement you could wish for. Frédéric Caudron treated the crowd to equalizing innings with runs of 12 and 10, in his matches against Sayginer and Heo. Peter de Backer was a crowd-pleaser, he went all the way from the early qualifying rounds to the last 16, where he was stopped by Marco Zanetti. Blomdahl and Jaspers fought a hard battle that was decided in a shootout. Chang Hoon Seo, a relatively unknown Korean player, impressed with consistent averages over 2.000. Morales – Jaspers was a highlight: 40-32 in 10, with runs of 14 for both players.
Blankenberge had much quality, and a surprising final four. The semi between Blomdahl and Palazon looked like a one-man-show for a while, with Blomdahl firmly in control. But the Spaniard came back and the Swede could not finish: 40-38 to Palazon. The second semi had a similar pattern: Horn was leading 20-6 after six innings, but Heo closed the gap. From 40-37, he needed three in the equalizer but misjudged the 40th point, a tricky rail-first: 40-39 to Horn.
In the final, Palazon looked the more alert player. He found an early lead and never took the pressure off Horn, who was always on the back foot. No high runs for either player: steady scoring from Palazon and always that attention to his leaves. Horn could not turn it around and had to concede: 40-26 in 23 to the young Spaniard.
Final ranking of Blankenberge:
- Palazon 1.666 – 12
- Horn 1.954 – 15
- Blomdahl 1.580 – 13
- Heo 2.090 – 11
- Caudron 2.153 – 12
- Zanetti 1,689 – 11
- S.W. Choi 1.689 – 11
- C.H. Seo 2.031 – 11
The best match was played by Jaspers: 40 in 10. The high run was made by Tran: 18.
The general average for the last 32 players was 1.762, making Blankenberge 2019 the fourth best World Cup ever.