By Frank B. Halfar
Every November, hundreds of German billiards players descend on the small spa resort town of Bad Wildungen in Hesse to determine the national champions in a total of no fewer than 39 competitions.
In this billiards extravaganza that is played out over nine days, snooker is represented by a mere four tables, which is a modest presence among all the other playfields for carom, pool, pin play, and every conceivable variety of billiards.
Richard Wienold, 19, from Heilbronn was the victorious contender this year, pipping Roman Dietzel from Essen in the final by a 4-2 scoreline.
The lanky teenager was a surprise to many and he achieved a rare double since he also won the under-21 crown earlier this year, with the two titles having never been won by the same player before.
Yet, his glory seemed well deserved, since he claimed the scalp of defending champion Simon Lichtenberg (Berlin) in the semi-finals, and had no easy opponent in the quarter-finals either, defeating Hannover’s Sascha Breuer, an experienced player who was eyed as a possible championship candidate by many.
Roman Dietzel was a gallant runner-up, repeating his 2016 result when he had to suffice with donning the silver medal as well.
Richard played as if he had nerves of steel, or better make that no nerves at all as there was no fear of winning for him.
Some of his long pots were worthy of a Main Tour pro and, indeed, if he had played this very same tournament on British soil, he would have to be seen as a strong possibility for turning professional.
It demonstrates well what a snooker diaspora Germany still is that this is hardly the case here, where neither tables of a pro standard, nor coaches or training opponents of an appropriate stature would be anything like a regular feature.
How different a national snooker championship would look elsewhere.
Alone, the permanent muzak that is played at all times over the loudspeakers would be unthinkable, as would be the frequent intercom announcements by the tournament managers.
The snooker referees provided a stunt as breathtaking as it was lighthearted when, after the semi-final on the streamed table had been finished, a posse of eight or nine of them mobbed the baize like a horde of very hungry lions.
In a well-choreographed caper, they cleared, brushed, and blocked the table complete with re-spotting the balls, all in under 45 seconds, finishing with a war cry of “spotted”.
Pity that the Guinness Book of Records probably did not pay any attention.
For snooker in Germany, Richard can certainly be expected to become a fixture among the nation’s top players.
He looks back on years of first league experience already, changing his clubs from the Rüsselsheim Breakers, who lost their place in the first league, to the TSG 1845 Heilbronn, who play their first season in the Bundesliga, and may now well aim a lot higher than merely keeping the class.
Well done to our new champion, who now has two chances of defending a title in 2018.