AND DOWN THEY GO!
STORY AND PHOTOS BY TED LERNER
(Fujairah, UAE)–The World 8-ball Championship turned into a wide open race on Wednesday in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, as some of the games biggest names, including defending champion Dennis Orcullo, last year’s runner up Niels Feijen, and semi-finalist Darren Appleton all were sent packing barely after the knockout stages had gotten going.
Other big names, like former champions Ralf Souquet and Karl Boyes were also handed their walking papers. In all it amounted to a proverbial one day bloodletting in one of the sport’s biggest championships.
The biggest upset of the day was easily Orcullo, who went down hard to upstart Karol Skowerski of Poland. Both Orcullo and Skowerski had won their round of 64 matches earlier in the day, and came up against each other in the first of the round of 32 matches later in the evening. When the defending champion sent the cue off the table on the opening break it must have been a terrible omen for the Filipino, who was certainly expecting to go far in the event he won last year.
Indeed things continued downhill even faster for Orcullo as he fell behind 5-0 in the race to 9, alternate break contest. The 28 year old Skowerski, who’s ranked number 4 in Poland, took advantage of several errors from the defending champion, and played surprisingly confident pool throughout. The Kielce native showed superb potting skills and was never intimidated even when Orcullo began a fight back. In fact it was the Filipino who seemed to fold as Skowerski won the match going away, 9-3 for the biggest win of his career.
“I played well and I really concentrated well the whole match,” an obviously delighted Skowerski said after the match as he was congratulated by teammates Radislaw Babica and Tomasz Kaplan, both of whom were eliminated earlier in the day. “I wasn’t scared and I wasn’t nervous.”
At about the same time, Feijen, who’s been runner up here two years running, found himself in a difficult match against the very talented Ko Pin Yi of Taiwan in a round of 32 contest. Everyone expected this one to go the distance but it wasn’t even close. Ko, who over the last year has been making it clear he intends to be one of the world’s best players, blew Feijen out of the building, taking the match 9-2.
One of the more interesting matchups of the early sessions in the round of 64 was perennial favorite Souquet taking on the USA’s Max Eberle. Eberle is the last American standing in this year’s championship, and over the last 24 hours he’s been openly relishing carrying the mantle for the USA, the ancestral home 8-ball.
Indeed “Mad Max” started his match like a man possessed as he jumped out to a 4-0 lead. As expected the Kaiser methodically crawled his way back into the match and looked to be squeezing the air out of the American. Eberle, though, stood his ground and wouldn’t let the German great catch him as he held on for a gritty 9-7 win.
“I came out strong and I think that set him back a bit,” Eberle said afterward. “Ralf was tight today. He usually plays cleaner but he kept giving me opportunities.”
Darren Appleton came into this year’s championship supremely confident of his chances to take the title, even admitting early in the week that for him to lose, an opposing player would have to shoot lights out pool.
“You really have to beat me,” the powerhouse Brit said. Those words came back to haunt Appleton tonight as China’s talented Li He Wen beat him senseless in the round of 64. The 31 year old Li, who hails from Shenyang in northeastern China and is China’s number one ranked player, steamrolled Appleton 9-3 to move into the round of 32 on Thursday.
“I played very good today,” Li said afterward through an interpreter. “He didn’t break good and he gave me too many chances.”
Several times today in Fujairah it was proved that players from the Middle East have made great strides in recent years and are no longer just filler for tournament fields. 23 year old Salah Al-Rimawi of the UAE brought some noise to the Fujairah Tennis Club as he upended fancied Brit Daryl Peach, 9 – 5. Al-Rimawi, who is the UAE’s number one player and made it all the way to the final 16 last year here, played solid pool throughout and jumped out to a 7-1 lead over the former World 9-ball champion, who had seemed out of sorts the entire tournament. Peach fought back but Al-Rimawi showed true grit by bearing down and crossing the finish line in style.
Earlier, 20 year old Ahmad Jallad, who showed fine form last June in Qatar for the World 9-ball championship, showed he can play serious 8-ball as he put in a gutsy performance against favored Filipino Joven Alba. Alba, who coaches the national team of the UAE, went up 6-2 only to commit some glaring errors that allowed the youngster to gain some momentum. Jallad clawed his way back to go up 7-6, then held off the Filipino for a narrow win, 9-8.
It was not the best of days for the Philippine contingent as six Pinoys went down to defeat. Still three big names are still in the championship; Lee Van Corteza, Roberto Gomez, and Carlo Biado.
Thursday is sure to provide plenty of drama and tension as the field will be reduced to four players by the end of the day. Thursday play begins at 2pm in Fujairah(GMT +4).
The 2012 World 8-ball Championship concludes on Friday with the semis and finals. The winner will receive $20,000 while the runner up will get $15,000. The tournament has a $156,000 prize fund.
The WPA will be providing up to the minute coverage of all the happenings on its website, www.wpa-pool.com, including live scoring of all matches, in depth articles on the goings on posted several times a day, as well as blow by blow coverage of big matches via the WPA’s Twitter page, @poolwpa.
For Live scoring, CLICK HERE
For Updated Brackets and complete Final 64 draw, CLICK HERE
For Photo Gallery, CLICK HERE
*The World Pool and Billiard Association(WPA) is the world governing body of the sport of pool. The WPA is also the member organization for pool of the World Confederation of Billiard Sports (WCBS), the international umbrella organization encompassing all the major cue sports.
Day 3, FINAL 64
Race to 9, Alternate Break
Dennis Orcullo(PHI) 9 – 5 Nasser Al Mujaibel(KUW)
Vilmos Foldes(HUN) 9 – 5 Kuo Po Chen(TPE)
Niels Feijen(NED) 9 – 1 Saleh Mohammed(KUW)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 9 – 5 Raymund Faraon(PHI)
Jalal Yousef(VEN) 9 – 5 Konstantin Stepanov(RUS)
Karol Skowerski(POL) 9 – 6 Shaker Wahdan(JOR)
Liu Haitao(CHN) 9 – 6 Abdulatef Fawal(QAT)
Max Eberle(USA) 9 – 7 Ralf Souquet(GER)
Fu Chei Wei(TPE) 9 – 7 Reiner Wirsbitzki(GER)
Ahmad Jallad(JOR) 9 – 8 Joven Alba(PHI)
Hwang Yong(KOR) 9 – 8 Demosthenes Pulpul(PHI)
Mika Immonen(FIN) 9 – 7 Omran Salem(UAE)
Lee Van Corteza(PHI) 9 – 2 Lee Chen Man(HKG)
Nguyen Phuc Long(VIE) 9 – 8 Amin Fekry(UAE)
Serge Das(BEL) 9 – 7 So Shaw(IRI)
Nick van den Berg(NED) 9 – 7 Karl Boyes(GBR)
Li Hewen(CHN) 9 – 3 Darren Appleton(GBR)
Carlo Biado(PHI) 9 – 2 Elmer Haya(PHI)
Imran Majid(GBR) 9 – 5 Kenny Chi Ho Kwok(HKG)
Oliver Ortman(GER) 9 – 3 Lo Li Wen(JPN)
Huidji See(NED) 9 – 4 Dominic Jentsch(GER)
Bruno Muratore(ITA)9 –4 Radislaw Babica(POL)
Chang Jun Lin(TPE) 9 –6 Carlos Cabello(ESP)
Salah Al-Rimawi(UAE) 9 – 5 Daryl Peach(GBR)
Toru Kuribayashi(JPN) 9 — 7 Tomasz Kaplan(POL)
Thorsten Hohmann(GER) 9 – 2 Ryoji Aoki(JPN)
Chris Melling(GBR) 9 –5 Omer Al Serkal(UAE)
Fancisco Diaz-Pizarro(ESP) 9 — 4 Omar Al Shaheen(KUW)
Roberto Gomez(PHI) 9 – 4 Mario He(AUT)
Mark Gray(GBR) 9 – 3 Maghsoud Ali(IRI)
Hijikata Hajato(JPN) 9 – 8 Takhti Zarekani(IRI)
Yukio Akagariyama(JPN)9 –2 Elvis Calasang(PHI)
ROUND OF 32 MATCHES
Karol Skowerski(POL) 9 – 3 Dennis Orcullo(PHI)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 9 – 2 Niels Feijen(NED)
Liu Haitao(CHN) 9 – 7 Vilmos Foldes(HUN)