SURGING TOWARDS THE FINISH LINE
By Ted Lerner
WPA Press Officer
Photos By Takayama Takao
(Kuwait City)–With the biggest prize fund in 9-ball pool this year, the Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship predictably attracted as good a collection of the professional games’ best to this Gulf nation of just over 4 million people. And on the third and penultimate day of the sport’s newest event, all that talent and all that promise came to a dramatic head.
It was a day that saw the game’s best engage in one epic battle after the next, with match after match taking unexpected twists, with many going right down to the very last rack, and even the very last ball. 64 players commenced battle at 10am, and when it was over close to midnight, eight warriors were left standing, ready for what surely will be a thrilling showdown to the finish on the final day Saturday.
In one quarterfinal, surprise entrant Marc Bijsterbosch of the Netherlands will face off with 2015 World 9-ball Champion Ko Pin Yi. In another quarterfinal, one of the sport’s hottest players , Scotland’s Jayson Shaw, will try to keep his trajectory flying higher as he does battle with Filipino veteran Warren Kiamco.
The other quarterfinal features what looks to be a titanic showdown of two of pool’s best, as the current World 9-ball Champion, Austria’s Albin Ouschan, squares off with Taiwan’s Chang Jun Lin, who arguably has played the best pool all week.
The last quarterfinal will feature Filipino journeyman Roland Garcia taking on white hot Dang Jinghu of China.
The quarterfinals, which begin at 11am Kuwait time(GMT +3) will be race to 11, alternate break.
Although the topsy turvy nature of today’s proceedings would indicate a complete toss up in terms of favorites, several players today let it be known that they intend to be standing in the winner’s circle come Saturday evening.
Certainly nobody would be surprised to see Taiwan’s Chang raising the trophy high and pocketing the $50,000 first prize check. Chang has been one of the sport’s top players for over a decade, but found himself in a bit of a lull going back two years. This year, however, the 31 year old Taiwanese has once again found his stride, as his runner up finish in October’s US Open showed.
Chang has kept the momentum going in Kuwait and has been nothing short of sensational. In the round of 64 today Chang played what might be the finest match of the tournament, crushing two time World 9-ball Champion Thorsten Hohmann, 11-1. Chang kept up the onslaught in his round of 32 match versus Russia’s Maksim Dudanets, lapping the Russian 11-2.
The Taiwanese finally found some resistance in the round of 16 when he came up against England’s Darren Appleton. The Brit had barely escaped a hill-hill encounter with Spain’s David Alcaide in the round of 64 and looked to have found his stride in an easy win over Czech Roman Hybler. Appleton and Chang duked it out for 2 and a half hours and the Yorkshireman seemed to have the advantage late in the match. But one mistake from the Brit cost him the tournament, as Chang put the nail in the coffin for a gritty 11-9 win.
Things won’t get any easier for Chang on Saturday as he matches up with Ouschan in what looks to be an epic battle. Ouschan wasn’t at his best today but he persevered through three difficult slogs, culminating in a 3 and a half hour duel with China Open champion Wu Jia Jing of China. The Austrian had numerous chances to close out Wu, but kept letting the Chinese back in the match. The battle between these two stars went straight to the cliff with Ouschan barely able to make it across the finish line first and winning, 11-10.
Although Ouschan is the current World 9-ball champion, the question remains whether he has anything left in the gas tank to take on and defeat a super confident Chang.
Another player catching many a fancy is Scotland’s Shaw, who appears to have everything going his way at the moment. After two solid wins earlier in the day, Shaw was headed to his match table to do battle with young Singaporean Aloysious Yapp when he got word that he had just made the European Mosconi Cup team next month. Already bubbling with confidence that has been building for over one year, Shaw’s demeanor soared on the good news and he handled Yapp without so much as a care in the world, winning 11 – 7.
Afterward a smiling and relaxed Shaw indicated he was more than ready and able to be the last man standing in Kuwait.
“I came into this year and my one goal was to get on the Mosconi,” Shaw said, “and right before my last match I found out that I had made the team. So I was really happy during the match. I’ve won a few tournaments this year, done pretty well in others and I’m still in here, the last eight. These days I feel that any tournament I enter I can win, and right now I feel I can win this.”
Shaw, however, will have to contend with Kiamco first. The 45 year old Filipino has been at the game for over two decades, and has been playing the best pool of his career in the last year and a half. The low key Filipino often plays under the radar, but as he showed in his three solid wins today, he can take any match at any time, no matter the opponent. Kiamco, though, has never won a major tournament and he’ll have to raise his game considerably to stop the streaking Scotsman.
Since winning the World 10-ball and World 9-ball in 2015, the 27 year old Ko is always a top favorite to win any tournament he enters. Ko, however, played hot and cold today and was lucky to escape with a nerve rattling come from behind 11-10 win over the Philippines’ Oliver Mendenilla in the round of 32. But his steady and solid 11-7 win over the Philippines Jundel Mazon in the round of 16 showed that Ko always has the ability to bounce back.
The Taiwanese great will be squaring off with relative newcomer Bijsterbosch. The 22 year old Dutchman, a member of his country’s national team, may not have the notoriety of his more famous teammates, Niels Feijen and Nick Van Den Berg, but his three pressure wins today proved the youngster not only has heart, but loads of talent as well. His confidence is rising at the perfect time and he is playing without expectations.
“I’ve been playing really well this year,” Bijsterbosch said. “I have a lot of confidence now. My coach Alex Lely has really helped me with my thinking game, safeties and strategy. I don’t really think about winning, I just take it one match at a time, one rack at a time.”
China’s Dang Jinghu pulled of the biggest upset of the day when he took down the USA’s fancied Shane Van Boening in an 11-10 mind bender in the round of 32. Dang has proved his mettle in past events, but he took it up several notches against Van Boening, who had a sizeable crowd rooting for him here in Kuwait. The win spurred Dang on, as he then flattened countryman Han Hao Xiang, 11-3, in the final 16.
In the quarters Dang will face surprise entrant Roland Garcia of the Philippines. The 35 year old Garcia grabbed his spot in the Kuwait Open by flying to Kuwait City from Thailand, where he works as a house pro, and entering and winning one of the brutally tough qualifiers.
Garcia has always been known as a superb and even rare talent, but one who would often let the pressure get to him in big matches. Today, though, Garcia showed immense maturity and skills with wins over fellow Filipino Carlo Biado, then Greece’s Alexander Kazakis. In the round of 16 Garcia came from behind to take down Alex Pagulayan in a dramatic showdown, 11-10. After 20 years of effort and plenty of heartbreak, Garcia finds himself in his first ever quarterfinals of a major tournament.
“I feel I have a lot more experience than in the past,” Garcia said after beating Pagulayan. “Before I don’t have the discipline. But now I’m trying to practice discipline. Before maybe I used to think too much. But now, I’m just trying to enjoy the game. I don’t really worry about it if I miss. It’s just a game. Sure I feel the pressure, but because of my experience, I just go back to the basics, and stay composed.”
The quarterfinals begin at 11am Kuwait time(GMT +3). The Semis will kick off at 2pm, while the finals will start at 7pm.
* The 2016 Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship takes place at the Al Ardiya Youth Center in Kuwait City from October 24 to November 5, 2016. The winner of the Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship will receive $50,000. The runner up will receive $25,000. The total prize fund is $275,000.
The 2016 Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship is being played under the patronage of the Kuwait Olympic Committee.
The WPA will be on hand in Kuwait throughout this year’s Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship providing up to the minute information, live scoring, photographs and in depth articles with insights and analysis from WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner.
Fans can interact with us through the WPA’s official Facebook Page for the event at this link;https://www.facebook.com/worldpoolbilliardassociation/
The WPA is also on Twitter; @poolwpa
Quarterfinals, November 5, 10am
Marc Bijsterbosch(NED vs. Ko Pin Yi(TPE)
Jayson Shaw(GBR) vs. Warren Kiamco(PHL)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) vs. Chang Jun Lin(TPE)
Roland Garcia(PHL) vs. Dang Jinhu(CHN)
RESULTS, FINAL 16
Marc Bijsterbosch(NED) 11 – 6 Ruslan Chinakhov(RUS)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 11 – 6 Jundel Mazon(PHL)
Jayson Shaw(GBR) 11 – 7 Aloysius Yapp(SIN)
Warren Kiamco(PHL) 11 – 3 Edwin Gamas(PHL)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) vs. Wu Jia Jing(CHN)
Chang Jun Lin(TPE) 11 – 9 Darren Appleton(GBR)
Roland Garcia(PHL) 11 – 10 Alex Pagulayan(CAN)
Dang Jinhu(CHN) 11 – 3 Han Hao Xiang(CHN)
Marc Bijsterbosch(NED) 11 – 6 Ko Ping Chung(TPE)
Ruslan Chinakhov(RUS) 11 – 10 Karl Boyes(GBR)
Jundel Mazon(PHL) 11 -10 Mark Gray(GBR)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 11 – 10 Oliver Medenilla(PHL)
Aloysius Yapp(SIN) 11 – 7 Mike Dechaine(USA)
Jayson Shaw(GBR) 11 – 6 Wojciech Szewczyk(POL)
Edwin Gamas(PHL) 11 – 7 Ralf Souquet(GER
Warren Kiamco(PHL) 11 – 10 Yang Ching Shun(TPE)
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 11 – 5 Lee Vann Corteza(PHL)
Wu Jia Jing(CHN) 11 – 5 Hayato Hijikata(JPN)
Darren Appleton(GBR) 11 – 5 Roman Hybler(CZE)
Chang Jun Lin(TPE) 11 – 2 Maksim Dudanets(RUS)
Alex Pagulayan(CAN) 11 – 10 Corey Deuel(USA)
Roland Garcia(PHL) 11 – 7 Alexander Kazakis(GRE)
Dang Jinhu(CHN) 11 – 10 Shane Van Boening(USA)
Han Hao Xiang(CHN) 11 – 9 James Aranas Zoren(PHL)
Results Final 64
Ko Ping Chung(TPE) 11 -4 Alan Cuartero(PHL)
Marc Bijsterbosch(NED) 11 – 6 Raymond Faraon(PHL)
Ruslan Chinakhov(RUS) 11 – 4 Imran Salem(KUW)
Karl Boyes(GBR) 11 – 5 Mishari Buhaimed(KUW)
Jundel Mazon(PHL) 11 – 8 Niels Feijen(NED)
Mark Gray(GBR) 11 – 8 Salahaleldeen Alrimawi(KUW)
Oliver Medenilla(PHL) 11 – 4 Mark Anthony(PHL)
Ko Pin Yi(TPE) 11 – 6 Liu Haitao(CHN)
Mike Dechaine(USA) 11 – 7 Hiroshi Takenaka(JPN)
Aloysius Yapp(SIN) 11 – 4 Dennis Grabe(EST)
Jayson Shaw(GBR) 11 – 7 Wu Kun Lin(TPE)
Wojciech Szewczyk(POL) 11 – 9 Wang Can(CHN)
Ralf Souquet(GER) 11 – 6 Radislaw Babica(POL)
Edwin Gamas(PHL) 11 – 2 Abdulrahman Alammar(KSA)
Yang Ching Shun(TPE) 11 – 9 Imran Majid(GBR)
Warren Kiamco(PHL) 11 – 7 Artem Koshoviy
Albin Ouschan(AUT) 11 -9 Mario He(AUT)
Lee Vann Corteza(PHL) 11 – 7 Payual Valeriano(PHL)
Wu Jia Jing(CHN) 11 – 6 William Millares(PHL)
Hayato Hijikata(JPN) 11 – 5 Jeffrey De Luna(PHL)
Darren Appleton(GBR) 11 – 10 David Alcaide(ESP)
Roman Hybler(CZE) 11 – 3 Bruno Muratore(ITA)
Maksim Dudanets(RUS)11 – 7 Konrad Juszczyszyn(POL)
Chang Jun Lin(TPE) 11 – 1 Thorsten Hohmann(GER)
Alex Pagulayan(CAN) 11 – 7 Jeffrey Ignacio(PHL)
Corey Deuel(USA) 11 – 7 Franciso Sanchez-Ruiz(ESP)
Alexander Kazakis(GRE) 11 – 8 Hunter Lombardo(USA)
Roland Garcia(PHL) 11 – 9 Carlo Biado(PHL)
Shane Van Boening(USA) 11 – 5 Toru Kuribayashi(JPN)
Dang Jinhu(CHN) 11 – 6 Anton Raga(PHL)
Han Hao Xiang(CHN) 11 – 10 Konstantine Stepanov(RUS)
James Aranas Zoren(PHL) 11 – 6 Cheng Yu Hsuan(TPE)