Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review 2008

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, so it’s about time to make a summary of the year we are about to finish. 2008 will definitely be remembered here in Europe, since Europeans have been in the finals, and most of the time winning, in the majority of the biggest events.

In January, Derby City Classic was organised in Louisville, Kentucky (USA) for the 10th time, and with more than 400 players in each of the three divisions bank-pool, one-pocket and 9-ball, it once again proved that DCC is a tournament where you just
need to be atleast once in your life. Gabe Owen won the one-pocket tournament, and for the first time Efren Reyes didn’t win the one-pocket division like he did the 5 other times he entered DCC. This year he “only” finished 4th… Ralf Souquet did like he has done 2 of the previous 9 years, and won the 9-ball division, and managed to keep the 9-ball title in Europe, after Niels Feijen’s win in 2007. Francisco Bustamante won the "Master of the Table", which means he had the best average score in all three diciplines.

The World 8-ball Championship was held in Dubai (UAE), and the final was a rematch from the World 9-ball Championship in 2006, with Ronato Alcano and Ralf Souquet battling it out for the title. Ralf Souquet was a hair better (not literally) than Ronato Alcano, and after 12 years Ralf Souquet could finally add another World Championship title to his already impressive resume. Ralf later said that he knew he was going to succeed in 8-ball sooner or later, because less than 2 years ago he ran 27 consecutive racks in 8-ball when preparing for an IPT tournament!

The prestigious and annual BCA Open, a 64 man invitational tournament, was surprisingly (atleast for me) won by American Jeremy Jones, beating Johnny Archer in the final. Unfortunately the rumour is that the BCA is struggling with their finances, and Jeremy Jones is perhaps the last BCA Champion for quite some time. Let’s hope not!

The Predator International 10-ball Championships, hosted by Dragon Promotions in Las Vegas (USA), consisted of a field of 92 of the worlds best players. The tournament was broadcasted live on the internet by Kozoom Production, a French company that had hosted European Championships and Eurotour’s for years, till they cancelled their agreement with EPBF/IBP (Eurotour-promotors) in the middle of an event this year. Marcus Chamat from Sweden was finally one of the last men standing in a major tournament again, but he couldn’t snap it off and lost in the semifinal against Tony Drago, the ex-snooker player from Malta who went on to win the final against Filipino Francisco Bustamante in his first ever 10-ball tournament.

Matchroom Sport hosted the World Pool Masters for the 16th year, and for the first time it was held outside Europe. 16 of the very best players from around the World were as usual invited to this event, and it looked like the 2001 World 9-ball Champion Mika Immonen (FIN) was going to cruise into victory in the final against Filipino, and fellow World Champion, Alex Pagulayan, with a 5 racks lead in the race to 8 final, but Alex fought back and won in the end.

Just minutes after the match Alex had a “date” with the new, young American top-player Shane Van Boening, reigning US Open Champion. They had agreed to play a gambling-match, race to 100 in 10-ball for 10 000 $. The Action Report (TAR) hosted the challengematch, and broadcasted it live pay-per-view on their website. After 2 days Shane had a very comfortable lead of 22 racks, but once again Alex fought his way back, and when he managed to equal the score on 92-92 it was the point of no return. Alex was the new TAR-champion, with one of the most impressive comebacks in the history of pool.

Dominic Jentsch, this unknown 16-year old kid from Germany was out of nowhere suddenly a well-known name after his 150 and out in a 14-1 tournament for men in New York, followed up by a win in a 10-ball tournament for youth players.

As usual Dragon Promotions hosted the World 14-1 Championship during the summer, and most of the worlds best 14-1 players were represented in the field, including the legendary Mike Sigel. As the previous years it was once again held in the New York area. The big surprise, for most people, was 22-year woman-pro from Austria, Jasmin Ouschan, who beat champion after champion, before finishing 3rd, losing to Francisco Bustamante. “Django’s” opponent in the final was one of the world’s best 14-1 players, 4 times European 14-1 Champion the last 6 years, Niels Feijen from the Netherlands. Niels played nearly perfect, and Francisco was able to pocket his first ball at the score 196-0 to Niels, in this race to 200 match, but it was too late for a comeback, and Niels finally achieved his major goal, of winning a World Championship. This tournament was once again a proof that Europe now is the dominating force in 14-1, with Thorsten Hohmann, Oliver Ortmann and Niels Feijen as the 3 last champions, with many more finishing in the top 8 all three years.

Villard Cup is one of the tours in Philippines, which is now split in half in two competing organisations, BMPAP and BSCP. In July I went to Philippines and got an invitation to
play in Villard Cup Cebu, with all the best players from the Philippines competing. At the same weekend BSCP hosted a 10-ball tournament in Palawan, with Chia Ching Wu (TPE), Ralf Souquet, Thorsten Hohmann and lots of local Filipinos attending. Chia Ching Wu won the 10-ball tournament in Palawan, while Gandy Valle won the Villard Cup Cebu. I finished 33rd in this tournament, after being handed a “donut” (0-9) by Jharome Pena, and then losing for an unknown player. Other players in the Villard Cup were Efren Reyes, Ronato Alcano (Picture, together with Efren and Alcano's son, Jeffren, named after Alcano's hero Efren) J. Bustamante and Francisco Bustamante, Dennis Orcullo, Alex Pagulayan, Roberto Gomez and many more, and with 1 000 spectators for all matches it was very exciting to be able to compete in this tournament. A priceless experience, even though I wish that I could have performed better.

In the Middle East pool seems to be more and more popular and the Qatar World 9-ball Open with $50 000 first price, was a big attraction for the top players around the world. Dennis Orcullo and Niels Feijen were ranked #1 and #2 before this tournament, and they proved to the world why by finishing 1st and 2nd.

BSCP and Raya Sports were hosting the first World Ten Ball Championship in October, in Manila. Just a couple of weeks prior to the tournament lots of people, myself included, started to worry about lack of sponsors, no advertising, no information about tickets etc., and it ended with the WPA publishing a statement confirming that there was nothing to worry about. Without advertising, and since most of the Filipino top players such deciding not to join the event, the number of spectators were probably the worst ever for such a big tournament. Despite the statement from WPA it took the players about 6 weeks after the final before any of them got paid, and in my opinion Raya and WPA has a lot to improve if they are ever going to host such a tournament again.

The amount of time before payment and the lack of communication from the organiser Raya/BSCP and WPA created lots of unnecessary headache’s for many players, including the new World Ten Ball Champion Darren Appleton (UK), who beat Chia Ching Wu in the final. Darren claimed, and rightfully so, that he couldn’t focus properly in the US Open because everyone kept asking him about the payment, and he really didn’t know if he would be paid his 100 000 $ or not. This affected his game, of course, and Darren couldn’t secure himself a high finish in this prestigious tournament.

Ronato Alcano didn’t compete in the World Ten Ball Championship, and had no lack of payment to worry about. He seemed like a man on a mission in the US Open, and just like in 2007, he went unbeaten through the field to the final. His opponent was Mika Immonen, who had lost 11-0 seven years earlier, against Corey Deuel (USA). Mika had a goal with this tournament, and that was to win it to secure himself a spot in the Mosconi Cup, a team tournament between USA and Europe. He had played 11 consecutive years in the Mosconi, but after he missed an easy ball to win the title in 2006, he was left out of the team in 2007. He wanted that last spot on the team, and he could only get that by winning the US Open. He rushed into a quick 10-2 lead, in this race to 13 final, but Alcano climbed back to make it 7-10 before he fouled. Mika kept his head calm, and finished the match off with a 13-7 score, and got rid of one of many “monkeys” on his shoulders.

Former US Open Champion Alex Pagulayan, and the worlds # 1, Dennis Orcullo, were 2 of 11 Asian players that didn’t join this event because of the Guinness Grand Master Final. I have to say I find it real sad that the governing bodies in pool can’t find a way to organize tournaments without doing them on the same dates. It is especially sad and irritating when they collide with a major event that is being organised for the 33rd consecutive year.

My wish for 2009/2010 is that the WPA will force the continental events like Guinness Tour and Eurotour to be played on the same weekends! In Scandinavia Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland will organize their national championships (8-ball, 9-ball, 14-1, snooker and carom) on the same weekends in 2010, making it a lot easier to start a Nordic Tour in 2010, since the most important national tournaments are on the same weekends.

Anyway, with Mika Immonen becoming the 4th non-American to win the US Open, he got rewarded with the last European spot in the Mosconi Cup, this team competition with 5 players on each team. Team Europe consisted of Mark Gray (#1 on the Eurotour-ranking), Ralf Souquet (World 8-ball Champion), Niels Feijen (World 14-1 Champion), Tony Drago (Most valuable player in Mosconi 2007, Predator 10-ball Champion) and Mika Immonen (US Open Champion).

One man’s bread is another mans dead, and the new World Ten Ball Champion Darren Appleton was in tears by not making the team. The Mosconi Cup was his dream, and he, along with many others, couldn’t believe that winning the biggest tournament in the world was not enough to secure him a spot in the team. I believe that Darren will definitely be on the team next year. He has played so well all year, and I know that this will only make him more determined on achieving his goal of representing Europe in this Cup.

In November the WPBA hosted their annual National tournament, the last tournament of the women’s pro league, and for the first time a WPBA tournament was broadcasted live on the internet, by TAR, and not only in
delayed cut-version on ESPN. I am not quite sure, but I do believe Monica Webb won this tournament, as the first American in a long time. One thing I do remember from this tournament, is that Jasmin Ouschan got the news that she will be banned for two coming WPBA tournaments, starting in 2009, since she chose to compete in the World Ten Ball Championship instead of a WPBA tournament. For some reason she also decided to not play the WPBA National, and I know that I was not the only one who boycotted the PPV on this tournament because of the ban.

The Mosconi Cup was played in Malta, Europe, and when 2 World Champions were left out of the team (Darren and Daryl Peach, reigning World 9-ball Champion) Europe was the favourite. But against Team USA, with Earl Strickland, Johnny Archer, Shane Van Boening, Rodney Morris and Jeremy Jones, it was impossible to say they were big favourites.

As usual Earl Strickland was on everyone’s lips after the tournament. Not because he played awesome in his comeback against the worlds fastest player Tony Drago, where he was down 4-1 after 14 minutes (including commercials), but because of this 5-0 defeat against Mika Immonen. After this match, live on Sky Sports, Earl gave the finger to the crowd.

Mika Immonen, the “man to blame” for Europe not winning the Mosconi in 2006, was able to get rid of another monkey on his shoulder, as he pocketed the last ball in this years Cup to win it for Europe with an impressive score of 11-5.

At the end of the year Ralf Souquet is now ranked #1 in the world, and I am looking forward to read the next Billiards Digest, to see if they will choose Ralf Souquet or Mika Immonen as the “Player of the Year”. In my opinion, it can’t be anyone else than one of these two, who both have had a fantastic year.

One of the biggest dissapointments for me is that neither of my personal favourites, Line Kjorsvik or Roberto Gomez, managed to make waves on the international scene this year. Line was close when she finished 3rd in one of the WPBA tournaments, and I expect her to do well next year. She finished pretty high in the break&run stats during the season, and now that she has finished her comeback-season I believe the best is yet to come. (Picture of Line "Rockstar" Kjorsvik when performing "Me and Bobby McGee". Her karaoke-version is better than any other version!)

Roberto Gomez is still struggling getting travel visa to go to for example the United States, and can't compete in major tournaments like US Open and DCC. He won one of the prestigous Villards Cup in Philippines, but it's a shame that the rest of the world can't see his talents in person around the world. Hopefully in 2009!

There are probably a lot more tournaments and happenings that should be mentioned, but these are what I remember the most from 2008. I could have written more about the European Championships, Eurotour, Guinness Tour or the WPBA tournaments, but I thought the article was long enough already!

Please share your thoughts and favourite moments by responding to this blog-article :) (I have written this article based on memory only, so if there is any mistakes please let me know)

3 kommentarer:

edify said...

Dear Roy:
As of yesterday,87 days after WTBC,I heard WTBC runner-up Chia-Ching Wu and Ching-Shun Yang still have not received their payments。Last night in a dinner,I learnt 4 other Taiwan players including Pin-Yi Ko just received their payment this Monday。
Wondering what’s the actual payment situations in other areas of the world for 2008 World Ten Ball Championship?
Best regards,

Anonymous said...

Roy you did not metion the doubles tournament that Shane and Rodney won!! If Line can put it together believe me she will win on th WPBA and/or EPC gold in Europe in 2009.

Anonymous said...

re: Line Kjorsvik you should not be dissappointed , cause I was looking at the Eurotour stats and I did not check all of them but I can't find any of you guys bringing "gold" to Norway as she has done 4 times !! So when you see her I hope you guys are like :
buying her a coffee, holding the door for her, carrying her cue, asking if you can do anything for her etc. etc.

Anonymous - Bobby McGee

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