Shuff Claims National Championship Series 8-Ball Title
By Samm Diep, PoolTipJar.com © February 2009
Photos Courtesy of Mike Fieldhammer, BilliardCoach.com
1st Brandon Shuff
The inaugural National Championship Series 8-Ball event took place February 13-15 at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, NV. 56 hopefuls arrived for their shot at the cash prize and opportunity to represent the U.S. in the World 8-Ball Championships in Dubai. This tournament was not open to the public. Players competed in qualifiers held across the country over the past few months for their chance to participate. Qualifiers were held up until the weekend prior, in attempt to fill the 64-player field.
16 Diamond Pro Am tables were set up in the Grand Ballroom to host the event. Two roster substitutions took place before the start of the tournament. Melissa Little stepped in as an alternate when Bill Skinner of Denver, Colorado could not attend and when an over-traveled Shannon Daulton was unable to make it, a last minute playoff was held with the Las Vegas finalists. The five players raced to 7 in a round robin mini tournament. Justin Whitehead would secure his entry in this mini. The main event was a race to 8 games.
On Friday morning, an early 9a.m. mandatory players’ meeting was followed by the first round of 10 o’clock matches. A master clock was set up beside the tournament bracket and strict match times were enforced all weekend. If a player is not at their table ready to begin when tournament directors Ken Shuman or Bill Stock announced, “You may now lag for the break,” that is an automatic game for their opponent. At the five minute mark, the waiting player would receive a second game on the wire. If a player is not at their table at 15 minutes after the match time, it’s an automatic loss, no questions.
VNEA Juniors Champ, Danny Schneider received an automatic advancement into the second round when his opponent Mike Banks, Jr. did not show up. The Oklahoma star left many wondering about his absence. Other notable players that qualified were regulars in the pro events, Mike Davis, Oscar Dominguez, and Max Eberle.
Free web casting from the feature table was provided all weekend courtesy of TheActionReport.com.
Dallas’s Jui-Lung Chen named Player of the Year on the Fast Eddie’s Tour, is no stranger to the finals. The speedy Chen received a bye in the first round and escaped a few close matches, including a hill-hill one against Schneider, before catching a gear. He played two nearly perfect sets against New York’s Redgie Cutler and juniors’ champ Austin Murphy to advance to the finals.
Brandon Shuff, a points-leader on the Tiger Pool Tour in the Northeast, did not give up after he was defeated in the first round by Seattle area’s Robert Colby. Shuff continued to win nine straight matches before he would meet up with Chen in the finals. In his first match on Sunday morning, Shuff survived a hill-hill brawl against Reggie Cutler to enter the quarter-finals. He was determined to go all the way.
2nd Jui-Lung Chen
The finals match was a single, extended race to 13 with neither player trailing by more than a two game deficit. Chen with his very swift and loose style displayed a different game than we had seen leading up to this match. His quick decisions and one-stroke technique saw several missed shots and left him in jams. After the long morning of matches, Shuff also struggled. The table was breaking dry and the players traded racks and errors, one after another.
At 11-9, Shuff finally pulled away. Feeling the heat, Chen slowed down his pace to break and run the following rack. The next few games continued with the theme of the match. Finally, Shuff claimed the hill game at 12-11. He smashed the rack wide open with his best break of the match. Shuff chose solids and proceeded to pick apart the rack with a smooth and steady tempo. Unfortunately, his nerves got the best of him when he pulled the trigger on the 8 ball. The rattled Chen pocketed a few more shots but could not put Shuff away, leaving him a cut in the corner pocket. As the 8 ball dropped, the audience was thrilled and the emotion Shuff walked over to shake his opponent’s hand.
“This is my first major win,” said a relieved and elated Shuff. “That was probably the best 60 bucks you’ll ever spend,” said NCS originator, Mark Griffin. Shuff received $2,700 in cash price and $3,000 in expenses and an entry into the World 8-Ball Championship event (originally scheduled for April, but has been postponed until further notice).
1st Brandon Shuff $5,700
$2,700 cash / $3,000 expenses
2nd Jui-Lung Chen $4,500
3rd Austin Murphy $3,400
4th Walter Glass $2,400
5th John Doherty $1,700
7th Mark Haddad $1,100
9th Max Eberle $700
13th Tommy Tokoph $400
17th Elias Vallas $250
Sponsors for this event included CueSports International, BCA Pool League, Diamond Billiard Products, Aramith, The Action Report, Hustlin’ USA, OB Cues, and the Delta-13 rack.
Qualifiers for the next round of championships will be taking place soon. Visit PlayCSIPool.com for more details.