A FINE, FUN START IN KUWAIT CITY

 

A FINE, FUN START IN KUWAIT CITY

Stiff competition and unpredictable results are the order of Day 1 at the inaugural Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship.

Ko Pin YiBy Ted Lerner

WPA Press Officer

Photos by Takayama Takao

(Kuwait City) —-It was a busy day of high caliber pool  in Kuwait City on Wednesday, as the inaugural Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship got underway at the Al Ardiya Youth Center, with all 128 players seeing action on 16 tables.

Whenever this many of the very best pool players in the world gather in one building to do battle, two things always seem to stand out. First, in professional pool the talent level gets more varied and better each and every year. Secondly, because of this first fact, and the nature of the game itself, you can never, ever take anything for granted.  The minute you think you’ve got a match won or you are cruising to victory, is probably the moment when the pool gods will begin to conspire against you.

Both of these facets of championship pool were on full display over 12 long hours of play today. And when the proceedings concluded,  32 relieved players had notched two wins and booked their spots into the final 64 knockout stage that begins on Friday.  Those 32 players will enjoy a well -deserved rest on Thursday, which will see all losers side matches in the 16 groups and the field cut in half.

Of course that’s when the real fun begins. From there the tournament will be a two day sprint to the finish line and the $50,000 first prize. The total prize fund of $275,000 is the largest in professional 9-ball in 2016.

Perhaps it’s the thought of 9-ball’s biggest prize of the year that had early nerves jangling.  Spain’s David Alcaide looked to have former World 9-ball Champion Darrren Appleton on the ropes in their stellar first round match, but at 8-8 and breaking for the match, the Spaniard watched in horror as the cue ball dropped straight into the side pocket off the break. Appleton proceeded to clear and stayed on the winners’ side. The Yorkshireman came back later in the day to beat Indonesia’s Muhammad Bewi to book his spot in the final 64 knockout stage.

The Philippines rising young gun Jeffrey Ignacio must have thought he had a clear run to the final 64 after first thrashing Polish veteran Radislaw Babica 9 -4, then standing on the hill with an 8-3 lead over Saudi Arabia’s very capable Abdulrahman Alammar.  But from there it all fell apart for the fancied Filipino, as Alammar clawed back into the match and won at the wire, 9-8, to advance.
Two time world champion Thorsten Hohmann had one of those days where he surely felt he had taken out a long term lease on a high wire. The German great first had to fend off a furious fight back from talented Filipino Roland Garcia to barely win, 9-8. Then in the winner’s side match later, Hohmann again got taken to the limit by the USA’s Corey Duel. Tied at 8 and breaking for the match, Hohmann scratched off the break, leaving a clear for the American, who moved on.

The USA’s Shawn Wilkie could almost taste his best result in an overseas tournament as he was up 8-5 over former World 9-ball champion Alex Pagulayan in a winner’s side match. But some crafty jumping by the Canadian-Filipino led to some hair raising clears and it was Pagulayan who advanced instead. Wilkie will get another shot at the final 64 on Thursday.

A similar fate befell Poland’s Mateusz Sniegocki. Up 8-6 in his winners’ side match versus Russia’s Konstantine Stepanov, the Pole couldn’t close the deal. The Russian stormed back and ran the final rack for a well-deserved spot in the knockout rounds.

Not everyone had to put out fires today and, in fact, some looked downright cool as a cucumber in a chest full of ice.  Current World 9-ball Champion Albin Ouschan advanced  with two solid wins today, first over Czech Republic’s Roman Hybler, 9-7, and then the Philippines Elmer Haya, 9-1.   Former World 9-ball champion Niels Feijen of the Netherlands easily handled the Philippines Jeffrey De Luna, 9-4, then took down strong Japanese Naoyuki Oi, 9-6.

2015 World 9-ball champion Ko Pin Yi won two matches to advance, as did recent US Open runner up Chang Jung Lin. Their veteran countryman Yang Ching Shun had a confidence boosting day, first cutting down the Philippines Tommy Dato-On 9-7, then taking a big scalp in top Filipino Dennis Orcollo, 9 – 5.

The Philippines needn’t worry about not being represented well in the final 64 as Warren Kiamco, Carlo Biado, Lee Van Cortea, James Aranas Zoren, Oliver Mederilla, and Allan Cuartero all advanced with two wins each today.

Everyone expects the recent US Open champion Shane Van Boening to be there when the field reaches the money rounds. But the American great has some difficult work left. After an easy first round win, the Van Boening came up against his traveling buddy and roommate, fellow American Mike Dechaine, in a winner’s side match.  The two played a high quality match but it was Dechaine avenging a recent loss to Van Boening in the US Open who pulled out the win, 9-6. Van Boening will get one more chance on Thursday.

While it’s nigh impossible to pick a winner at this early stage, many eyes and bets this week are on Scotland’s Jayson Shaw.  Shaw has been building up a head of steam in pool circles over the last year. He’s won several notable events, recently placed third in the US Open, and is currently a near shoo-in to m

Jayson ShawBut it’s not just his actions on the blue pitch that speak volumes about where this man is going. Just listen to Shaw speak about the state of his actual game and his mental game, and you’ll get an idea of where he may very well be headed this week in Kuwait.ake the European Mosconi Cup team.  The Scotsman seems to possess all the right ingredients to go on a memorable tear through the sport. Today in Kuwait, he appeared to be just warming up for bigger things with two easy wins.

“I’ve put a lot of time in over the last year practicing hard and I’ve got that confidence,” Shaw said after his second win of the day. “Right from the start of the year I won some tourneys and I just kept going, not stopping or taking any little breaks like that.

“I’m playing really well and I can see that sometimes my opponents get uncomfortable and I feel people see that in me now, the confidence. So I think I have an edge over a few players now, which is massive. I actually feel that some players want to avoid me now.

“Pool is 60% mental, 30% skill and 10% luck.  If you can go out there and you got your head right and you’re just in the zone and you play real good, there’s only one person that can beat you and that’s yourself.  Over the last year I’ve worked on the psychology of the game by not getting mad, enjoying it, not over-thinking things, just going out there and doing my thing. Last year if I’d been a mistake I’d just blow up and then lost the match. But this year there has been a lot of situations where I’ve made mistakes and I stayed calm. And then great things happen.”

* 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