Chang Jun-Ling Wins International 9-Ball Championship

Chang Lung-Lin (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)
Our final day at the International in Norfolk found us with only four players left standing. Chang Jung-Lin of Chinese Taipei faced off against Ko Ping-Chung, also of Chinese Taipei. These were the only two undefeated players left so they were shooting for the hot seat.
The two players on the one-loss side were two Americans, Shane Van Boening and Skyler Woodward. One of them would have to settle for fourth place while the other would play the loser between Chang and Ko.
Van Boening won the lag and went on to draw first blood, 1-0. SVB also won game two but he then scratched on the break and Woodward had his first opening. Skyler made the most of it and trailed 2-1 with the break. After that rack we were tied at 2 games each. At the  end of the fifth rack Woodward led 3-2. The next rack went back and forth but Woodward deposited the 9 ball to lead 4-2. He kept that margin for the next two games and we were at 5-3 in our race to eleven games. Woodward then expanded the lead to three games at 6-3.
Woodward was on a roll. With the next two racks in his pocket, he owned a five game lead at 8-3 and the diehard SVB fans began to feel uneasy in their seats. At 9-3 their doubts turned to fear. Woodward broke and ran the next rack to stand on the hill at 10-3 and Van Boening needed a miracle. That miracle was not to be. Shane took the next two racks but Woodward got the next and the win 11-5.
Meanwhile, on the show table, Ko won the lag but failed to make a legal break and turned the table over to Chang. Chang hung the one  in the corner and Ko made that with a jump shot but failed to get the shape he needed on the two. After a brief safety exchange Chang took the table and the first mark, 1-0.  He then broke and ran the second rack.
Ko won game three to bring us to 2-1, then tied us at 2 apiece. Chang then took control of the table and went up 4-2 before giving it back to Ko. Ko took the next two racks home to tie us up at 4 games each. Chang grabbed the next rack to lead by one at 5-4. When Ko sank the next 9 we were again tied, this time at five each.
Then Ko won the next two games and snapped the 9 in on the next break to lead by three at 8-5. Winning the next rack took him to a very handsome 9-5 lead with the break. He never gave up the table in that rack and was then on the hill 10-5.
Ko completely dominated the last half the match. He had not been at  the table since the  score was 6-5 and Ko ended it mercifully at 11-5, the same score by which Woodward had beaten Van Boening.
That set up our semi-final match between Skyler Woodward and Chang Jung-Lin. Chang won the lag and the first rack. Then Chang went on one of the best journeys ever seen in pool. He won the next seven in a row to lead 8-0 and Woodward never even had the chance to make a single ball. Chang made an illegal break in rack nine but there was nothing there so Woodward played a safety. Chang left a long shot for Skyler but it missed and he was still empty in the game. Woodward then got a shot at the two in the side and it fell. Next he had to play safe and Chang was back at the table. He missed a shot into the side but left no shot and a safety game ensued. 
During that battle, Chang scratched and Woodward finally had an opportunity to get some inertia going. He capitalized and won his first game to trail 8-1. He also took the next rack and the next to trail 8-3. In the next rack Chang had control but rattled an easy 8 ball and left it in the pocket. 8-4. In rack 13 Skyler played a safe that left Chang to jump into a scratch. It began to appear that momentum had changed chairs and Woodward now trailed by only three racks, 8-5. Then he won the next rack and on the next break he set up a 2-9 combo that he made to trail by only a single game at 8-7. He had come all the way from down 8-0 to only a single rack between them. It was amazing pool.
In the next rack Skyler hung the 4 ball in the corner. Chang took that rack to the bank to lead 9-7. Chang then scratched on the break but Skyler got a bad rub on his way to the three ball and  Chang wound up with ball in hand. He took that to the hill.
Chang scratched on the break again. Skyler rode that good fortune to trail by two games, 10-8. Good fortune stayed with him when he  missed the two  ball in the next rack but left Chang so hooked that he fouled and Woodward once again had ball in hand. He won the rack and once more trailed by only a single game. 10-9.
Woodward tried to play safe on the two ball in the next rack but the cue ball leaked out and gave Chang a shot. That would be the last opportunity needed by Chang. He ran the table out to earn his rematch with Ko in the finals.
The finals was a race to thirteen games. Ko won the lag and made three balls on the break. Unfortunately,  one of them was the cue ball. Chang handled the rack easily to take the first mark. 1-0. He broke and ran the next rack for 2-0 and then made an illegal break but Ko wanted nothing to do with the layout and gave the shooting rights back to Chang. Wise choice. Ko wound up with a nice spread of the balls that he took home to trail 2-1 in the match.
Ko won the safety exchange that developed in the next rack and finished to tie the match at two games apiece. He then broke and ran to take his first lead at 3-2.
An illegal break (three balls must pass the head string) brought Chang out of his chair. Soon we were tied at three. Chang returned the favor of an illegal break and Ko cleaned up to take the lead 4-3. Then the table broke ugly with all of the balls grouped around the foot string. Ko got the first opening and looked to be out but missed the eight ball, leaving Chang a long rail bank. He took it straight back and put the nine in the side to tie us at four games each.
Chang broke and ran the next one. 5-4. But Ko won the next two and then led 6-5. The lead did not last. Ko got out of line on the three ball in the next rack and Chang tied us up again at six apiece. Ko got to the table in the next rack but missed the two ball and scratched on the attempt. Nevertheless, he got another opportunity at the table and did not waste it as he ran out to a narrow 7-6 lead. 
By now,  it had gotten predictable. Sure enough, Chang took the next rack to tie us again, now at seven games. Chang then scratched on the break for the third time in two consecutive matches. Ko ran the rack out to lead by one, 8-7.  Ko won the next as welt own his first two point lead of the match at 9-7.
Then Ko got VERY lucky twice. First he was shooting the three ball into the corner  and miscued. The three went nowhere near the corner but had just enough roll on it to bank off of the end rail and fluke into the side pocket. Ko finished out the rack. Then  he made the nine on the next snap and suddenly led the match eleven games to seven. 
Chang won the next rack to get to eight. In the next rack Ko was at the table and got rubbed by a ball one his way to shape and scratched. You just can’t give these guys ball in hand. Chang took us to 11-9. When he also won the next game he had narrowed the gap to 11-10.
Chang broke dry in rack 22 and Ko pushed out but Chang gave it back. Ko hit the one ball but went two rails and scratched in the side. Chang took that rack and the next and we were again tied, now at 11 games each. Ko scratched on the one ball in the next rack and Chang cleaned to sit on the hill at 12-10.
Chang broke the next rack but the balls layed tough. He had to bank his first shot and the seven ball was tricky. He pulled off a magic trick to  get shape  on that seven ball and three balls later he became the first International Open Champion and took home $40,000 for his efforts.