Ga-Young Kim is Champion of the World!

Ga Young Kim

Nine Ball crowned a new heroine tonight in Taipei, Taiwan. Ga-Young Kim finished a tough day and even tougher week with three consecutive victories, finally besting another former champion, Shin-Mei Liu, to take the highest honor in the game.

She had to get past Jeannie Seaver in the quarter-finals, then Akimi Kajitani before stepping up for the final time against Liu. It was a long day of battle and it began with the quarter-finals rounds.

Ga-Young Kim of Korea came into her match against Jeannie Seaver of the USA as the favorite. She had already won the event in 2004 and that experience, along with her skills, should have carried the day. But early in the match the mistakes came to her rapidly. In the very first rack she missed an eight ball she was expectd to make and Seaver finished the rack to take game one.

Now owning the break, Seaver broke and ran the next rack to go ahead by two. In rack three Kim came to the table only to foul a ball while removing the rest and again Seaver cleaned up behind her to go up 3-0. Finally, in rack four, Seaver made an error of her own and scratched on the break. Kim returned to form and ran the rack to take her first point.

The next rack was the first to give Kim a good roll. She made a ball on the break, sank the one ball and then played a three-nine combination to draw within one. But the errors returned in the next rack when Kim just flat missed a half-table shot on the one with an easy layout behind it that Seaver went through with a good pace. The score was 4-2.

Seaver scratched on the break again in the next rack to give a ball-in-hand run to Kim. She capitalized to again pull within one. She also won the next two racks, first with a safety on the eight ball that Seaver did not answer and then with a good run-out and owned her first lead at 5-4 in the race to seven.

Rack ten found Kim pushing out, but she failed to put Seaver out of sight of the two ball. A clumsy mistake as the two and the nine were in range of one another for a carom. Seaver, pleased at the position she found herself in, wasted no time in stepping to the table and firing the carom in to tie the match at five games apiece.

Unbelievably, in rack eleven, Seaver again scratched on the break shot. But this was a tough table and clusters had to be parted. When Kim moved one apart on her first shot the two ball rolled up next to the nine but the nine was between it and the cue ball. Her kick proved fruitless and Seaver returned to play. All Jeannie had was a combination on the two -six and that failed to deposit. Kim still had a rough layout as the four was blocked from the corner by the eight. She chose to play safe on the four and married the cue ball right against the seven. Jeannie had a very tough shot to maneuver.

She was up to the task and made a good hit off a two-rail kick. But now the table was set so that a run was possible. Kim made good on that opportunity and stood ready to win. She had the break and only needed one more game. She began the rack by potting three balls on the snap. From there the run seemed obvious. There were no clusters, no trouble balls. Still, she got funny on the eight and had to draw across and down the table for the nine. She left herself no cherry of a shot as she wound up along the foot string with the nine near the foot rail. She gutted up and made the thin cut to take the win 7-5. Seaver's effort was spoiled by the three scratches on the break.

The second pairing of the day was an all-Japan show. Akimi Kajitani and Yukiko Hamanishi wound up in a safety battle that lasted through three long racks. It wasn't until the fourth rack that there was a decent spread to the balls and Hamanishi had the good fortune to be the recipient of the layout. She made a nice run then and our score was tied at two apiece. The next rack also spread nicely about the table but Hamanishi had to push out on her first shot.

The racks went back and forth with neither player having the opportunity to mount long runs. At the end of the eighth rack Hamanishi and Kajitani were tied at four games apiece. Hamanishi missed the nine ball in that rack that would have supplied her a two-game margin.

Rack nine produced our first break and run of the match with Kajitani taking that one down and gaining the momentum of three consecutive wins. The situation for Hamanishi had come unraveled. She scratched in the next rack and when Kajitani finished those balls out she stood on the hill with a nice 6-4 lead. Hamanishi would not have the opportunity to set things right. Kajitani produced her second break and run to finish the match at 7-4 and move on to face Ga-Young Kim. Waiting on-deck were Shin-Mei Liu and Hsiang-Ling Tan, both of Chinese Taipei.

It is difficult to have a good match against Shin-Mei Liu. She is the Queen of Taiwanese pool and is comfortable in that role. She has already stood upon the World Championship podium once, winning it all in 2002. Tan would give it her best effort, but Liu was simply too poised to be overcome.

Liu is one of the best table managers in the game. She sees patterns flawlessly and is famous for denying opportunities to her opponents. And that was the story line this day. She moved around the table on soft feet and coerced balls in gently, one after another. As the match drew on her lead stretched out farther and farther and she cruised to the 7-2 win.

Jasmin Ouschan of Austria was on a roll. She had been powering through her opponents all week in a take-no-prisoners approach that denied her nothing. In this quarter-final match she faced her good friend, Line Kjorsvik of Norway. Her coach told us before the match that Jasmin would have been more at ease facing a stranger, and this was some concern to him.

It needn't be. Jasmin simply crushed Line, leaping out to a 6-1 lead before Line could score her second point of the match. Kjorsvik managed to move another bead in the next rack, but it was way too little, way too late. Ouschan poured in a three-nine combination in the next rack to earn her berth in the semi-finals 7-3.

Our first semi-final match race to nine games was Ga-Youg Kim (KOR) vs. Akimi Kajitani (JPN). The semi-final matches at a major tournament are the most cruel. The winners get to move on to play for the title while the losers fade into anonymity. Ga-Young Kim is not one for anonymity. The 2004 World Champion mastered a gorgeous bank shot on the four ball to begin her run through the first rack.

Akimi Kajitani, however, wasn't about to surrender. She strode to the table facing a tough three ball in he second rack and sent it home, then cleverly moved through the rest of the pack to tie the score at one. Unfortunately, she then scratched on her break shot. Kim played a two-way shot, a one-nine combination without much hope that gave her a safety when it failed. This began a long exchange of safeties. Kajitani grabbed the first opportunity, sank the one and rolled up for a two-nine combination that she made. Two to one for Kajitani and Kim could see the momentum in the room flowing to the other corner.

Kim got a break in the next rack when Kajitani rolled past shape on the six ball and missed the shot. She cashed that check to pull the match back to a two-two lockup. The breaks seemed problematic for both players. Kim failed to make a drop on her break and Kajitani gained the floor. Shortly thereafter she scored and once again led Kim by a single point at 3-2. The edge would not last. Kajitani missed a half-table shot on the seven in the next rack to bring Kim to the floor for her next point. Tie game at three.

Kim's break again failed and Kajitani had the table. The only problem was moving from the four to the five and Kajitani hit it like it was a no-brainer. Everything else on the table was a breeze and Kajitani reclaimed her one-game advantage 4-3. Kajitani made three balls on the next break but then failed to drive a rail playing safe on the two and Kim got ball-in-hand. She moved quickly through the rest of the table and we were tied again at four.

For once, Kim made a ball on the break. But she followed this with a missed shot on the one. Kajtani was uncomfortable with the long cut on the two ball and missed it to send herself back to the chair. Kim swept the table for the lead 5-4.

Kim's old break came back to haunt her and nothing fell away on her snap. The balls were well-spread but Kajitani once more over-ran her shape, this time on the four ball. Kajitani was beginning to fumble her speed control and the safety she attempted came up short and left Kim open. Again Kim finished the job begun by Kajitani and now led 6-4, beginning to stretch out the lead.

Again the break was hollow. Kajitani, obviously uncomfortable with her stroke now, again over-ran her shot and snookered herself on the two. She managed to kick out of it but was forced to again retreat to her corner and hope for the best. She got her chance shortly when she kicked well out of a safe and left Kim hooked. The resultant foul shot gave her ball in hand. She needed to take this rack home but once again her stroke betrayed her and she over-ran shape on the five to land behind the six ball. She kicked safe.

Kim kicked into the four and banked it in cross-corner. Only four balls remained and they were no match for her energy. She dropped a long nine ball and led the match 7-4. Kim scratched on the opening shot of the next rack. Again Kajitani had the opportunity to close the gap. This time she would not fail. 7-5.

The next rack found both players at the table but Kim was there last and regained the three-point advantage 8-5. Kim had another dry break in the next game and Kajitani pushed out. Kim missed a carom on the five and Kajitani just missed the long one in the corner. Kim came to the table hooked behind the eight. The safety exchange that followed lasted several turns and Kajitani was the first one to get her sights on the one. She made a long shot into the corner and then went easily through the rest of the rack to get a little closer at 8-6.

Kajitani made nothing on the snap and the table went back again into defensive mode. Again Kajitani saw the first light but her arm failed her when she reached the three ball and she missed her shot in the corner. Kim had to use the rest and miscued as she sank the three so she had to play another safety. Kajitani failed to return the safe and left Kim a full ball hit but no pocket. The safeties continued for two turns but Kajitani was the first to blink and leave an open shot. That was all Kim needed as she easily went through the remaining balls to be the first player to claim a seat in the finals with her 9-6 victory.

Our second semi-final would be a contrast in styles. The thoughtful table management of Shin-Mei Liu versus the aggressive run and gun style of Jasmin Ouschan. Shin-Mei drew first blood with a nifty run in rack one. She followed that up with another break and run and then only allowed Jasmin a single trip to the table as she also earned the next rack. In short order Liu had gained a hefty 3-0 advantage.

Jasmin did get to the table in rack four and put away five balls, but she just wasn't controlling her rock the way she had in her earlier matches and she fell out of line on the seven ball and missed the shot. Then Shin-Mei went past her line on the eight and faced an ugly eight-nine combination. She studied the angle and sent it home to go up 4-0.

Shin-Mei was not about to give Ouschan an opening to begin an offensive flurry. She took the next rack with precise position play to go up 5-0 and then proved she was capable of small errors when she missed the two ball in the next rack but left nothing but a safe for Jasmin to play. The two sat by the nine and Liu kicked two rails to send the two perfectly into the nine and the nine into the corner. A beautiful shot to go up 6-0. Ouschan began to look like a deer in the headlights of a very large truck.

Ouschan finally caught a break in rack seven when Liu missed a kick shot on the one ball. With ball in hand and anger in her eyes she ran the rack to take her first mark but she had a long road to travel to catch the 6-1 lead Liu had established.

Ouschan's break shot sent the balls scurrying away from impact. The table was open and she marched through the rack, determined to show the world why she deserved to be here. She played a forceful, but not careless, rack to move another bead, 6-2. The next rack proved frustrating for both players. Both made errors that gave opportunities to the other but Jasmin got hers last and took the rack out to narrow the lead to 6-3. She was going to make a contest of this yet.

When Ouschan broke and ran the next rack you could feel the energy recharge her. She was back in this match and she was in control and she was only down two games. She had come a long way in a short time. Her next break was perfect. Two balls evacuated the scene and she fell dead on the two ball. The run was there for her to take. The run was as close to perfect as you would ever want to see and she had closed ranks with the great Liu to stand one game behind at 6-5.

Again, two balls left the scene on her break and again she had a nice opening shot on the two ball. Again the run was there for her to claim. And she did. She had vanquished the scoreline and had answered Liu's six straight games with six of her own. For the first time, Liu began to squirm in her chair, wondering if she would rise again.

She would. Finally, in the next rack, Ouschan's break failed to drop a ball. Six of the balls were huddled around the bottom left quarter of the table, all beneath the second diamond. It was a tough set-up. Liu tried to combo the nine on her first shot but failed. Jasmin was back at the table. The layout was just as untidy as before and she, too, made an attempt to combo the nine in the corner. But she left Liu safe with three balls between whitey and the three and no good kick to be had.

Liu managed the impossible. She shot away from the pack diagonally into the two rails by the far corner. The cue ball came slowly toward the cluster and through the tiniest of openings and pocketed the three ball to boot. But it was to no avail. She could not reach the four and fouled. Ouschan took ball in hand and made the four but when she made the five and broke the cluster up it moved the seven ball in front of the six. The combination did not work and Shin-Mei returned to claim the rack. She was back in the lead, but only just so at 7-6. Finally, the ugly rack was over.

Shin-Mei Liu broke and ran the next rack, The run included a shot where she broke the four ball away from the nine and got shape on it as well. As pretty a shot as you will ever see. Now at 8-6, Liu needed only one more nine. She wanted her last break to give her the chance to keep the power of Ouschan away from the table. At the very least she needed a shot after the break that allowed her to maintain control. Two balls fell away but the five ball ruined her party by rolling in the line between the cue ball and the one at the very last moment.

She had to push out and she elected to leave Jasmin a long reverse cut into the corner. She issued a challenge to the young gunslinger. Jasmin didn't take the bait. Instead, she paved a tidy two-rail safety that forced Liu to kick at the one. Liu had lost control. Liu made the kick but left a full ball for Jasmin to play with. Again Jasmin went for the safety but this time she came up short of the mark and Liu was the one with a full ball to work. She made the table-length cut off of the fifty yard line and also got shape on the three.

The look on Ouschans face in the chair said it was over and it was. Liu cleared the rack and the greatest comeback that almost was evaporated into memory. Liu and Kim would wage an all-Asia battle for the Championship of the World.

And so the stage was set. The 2002 World Champion (Liu) would face the 2004 World Champion (Kim) to see who would take their second crown in a race to eleven games. The first rack went Liu's way after Kim scratched and left little work. Her break of the next rack came up dry but the one and the cue ball were eight feet away from one another and Kim, going for a safe, combo'ed in the two and hooked herself on the one. She would go airborne to make the hit and left only a carom on the five for Liu to work.

The carom didn't produce a drop and Kim returned to the table. After an exchange of safeties Kim received ball in hand and took the rack out from there. 1-1. The next two racks were also traded out and the champions each held two games. At this point both were playing cautiously, neither wanting to make an error that would create an opening for the other. Safeties were the order of the day and after Kim hid the cue ball Liu scratched on the kick and Kim completed the run with ease. 3-2

Kim made two balls on the next break and the lay of the balls allowed a run. Kim relaxed and began to get into her form. But she came up very short on position on the nine ball and had to make a tough cut into the side. That done she took a two-game lead at 4-2. It would not last. Liu took the next game and pulled the match close again at 4-3.

Liu's next break was not productive and Kim elected for the safety. It was a good one with the cue ball tucked right up under the five. Liu kicked into the long rail and made the hit but left Kim a shot in the side. Instead of taking the shot she played safe again. Liu had to shoot over an intervening ball and fouled that ball with her stick to give Kim ball in hand. But there were clusters in two areas of the table and Kim elected to go for three fouls. Again she played a good safe. Liu made a bad hit on her kick and was on two fouls. But now the three lined up with the nine for a good combination and Kim played down to that and sank the nine for the game to go up by two again at 5-3.

Two balls disappeared on Kim's break but the one was not available so again she played a safe on Liu. Liu tried to go two rails but could not make the hit and Kim again had ball in hand. She used that to run the rack and move ahead 6-3. Kim made the two ball on the break and had an open table with which to work. But she moved the five out of line when she made the four and lost the pocket. She played safe again. Liu attempted to return the safety but Kim could see the five ball. It did her no good when she missed the five but she caught a good roll as the cue ball ran and hid behind the seven. Liu pulled out the short stick and jumped into the hit but the balls set up well for Kim to finish out the table. She accomplished that with ease and led 7-3.

Kim's lead was due to her ability to keep Liu from ever coming to the table with an opportunity. Liu could only sit in her corner and await an error from the young Korean. That error came in the next rack when Kim missed the six ball and left it clear and open. Liu finished the work that Kim had started in that rack and moved the score to 7-4. She broke the balls well in the next game and was headed out when she snookered herself on the four ball. She settled for a kick into a safe. Kim had to bank the four cross corner and succeeded but she, too, snookered herself and kicked for the hit. Liu then just grazed the edge of the five and moved it safely behind the nine ball to force Kim once again into kicking. Kim made the hit but scratched on the effort. Liu converted on the opportunity and our match moved to 7-5.

Liu's break was working. She was making a ball and squatting the cue ball in the center of the table but the one ball was not helping her at all. She once again had to push out and another safety challenge was on. The challenge ended several turns later when Kim fouled on a jump shot gave Liu the opportunity to run the rest of the rack. She would fail by running well past her position on the eight ball and missing the bank attempt. Kim took the two balls remaining and the match sat at 8-5.

Shin-Mei Liu took the next rack when Kim jawed the eight and then broke and ran the next rack, culminating that with a long-rail bank on the nine to take away Kim's elbow room at 8-7. Liu waltzed through the next rack as well and, with the score tied at eight, the World Championship would now be decided by a race to three games. Even one error could prove fatal.

Rack seventeen was another monster. The balls were breaking apart well, but they would scamper around the table and then meet back up behind the foot string in clusters. After several defensive trips to the table Kim caught a glimpse of a chance and ran out to lead 9-8. She began the next rack with a carom on the three ball then missed a three-quarter table-length cut down the long rail. Her luck held when the one rolled up behind the two to deny Liu a shot. She played a safe but left a narrow window for Kim between the eight and nine for a hit to be made. Traveling that alley, Kim pushed the one ball way uptable where Liu's only offensive option was a bank back in to the corner. Liu edged the one ball and tucked the cue behind the two. Km kicked at the one and it went two rails into the side. She raised her hand in apology to Liu for the fluke.

She was on her way to the hill when the six ball hung in the corner and refused to fall. But Liu ran past her shape on the eight ball and it, too, wound up hanging in a corner pocket. However, the cue ball was behind the nine. Kim played a slight masse to make the eight but was tough on the nine with no easy pocket available. She played a perfect pocket-speed shot to the side to be within one game of the championship at 10-8.

The next rack would not be a gift. He rack came apart well but the one was hidden and Kim had to push. Shin-Mei Liu played a safety that would be a tough escape. She managed the hit but left Liu an opening. Liu sank the one and moved the cue into position in an alley between the three and nine. She dropped the two in the corner, the three in the side, and the five in another corner. The rest of the rack was a roadmap. She was following that map home when she again over-amped her shape and fell tough on the nine ball. She would have to bank it in the side or thin cut it in the corner. She went for the thin cut and the nine ball went to the jaws and bounced there, coming to rest as a pigeon for Kim to shoot to claim the title.

1) Ga-Young Kim
2) Shin-Mei Liu
3) Jasmin Ouschan, Akimi Kajitani
4) Jeannie Seaver, Yukiko Hamanishi, Hsiang-Ling Tan, Line Kjorsvik
9) Makiko Tagaki, Jennifer Barretta, Akio Otani, Chihiro Kawahara, Shu-Han Chang, Helena Thornfeldt, Charlotte Sorenson.
16) Meng-Meng Zhou, Kelly Fisher, Tiffany Nelson, Wendy Jans, Shu-Pin Kao, Keiko Yukawara, Melissa Herndon, Rubilen Amit