Kiamco wins 5th Behrman Memorial that brought past US Open 9-Ball competitors back home

Dexter Real, Warren Kiamco, Q Masters Manager Gary Ornoff and Manny Chau

At times, it felt like a high school Homecoming weekend. The $5,000-added, 5th Annual Barry Behrman Memorial Tournament, held this past weekend (April 24-25) at his former pool hall, Q Master Billiards in Virginia Beach, VA offered free entry to Past US Open 9-Ball Championship winners. Though it was a bit of a surprise that only three past champions took advantage of this $200 courtesy – Rodney Morris (’96), Johnny Archer (’99) and Mika Immonen (’08 & ’09) – it was not as much of a surprise that two of them ended up among the event’s final four standing. Immonen and Archer finished 3rd and 4th, respectively (Morris was eliminated by Shaun Wilkie, ending just out of the money in the tie for 17th).

What helped create the homecoming atmosphere was exemplified by the competitor who went undefeated to claim the event title, Warren Kiamco. He was among the 56 entrants at this event and one of a number of competitors who had, over the years, made appearances at the US Open, but didn’t win. Since he first finished in 5th place at the 1998 US Open, Kiamco has cashed in 11 of them, including his best finish, 3rd in 2008. According to records, runner-up, Manny Chau, who lost his first match to the Iceman, Mika Immonen and then won nine on the loss side for a shot at Kiamco in the hot seat, has only cashed in two US Opens (’09 & ‘10). It’s likely that he, like so many others at this event, competed in many others and they all contributed to the ‘coming home’ kind of feeling, including, but not limited to Brandon Shuff, Jeremy Sossei, Matt Krah, Mhet Vergara, Shaun Wilkie, Daniel Dagotdot, Reymart Lim, Tommy Tokoph, Eric Moore and Jeffrey De Luna.

Kiamco opened his nine-match winning campaign with a 9-2 victory over Tom Czaplicki and then ran right into a double hill battle against The Scorpion, Johnny Archer. Kiamco sent Archer on the seven-match, loss-side trip that would end in the quarterfinals, as he advanced to down Daniel Sardoncillo 9-3 and then, in a second double hill fight, Jeffrey De Luna. This put Kiamco in a winners’ side semifinal match against Reymart Lim. 

The Iceman, in the meantime, downed Joe Blackburn 9-1 and sent Manny Chau to the loss side, where he’d win nine in a row against some of the event’s toughest opponents and battle Kiamco in the finals. Iceman advanced to defeat James Davee, double hill, and Brandon Shuff (winner of the debut Barry Behrman Memorial in 2017) 9-4, to draw Jeremy Sossei in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Kiamco defeated Lim 9-4 and in the hot seat match faced Immonen, who’d sent Sossei off 9-3 to an immediate match against the streaking Johnny Archer. A double hill battle for possession of the hot seat followed. In the deciding 17th game, the Iceman had the final two balls in sight, neither of them, nor the positioning necessary to win the match were challenging, except to the extent that all shots are challenges. The 8-ball rattled in a corner pocket and rattled him, as well. It was the first of two straight losses that would leave him in third place. Kiamco was one match and a few hours away from claiming the title.

Archer, in the meantime, working on the loss side, had defeated Bill Mason, Jared Pitts, shut out Garret Vaughn, and eliminated Mhet Vergara, Jimmy Bird and Jeffrey De Luna, to draw Sossei. Chau had navigated his loss-side way through Dylan Carr, Don Perryman, Tommy Tokoph, Eric Moore, ‘young gun’ Shane Wolford, and fought a tough, double hill battle versus Brandon Shuff, to draw Reymart Lim.

Archer and Sossei battled back and forth to a 5-5 tie before Archer began a four-rack streak that would advance him, looking strong, precise and very Scorpion-like, into the quarterfinals. He was joined by Chau, who’d (alliteratively) eliminated Lim 9-5. Chat room commentary and support was split between the two veterans, Archer and Chau. Chau, though, pulled ahead to win it 9-6 and advanced to his re-match against Immonen. Displaying varied levels of frustration that only increased as his semifinal rematch against Chau moved on, Immonen was unable to overcome the steady and competent play of Chau, who won 9-5, earning a shot against Kiamco in the finals.

Though Kiamco and Chau have been around the proverbial block a few times, competing in any number of hot seat matches, loss-side runs and semifinal wins and losses over the years, one might have assumed that the gritty play and consistent time-at-table as Kiamco waited, would have given Chau a bit of an edge in the finals that followed. Kiamco dusted off whatever ‘cobwebs’ that might have formed during his multi-hour wait and opened those finals with three straight racks; a lead that would never really be challenged.

Chau won the 4th rack, but Kiamco came back to increase his lead by four of them at 5-1. Chau chalked up another one, but Kiamco came right back to run four more. Even as Kiamco moved ahead by seven at 9-2 in the race to 11, chat room and stream commentary by Ra Hanna (and others) kept predicting a run by Chau that would close the gap. It came in rack 12, when Kiamco scratched and Chau ran the table to make it 9-3. 

Chau won two more, setting the chat-o-sphere buzzing, before Kiamco responded with the rack that put him on the hill. In what proved to be the final rack, Kiamco cleared the table and lined up a straight-on shot at the 9-ball. Chau conceded at that point. Kiamco stood up when Chau gestured his concession, acknowledged the courtesy and got back down to aim. He changed his mind about the straight-on shot and in a sort of punctuation move, hit the 9-ball hard and watched it travel three rails and fall into a side pocket.

Tournament director Dexter Real thanked the ownership and staff at Q Master Billiards, as well as Virginia Novelty, Holt, MW Designs Fences and Decks, National Billiard Academy, Nick Varner Cues, Diamond Billiard Products, team straight pool eye and Littman lights. He also thanked Ra Hanna and his On the Wire Creative Media crew for an excellently commentated stream throughout the weekend.