Luat Looks To All Kansai 9-Ball Open

Rodolfo Luat

VETERAN Filipino cue artist Rodolfo “Boy Samson” Luat looks to sustain his runner-up finish in the recently-concluded 2007 Derby City Classic 9-Ball tournament as he competes in the forthcoming 17th Annual All Kansai 9-Ball Open on January 20-21 at the Mag Suminoe Billiards Hall in Osaka, Japan.

It shall be recalled that Luat narrowly lost to Niels “Terminator” Feijen of the Netherlands in the finals of the said tournament, which was held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Despite failing to win any of the three major events in the classic, the Angeles City native Luat still finished second to compatriot Efren “Bata” Reyes in the Master of the Table award that gave him $3,000 dollars to go with $8,400 runner-up prize in the 9-Ball division.

The 50-year-old Luat, playing under the banner of Jonathan “Bacolod” Sy stable finish runner-up to eventual winner American John Schmidt in the 2006 US Open in Chessapeake in Virginia and topped the 2006 SMB Asian 9-ball tour Kaoshiung leg in Taiwan.

Aside from Luat, other Filipino cue artists competing in Kansai, which offers a top purse of 1-million yen, are reigning world champion Ronato “Ronnie Calamba” Alcano, 2006 All Japan champion Lee Van Corteza, 2006 World Pool Leaque kingpin Dennis “Robocop” Orcollo, Antonio “Nickoy” Lining, Ramil “Bebeng” Gallego, Roel Esquillo, Rudy Morta, Dondon Razalan and Carlo “Cool” Biado.

It will be a first major tournament of Alcano this year.

“We are confident that our players will continue their domination in the annual All Kansai Open,” said Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP) president Ernesto “Ernie” Fajardo.

“Our triumph in the Derby City Classic provided a good start for our campaign this year, and the BSCP sees no reason of it stopping. Instead we are looking forward for another banner year,” he added.

Reyes, and Francisco “Django” Bustamante were also invited to play in the tournament, but according to their long-time manager, Rolly “Lando” Vicente, the two have yet to confirm their participation.

The Filipinos are eyeing the repeat of their 2005 campaign there, where they dominated the event with Warren “Warrior” Kiamco emerging as the champion with Orcollo, Gallego, and Lining completing a 1-2-3-4 finish for the Philippines.

Masaaki Tanaka is the defending champion and will lead the host country's charge along with Asian Games 8-Ball gold medalist Satoshi Kawabata.

Osaka is the hometown of Kawabata, who is best remembered for coming from behind to foil Antonio “Ga-Ga” Gabica, 9-7, in the 8-ball gold-medal match at the recent 15th Asian Games in Doha, Qatar.

Also expected to compete in the race-to-nine tournament are former world champions Wu Chia-ching and Chao Fong-pang of Taiwan and Kunihiko Takahashi of Japan, rising Japanese star and 2005 Austria world junior runner-up Hatayo Hijikata, South Koreans Jeong Young-Hwa and Kim Woong-Dae and another ex-world titlist Ralf “Kaiser” Souquet of Germany and Mika “The Iceman” Immonen of Finland.

Wu, who supplanted Filipino-Canadian Alex “The Lion” Pagulayan as WPC champion in 2005, teamed up with Yang Ching-Shun to defeat Takahashi and Hijikata, 10-7, to win the recent Mezz Crowd Nine Cup Scotch doubles tournament in Tokyo, Japan last month.

The Filipino pair of Gabica and Jeffrey “The Bull” de Luna settled for third place after a 9-1 rout of Koreans Jeong and Kim.

File photo courtesy of Diana Hoppe - Pool Pics by Hoppe