Kazakis goes undefeated to claim Open/Pro side of 9th Annual Ginky Memorial
May 29, 2019
May 29, 2019
Jayson Shaw, Alex Kazakis, James Aranas and Hunter Lombardo
In the absence of defending champion, Klenti Kaci and runner-up Lee Van Corteza (or third-place finisher, Mike Dechaine), Jayson Shaw and Alex Kazakis were the early, euphemistic ‘fan favorites’ going into the 9th Annual George “Ginky” Sansouci Memorial Tournament, held over this past Memorial Day weekend (May 25-27). There was a bit of a collective groan when Shaw stumbled in the third round, falling to Del Sim, double hill, to begin a loss-side trip, but the Scotsman validated fan interest in his abilities when he won seven on the loss side to meet Kazakis in the finals. Kazakis, though, coming off his best earnings year to date (2018), completed an undefeated run by downing Shaw in the finals to claim the 9th Open/Pro 10-Ball Ginky Memorial title. The $2,000-added event, held under the combined auspices of the Predator Pro Am, Tri-State and Mezz Tours, drew 36 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.
The weekend also included a $2,000-added Amateur event, which, like the Open/Pro event drew a record field of 169 entrants, divided initially into upper and lower handicapped brackets. Jason Sheerman won seven on the loss side to meet and defeat the man who’d sent him there, Jimmy Acosta, in the finals. Further details on the Ginky Memorial’s Amateur tournament, which once again, crowned a unique champion, will be featured in a separate report.
As it turned out, Del Sim’s triumph over the event’s presumed ‘favorite’ was short-lived and ended with a 9-4 loss to Kazakis in one of the winners’ side quarterfinals. What was left at that point was a list of three usual suspects, with one unusual suspect to compete in the winners’ side semifinals. Kazakis advanced to face Jeremy Sossei, who’d just survived a double hill fight versus Raphael Dabreo. The other usual suspect, Zoren James Aranas, advanced to meet the somewhat unusual suspect, 19-year-old Russian phenom, Kristina Tkach, who was the event’s only female competitor.
Kazakis sent Sossei to the loss side 9-7, while Aranas sent Tkach west 9-3. Early on, in the battle for the hot seat, it looked as though the second ‘fan favorite’ – Kazakis – was going to join Shaw on the loss side. Aranas jumped out to a 4-0 lead, before Kazakis woke up and chalked up four of his own to tie it and then, take the lead at 5-4. Aranas responded with three racks to tie and retake the lead at 7-5. They proved to be the last three racks he would win in the match. Kazakis followed his five-in-a-row with four-in-a-row to reach the hill first and then, claim the hot seat.
Over on the loss side, Kristina Tkach drew an immediate rematch against the man she’d defeated in the third round of play, Hunter Lombardo. Lombardo had defeated Jimmy Rivera 9-5, Raphael Dabreo 9-1 and moving into the first money round, just did survive a double hill fight against the Ginky Memorial’s 2016 champion Zion Zvi. Zvi had previously spoiled any hopes Shaw might have been entertaining about a rematch versus Del Sim by defeating Sim 9-6. Sossei had the misfortune of picking up Shaw, four matches into his loss-side winning streak, having given up only eight racks over the past 35 games; two to Mhet Vergara, three to Alan Rolon and three to Dmitris Loukatos.
Lombardo successfully navigated his way through his rematch against Tkach, which was tight through about the halfway point of the match. He pulled out in front and advanced to the quarterfinals 9-5. Shaw joined him after eliminating Sossei by the same 9-5 score.
Shaw took an early 3-0 lead in the quarterfinals, after which, briefly, it looked as though Lombardo was going to give him a run for his money, literally. Lombardo won two to draw within one at 3-2. Shaw, though, roared right back to win another three in a row to go out in front by four at 6-2. Lombardo fought back a second time with another two, but they’d prove to be the last two. Shaw added his third run of three to win it 9-4.
Now, as one might imagine, things started to tighten up. Though externally calm and composed, it was clear from the semifinal get-go that both Shaw and Aranas wanted a shot at Kazakis in the hot seat. From all appearances, this might just have been a match between two buddies with nothing at stake but a good time playing pool; there was no grim determination, or frustration over the occasional (actually, rare) bad rolls. Even the mistakes, and there were a few, were met with an easy sense of humor as these two battled to see who’d be relegated to a third-place finish. It was rare to see either of them actually finish a rack. Each of them conceding up to three balls at the end of racks to move on.
Shaw took the opener and Aranas came back to tie it. Shaw won two and then, they traded racks back and forth to 5-3. Aranas missed the 8-ball in the 9th rack and conceded the final three balls to give Shaw a 6-3 lead. Aranas came right back with three in a row to tie things at 6-6 and then sunk four on the break, ran the other six balls and took his first lead at 7-6. It would be his last. Shaw won three straight to end the Filipino’s weekend 9-7.
The match everybody had been waiting for, was on.
It was a modified race to 11. If Shaw reached 11 first, they’d extend the match to 13. At the 8-7 mark, with Kazakis out in front, that probability remained. But getting there was more than half of the fun of this match, which was preceded by a few trick shot demonstrations by the two of them. Accompanied by microphone commentary that introduced the finalists, they placed two object balls on a diagonal from each other, and stroked the two balls simultaneously. The balls collided at the center of the table, each of them bouncing off the other and landing in a pocket. One time, one of the balls failed to drop into its designated pocket, but bounced off of an extra rail to land in a side pocket.
Demonstrations over, they lined up for the lag, won by Kazakis, who opened the proceedings with a win. Shaw responded with a win of his own to mark the first of four ties. Kazakis got out in front by two at 3-1, but Shaw came back to win two to tie it at 3-3. At 5-5, the tide turned in Kazakis’ favor. He won three in a row to give himself an 8-5 lead that he’d never relinquish (Shaw conceded the last three balls in the rack that gave Kazakis this biggest lead of the match).
Shaw closed the gap with two in a row to pull within one at 8-7, but in the following rack, Kazakis made a match-defining shot – an oblique angle, long table bank shot on the 8-ball – that led Shaw to concede the game’s last two balls. Kazakis won the next rack to reach the hill first and though Shaw won the 18th rack, Kazakis took the 19th to claim the event title.
Event director Tony Robles thanked Manny Stamatakis and his entire Steinway Billiards staff, who worked tirelessly, professionally and with remarkable grace throughout a long weekend with over 200 pool players and a contingent of venue regulars who spent time playing chess and backgammon at nearby tables. Robles also acknowledged his regular tour sponsors, including Predator Cues, Ozone Billiards, PlayNAPL.com, Capelle (Billiards Press.com), PoolontheNet.com, The DeVito Team, as well as the cooperation of the other sponsoring tours (Tri-State and Mezz Tours) and the tireless, non-stop live stream operated by Upstate Al and his broadcast team.
Robles also made note to all in attendance of the defining fact that this annual event is held each year in memory of George “Ginky” Sansouci, who passed away in 2011, and whose legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of innumerable players in the New York area and wherever “Ginky” played. The event was attended by members of the Sansouci family, who were accorded ‘front row’ seating privileges for all of the live-streamed matches and remain deeply grateful for the opportunity to celebrate Ginky’s life with a living, breathing memorial to his influence on the game and the people who continue to play it.