Ouschan claims WPA #1 ranking with undefeated run at International Open

Albin Ouschan (Karl Kantrowitz)

Prior to the start of the International Open finals, scheduled for a 9 p.m. start on Saturday, Oct. 30, Austria’s Albin Ouschan approached his upcoming opponent, the Philippines’ Dennis Orcollo, who was practicing at a nearby table. Ouschan noticed that Orcollo was setting up 10-ball racks.

“You’re playing 10-ball?” he asked him, surprised.

“Yeah,” Dennis told him, “because 9-ball’s too easy.”

Apparently not. It was easy enough for Orcollo through three rounds of the Open’s double elimination Stage 1, and the first four matches of single elimination in Phase 2, when he got by Alex Pagulayan (double hill), Fedor Gorst 10-7, Denis Grabe 10-7 and, in the semifinals that immediately preceded his match versus Ouschan, James Aranas 10-8. ‘Easy,’ though, was nowhere to be found in the final match that followed.

Ouschan claimed the 3rd International 9-Ball Open title, joining Chang Jung-Lin (2018) and Jayson Shaw (2019) in the event archives. The victory and the $30,000 check that went with it made Ouschan the WPA’s #1-ranked player in the world. Ouschan’s Phase 2 path went through Justin Martin (double hill), Joshua Filler 10-6, Mika Immonen 10-3, and in the other semifinal, Shane Van Boening 10-7. 

Orcollo started out on the wrong foot, so to speak. He won the lag and was subsequently called for an ‘illegal break’ when the total of three balls, either pocketed or traveling past the head rail, didn’t happen. Ouschan stepped to the table and ran the rack. 

From there, things settled down a bit, as they traded racks back and forth. Rack #2 let the assembled, packed Accu-Stat Arena crowd know that this wasn’t going to be a ‘break and run’ kind of match (there would be only six in the 19 racks). Ouschan broke dry in that second rack and Orcollo wanted no part of the 1-ball that was there to be struck, albeit without a place to put it. They chased that 1-ball around the table for a few innings, playing safe deliberately and missing attempted shots that fortuituously failed to provide a clean opening for the next guy up.

“I think the most safeties I played in a match (at this event) was against Joshua (Filler),” noted Ouschan after the match. “(That) was a crazy defensive match (with some) crazy defensive skills, by both players. 

“I think that’s normal, especially with this break,” he added. “You can’t really control the cue ball that well, so it’s more about who has the luck on the break to continue, and sometimes you just have to play safety.”

Meanwhile, back at the finals, a member of the audience turned to someone sitting beside them and said, “We’re going to be here for a while.”

Ouschan broke the rack #2 logjam, ran to the 6-ball, but snookered himself. He hit it, but missed and Orcollo finished the rack for the match’s first of five ties. Orcollo took his first of what would turn out to be only three leads in rack #3, breaking and running. Three racks later, with Dennis ahead for the last time in the match, Ouschan had his first break and run, tying the score at 3.

In retrospect, racks #9 & #11, with the score tied at 4-4 and then, 5-5 (Orcollo took advantage of an illegal Ouschan break and ran rack #10) might have told the story of the match. They seemed to go on forever. Nine safeties, including one that Orcollo played with ball in hand, a jump safe by Ouschan, a couple of ball in hands and unforced errors. Orcollo tried a bank on the 2-ball in rack #11 that his heart didn’t seem to be in and, no surprise, he missed it. Ouschan took care of that for him but found himself staring at a little 3/6 bundle that he broke up for Orcollo, who played safe. And then, Ouschan scratched. Orcollo made a great cross shot before inexplicably missing a much easier, straight-on shot at the 6-ball to give Ouschan the ball and in the blink of an eye, his 4th lead. As it turned out, he’d never be behind again.

In rack #13, with Ouschan sporting the first two-rack lead of the match, Orcollo broke dry and scratched. Ouschan made a 1-9 combination and was up by three. Later, up by four, 9-5, Ouschan made the 9-ball on the break. Orcollo broke rack #15 and checked in with the first sign of ‘life’ he’d shown in quite a while, breaking and running the rack faster than the shot clock’s 40 seconds.

Orcollo broke dry shooting at rack #18. An unforced error shooting at the 4-ball, gave Ouschan the ball and he ran the rest of them to reach the hill. Ouschan broke and ran rack #19 to claim the event title.

“He didn’t play his A game,” said Ouschan at the conclusion of the match. “At the end, he didn’t even try to play his A game. Maybe he should have taken a little more time with some of his shots, but it is what it is.”

“I’m happy that he (didn’t),” Ouschan added.