Pedro Piedrabuena Retains His Crown

Pedro Piedrabuena
The Champion of Champions event opened Thursday morning with 11 of the best players in America, each a former national champion or second place winner, anxious to prove who would lay claim to this year's title. Following a short practice schedule on the three Gabriels Kronos tables, the first round began. Last year's trophy holder, Pedro Piedrabuena beat Bill Smith 35-18 in 30 innungs on table 1. Miguel Torres, after driving 3 hours from New York and testing the table for a few minutes, won the lag and soon was in the midst of a run of 10. A 35 to 20 victory over Frank Torres in 19 innings quickly followed. Not to be outdone, Hugh Patino had a run of 13 in his opening round victory over George Ashby (35-20 in 28 innings).

Good play continued during the second round. In a mild upset, Michael Kang bested Jae Cho 35 to 19 in 21 innings. Hugo Patino won his second of the day by a score of 35 to 14 over Frank Torres in just 24 innings. Sonny Cho topped Mercedes Gonzales in 25 innings, holding his opponent to 17 innings. Mercedes played well but missed several close billiards and could not keep pace.

The struggles began in the third round. Mazin Shooni averaged 1.000 in beating Mercedes, who scored but 20. Again, Mercedes missed half a dozen close ones, and it was clear that both she and Mazin had trouble adjusting to the slippery and long tables. Pedro won his second of the day but also had trouble, needing 31 innings to defeat George Ashby, who managed 29 in the same number of frames. But the real story—and the first surprise of the event—happened on table 3 in round 3. Bill Smith and Jae Cho traded billiards for the first dozen innings, but Mr. Three Cushion started to pull away after the score was knotted at 10. By playing careful defense, Smith left his opponent without any good leaves inning after inning. Gradually, Smith pulled away, finally securing a 35 to 24 victory in 31 innings.

At the end of two rounds, Pedro Piedrabuena had two victories and was averaging 1.148. Hugo Patino also had two victories but a better grand average, at 1.346. Mercedes Gonzales, Frank Torres, Jae Cho and George Ashby were winless, each 0-2. Bill Smith was 1 and 1, and Michael Kang, Miguel Torres and Mazin Shooni were each 1-0. The tournament average was at 1.064.

Day 2:

The second day of the Champion of Champions extravaganza started Friday morning with the crowd still buzzing about the night before, when Mazin Shooni and Sonny Cho added another classic match to their storied rivalry. The two old foes traded billiards for twenty innings, each averaging over 1.000. Mazin slowly pulled ahead, 32 to 28. He made a reverse spin shot for 33, and a 7 rail back-up for 34. The balls rolled favorably, and he was left with a short-angle shot, which he played with confidence and a little spin. As Mazin's cue ball came off the second rail, Sonny got out of his chair to offer his hand in congratulations, but to his and Mazin's surprise, the cue ball flattened out off the third rail. It missed by less than nothing Mazin would later say. Mazin sat down, and Sonny used the reprieve by running 7 and out for the victory.

In other action Thursday evening, George Ashby jumped to a 10 to 0 lead in 3 innings but Miguel Torres stormed back with runs of 10 and 11, notching a 35 to 20 win in 19 innings. Pedro Piedrabuena posted the best game, closing out Mercedes Gonzales in 18 innings. As play ended Thursday, Piedrabuena, Hugo Patino, Sonny Cho and Miguel Torres remained undefeated.

In first round action Friday morning, Hugo Patino put his undefeated record on the line as he lagged for the break against Mercedes Gonzales. She won the right to open the game, and she started with a 3, then followed it up with another 3, then a 4. She raced to a 20 to 4 lead, and then built it to 25 to 8. A long time out called by Hugo cooled Mercedes off, and he started making billiards in twos and threes. The audience wondered whether she could finish without being caught. She couldn't. Hugo caught her at 31, notched another in the next inning and closed with a run of 3 for a 35 to 31 victory.

Mercedes had played well, averaging .796, but had nothing to show for it except five losses. After a bad first day, Jae Cho staged a comeback with a morning victory over George Ashby. In the next session, he ran 4 and out to best Mazin Shooni 35 to 30. He closed the day with a 35 to 20 victory over Mercedes, sealing the W with a run of 7 and out.

After a fine victory over Jae Cho during the first day, Bill Smith was not able to continue the success, with losses to Hugo and Mazin. He rebounded with a victory over Frank Torres, who had shown great skills at times but had been inconsistent. Ashby finally found his aim in his last game of the day, defeating Sonny Cho in 20 innings.

As Friday ended, Pedro, Hugo and Miguel had still not tasted defeat. They would clash on Saturday. Sonny Cho had just one loss. Mazin Shooni and Michael Kang had three losses each. All the other players had at least four losses. The overall grand average at the close of the last session on Friday was 1.096, with Pedro's 1.423 and Hugo's 1.411 setting the standard for all others.

Day 3:

At the start of the third day of play at the Champion of Champions, tournament director Charles Brown awarded Pedro Piedrabuena a victory by forfeit when Mazin Shooni did not arrive on time for their 11:00 a.m. match. After waiting 40 minutes, Brown declared the forfeit. Mazin arrived a few minutes later, but Brown's decision stood despite Mazin's protest. With the forfeit in hand, Pedro remained undefeated, but not for long.

Also victorious in the first round was Hugo Patino. Sonny Cho rebounded after his Friday night loss with a 35 to 24 victory over Jae Cho, whose struggles continued. With Mazin still fuming over his forfeit, he found it hard to concentrate, and Miguel Torres rolled over him to a 35 to 21 victory.

Mercedes Gonzales edged Frank Torres by 1, and in one of the highlight matches between two veterans, George Ashby bested Bill Smith 35 to 23. According to Smith, that was the 39th time the two had played in a tournament. Their rivalry actually goes back to when they were youngsters. A mutual friend, Bill Johnson from Michigan, clapped his hands as Ashby made the final billiard. "They started playing when they were 12 years old," Johnson explained. "They've made a lot of billiards against each other in their careers."

Miguel Torres could not keep pace with Pedro or Hugo, losing to Sonny Cho 35 to 24 in 18 innings. With the score 28 to 25 in favor of Torres, Cho broke open the game with a run of 7, then closed it out two innings later. On the adjacent table, Pedro put on a display of control and position, crushing Jae Cho in 18 innings.

And then, the plot thickened. Jae Cho dispensed Patino with a marvelous display of cue wizardry. Twenty minutes later, Pedro stepped to the table for his last match of the day. A win over Miguel Torres would all but seal the tournament trophy, but Torres proved a wily foe, squeaking out a 35 to 34 victory and tossing the tournament into chaos.

After Saturday's last session, the overall grand average was 1.070. Pedro and Hugo have posted the highest grand averages, both over 1.400. With Pedro, Hugo and Miguel sitting with one loss each, the grand averages were critical, as the highest average would be the tie-breaker for anyone with identical win-loss records.

Day 4:

The final match of the day came down to Pedro Piedrabuena and Hugo Patino. With Hugo comfortably in the lead early on, Pedro decided to run a 16, the tournament high run, taking over the lead. Talk about timing. Hugo took a time out and rightfully so.

As it neared the end of the 35 point match, Pedro was winning 34-31, but Hugo was at the table. He quickly ran a 2 and then had what seemed to be a fairly easy shot but missed it a hair long. Pedro was left with a very difficult position where it seemed like he might have a 5 or 7 rail around the table shot, but potential kisses were everywhere. Instead he played a very difficult, precision up and down shot which looked as if he may have had a little reverse english on it. The last ball was right in the middle of the table so it was a very small target. Pedro made the fantastic out shot and sealed his 2nd consecutive victory as the Champion of Champions!

Watch Pedro's final shot by clicking here

Prize Fund 
1st Place $5,000.00 
2nd Place $2,000.00 
3rd Place $1,500.00 
4th Place $1,200.00 
5th Place $1,100.00 
6th Place $1,000.00 
7th Place $900.00 
8th Place $800.00 
9th Place $700.00 
10th Place $600.00 
11th Place $500.00 
Best Game $100.00 
High Run $100.00 
Total $15,500.00