Reyes leads opening day winners; Chua dethrones Gomez

Johann Chua breaks Roberto Gomez’s bid of back-to-back Villar Cup title run

BACOLOD CITY – Pool maestro Efren “Bata” Reyes took Mike Takayama to school, blasting the teenage upstart, 11-5, to lead opening round winners of the First Senate President Manny Villar Cup Bacolod Leg yesterday at the the Garden Royal Function Hall of Goldenfields Commercial Complex here.

This as the prestigious island-hopping series will surely have no back-to-back leg champion in its inaugural season after Davao leg ruler Roberto Gomez succumbed to 16-year-old Johann Chua, 11-6, in one of the huge upsets recorded in the first of this four-day event presented by Villards: Tulong sa Pagsulong ng Philippine Sports.

The 54-year-old Reyes, who is trying to end an unusually long title-drought, played the game that made him the icon of the sport as he quickly raced to 7-1 lead against Takayama, one of the rising stars of Philippine billiards who is thrice younger than him.

He then reached the hill after the 12th rack, and after allowing his foe to claim three straight racks, the man also popularly known as the Magician, retook the table and cleaned it up with one of his many trademark tricks to seal the victory and deliver himself to the Last 16 of this $37,800 tournament sponsored by Camella Communities.

Reyes will next face another young turk in Chua, who romped off to a strong start and capitalized on a string of miscues committed by Gomez to steal the victory and move closer to the coveted title and the $15,000 top purse at stake in this event organized by the Billiards Managers and Players Association of the Philippines in cooperation with the city government of Bacolod led by Mayor Evelio Leonardia and the Negros Billiards Stable (NBS) of businessman Jonathan Sy.

Chua, who made it to the tournament via the qualifiers, had a near-flawless performance against his Bugsy stablemate. He pocketed seven of the first nine racks, and after Gomez came close at 7-4, the kid from Binondo, Manila did not waver but instead held on until the win is secured.

Former world champion Alex Pagulayan, playing with an injured toe from a freak accident, later joined Gomez in the wayside as he bowed to unheralded Eduardo Villanueva, 11-5.

Other early first round results saw Joven Bustamante subduing former World Cup of Poll holder Jianbo Fu of China, 11-7; Elmer Haya beating NBS teammate Ricky Zerna, 11-6; and Villar Cup Bulacan leg titlist Ramil Gallego defeating fellow veteran internationalist Antonio Lining, 11-7.

Japanese Kenji Taguchi was the first foreign bet to advance into the round-of-16 as he held off Chris Johannessen of Norway, 11-8.

The rest of the first round matches were still being played at presstime, along with the Panersera-pababa division, where dozens of players, including those who failed in the qualifiers for the International class, are competing.