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2021 American 14.1 Straight Pool Championship – Pia Filler vs April Larson

 

Defending champ still standing as semifinals set for American 14.1 Straight Pool Championships

Ruslan Chinakhov

Filler highlights Day Four with 156-0 victory over Albin Ouschan

And then there were four. And four.

Highlighted by a 156-0 run by Joshua Filler that took just over half an hour, the men battled for most of Day Four at the American 14.1 Straight Pool Championships to arrive at the event’s final four. At noon today (Sat., Oct. 23), Filler will meet Mieszko Fortunski in the event’s semifinals. Defending champion Ruslan Chinahov will take on Fedor Gorst at the same time. The men’s semifinals will coincide with the women’s semifinals, both of which will be streamed live in a collaboration between AZBTv and IStreamPool that will allow people to watch both of the men’s and women’s semifinals. 

The women played their first single elimination round last night (Friday), after a long day settling on the ‘who is and who isn’t’ advancing question (more on this later, as results occur).

As far as we have been able to determine, the 156-0 run by Joshua Filler was the first such 150-ball run (Filler dropped six balls after he’d hit 150) in a professional 14.1 straight pool setting since 1992, when Mike Sigel took down Mike Zuglan in the finals of the then 14.1 Straight Pool Championships in New York. There appeared to be some disagreement about this among the gathered crowd, but nobody disputed that it was a remarkable achievement. And it put Filler into the semifinals against Mieszko Fortunski at noon today (Saturday), Mieszko having defeated Wiktor Zielinski 150-44 in their quarterfinal matchup.

The other story of the quarterfinals was the advancement of the event’s defending champion, Ruslan Chinahov, who defeated Max Lechner 150-65. That will put him up against Fedor Gorst, who’d defeated Oliver Szolnoki 150-110 to become the tightest battle of the event quarterfinal.

The final round of the Round Robin stage of the Ladies event started at 5 p.m. It finished up around 9:30, when Janet Atwell and Bethany Sykes closed out a 4-hour-plus struggle that had kept three or four women wondering if they’d qualify for the opening round of single elimination. There were at least three women ‘on the bubble’ and as they and the already-qualified gathered and chatted at the restaurant/bar, the Atwell/Sykes battle kept going, a room away.  The different win/loss scenarios at work in the Atwell/Sykes match would have an impact on the overall win/loss records, head-to-head matches and point differentials of all who hoped to advance and in professional sports parlance, they were relaxed and enjoying themselves, but engaging in a little ‘scoreboard watching,’ too.

Among the women who knew they’d qualified for advancement to the women’s final eight before the Atwell/Sykes match ended were the ones who’d finished 1st in their group; Kelly Fisher (4-0), Brittany Bryant (4-0), and Pia Filler (3-1). Three of the Pia Filler, Liz Taylor, Kia Burwell, Dawn Hopkins and April Larson group went 3-1, with Filler and Larson getting the automatic advance on the basis of their record, and overall better point differential. Filler at 113 and Larson at 96, had each dropped that many more balls than their opponents during the round robin phase. Hopkins advanced as a ‘wild card’ because she was the only competitor among all those who finished third in their groups with a 3-1 record.

Monica Webb, in Kelly Fisher’s group finished 2nd with a 3-1 record and advanced automatically. The final 2nd place finish and 2nd ‘wild card’ would await the finish of the Atwell/Sykes match. Without delving too deeply into the calculations, Mary Rakin Tam, Gail Eaton and of course, Atwell herself were invested in how that final Round Robin match played out.

Atwell won, 80-68 to finish 2nd in her group and advance automatically. Mary Rakin Tam picked up the 2nd ‘wild card’ slot, having allowed her opponents 20 balls less than Gail Eaton’s opponents had allowed her.

Less than an hour later, the first round of the first ladies single elimination phase got underway. 

Mary Rakin Tam tossed a wry grin and a raise of her eyebrows to the fact that she hadn’t even known she was going to advance, and then, realized that she’d drawn Kelly Fisher in the first single elimination round. Atwell made do with the short break she got and squared off against Pia Filler. April Larson faced Monica Webb and the undefeated Brittany Bryant took on the ‘wild card’ from the Filler, Taylor, Burwell, Hopkins and Larson group, Dawn Hopkins.

Kelly Fisher earned her spot in the noontime today (Saturday) semifinals with an 80-32 win over Mary Rakin Tam. Fisher will face April Larson, who downed Monica Webb in the tightest quarterfinal match 80-65. 

Hopkins defeated the previously undefeated Brittany Bryant 80-46. In the semifinals, Hopkins will meet Pia Filler, who defeated Janet Atwell 80-62.

So, to recap. . . Men’s and women’s semifinals at noon, women’s finals at 3 p.m. and men’s finals at 6 p.m. All will be streamed live on IStreamPool’s  and AZBTv’s Facebook, with links to be found on the 14.1 Straight Pool Championship Facebook page. 

Kelly Fisher downs defending champ Tkach in finals of WPBA Sondheim Kiwanis Invitational

Kelly Fisher

It almost didn’t matter who won.

Almost.

It was just encouraging, not to mention great fun to watch 48 of the world’s best women pool players compete again under the banner of their signature organization, the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA), for the first time in nearly two years, when many of the same competitors met for the 2020 Ashton Twins Classsic in Alberta, Canada (won by Allison Fisher). The 2021 site for this 2nd Sondheim Kiwanis Invitational (Sept. 10-12) was once again, the Fairfield Convention Center in Fairfield, Iowa, where, two years ago, Taipei’s Tzu-Chien Wei and Russia’s Kristina Tkach met twice, with Wei winning their winners’ side semifinal matchup. Three loss-side matches later, Tkach came back to down Wei in the finals.

This year, in the absence of Tzu-Chien Wei, Tkach went undefeated to the hot seat, having, in an epic battle, sent soon-to-be Hall of Famer Kelly Fisher to the semifinals. Fisher came back from those semifinals and wasted no time establishing a rhythm that had eluded her in the hot seat match and dethroned the event’s defending champion. The $10,000-added event drew 48 invited entrants to the Fairfield Convention Center.

Fisher left Iowa almost immediately for a flight to Philadelphia and subsequent trip to Atlantic City, where today (Tuesday), she took the opportunity to talk about the win. She did so just minutes before facing Tkach again in the second round of Matchroom Sports’ US Open. 

“(Though) I’d been playing in Open events,” she said of her WPBA win, “it was the first all-women’s event since Covid and it was fantastic.”

“It felt quite surreal,” she added, “but within a day, it was like we’d never left.”

Fisher and Tkach were among 16 of the 48 entrants who received automatic entry into the second round. Tkach had to battle right from the start. She opened up against Michelle Monk and then, in order, downed Teruko Cucculelli and Jessica Barnes (for an aggregate score of 24-16) to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal match against Jennifer Baretta. Fisher got by Angela Janic (doing double duty by working the live stream of selected matches), Ashley Burrows, and Monica Webb with a much better aggregate score of 24-6 to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal matchup against Canadian Brittany Bryant, who’d faced Tkach in the quarterfinals of the 2019 event.

There were a number of notable, ‘under card’ matchups on both sides of the bracket in this event. April Larson, for example, the five-time BEF Junior Champion, downed Caroline Pao and Loree Jon Hasson before she was sent to the loss-side by long-time, frequent opponent Brittany Bryant in the winners’ side quarterfinals. Long-time rivals Jeannie Seaver and Stephanie Mitchell met up in the second round. On the loss side, Loree Jon and Line Kjorsvik met up (Kjorsvik advancing), as did Kjorsvik and Bryant (Kjorsvik advancing again). It was April Larson, who ended up stopping Kjorsvik’s loss-side run in a not-so-under-card setting.

Tkach downed Baretta 8-3 to earn her spot in the hot seat match. Fisher joined her after defeating Bryant 8-4. Fisher’s somewhat expected advance through the field hit a ‘speed bump’ in the hot seat match. Tkach chalked up more racks against her than all of her first three opponents combined (8-6) and claimed the hot seat by that score.

Her 24-6 start notwithstanding, Fisher was, as she put it, “off-footed at the start” of her hot seat match versus Tkach and made a couple of mistakes, to include scratching on a couple of occasions.

“It’s frustrating when you’re ‘off’ and can’t put your finger on why,” she said, “and then, when you scratch on top of it . . .”

On the loss side, Baretta picked up April Larson, who’d followed her defeat at the hands of Bryant with victories over two JPNEWT veterans, Kia Sidbury 8-3 and a second win over Caroline Pao 8-4. Bryant ran right into Line Kjorsvik, who had lost her opening round match and was on a six-match, loss-side run that had recently included wins over Loree Jon Hasson 8-4, Gail Eaton 8-5 and Dawn Hopkins 8-1.

Larson moved into the quarterfinals with an 8-5 win over Baretta and was joined by Kjorsvik, who’d survived a double hill battle over Bryant. Larson ended Kjorsvik’s loss-side run 8-6 and turned to face Fisher in the semifinals. Former junior champion and soon-to-be house pro at Stixx and Stones Billiards in Lewisville, TX versus established world champion and soon-to-be-inducted Hall of Famer Kelly Fisher, just itching for a second shot at Tkach in the hot seat.

Larson, known as “The Grinder,” was already looking at one of her top finishes on the ‘pro circuit’ since her final year as a junior competitor in 2016. She’d won the 2nd Annual Ashton Twins Classic a year later, finished in 3rd place at the WPBA’s Ho-Hunk Classic in Minnesota a year after that, and earlier this year, was runner-up to Tkach at the 7th Annual Junior Morris Memorial Shootout in Texas, where she’ll be heading in a couple of weeks to take up that position as house pro at Stixx & Stones. Like Fisher, “The Grinder” was itching for a shot at the young woman against whom she has been competing for some time.

It didn’t happen. Fisher stopped Larson’s four-match, loss-side run with an 8-4 win to earn her shot at Tkach. She gave Larson credit for “coming back at her” in that semifinal and noted that the hot seat loss might have done her a favor.

“It was a good comeback for her,” Kelly said of April’s work in the semifinal. “I did get going in that (semifinal) and it put me in good stead for the final.”

As one might have expected from a world champion, she took full advantage of the opportunity she was provided and wasted no time establishing her credentials in the final matchup. She found the rhythm she needed and gave up only a single match to Tkach in the race-to-10 finals, claiming the event title.

Though wide, final score margins can often mask struggles in the back and forth of individual games, Fisher noted that she got off to a good start and basically, just never looked back. 

“I wanted to play well against (Tkach),” she said. “I didn’t care about win or lose . . . I mean, I care, but for me, it’s more about playing a good match; me, playing well. I started off, broke, ran out and got sharp pretty quickly. I was up 9-0, without an error that I can remember.”

“(Tkach),” she added, “got unfortunate with her break, missed a couple of shots. Things certainly went my way.

Waiting for her next match versus Tkach, which both knew was likely to occur, based on the bracket draws, she reflected on how their soon-to-be lag for the break might take on added significance.

“More than anything, though,” she said. “I just want to play well.”

Representatives of the WPBA thanked the Fairfield Convention Center and its staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Diamond Tables, Aramith Balls, Simonis Cloth, Ottumwa Radio, Mad Hatter Billiards, 2nd Avenue Corner Pocket in Cedar Rapids, Seven Roses Inn and Premier Car Rental. They also thanked Daryn J. Hamilton, a member of the WPBA Board of Directors, for acting as a sponsor, promoter and added money to the prize fund. They also extended thanks to Angela Janic, who “figured out how to do the live stream and then did a phenomenal job doing it.” 

Stixx And Stones Adds Another House Pro

April Larson

April Larson joins Stixx and Stones as female house pro

We are excited to announce a new member on our Stixx and Stones Team – April Larson, our new female house pro. We are looking forward to what April brings to Stixx and Stones and the Dallas-Fort Worth pool community.

April Larson from Bloomington, Minnesota and is making the move to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to join Stixx and Stones. She will be joining Chris Reinhold at Stixx and Stones as our house pro. April brings a lot of energy to the community, and we look forward to supporting and collaborating with her. Anytime she is not participating in pool tournaments, she will be practicing at Stixx and Stones and ready to interact and play with all our new and loyal customers.

We are excited to have her on board working alongside Chris with our youth program and growing our women’s outreach here in Texas. We know she is just as excited as we are in beginning this new journey together.

April Larson is a two-time bronze medalist at the Junior World Championships, a five-time Atlantic Challenge Cup Team USA member (two-time MVP) and has been a women’s professional pool player since the age of 15.

Anju Bergman, one of the management team, said in a statement today, “The Youth and Ladies programs are near and dear to our heart. This is just the beginning of what we have planned to grow the sport in those two areas! We can’t wait to have April share her experiences and ideas with the Youth and Ladies pool scene. ”

About Cue Sports and Entertainment Group Inc / Stixx and Stones is a Cue Sports focused company based in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex; Stixx and Stones is its first Pool Hall located in Lewisville, Texas that has become “DFWs Favorite Pool Hall where you meet old friends and make new ones”. Together they are focused on innovative ideas and services to help grow all aspects of the pool community.

Gomez Survives Brave Ouschan Fightback At World Pool Championship

Albin Ouschan congratulates Roberto Gomez

Roberto Gomez defeated Albin Ouschan 9-7 to advance to the last 64 of the World Pool Championship at Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes, but only after a brilliant fightback from the Austrian, who had been 8-0 down.

Ouschan is still alive in the double elimination event and will now face a sudden-death play-off to qualify for the straight-knockout stage. After getting on the board at 8-0 down, Ouschan would have thought his fightback was brief until Gomez missed an 8, and from then the 2016 World Champion set to work on winning six consecutive racks before a missed 6 at just one behind gave his Filipino opponent the chance to win.

Also on the TV table on Sunday evening was US No.1 Shane van Boening, who got his tournament off with a 9-3 win over Petr Urban. He’ll now face fellow American Oscar Dominguez for a place in the last 64.

Germany’s Veronika Ivanovskaia shocked Greece’s Nick Malai with a 9-7 victory, the first win for one of the tournament’s eight female entrants. Ivanovskaia’s compatriot Joshua Filler also got off to a winning start, beating Belarsus’ Margarite Fefilova.

American female April Larson gave Chris Melling a scare before the Brit closed out a 9-7 victory, while Darren Appleton booked his place in the last 64 with a 9-2 success over Germany’s Christof Reintjes, who was on the winning side when the pair were on opposing teams in the World Cup of Pool final last month.

Defending champion Fedor Gorst is safely through to the last 64 after wins over Mark Magi and Mark Gray. Team USA’s Mosconi Cup star Billy Thorpe has also won through the groups stage, as had former World Champion Thorsten Hohmann.

The World Pool Championship continues at 12pm (UK) time on Monday, June 7 and is broadcast live on Sky Sports, DAZN and Matchroom.Live. Live scoring as well as complete tournament results and match schedule can be found at www.matchroompool.com.

Fisher downs Baretta twice to win first WPBA Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge

There was reportedly very little trouble finding members of the Women’s Professional Billiards Association (WPBA) who were anxious to play some competitive pool with each other, albeit from the comfort of their own home and/or pool room. Based on an idea brought up by Dawn Hopkins, Angela Janic, a relatively new member of the WPBA, volunteered to organize and coordinate the organization’s first (and definitely not the last) Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge during the week of May 10-16. While so-called ‘ghost’ matches and isolated streaming events have been cropping up on the Internet since the restrictions brought on by the pandemic began, this was something relatively new; a 16-entrant, double elimination tournament with prize money that pitted players from around the globe against each other, playing against the ‘ghost,’ a ‘player’ normally only encountered in practice, when a player is alone.

From her home pool room in Dumfries, Scotland, Kelly Fisher went undefeated through the field and downed Jennifer Baretta, playing from her pool room in Brooklyn, NY (Skyline Billiards), twice; once, battling for the hot seat and again, in the finals. Talking to both players, it was apparent that winning or losing wasn’t among the things that resonated in their minds about playing in the tournament.

“It was really good fun,” said Fisher. “I really enjoyed it.”

Baretta had played some ‘ghost’ matches in a recent USA vs. Europe matchup and found the experience to be “kind of nerve wracking.”

“But now,” she said, “I want to play more of them.”

“In practice, I play the ghost all the time,” she added. “I play a race to 7, but I play so that if I miss, I have to kick and/or bank (subsequent balls).”

This WPBA event was based on playing 10 racks, per player, per match. Players were allowed to begin shooting after their break with ball-in-hand. Essentially, each ball was worth one point, though if you ran the rack, you’d get an extra point for 10 points total, available per rack. There were 15 points available for a rack if you chose not to take advantage of ball-in-hand after the break. A number of the 30 matches ended before one of the competitors had completed the 10 racks, because one player had scored enough points to make ‘catching’ that player impossible.

Fisher’s path to the winners’ circle ran through Lonnie Fox-Raymond and April Larson, before coming up against Monica Webb in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Baretta downed Eugenia Gyftopoulos and Canada’s Suzanne Peters to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Dawn Hopkins.

With Allison Fisher and LoreeJon Hasson commentating on the live stream, Kelly Fisher defeated Webb 104-70. Baretta sent Hopkins to the loss side 83-69. In the hot seat match that followed, Fisher chalked up the event’s highest score of 120, when she ran all 10 racks, four of them which she ran without benefit of ball-in-hand at the start.

Upon her arrival on the loss side of the bracket, Dawn Hopkins picked up an immediate rematch against Mary Rakin Tam, whom she’d defeated in the opening round and who was working on a three-match, loss-side winning streak during which she’d eliminated Cheryl Baglin, April Larson and one of the event’s significant organizers, Angela Janic. Webb drew Line Kjorsvik, who’d lost her opening round match to April Larson and was also working on a three-match, loss-side winning streak that had eliminated Lonnie Fox-Raymond, Ewa Mataya Laurance and Suzanne Peters.

Rakin Tam and Kjorsvik advanced to the first money round, the quarterfinals. Tam defeated Hopkins 74-60, as Kjorsvik downed Webb 79-58. Kjorsvik then eliminated Tam 90-75.

The semifinals of this event – Kjorsvik versus Baretta – had a way of demonstrating the best that this particular format had to offer viewers. At the end of their 9th rack, the two were separated by a single point; Baretta ahead by one at 74-73. Baretta refused the ball-in-hand option after her break of the final rack, looking to chalk up 15 points instead of just 10. Unfortunately, she only added three balls to her score; missing the fourth ball and finishing her 10 racks with a score of 77. All Kjorsvik had to do was sink five balls. With two of the five down, she found herself hooked and forced to make a jump shot, which she missed to finish at 74.

In the finals that followed, with the racks-necessary extended to 13, and Jeremy Jones in the streaming ‘booth,’ commentating, Baretta was ahead by seven points after four racks, 45-38. Though Baretta would extend her lead by opting out of ball-in-hand in the 5th rack and running the table to hit 60 points, while Fisher had her 5th rack stopped at 6 balls, the tables started to turn, as Fisher started to pick up speed, reminding everyone of her “KwikFire” nickname.

They would both run racks #6 & 7 without ball-in-hand, leaving Baretta out in front by 16 (80-64). Fisher would go on to opt out of ball-in-hand for racks # 8, 9, 10 & 11 and ran all four, leaving her at 124 when she was through. Baretta, now working two racks behind Fisher, picked up only three in rack #8, and though she ran racks #9 & 10, she was, for the first time since her fourth rack, no longer in the lead, but behind Fisher by six at 109-103.

Fisher closed out her run with two break and runs, opting for ball-in-hand in both to finish her 10 racks with 144 points. In order to defeat Fisher, Baretta, at the time, was preparing to break her 11th rack and would have had to play all three of her last racks without ball in hand. Two without and one with ball in hand (assuming she ran the table) would have left her one point shy of Fisher’s 144 total. Baretta missed a shot in the 11th rack and conceded the victory, punctuating the concession by going down on her knees and bowing. Fisher extended a hand to shake and all smiles, the two of them traded an across-the-ocean-via-Internet handshake.

In some ways, the entire event, to include how quickly it came together and successfully it occurred came as a bit of surprise. Angela Janic thanked particularly Jennifer Hamilton for her work on the live stream, noting that Hamilton had “kept us all organized and just did a fantastic job.”

“Thanks, too,” Janic added,” to everybody on the WPBA, the board and all the players. I had just sent messages out and asked people for help and everybody just jumped in and said yes. I’d read names but there are just too many of them.”

According to Janic, another edition of the WPBA’s Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge will occur on Memorial Day weekend (May 31-June 6) and while no names have been confirmed for participation, she expects another field of 16.

“Nothing’s going to change much,” she said of the upcoming event. “It’ll probably get a little easier.”

After the imaginary handshake, and Janic thanking her for her participation, Fisher added her thanks to all those who’d been involved.

“It was such short notice and it happened so quickly,” said Fisher. “You did an absolute fantastic job putting it together and running it smoothly.”

“It was great for the sport and great for the WPBA,” she added. “Thank you very much for doing this for us.”

Playing the Ghost: Two Screens, Two Tables, Two Women Miles Apart

Pia Filler

It’s hard to know whether there’s a market for watching two pool players compete against each other by separately playing the ghost, on separated-by-potentially-thousands-of-miles pool tables. On Sunday, April 19, April Larson in Minnesota and Pia Filler in Virginia did just that and according to Roy’s Basement founder, chief cook and bottle washer, Ariel Roy Francisco, who organized the matchup and ran the live stream that broadcast it far and wide, viewership peaked at about 1,100 and maintained an average of about 900 viewers over the eight hours of the broadcast.

For some, it was compelling, particularly for those who, via communication in the broadcast’s chat room, were able to bet each other on the outcome. For others, it was compelling because it featured two of the sport’s up and coming women stars; Larson and Filler, the former being considerably better known than the latter, although that may change soon. For some, it was riveting TV, while for others, it was worse than watching paint dry.
Results, as they say, may vary.
What is not in dispute was the outcome. Pia Filler got off to an impressive start in her race to win 50 games against the 9-ball ghost. Though she would eventually see the ghost surpass her on a number of occasions, it was never by much and she finished having allowed the ghost to win just one more game than her (51). April Larson, who by her own admission, hadn’t been involved in a ‘pressure’ pool match since she finished in the tie for 17th at the Ashton Twins Classic in Canada this past January, started slowly, allowing the ghost to win five, and eventually, gave up a total of 74. Donations to Roy’s Basement during the live stream totaled just over $1,800, which was split three ways, between the Basement and the two players.
 “I would have thought that there’d have been more viewers,” said Francisco. “It’s really hard to get viewers involved with women’s pool.”
“I was disappointed that I didn’t get more feedback from some of the veteran female pool players,” he added, noting that he’d sent some of them the poster promoting the event. “I was surprised that I didn’t hear back from any of them.”
As for the two competitors, they both claimed to have learned something from the experience. For Pia Filler, it was about her mental game and awareness of “mistakes made and good things accomplished.”
“Any match that takes that long, 8 hours under pressure,” she said, “can wear on your mind, but if you want to be a pro, you have to be a fighter, a positive thinker. You can’t let bad things come into your mind.”
For April, it was a match suited to her nickname – The Grinder. She learned, she said, a lot about herself.
“I learned that once I settle in, I’m good,” she said, “and that small things can have a rippling effect on you.”
In her case, she explained, one of the “small things” was her break, which had been working fine for her as she was practicing in preparation for the event, but not so much when the event began at around 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
“I couldn’t figure out what was wrong,” she said, as the ghost began piling up victories; five of them before April finally chalked up a rack. Part of the ripple effect from less-than-stellar breaks was about April herself. It’s one of the things she said she’d work to change if this kind of opportunity presented itself again.
“I would not let myself get so nervous,” she said. “It had been about four months since I felt that kind of (game) pressure and I had no idea how to handle it.”
“I needed to calm down,” she added, “and I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder and think about how to do that. I needed to figure it out right then.”
She did calm down, eventually, and combined with a tip she got during a break about the benefits of pattern racking (not expressly forbidden in the stated rules of the event), she started to run racks, eventually running as many as eight in a row. By the time she and Pia were into the 20s of the 50 they needed, they were neck and neck in their personal score, while April lagged considerably behind in the number of racks chalked up to their respective ghosts.
Both are in something of a holding pattern with their careers at the moment, pretty much like everybody else, waiting to see when and where the next tournament might be organized. They spoke before and after the event and are on the same sort of wavelength when it comes to competing and mutual good feelings for each other. They both expressed gratitude for their respective sponsors; April, thanking J. Pechauer Custom Cues, IBA Pool Leagues, TNT Billiards, Kamui, Jam Up Apparel, Nails by Sonny and Love our Roof, while Pia thanked Predator Cues, Gabriel’s Billiards, Andy Cloth and HOW tips (all of whom can be seen in her photo).
Pia, for one, is looking ahead to June, when the Euro Tour is scheduled to hold an event and slightly further ahead to late September/early October when the Predator World 10-Ball Championships for women are scheduled to be held. No word, as yet, on whether they will actually be held.
“I hope it’s going to happen,” she said, “but it’s kind of up to the whole world, so we just live day to day and hope for the best.”
She noted, as well, that her husband, Joshua, who, along with Ariel Roy Francisco, commented on the dual ghost matches, is waiting to see how his tournament schedule will play out. They expect to be in Roy’s Basement literally and figuratively until about the end of May.
Francisco, in the meantime, continues to put Joshua at the table in the basement, playing about seven different ghost games, as he ponders plans for other kinds of ghost matchups.
“I’m working with my tech crew toward a series of single-elimination, multi-ghost 12-ball events,” he said, noting that time zone differentials will likely have a way of prioritizing US players for these events. “It’ll be open to 16 players only (random draw, no seeding), playing until someone wins. We’ll ask for an entry fee and then add something to the pot.”
Stay tuned to Roy’s Basement’s Facebook page for announcements of Josh Filler’s ongoing appearances over the next month or so, and any official announcements about the 16-player event, which could come as early as tonight (Tuesday) or tomorrow.

Roy’s Basement with April Larson, Pia Filler and a pair of ghosts

 

Over the past week or so, Roy’s Basement in Maryland has been playing host to the Fillers; Joshua and his wife, Pia. On a nightly basis, Joshua has been stepping to the table in the basement and playing almost continuous pool games against the ‘ghost,’ with Ariel Roy Francisco and Pia Filler doing commentary on a live stream broadcast on the Roy’s Basement Facebook page. Viewers are checking in on a chat screen to choose which ‘ghost’ game they want to see Josh Filler play, and then, after deciding whether Filler or the ghost is going to win the chosen game, are pledging to donate money if they turn out to be right. Viewers are literally lining up in the virtual chat lobby to participate.
“They want to see the best pool player in the world play the ghost with them controlling what games he plays,” said Francisco. “It’s also a chance to win Josh’s ‘junky’ stick; the one he used to win the World 9-Ball and the US Open 9-Ball.”
“He surprised us,” Francisco added of Filler’s quality of play during these ghost matches, “and surprised himself, too. Nobody knew. The more he plays, the better he gets.”
The ghost games, being what they are (watching one person shoot), are not drawing anywhere near the virtual crowds that an earlier match, a couple of weeks ago, drew, when Filler and James Aranas played a match in the basement and a record Roy’s Basement viewing crowd of 7,600 was on-hand to watch. That said, though, the player versus ‘ghost’ matches are drawing respectable, albeit virtual crowds to the Facebook page, and ever-ready to take advantage of an opportunity, Francisco has announced plans for a double screen, double player set of ghost matches between April Larson, playing in the basement of her home in Minnesota, while Pia Filler plays her ghost from Roy’s basement.
From their separate locations, April and Pia will square off against their ‘ghost,’ in an attempt to reach 50 wins, with a winner determined by which of the two reached that 50 plateau, having played the least amount of games. It won’t end when one of them reaches 50. It’ll end when they’ve both chalked up 50 wins. The winner will be the player who’s given up the fewest games to the ghost.
Early ‘money’ was appearing on April Larson’s side of the ledger, but as she headed for home this weekend, after visiting a relative, she was quick to point out that Pia Filler is a lot more than just Joshua Filler’s wife.
“I think everybody is underestimating her,” said Larson. “She’s no slouch. Roy’s not stupid. He’s not just going to put anybody up.”
“I’m going to have to play really well to beat her,” she added.
Larson has been on a bit of a hiatus from her school work these days. She switched her Lindenwood University classes from actual to accelerated virtual (on-line) in December and is out of school now until August, giving her time to pursue this, and presumably, other activities. According to Larson, while she has certainly played games against the ‘ghost’ before, doing so in a way that’s preparing her for a formalized contest is a new kind of challenge.
“I’ve played the ghost, but not religiously,” she said. “Now that I’ve been playing by the actual rules, I’ve discovered the actual number of times that I run out and it’s been humbling.”
“When you’re playing the ghost,” she added, “you have to take all the shots, regardless of your comfort level. If you’re playing regular 9-ball, you can play safe or try to hide somebody, but with the ghost, the shots you normally duck, you have to make.”
For her part, Pia Filler is looking to step out of the accidental shadow that’s been cast by her husband’s emergence as a world class player, one of the best in the world (he’s presently #2 in WPA rankings behind Taipei’s Ko Ping-Chung). She points out that she and her future husband met as seven-year-olds, competing in German youth championships.
“We knew that one day, we both wanted to become professionals,” she said. “He’s been the most successful and won the most titles, but I think we’re kind of special; always together, always working as a team. We’ve known each other so long. We’re each other’s coach and do everything together.”
As for the upcoming match. . . .
“I haven’t just been watching Joshua,” she explained. “I’m spending a lot of time practicing with him, as well. We’re both working very hard.”
“I’m feeling pretty confident and looking forward to Sunday,” she added.
So, tune in. Sunday afternoon, 1 p.m EDT. Go to Facebook, find the Roy’s Basement page and click on the ‘Live” screen. Join the chat and learn how you can donate to keep the streams going during this time of forced isolation.

Fisher comes back from hot seat loss to down Barretta and claim Ashton Twins Classic in Alberta

Holem, Plowman, Osborn and Lane win four concurrently-run Amateur/Open events

 

Two of pool’s old-school professionals battled in the hot seat and finals of the WPBA’s 4th Annual Ashton Twins Classic over the weekend (Dec. 2-5). Allison Fisher, who entered the tournament as the WPBA's #1 competitor,, and Jennifer Barretta (#3) fought to double hill in the hot seat match, before Barretta prevailed. Fisher came back from the semifinals to meet and defeat her in the finals and claim the 4th Ashton Twins Classic title, her 82nd pro title. Since the event debuted in 2017, it’s been won by two ‘new-school’ professionals, Brittany Bryant (2017, currently #2) and April Larson (2018, currently #23) and in the past two years, by old-school professionals, Vivian Villareal (2019, currently #48) and Fisher this year. The $20,000-added event drew 50 entrants to the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino in Calgary, Alberta.

 

The long weekend also featured four, concurrently-run Amateur and Open events; an Amateur Men’s 9-Ball (51 entrants), a Women’s Amateur 9-Ball (26), a Men’s 8-ball (71; the highest number of the weekend’s events) and a Women’s 8-Ball event (56). A summary of these four events, to include winners and runners-up will follow the Pro event details.

 

While the old-school professionals were represented in this year’s final, the new-school professionals were right there behind them, finishing 3rd (Russia’s Kristina Tkach, #22) and 4th (China’s Wei Tzu-Chien, #4). The tie for 5th place featured one each from the two categories; Janet Atwell (#11), who fell to Wei Tzu-Chien and the event’s 2017 winner, Brittany Bryant, who was eliminated by Tkach. The event’s 2018 champion, April Larson was on hand for this event, as well. She was sent to the loss side by Wei Tzu-Chien and was defeated in her first loss-side match by Kim Newsome (#24). Vivian Villareal did not make the trip to Canada.

 

Following an opening round bye, Fisher opened her six-match winning campaign with three victories in which she gave up a combined total of two racks; one each to (first) Stephanie Hefner and (third) Caroline Pao, with a shutout over Laura Smith in between. This set Fisher up to face Wei Tzu-Chien in one of the winners’ side semifinals (old-school/new-school). Barretta, in the meantime, had also been awarded a bye, and though not quite the domineering performance exhibited by Fisher, she did get by Stephanie Mitchell 9-2, June Maiers 9-3 and Monica Webb 9-2 to arrive at her winners’ side semifinal against Brittany Bryant (another old-school/new-school matchup).

 

Bryant chalked up as many racks against Barretta as all three of Barretta’s previous opponents combined, but fell two short, advancing Barretta 9-7 to the hot seat match. Wei Tzu-Chien chalked up three times as many racks as Fisher’s first three opponents combined, but fell three short, advancing Fisher 9-6 to meet Barretta. As befitted their status, Barretta and Fisher locked up in a double hill fight that saw Barretta down 5-8, before mounting a four-match comeback that left her in the hot seat and Fisher headed for a semifinal matchup versus Kristina Tkach.

 

Going into the money rounds on the loss side (17-24), there were still more than just a handful of potential winners vying to get back to the finals. Among them were Janet Atwell, who’d been defeated, double hill, by Caroline Pao and dropped into the loss side’s first money round. She subsequently got by Emily Duddy 9-7, Laura Smith 9-3, Monica Webb 9-6, and Jia Li 9-6, to draw Wei Tzu-Chien, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal.

 

Also lurking on the loss side was Kristina Tkach, who’d lost her first winners' side match (after a bye) to Kyoko Sone, and then launched an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that would take her all the way to the semifinals. After eliminating Ada Lio and Ashley Burrows to make it into the money rounds, she defeated Gail Eaton 9-1, Dawn Hopkins, double hill, Caroline Pao 9-5 and the WPBA’s #1-ranked competitor going into the tournament, Line Kjorsvik 9-2, to draw Bryant.

 

Tkach dispatched Bryant 9-2 and was joined in the quarterfinals by Wei Tzu-Chien, who’d eliminated Atwell 9-7. Tkach finished up her loss-side winning streak with a 9-3 win over Chien.

 

The commentators on the Cue Sports Live stream employed a slightly different vocabulary for the semifinal match, opting to call it a match between the ‘old guard’ and the ‘new guard.’ Fisher won the opening game of the semifinal match, and though Tkach responded to tie it up, she only did that twice and never got out in front. After the tie at the end of game #2, Fisher won three straight. Tkach came back with two, Fisher got another and Tkach won another two to create the second tie at 5-5. Fisher got out in front by two again, before Tkach chalked up her sixth and final rack. Fisher closed it out 9-6 for a second shot against Barretta.

 

The assembled were expecting a second double hill fight between the two ladies left standing. The race to 11 didn’t pan out that way, although it came close. Fisher took advantage of her second opportunity and downed Barretta 11-8 to claim her first (recorded) event title since she defeated Ga Young-Kim in the finals of the WPBA’s Ho-Chunk Classic in September of 2018.

 

From her home in Charlotte, NC a couple of days later, Fisher commented about her win and the prospect of future wins for her and players like her, like Jennifer Barretta, who's eight months younger than she is.

 

"It's like your own personal battle," she said. "You're constantly wondering 'Can you do it again?' 'Is it ever going to happen?' All those things go through your mind."

 

"There's not as much (time) distance (from former major victories) with me," she added, "but I was a prolific winner and as time goes on, you question and doubt. You're competing with yourself in personal growth."

 

Fisher is also assigning value to other considerations in her life; specifically her time at home with her family, which she noted she had not had much of in her past. Now, she's finding herself elevating that time on a priority scale above shooting pool. She has found that this shift in priorities tends to elevate the significance of each accomplishment.

 

"I don't play a lot these days, because some things (events) are not worth the time to be away from my family," she said. "I don't expect to be competing in 10 years time, so any victory is very valuable to me."

 

Concurrent Amateur/Open events take center stage

 

Kudos to Brian Champayne, who coordinated this long and multi-faceted event, which, as noted at the outset, included four other tournaments, including two which drew more entrants than the main event.

 

Up first on Thursday, January 2 were the Amateur Men’s and Women’s 9-Ball events. In the Men’s event, Tyler Edey and Kevin Osborn battled twice to claim the title. Edey won the first 7-1 to claim the hot seat. Osborn came back after downing Joe Spence 6-4 in the semifinals to defeat Edey 9-7 in the final and claim the Amateur Men’s 9-Ball title. Regene Lane went undefeated to grab the Women’s Amateur 9-Ball title. She and Cindy Nana fought a double hill hot seat match that eventually sent Nana to the semifinals, where she defeated Jenny Lucas 5-2. Lane defeated Nana a second time, this time 7-3 in the final to claim that 9-ball title.

 

On Friday, January 3, Tyler Edey was also in the finals of the most heavily-attended event of the long weekend, the Men’s 8-Ball, which drew 73 players. Edey was sent to the loss side in a double hill, winners’ side quarterfinal, as Stephen Holem advanced to the hot seat, downing Mike Robinson 6-1 in the winners’ side final. Edey worked his way back through five loss-side opponents, including a double hill win over Robinson in the semifinals to face Holem in the finals. Holem completed his undefeated run with a 7-4 victory over Edey.

 

In the Women’s 8-Ball event, which drew 56 entrants, Bonnie Plowman and Tasha Thomas battled twice, hot seat and finals, to determine the winner. Plowman, who finished undefeated, took the hot seat match 5-3, and when Thomas returned from a 4-2 victory over Jana Montour in the semifinals, defeated her a second time 6-4 to claim the event title.

Europe Retain The Atlantic Challenge Cup

T. Brikmanis, D. Siranchuk, M. Nguyen, W. Zielinski, S. Pehlivanovic, C. Froehlich and J. van Lierop

Team EUROPE retained the Atlantic Challenge cup for the fifth year running, beating Team USA 11-4 here in Treviso Italy. The best youth players from either side of the Atlantic met up for the fifth edition of this prestigious event, and they did not disappoint the fans with their performance. The score line flatters Europe a little because there were some very close matches that could have gone the other way with a bit of luck from the pool gods, but it wasn’t to be.
 
After the first day’s play left the Americans with a mountain to climb and trailing 6-1, day two was a different story. April Larson started the morning session for team USA with a great win over the strong My Nguyen 6-1. This win lifted team spirits and showed a glimmer of hope, but Europe were never going to surrender their strong lead and took the next match to lead overall 7-2. Aryana Lynch picked up another point for team USA in the afternoon session, but it was sandwiched between two wins for team Europe which put the score at 9-3 for Europe.
 
The Evening session loomed, and team USA needed to win two of the three scheduled matches to keep day three alive, and any hopes they had of taking the cup back home as well. It was a partnership of April Larson and Ricky Evans who took the first point of the evening and the crowd were hoping for one more point to see us into day three. Europe had other plans and made sure there is a free day to enjoy their victory and closed out the last two matches to retain the cup for a fifth successive year.
 
Launched by the European Pocket Billiard Federation and the Billiard Congress of America in 2015, the Atlantic Challenge Cup pits the best of youth from Europe and America in a Mosconi Cup style event in a race to 11 with a possible 21 matches in total. Six players on each team, four boys and two girls, will battle it out to see who will have the bragging rights across the Atlantic. 
 
More information can be found at atlanticchallengecup.com or visit the official Atlantic Challenge Cup Facebook page.
 
Press release issued by the EPBF Press office, contact press@epbf.com