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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. 

Fisher goes undefeated to win the WPBA’s 9-Ball Ghost Challenge Tournament of Champions

Kelly Fisher

She knew, going into the final day of competition, that she’d already won the WPBA’s 9-Ball Ghost Challenge Tournament of Champions. Kelly Fisher knew this because no one in the lineup of two matches to be played that last day could catch her when it came to points. For its Tournament of Champions, held from September 1-5, the WPBA employed a new format, changing from the double elimination format of the four previous 9-Ball Ghost Challenge events (three of them won by Fisher) to a Round Robin format. This format assigned points, 4 to 7 of them, to each player upon completion of a series of head-to-head ghost challenge matches of 10 games each. 

Though originally planned for eight competitors, work-related circumstances brought that number down to 6 by the time the tournament started and just prior to the start, Line Kjorsvik had to back out for undisclosed reasons. On each of the five days, one of the five remaining competitors was scheduled to compete against Kjorsvik and in her absence, drew a bye. It was Wei Tzu-Chien on Tuesday, Dawn Hopkins on Wednesday, Monica Webb on Thursday, Jeannie Seaver on Friday and Kelly Fisher on Saturday. By that time, Fisher was sporting 23 points to Hopkins’ and Seaver’s 13, Webb’s 14, and Tzu-Chien’s 15. Even with 7 points for defeating an opponent by 40 points or more, none of them could catch Fisher. There was, though, at the end of the day (tournament), a ferocious final battle between Wei Tzu-Chien and Monica Webb upon which hinged three out of the four remaining payout spots (Fisher had already won).

As with the other four preliminary ghost challenge events, a player could score a maximum of 10 or 15 points per rack; 10 points if they ran out after choosing to take ball-in-hand after the break, or 15 points, if they chose to play from wherever the cue ball lay after the break. A miss in any rack would award the player the number of balls they successfully potted in that rack. The highest score of the five-day event was chalked up by Fisher on Friday, when she defeated Monica Webb 107-75. It was one of only four scores over 100. Wei Tzu-Chien tallied the second highest score on the same day, downing Dawn Hopkins 106-59. It was the only victory in the entire event that awarded its winner (Tzu-Chien) the maximum 7 points for a larger-than-40-ball differential in the final score. Fisher had the third and fourth highest score; 105-77 over Hopkins on Thursday and 104-91 over We Tzu-Chien the day before. 

The lowest score in a victory – 89 – happened twice. On Wednesday, Hopkins downed Seaver 89-57. On the following day, Thursday, Seaver scored 89 to Wei Tzu-Chien’s 84. 

At the end of Day 1 on Tuesday, Fisher, having defeated Seaver by her lowest score of the entire event, 91-59, was in the lead with 6 points. Hopkins, who’d defeated Webb in the tightest match of the event, 94-90, had 5, while Seaver and Webb had four points each. Tzu-Chien had not played. Fisher’s single-point lead was never relinquished and by the end of day two, it remained a single-point lead. Webb had added six points with an 89-57 win over Seaver, while Kelly added five points with her 104-91 victory over Tzu-Chien. 

On Day Three, Fisher added six more points with a 105-77 victory over Hopkins, as Seaver and Tzu-Chien locked up in another of the event’s tight battles; an 89-84 win for Seaver. Tzu-Chien had been the only other player to win one of the four preliminary events. Her second loss in this Tournament of Champions, against Seaver, sealed her fate, making an opportunity to catch Fisher a low probability. At the end of Day Three (with one less match), Tzu-Chien was behind by nine points (17-8).

Day Four began at noon on Friday with a match between Fisher and Webb, which Wei Tzu-Chien was likely to have been watching very closely. If Webb pulled off a win, it would stop Fisher’s scoring at 21 points. Fisher, scheduled to play Kjorsvik on Saturday, would receive a bye on that day and if Tzu-Chien could add seven points to her score on Day Four, she’d go into the final day only six points behind (21-15), giving her a chance at tying or possibly winning (with a 40-point differential in her match versus Webb). The first ‘fly in that ointment’ was Fisher, who played her best match of the tournament on Friday, chalking up 107 points to Webb’s 75 and adding six points to finish her efforts with 23 points. Though an hour later, Tzu-Chien would bring her best game of the tournament to the table against Hopkins – a 106-59 win that would add the seven points she was looking to score – it fell short of Fisher’s lead by eight points.

Hopkins and Seaver played the opening match of the final day. Seaver defeated Hopkins 94-66 to add six points to her score, for a (significant) total of 19. Hopkins finished with a total of 17 points. This lent an air of possibility to the tournament’s final match between Tzu-Chien (with 15 points) and Monica Webb (with 14). If Webb won the match by less than 20 points, she’d end up with 19 points, overall, and so would Tzu-Chien, who would receive four points in such a loss. This would have created a three-way tie between Tzu-Chien, Webb and Seaver. 

There was, in other words, something at stake in the final match. The three-way tie would have triggered tie-breaking rules, governed by total ball count. If Webb won the final match, Tzu-Chien would finish in 2nd place (376 balls), Webb would be 3rd (341) and Seaver would finish in 4th (299). But if Tzu-Chien won the match, finishing with 20 points for 2nd place, Seaver would be 3rd with 19 and Webb would finish 4th with 18 points. Financially, the win for Webb wouldn’t have changed anything for Tzu-Chien, who would have finished 2nd in any case, but for Webb, it was a $200 difference between a 3rd or 4th place finish.

The match was correspondingly tight. Midway through the 10-rack match, Tzu-Chien was in the lead over Webb, but only by seven balls (49-42). As Tzu-Chien was organizing her 6th rack, Webb took aim at the 2-ball in her 6th rack. She’d pocketed one on the break and then, opting for ball in hand, she dropped the 1-ball. Looking at a high-percentage shot at the 2-ball (side to side in corner pocket), Webb applied some serious draw to the cue ball, which, on contact, came flying back, fast, for position on the 3-ball. The 2-ball, though, rattled hard in its designated pocket and Webb had to settle for only two balls in that 6th rack. Tzu-Chien broke and, with ball in hand, cleared her 6th rack and suddenly the score was 59-44.

In her 7th rack, Webb opted out of the ball-in-hand option in the hopes of closing in on Tzu-Chien’s lead with 15 points. She dropped two balls on the break and made a long, corner-to-corner shot to make her third ball. She completed that rack to chalk up those 15 points and for a moment, they were tied at 59-59. Tzu-Chien would re-capture the lead when she completed her 7th rack with 10 points to make it 69-59. 

Tzu-Chien checked Webb’s score on her monitor after breaking the 8th rack. She’d dropped four balls on the break and decided not to take ball in hand, looking for an ‘answering’ 15 points. All well and good, but she missed her first shot. At the end of the 8th rack, Tzu-Chien’s lead was  down to four balls at 73-69.

Tzu-Chien opted out of ball in hand again in approaching her 9th rack. Webb took ball in hand for her 9th rack. Kelly Fisher joined commentators Cheryl Baglin and Loree Jon Hasson in the virtual broadcast booth to watch the nail-biting finish to the tournament’s final match. They both ran their racks, but Tzu-Chien was awarded 15 for not taking ball in hand, while Webb added only 10 because she did. The score was now 88-79.

Assuming a runout for both of them in the final rack, Tzu-Chien could not be caught, even if Webb opted to not take ball in hand for 15 points. It made Tzu-Chien’s decision not to take ball in hand for the final rack an easy one. Webb, having dropped the 1-ball on the break was looking at a straight, side-to-side shot at the 2-ball and decided to go for the 15 points anyway. The table was clearing nicely for her until she put a little too much follow on her shot at the 8-ball and the cue ball followed it right in, finishing her match at 87 points. 

Tzu-Chien, with two balls left on the table, stepped to her monitor and noted that Webb had scratched. Already ahead in points by one – 88-87 – she stepped to the table to sink the 8-ball, attempting a sharp cut, and missed the shot, finishing things at 95-87.

“Well done, Wei-Wei,” said Fisher from her ‘virtual’ booth at home when Tzu-Chien and Webb stepped up close to their respective monitors. “It was tight. Close match, exciting.”

Event coordinator Angela Janic joined the remote broadcast ‘party’ and made the results official. Kelly Fisher won the event title with 23 points and a 407 ball total. Wei Tzu-Chien was 2nd with 20 points and a 376 ball total. Jeannie Sever was 3rd with 19 and 299. Monica’s loss in the final match dropped her into 4th place with 18 points and 341 total balls. Dawn Hopkins closed out the field with 17 points and 296 total balls.

“I’m really, really pleased,” said Fisher of her victory. “Very happy.”

She spoke then of what might have been; how she would have liked to “not miss as much” as she had and how, ideally, she and her competitors are always looking to chalk up the “perfect score.”

“We’re all very competitive,” she said, “trying to play the perfect game and be as consistent as we can. That’s what we practice for and all try to do”

“I really enjoy playing the ‘ghost,” she added. “It’s been a part of my practice routine for years. It suits my game because I’m not very good at safety play.”

Fisher thanked the WPBA for a “great event, as always.” She also expressed her enjoyment of the new format.

“ I liked the Round Robin format,” she said. “It’s a good way to make it an open, competitive game.”

The WPBA thanked tournament director Angela Janic, as well as livestream technician Jennifer Hamilton. They also thanked all of the event’s players, sponsors and commentators, to include Janic, WPBA’s President Dean Roeseler, Loree Jon Hasson and Cheryl Baglin. “Stay tuned,” noted the WPBA on its Facebook page for information about future virtual tournaments.

Fisher, going undefeated, wins third straight WPBA Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge

Kelly Fisher

The Dragon Boat Festival may have been in progress in Taiwan during the event, but the ‘beast’ on display at the WPBA’s third Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge (June 21-June 26) was the UK’s Kelly Fisher. As they’d done in the second Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge (June 1-6), Fisher and Taiwan’s Wei Tzu-Chien met in the finals of this one and for the third straight time, Fisher emerged as the event champion. Fisher had to win five on the loss side to face her in the finals of the previous event, but this time, she and Tzu-Chien battled twice; once, vying for the hot seat and then, in the finals. Fisher won both times, chalking up the second- and third-highest scores of the event (126, 125) while Tzu-Chien chalked up the event’s highest score (130) in the semifinals.

As the two played in the hot seat match on Thursday (June 25), Tzu-Chien was reportedly dealing with a highly distracting scenario in Taiwan, which was celebrating its annual Dragon Boat Festival, featuring all sorts of costumed mythical beasts and spectators having a grand time in the local bars. While the camera focused on the table showed no evidence of the gathered crowd, Tzu-Chien was competing in the midst of a lot of distractions. Fisher, not to be outdone in the distraction department, was playing in an un-air-conditioned room, where the temperature was hovering just above the 80s; a circumstance that played itself out on her brow occasionally.

As with previous events, each rack bore the potential for a player to earn either 10 points (for a runout with ball-in-hand after the break) or 15 points (for a runout played without ball-in-hand after the break). A miss in a rack would score the number of balls pocketed prior to the miss. All matches, until the finals, featured 10 racks. Until the semifinals, Fisher was the only player among the event’s 16, to score over 100 points for a single rack. There were 24 total matches played and only six scores over 100; four of them by Fisher and two by Tzu-Chien. Prior to the finals, Fisher averaged 109.75 points per 10 racks. Tzu-Chien, who was awarded a bye in the opening round, reached the semifinals with an average of 88.6 points per rack, but upped that percentage to 99, when she scored 130 points in those semifinals.

Fisher’s path to the hot seat went through LaLe 111-19, Dawn Hopkins 90-81 and in a winners’ side semifinal, Monica Webb 113-98. After her opening round bye, Tzu-Chien defeated Mary Rakin Tam 97-93 and then, in their first of two, she downed Jennifer Barretta 88-76, in the other winners’ side semifinal. Fisher claimed the hot seat with what was, at the time, the event’s highest score 125-81. She ran all 10 racks; five of them with ball-in-hand after the break and five, including the last two, without.

On the loss side, Baretta picked up Hopkins, who, after her defeat at the hands of Fisher in the second round, had defeated Kia Burwell 53-47 and Kris Bacon 75-26. Monica Webb drew event director Angela Janic, who’d been sent to the loss side by Baretta in the second round, and had gone on to eliminate Cheryl Baglin 53-26 and Mary Rakin Tam 67-64.

Baretta, who still sits atop the WPBA’s year-to-date seeding and ranking list (where Wei-Tzu Chien is #3 and Kelly Fisher is #5), defeated Hopkins 87-57, as Webb was busy eliminating Janic 89-48. Baretta and Webb locked up in a nail-biting quarterfinal that eventually sent Baretta (96-93) to the semifinals against Tzu-Chien.

Tzu-Chien found some kind of second, or possibly third gear in those semifinals. She went on to score what would prove to be the event’s highest single score, downing Baretta 130-27 for a second and (including the previous event) third shot against Fisher.

To no avail as it turned out. Together, they chalked up the event’s second and fourth highest score; Fisher checking in with her fourth 100-plus score and the event’s second highest, downing Tzu-Chien 126-103. Fisher ran 10 racks of the 13 in the final, seven of them with ball-in-hand after the break and three, without. Unlike their previous match in the finals of the second event, Wei Tzu-Chien actually finished ahead of Fisher (generally known as “Kwikfire”) in the finals of this one.

“You were faster than me,” Fisher said, chatting after the match. “How come?”

“Because you’re slow,” said Tzu-Chien.

“Slowfire,” commented Fisher.

“You did it again,” said event director, Angela Janic, congratulating Fisher after the finals. “There’s no question that you dominate this format. This thing is made for you.”

“That’s because I’m not any good at safety play, or getting out, or kicking,” said Fisher with a laugh.

The WPBA’s 4th Virtual 9-ball Ghost Challenge will take place July 19-23 and be followed on the weekend of July 31-August 2 with a Tournament of Champions, featuring the top eight players from the four events.

The WPBA thanked all of its fans for watching and supporting this event over the past week, its tournament director, Angela Janic, its behind-the-scenes technical guru Jennifer Hamilton (who celebrated her birthday on the day of this event’s final), its players, scorekeepers and guest commentators.

Fisher comes from the loss side to win second WPBA Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge

After a slow start in which she won two winners’ side matches and was then moved to the loss side by Jeannie Seaver, UK’s Kelly Fisher came back and won five in a row for a shot at Chinese Taipei’s Wei Tzu Chien, waiting for her in the hot seat. Fisher took full advantage of the opportunity she’d created for herself and won her second straight WPBA Virtual 9-Ball Ghost Challenge, held from June 1-6, primarily in the US, but also from the UK (Kelly), Norway (Line Kjorsvik) and Chinese Taipei (Wei Tzu-Chien).

In addition to winning the event for the second time, Fisher also had the highest individual score in both events (120). Each rack, if run from the break, can represent either 10 or 15 points, depending on whether you take BIH after the break (10) or you don’t (15). If you fail to run the rack, you score the number of balls you did pocket in that rack. In this second event, the field of 16 averaged 64.43 points per rack (3,737 total points over 29 matches featuring 58 players). Though she’d fail to score above 90 points in her first two matches (85, 81) Fisher would finish the event (eight matches, 83 racks) with an average of 94.6 per match, which was achieved, in part, by scoring over 100 in two of her last three matches and 99 in a fourth.

Fisher seemed to be headed in the wrong scoring direction at the outset, as she defeated Kristie Bacon 85-46 in the opening round and was then defeated by Jeannie Seaver 87-81. Wei Tzu-Chien moved into the hot seat match with a 93-59 win over Seaver and was met by Webb, who’d sent Little to the loss side 88-28. In one of only three matches (Fisher scored the other two) that saw either competitor score over 100 points, Chien claimed the hot seat over Webb 107-74.

Over on the loss side, Seaver ran into Line Kjorsvik, who’d been sent to the loss side by Jennifer Barretta in a 74-73 nail biter in the opening round and was working on a three-match, loss-side winning streak that saw her send Dawn Hopkins (97-76), Ashley Burrows (73-63) and Kristie Bacon (61-45) home; check that, they were already home. It was Little who had the misfortune of running into Fisher, working on her (eventual) five-match, loss-side streak, having eliminated Kia Sidbury 86-36, and in a rematch featuring the winner and runner-up of the first event’s hot seat and finals, Jennifer Barretta 93-62.

Seaver advanced into the quarterfinals with a 70-66 win over Kjorsvik. Fisher joined her after eliminating Little 99-34. Seaver ended up as the unfortunate competitor on the other side of the event’s highest score (120-81) in those quarterfinals.

Fisher slipped a little in the semifinals that followed. Her loss side average dropped from 99.5 down to 95.6 when she defeated Webb 80-57 in those semifinals. Though she’d not maintained her high average, she’d prevailed for a chance to win it all.

“I feel good,” said Fisher at the conclusion of her match against Webb. “I had a little trouble in the last couple of matches, but so it goes; a couple of awkward layouts, a couple of unforced errors and a couple of silly errors.

Fisher’s reputation, as represented by her nickname (Kwikfire), was enhanced by her work in the finals. In the extended race to 13 racks, she was done, with a score of 113, as Tzu-Chien was preparing to break her 9th rack, having already scored 68 points. The dynamic of this created something of a nail-biter for Fisher, as she watched Tzu-Chien draw closer in the final racks. Those watching the stream watched Fisher, watching Tzu-Chien.

Tzu-Chien took ball-in-hand at the start of rack #9 and ran the table to bring her score to 78; 35 points away from Fisher with four racks to go and needing to score an average of 9 points per remaining rack to defeat Fisher. Tzu-Chien snookered herself shooting at the 6-ball in rack #10, and missed the shot, giving her 83 points total; 30 points away with three racks to go. If she were to use the ball-in-hand option for the remaining three racks and assuming a successful runout of each of them, she’d tie Fisher at 113 and the event would move to a rack-by-rack tie breaker.

Tzu-Chien took BIH in the 11th rack, but missed a shot after dropping four. Now at 87 points, Tzu-Chien would need to run the final two racks without BIH. Running one rack with and one rack without BIH would net her 112 points, one shy of a tie.

She broke the 12th rack and as it was her only option, she began her run without BIH. With Fisher watching anxiously, she ran to the 9-ball and then missed it. She scored only eight points, for a total of 95, which put the win out of reach. She broke the 13th rack anyway, dropped a single ball and missed the next one to finish the match.

For the second time, Fisher had nothing but praise for the WPBA and the individuals who organized and coordinated this and the previous ghost challenge events.

“I know it’s a tough schedule for you,” Fisher told event organizer Angela Janic and fellow stream commentator, Dawn Hopkins at the conclusion of the week-long event. “We really do appreciate all your hard work. It allows us to play, to do what we enjoy doing, and what we do for a living. Without you guys we couldn’t do that, so we really do appreciate it.”

Fisher and runner-up Wei Tzu-Chien are long-time opponents and friends and noting this friend’s frustration at the end of the match, Fisher suggested to the woman she knows as “Wei-Wei” to not say what she was thinking.

“I can’t speak English, right now,” said Tzu-Chien. “There is an appropriate Chinese term for what just happened.”

“Aiyee ya!!,” she added.

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.”

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.

Kelly Fisher comes from the loss side to down Tzu-Chien Wei at WPBA’s Aramith/DR Classic

Kelly Fisher

Kelly Fisher came to Rothschild, WI on the long weekend of November 20-24 in search of her first 2019 win and knew almost immediately that she might need to defeat some adversaries she’d faced before. There were, at the WPBA’s Aramith/DR Pool Classic, the usual array of suspects in that regard; Allison Fisher, Jasmine Ouschan, Jennifer Baretta, LoreeJon Hasson, Janet Atwell and Line Kjorsvik, to name just a few. And though she wouldn’t have to face China’s Siming Chen, who did not compete and who’d defeated her in the finals of the WPBA Masters last February in Michigan, she knew she might have to face Chinese Taipei’s Tzu-Chien Wei, whom she’d defeated in the semifinals of that WPBA Masters and then, been defeated by in the semifinals of August’s Sondheim Diamond Invitational in Iowa. She did face Wei this time around, twice as it turned out, losing the first, but coming back from the loss side to win the second and claim the event title. The $20,000-added event drew 48 entrants to the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center in Rothschild.

The importance of chalking up her first win of the year at this event was not lost on Fisher. As a professional, she’s not inclined to dwell on a given event’s individual importance, lest it interfere with the game(s) at hand, but having been on the mend since surgeries sidelined her for a few years, she was getting a little antsy.

“I was getting a worried for a moment there,” she said. “I’d had numerous semifinal wins (since last May; 3, to be exact), so I’m very pleased to have gotten this title.”

“I’m finally feeling that my game is back to where it was a few years ago,” she added.

Fisher was one of 16 seeded competitors who were awarded opening round byes, as the other 32 squared off against each other. Fisher drew Shanelle Loraine out of that original 32, defeated her and joined 12 other players who’d been awarded opening round byes in advancement to the third round. Only Gerda Gregerson, Melissa Little, Line Kjorsvik and Jenna Bishoff from that group of 16 seeded, went to the loss side, sent by (in order) Jeannie Seaver, Dawn Hopkins, Jasmin Ouschan and Teruko Cucculleli.

Fisher went on to defeat Monica Webb 8-1and then survived a double hill battle versus Jennifer Baretta to draw Tzu-Chien Wei in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Jasmin Oushchan, in the meantime, got by Joanne Ashton 8-1, survived her own double hill battle versus Kjorsvik, and downed Dawn Hopkins 8-2 to pick up Jia Li.

Wei defeated Fisher 8-5 and in the hot seat, faced Ouschan, who’d sent Li to the loss side 8-4. A double hill battle ensued for possession of the hot seat. Wei prevailed, sending Ouschan off to a second straight, double hill semifinal matchup against Fisher.

Over on the loss side, there were some top-notch matches brewing as the tournament’s elites moved toward picking up Fisher and Jia Li, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. After losing to Jeannie Seaver in the second round, Gerda Gregerson embarked on a six-match, loss-side streak that saw her eliminate Eugenia Gyftopoulos, Catherine Tschumper and, moving into the early money rounds, Caroline Pao and Emily Duddy. She went on to down Brittany Bryant 8-5 and young Atlantic Cup Challenge competitor, April Larson 8-4 to draw Li.

Fisher drew Tamara Peeters, who was working on a six-match, loss-side winning streak of her own and fresh off something of an 8-1 upset over Teruko Cucculleli. Cucculleli had defeated Allison Fisher on the winners’ side, before being sent over by Jia Li in a winners’ side quarterfinal. She proceeded to eliminate Jessica Barnes, Beth Fondell and jumped into the money pool with an 8-4 win over Loree Jon Hasson. She downed Gail Eaton and Dawn Hopkins, both 8-6 and then, eliminated Cucculleli to reach Fisher.

Fisher gave up only a single rack to Peeters in advancing to the quarterfinals. She was joined by Jia Li, who’d sent Gregerson home 8-6. Fisher won a second straight 8-1 match, eliminating Li 8-1.

That little 16-2 run wasn’t destined to last, as Fisher squared off against Jasmin Ouschan in the semifinals. It was Ouschan’s second straight double hill match, and proved to be the second one in a row that she lost.

With lingering echoes of previous matchups and a nagging little voice that kept telling her that since she’d earned herself a second chance against Tzu-Chien Wei, she’d damn well better take advantage of it, Fisher launched into the finals, in search of her first 2019 win. There are, she noted, generalities about such endeavors, and specifics, related to particular opponents. You have to play ‘your game,’ regardless of opponent, while awareness of specific opponents can inform decisions about approach.

“My main thing,” said Fisher, “is to come out of the gate strong, to keep control of the table.”

“Looking back at previous matches against Wei,” she added, “it was about not allowing her to come back. She’s capable of coming back from behind, so I knew once I had (the lead), I had to keep it.”

As noted in a Biblical proverb – “The heart of Man (Woman) plans his/her way, but the Lord establishes his/her steps.” Fisher lost the opening four racks and immediately switched roles to become the person “capable of coming back from behind.” She allowed Wei only one more rack, before she chalked up 10 to claim that first 2019 title.

“I’ve been practicing quite hard,” she said a few days later from her home in Scotland. “It came down to being patient. I knew I was close (to getting back into previous form), and that there was room to grow.

“I want to win the big ones,” she added, “and it really is just a matter of practice.”

She’ll spend a few days at home, more than likely find time to do some of that practice and then head for China and competition in the 2019 Women’s World 9-Ball Championships, to be held from December 13-20.

WPBA representatives thanked the ownership and staff at the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Diamond Billiards Products, Aramith, Outsville and Simonis Cloth.

Cucculelli Upsets Fisher at WPBA Dr Pool Classic

Teruko Cucculelli (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)

With an 8-5 win over #1 ranked Allison Fisher, Teruko Cucculelli is through to the final eight on the winner’s side at the WPBA Aramith / Dr Pool Classic. 
 
Cucculelli, hailing from Lancaster Ohio, had wins over Suzanne Peters and Jenna Bishoff to get her day started, but those paled in comparison to her win over Fisher. 
 
“I’m elated to have beat the #1 ranked player on tour. I felt very fortunate to capitalize on the opportunities that were given to me. Allison is a true champion and, although i had won the match, she had kind words of encouragement.” said Cucculelli after the match. 
 
Cucculelli will face #8 ranked Jia Li Saturday, while Fisher will wait for the winner between Laura Smith and Maureen Seto on Saturday. Cucculelli and Li are joined on the winner’s side by Jasmin Ouschan, Dawn Hopkins, Brittany Bryant, Taiwan’s Wei Tzu Chien, Jennifer Barretta and Kelly Fisher
 
The WPBA Aramith / Dr Pool Classic is being held at the Central Wisconsin Convention and Expo Center in Rothschild, Wisconsin. Online bracket coverage is available at compusport.us and online streaming of select matches is available at the WPBA’s Youtube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz3nECcig-zgKYfFvkS15hQ

Tkach downs defending champ Corr, wins SBE Women’s 9-Ball Pro Players Championship

Kristina Tkach (Photo courtesy of Erwin Dionisio)

The first time that Russia’s Kristina Tkach showed up on the AZBilliards’ database radar was almost exactly five years ago (April 12, 2014) when she finished as runner-up to Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan at a stop on the EuroTour; the Dynamic Billiard North Cyprus Open. Ouschan played the proverbial ‘lights out’ at that tournament, giving up only seven racks over six matches and none at all to Tkach in the finals. At the time, Tkach was 15 years old. Later that same year, Tkach won the European Girls Championship in 8-ball. Two years later, she came back to that North Cyprus Open and came from the loss side to win it. She also went on that year to win all three disciplines of the European Girls Championships (10-ball, 9-ball & 8-ball), all on the same weekend. In her best recorded earnings year, to date (2018), she chalked up three wins on the EuroTour.

This year, she showed up on US payout lists, with an appearance at the Derby City Classic, at which she cashed in the 9-Ball Division (47th) and 9-Ball Banks (91st). In February, she finished 7th at the WPBA Masters at which she ended up as one of the loss-side competitors to fall victim to Kelly Fisher, who, at the time, was working on a nine-match, loss-side winning streak that would eventually put her into the finals for an unsuccessful rematch against Siming Chen.

In the ‘what have you done for me lately’ department of the pool world, Tkach came to the 2019 Super Billiards Expo (March 28-31) at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center and went undefeated through a field of 47, on-hand for the Expo’s Diamond Women’s 9-Ball Pro Players Championship. Along the way, in the event semifinals, she eliminated the event’s defending champion, Karen Corr, who ended up winning more racks against her (6) than any of Tkach’s previous opponents, or her finals opponent, Sarah Rousey.

The Diamond Women’s Pro Players Championships were, of course, only one of 11 events at the SBE, including the 27th Annual Allen Hopkins’ Super Billiards Expo’s Diamond Open 10-Ball Pro Players Championships, the results of which have been posted in a separate article. Details about the ProAm Bar Box Championships and highlights of the varied Amateur events will be posted here in a third report.

Starting at the end, so to speak, it should be noted that while Tkach pocketed (pursed?) $5,000 and, like James Aranas in the 10-Ball Pro Players event, a Waterford crystal trophy, valued somewhere in the vicinity of $500, the trophy never made it to Tkach’s transportation out of the Expo Center. According to reports, the trophy came in two pieces; a base and its crystal bowl. As it was being carried out to a vehicle in preparation for Tkach’s exit from the Expo Center, the box it was in, was dropped, shattering the bowl into the proverbial ‘million pieces.’ The box was being carried by a member of Ms. Tkach’s entourage, who, according to varied reports initiated immediate plans to have the bowl replaced.

Tkach’s trip to the winners’ circle was handled with much more dexterity. As with the 10-Ball Pro Players, the 47 women were organized into an original, double elimination bracket, out of which emerged a final group of 16 (8 from the winners’ side and 8 from the loss side). The final 16 moved into two winners’ and losers’ side, single elimination brackets.

Tkach was not afforded the luxury of ‘easy going’ in her opening rounds. She first drew J. Pechauer Northeast Womens Tour director and always-dangerous Linda Shea. A 9-4 win in that opening round led to a match against Dawn Fox, who’d been awarded a bye in the opening round. Tkach downed Fox by the same 9-4 score, and then defeated Stacie Bourbeau 9-3 to become one of the eight winners’ side’s Final 8. Also advancing to the Final 16 from the winners’ side were Karen Corr, Kim Shaw, Kelly Wyatt, April Larson, Dawn Hopkins, Briana Miller and Kelly Isaac.

Meanwhile, on the loss side, Tkach’s eventual opponent in the finals, Sarah Rousey, earned her spot on the losers’ side’s final 8, when she defeated Kim Whitman 9-4. Rousey, who fell ill, temporarily, before her final winners’ side match against Kelly Wyatt, was forced to forfeit that winners’ side match. Joining Rousey from the losers’ side were Dawn Fox, Veronique Menard, Lai Li, Stacie Bourbeau, Tara Williams, Nathalie Chabot and Kaylin Wikoff.

The winners’ side single elimination bracket set Tkach and Corr onto a collision course that would end in the winners’ side final. Tkach downed Kelly Isaac 11-4 and Briana Miller 11-3 to draw Corr in those semifinals. Corr eliminated Kim Shaw 11-7 and April Larson 11-8 to face Tkach.

In the winners’ side finals that followed, Tkach chalked up more racks against Corr than all of Corr’s first three opponents combined; Tkach 11, Corr’s first three 8. Corr had won just over 77% of the games she played in three double elimination matches, (27-8), but entering the finals, only 59% of the two games she’d played in the single elimination phase. Tkach, by comparison, had a lower winning percentage than Corr in her double elimination matches (71%; 27-11), but in her two single-elimination matches, prior to meeting Corr, she’d won just under 76% of the  games (22-7). When the winners’ side final (event semifinal) was over, won by Tkach 11-6, Tkach advanced to the finals with a 71% game-winning percentage. Corr was eliminated, having won 62% of her games.

On to Sarah Rousey, who, on the loss side, had defeated Dawn Fox, Veronique Menard and in the loss-side bracket final, Tara Williams 11-5. She came into the finals having won 65% of her games, overall (60-32). That percentage was 71% through the first two matches (she’d forfeited the third match) and 61% in the three loss-side matches.

As happened in the 10-Ball Pro Players event, the SBE’s Web site failed to record the fact that a match between Kristina Tkach and Sarah Rousey happened at all. As noted in the earlier 10-Ball Pro Player report, a final did, in fact occur. Tkach gave up only four games in the race-to-11 finals to claim the event title, which, according to our records is her first major event victory here in the US.

Bryant goes undefeated to take WPBA title at Janet Atwell’s Borderline Billiards

Brittany Bryant, Janet Atwell and Mary Rakin (Photo courtesy of Barbara Lee)

It’s hard to know just how exactly the proverbial ‘luck of the draw’ can impact a tournament field. Is there ever an easy path through a strong field? Does early ‘luck of the draw’ influence a player’s ability to face increasingly difficult competition? With ‘no’ as the answer to the ‘easy path’ question, one would think that getting a few relatively ‘easy’ matches under your belt before facing any heavy hitters would have to be of benefit. On the weekend of October 18-21, Canada’s Brittany Bryant went undefeated through a field of strong opponents to win the WPBA BLU-EMU Southern Open Signature Tour Stop.
 
With a Fargo Rate of 663, Bryant opened the tournament with matches against opponents whose ratings were in the 500 range, slowly graduating to matches against higher ranked opponents, and then, in the finals, squaring off against Mary Rakin with exactly the same rating of 663. The $10,000-added event drew 64 entrants to Janet Atwell’s Borderline Billiards in Bristol, TN.
 
That said, it didn’t take Bryant long to get into the thick of things. Following victories over Autumn Duncan (Fargo Rating 585) 7-2 and Bonnie Arnold (553) 7-3, Bryant faced the Texas Tornado, Vivian Villarreal, sporting a higher Fargo rate of 685 (the top Fargo-rated female in the US). They locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Bryant against Jia Li (654) and a second double hill fight, which Bryant won, advancing to a winners’ side semifinal match against Karen Corr (722; as an Irish competitor, Corr is not on the US Top 10 list, and doesn’t appear among the top 10 World List, dominated by seven Chinese women, whose ratings range from 782 to 744).
 
Meanwhile, Line Kjorsvik (675) was running her own gauntlet of top-notch talent. She defeated Ji-Hyun Park, Jeannette Lee, Ashley Rice and Helena Thornfeldt to draw (out of the frying pan into the fire, so to speak) Allison Fisher (724). Fisher had sent Bryant’s eventual finals opponent, Mary Rakin, to the loss side in the second round.
 
Bryant downed Corr 7-3, and in the hot seat match, faced Kjorsvik, who’d survived a somewhat predictable double hill match against Fisher. Bryant claimed the hot seat 7-5 over Kjorsvik and waited for Rakin to complete her nine-match, loss-side winning streak that would bring her into the final match.
 
Six matches had put Bryant in the hot seat, and while they included those back-to-back wins over Villareal, Li, Corr and Kjorsvik, the run paled (somewhat) in the face of what Rakin accomplished to meet her in the finals. Wins over Kaylin Wykoff and Maureen Seto put Rakin into the first money round (17th-24th) against Gerda (Hofstatter) Gregerson. A subsequent win over Dawn Hopkins led to five straight wins over Thornfeldt, Jennifer Baretta, Corr, Fisher and Kjorsvik.
 
She defeated Thornfeldt 7-4 and Baretta 7-3 to pick up Corr, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Fisher drew Jia Li, who’d defeated LoreeJon Hasson 7-5 and Melissa Little 7-4 to reach her.
 
Rakin defeated Corr 7-5 and in the quarterfinals, faced Fisher, who’d eliminated Li 7-2. Rakin and Fisher locked up in a double hill fight that eventually advanced Rakin to the semifinals against Kjorsvik. A second straight double hill fight, won by Rakin, gave Rakin her shot at Bryant in the finals.
 
The finals, according to FargoRate, was a 50/50 proposition. Rakin had the intangible of momentum and recent wins over higher ranked competitors going for her, though two straight double hill wins over quality opponents might have taken a little out of her. Bryant had the wait, which can sometimes work for you with a little rest or against you, in terms of going a little cold at the table. By the same token, her own list of recently defeated quality opponents suggested that either way, it was going to be a good match between two quality opponents who had more than earned their way into the finals. Bryant won it 7-4 to claim the event title.