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World 10-Ball Champion Kaci Remains Undefeated at CSI Michigan Open

Eklent Kaci

The only real problem with Thursday afternoon’s match between Russia’s Fedor Gorst and Albania’s Eklent Kaçi is that someone had no choice but to lose.

Both competed in that way you’d expect two players who have won recent major championships to challenge each other, with Kaçi using a powerful break and smooth shot making while was Gorst sinking jump shots like he was on the basketball court. Just when it appeared one player had the lead, the other would battle back to either narrow the gap or take the lead themselves.

In the end, it would be Gorst who finally blinked, missing a spot shot in sudden death, as Kaçi remained on the winner’s side of the bracket with the sudden death victory in the third round of the Michigan Open Thursday afternoon at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, Mich. With the victory, the reigning World 10-Ball champion qualified for the final 16 single-elimination portion of the tournament and is one of eight players who remain undefeated in this weekend’s event.

Playing in the race-to-four first set, the Albanian used a combination shot on the 10 ball, a break-and-run and a missed shot by his opponent to build a 3-1 lead. Gorst, who won the World 9-Ball Championship in 2019, used a combination shot on the 10 ball in the fifth rack and a missed 4 ball by his opponent to tie the match, but then failed to pocket a ball on the break in the seventh game. Kaci had the opportunity to claim the game but committed a foul on the 3 ball, but he would ultimately win the rack anyways when Gorst overran position on the 6 ball and missed the ball in the corner pocket.

The young Russian regrouped in the second set, claiming the first two games then returning to the table in the fifth game after Kaçi missed position on the 5 ball and played safe. Gorst banked the ball in and ran out the remaining balls to climb onto the hill, 3-2. The next rack was textbook Gorst, as he jumped in the 3 and 4 balls then banked in the 5 ball again to claim the set, 4-2, and force sudden death shots. Both competitors were perfect through the extra session until the fourth inning, where Kaci made his spot shot while Gorst missed.

The match was one of two that went to an extra frame during the afternoon session, with Tony Robles making a second half comeback in his match against Edgie Geronimo to stay alive in the tournament.

Geronimo jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the race-to-four first set, but Robles used a dry break from his competitor to return to the table, claim the next two racks and tie the score. Robles lost control of the table in the fifth rack when he failed to pocket a ball on the break, and the Filipino Geronimo cleared the table to regain the lead. Geronimo, who finished third at the Arizona Open, again failed to pocket a ball on his break in the sixth game but would return to the table when his opponent missed position on the 2 ball, then missed a kick shot on the ball.

Using a break-and-run and a couple of unforced errors by his opponent, Robles rallied in the second set to shut out Geronimo, 4-0, and force a match-deciding extra inning. He then pocketed the first and third shots in the extra period, which was more than enough to defeat Geronimo, who did not make a ball in three attempts.

Robles now moves on to face Abdullah Alshammari Friday afternoon at noon local time, with the winner scheduled to face Aloysius Yapp, who struggled at times in his match against Roberto Gomez Jr. and was defeated in straight sets, 4-2, 4-3. After losing the opening set, Yapp used a break-and-run and a pair of missed shots from his opponent to build a 3-2 lead in the second, but failed to pocket a ball on the break in the sixth rack. Gomez ran out the rack and then tacked on a break-and-run to claim the set and avoid a shootout.

Also remaining undefeated was Austria’s Mario He, who needed a shootout of his own to defeat American Tyler Styer, who overcame a handful of early unforced errors in the first set to clinch the second.

He jumped out to an early 2-0 lead then took advantage of a Styer scratch in the third game and a missed 10 ball in the next rack to pitch a shutout a 4-0 in the first set. After He won the first rack of the second set, Styer managed to swipe a game back then use back-to-back break and runs and a missed kick shot by his opponent to win the set and force sudden death. He was perfect in the extra-inning frame, making all four spot shots while Styer only pocketed two.

The tournament will resume play Friday, with live matches being broadcast on WorldBilliardTV’s YouTube page as well as Billiard TV beginning at noon eastern time. Notable matches include Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski meeting Russia’s Ruslan Chinahov in a win-or-go-home match on the one-loss side, with the winner facing Gorst. Also playing is Estonia’s Denis Grabe, who will face Kuwait’s Bader Al Awadhi, with the winner scheduled to face Spain’s Francisco Sanchez Ruiz. When eight competitors are remaining on both the winner and one-loss side, the brackets will be re-seeded as the format transitions to the single-elimination knockout phase.

This event also is the third stop of the U.S. Pro Billiard Series, which features five open professional events between July and the end of the year. Created by Predator Group and amateur league operator CueSports International, these tournaments will run in tandem alongside of CSI league amateur events being held throughout the country. The winner of each competition receives a guaranteed spot in the $125,000-added 2022 Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which will be held March 28 through April 1 in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel and Casino.

This competition is played on Predator Pro pool tables covered with Predator Arcadia performance cloth, with Predator Arcos II precision balls, and under the Predator Arena billiard lights.

For more information on the U.S. Pro Billiard Series or amateur leagues, visit www.playcsipool.com.

For the latest information on the Predator Pro Billiard Series action, follow @ProBilliardSeries on Facebook and Instagram. For Live broadcasting watch   or follow WorldBilliardTV on YouTube for replays.

The Arcadia Arizona Open kicks off the new US Pro Billiard Series

From his early days of competing in pocketing billiards events, Russia’s Fedor Gorst has always shown a proficiency for jumping the cue ball over pesky, obstructing balls.

When the young man was a mere teenager, he used a pinpoint jump shot over Konstantin Stepanov in the finals of a Russian event to earn his first victory. Ever since, it’s been common knowledge among European competitors that sending the cue ball airborne for Gorst is as mundane as a stop shot for them.

The 21-year-old from Moscow was at it again Saturday night in the finals of the inaugural U.S. Pro Billiard Series Arizona Open, using two successful jump shots in his final game to secure the second set of his match against Carlo Biado, then executing four consecutive spot shots in sudden death to secure the title. Gorst, who earned a World 9-Ball championship in 2019 and competed on last year’s winning European Mosconi Cup squad, posted an undefeated record throughout the four-day, 46-player event held last week at Casino Del Sol Resort in Tuscon.

“I was just trying to focus,” said Gorst after the second set was completed and he approached the sudden death frame. “I was super pumped up in that last rack and I was trying to calm down.”

Biado, who has a World 9-Ball title of his own, jumped out to an early advantage during the first set, using a missed 1 ball by his opponent coupled with a break-and-run to take a 2-0 lead in a race-to-four. Gorst rallied in the middle stages, clearing the table during the third game after the Filipino failed to pocket a ball on the break and taking advantage of missed shots by Biado in the next two games to gain the lead, 3-2. At the table with the chance to win the set in the sixth game, the Russian couldn’t pocket a ball on his break. Biado cleared the table then took advantage of a Gorst foul in the next rack to snatch the set, 4-3.

Needing to win the second set to force a shootout, Gorst could not have asked for a better beginning final frame, pocketing the 10 ball on the break to climb onto the scoreboard first. Biado used a misplayed safety to tie the score at a game each but when he failed to pocket a ball on the break in the next game, the Russian pounced – running out the third game and adding a break-and-run to inch ahead, 3-1. Seeing the cue ball’s path blocked nearby balls, Gorst reached for his jump cue and used the instrument to jump in the 3 and 5 balls – securing a 4-1 victory, tying the match at a set apiece and forcing an extra frame.

Gorst’s hot shooting would continue in the extra session, as he sent cut shot after cut shot tumbling into the corner pocket while his opponent struggled to find his stroke, missing back-to-back attempts after landing his opening shot. Biado had a chance to extend the extra set in the fourth frame but missed again.

The U.S. Pro Billiard Series returns to action with the Diamond Las Vegas Open September 1-4 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

The Arcadia Arizona Open was the first stop in the U.S. Pro Billiard Series, which features five open professional events between July and the end of the year. Created as a partnership between Predator Group and amateur league operator CueSports International, these tournaments will run in tandem along side of CSI league amateur events being held throughout the country. The winner of each competition receives a guaranteed spot in the $100,000-added 2022 Predator World 10-Ball Championship, which will be held March 28 through April 1 in Las Vegas.

For more information on the U.S. Pro Billiard Series or amateur leagues, visit www.playcsipool.com.

Gorst, Tkach, Garcia and Geronimo win events at 7th Annual Junior Norris Memorial Shootout

Fedor Gorst and Kristina Tkach

Tkach and Gorst share All-Around Player Award, Saez wins Sportsmanship Award

What started out as a Texas-style family barbecue held to honor two birthdays, eventually developed into an annual barbecue/multiple pool tournament event –  The Junior Norris Annual Memorial Shootout, named after one of the two people celebrating a birthday. The other birthday celebrant was Junor Norris’ Mom, Sadie. Junior’s birthday was June 30. Sadie’s was on July 4th, so the family found ways to split the date difference and hold a “little party,” 

In 2014, in preparation for Junior Norris’ 89th birthday (Sadie had passed in 1966), they thought they’d try something a little different.

“We thought, instead of a barbecue,” recalled Junior’s daughter, Sherrie Glenn, “what about we do the barbecue at the pool hall and do a tournament?”

This past (long) weekend, eight years later, from Wednesday, July 7 to Sunday, July 11, at the 7th Annual Junior Norris Memorial Shootout (the 7th event was initially cancelled last year due to COVID restrictions), the family played host to five separate events, with a total of $7,000-added that drew over 200 entrants (some cross-event duplications) to the Maskat Shrine Ballroom in Wichita Falls, TX.

And then fed them.

“I feed all my players for free,” said Sherrie Glenn of the paid players, VIP guests and event support staff that chowed down on Texas barbecue over the weekend.

They also played a lot of pool. From a single 9-ball event that was won in 2015 (when they started to keep records) by Las Vegas, NV’s Walter Glass, this year’s Junior Norris Memorial Shootout’s featured four events that were won by Fedor Gorst (10-Ball Ring Game), Edgie Geronimo with Justin Espinosa as runner-up (Open 9-Ball), Roland Garcia with Carlo Biado as runner-up (Open 10-Ball) and Russia’s Kristina Tkach with Minnesota’s April Larson as runner-up (Women’s 9-Ball Open). As a result of their efforts, Tkach and Fedor Gorst shared, and for the cameras, wrestled over the Memorial’s All-Around Player Award. 

Defending champs ‘in the house,’ included Efren Reyes, who is on his Farewell Tour throughout the US, and who won the Open 9-Ball event in 2019. He finished in 4th place this year, just after winning a double-hill battle versus Kristina Tkach. He was eliminated by Tkach’s fellow Russian, Fedor Gorst in the quarterfinals. Tara Williams also won in 2019 and she, too, finished in 4th place this year, ousted by April Larson 7-4 in the quarterfinals. Also competing again this year was Robb Saez, who won the 9-Ball Open in 2018. Listing the number of total returning competitors would take far too long, as would a list of notable players who’ve competed over the years since 2015, so instead, we’ll start at the beginning. 

Things got under way on Wednesday night, July 7, with a “VIP” night that included reserved seats for the 10-Ball Ring Game with dinner. The $500-added Ring Game followed and was won by Fedor Gorst, who pocketed $1,700. Carlo Biado was the runner-up ($1,275), with Shane McMinn ($850) and Roland Garcia ($425) finishing third and fourth.

Thursday and Friday featured the Open 10-Ball event that drew 53 entrants. Representing the Philippines, Roland Garcia went undefeated to claim the title. Local favorite Rick Stanley battled for the hot seat and then, in the semifinals, lost to another Filipino, Carlo Biado, who won seven on the loss side, including the semifinals versus Stanley, to face Garcia in the finals. Fedor Gorst finished fourth.

The largest event of the long weekend was the 104-entrant 9-Ball Open, which began on Friday. Edgie Geronimo defeated Justin Espinosa twice, in the hot seat and finals, to complete an undefeated run. Espinosa fought a double hill battle in the semifinals, versus Fedor Gorst, who finished third. Gorst had earlier eliminated Warren Kiamco, and in the quarterfinals, had defeated Efren Reyes, who finished fourth.

Some of the brightest and youngest female stars in the pool ‘sky’ were on hand, and fittingly, had to eliminate the Ladies 9-Ball event’s defending champion, Tara Williams, to claim the title. Russia’s Kristina Tkach did not end up competing against Williams, but did claim the title, going undefeated through the 36-entrant field that had gotten underway on Saturday. Tkach had to get by WPBA competitor and former BEF Junior National Champion, April Larson twice to claim the title; once, in a winners’ side semifinal and later, in the finals. Tkach downed Midwest veteran, Brittany Maynard in the hot seat match. On the loss side, Larson, who’d defeated Williams in a winners’ side quarterfinal, drew a re-match against Williams, who was in the midst of a three-match, loss-side winning streak that had eliminated two of the younger competitors – Aryana Lynch and Chris Fields. Larson defeated Williams a second time, dropping her into 4th place 7-5 and then downed Maynard in the semifinals. Tkach completed her undefeated run 7-5 over Larson in the finals to claim the event title.

Saturday’s events included a 96th Birthday BBQ Celebration for the late Junior Norris. 

Event organizer and promoter, Sherrie Glenn thanked the ownership and staff at the Maskat Shrine Ballroom, as well as sponsors Fort Worth Billiards Superstore, OB Cues, GoPlayPool, David Norris Equipment Co., Players Lounge, Jerry Olivier Cues (and Jerry Olivier, who was on hand throughout the weekend with cue repairs), JB Cases, Outsville, Sullyvisiontv.com (which broadcast a live stream throughout the weekend), High Country Promotions (for the 7’ ft. Valley Tables), Club Billiards, Broad St. Billiards, Gem Cues and Wichita Raceway Park.

Foldes wins nine on the loss side, downs Vilmont to defend his Andy Mercer Memorial title

Vilmos Foldes and Chad Vilmont

With Jimmy Mataya in the broadcast booth alongside POVPool’s Daniel Busch during the double elimination finals of the 30th Annual Andy Mercer Memorial, held over this past weekend (Feb. 21-23), viewers and listeners were rewarded with a combination of table savvy and street humor that made the broadcast almost as entertaining as the matches themselves. Sounding like a cross between the late Howard Cosell and Paul Harvey, while bearing a bit of ‘don’t mess with me’ edge to his commentary, Mataya would likely tell you how it all went down this way.

“Let me tell you something right now,” he might say. “These two kids knew what they were doin’ out there and put on one hell of a show, OK?”

The ‘kids’ to whom he hypothetically referred were the winner, Hungary’s Vilmos Foldes, the event’s defending champion, who won nine on the loss side to meet and defeat USA’s Chad Vilmont, who finished as runner-up, after he’d defeated six opponents, including two former champions of this event, to claim the hot seat. The $3,700-added event drew 64 entrants to Rum Runners in Las Vegas, NV.

Five of the event’s 17 former champions competed, and three of them finished among the top four – Foldes, Orcollo (2016), who finished third, and Warren Kiamco, who won it twice, in 1995 and 23 years later in 2018, and finished 4th this year. Also competing were Brian Parks, who won it in 2008 and finished in the tie for 7th, and Ernesto Dominguez, who won it in 2010 and finished this year in the tie for 33rd. Shane Van Boening, who’s won it five times, including four in a row from 2011-2014, did not compete.

Foldes got one match under his belt, a 6-0 shutout over Tres Kane, before running into a double hill fight versus Orcollo, that he lost. Orcollo advanced to defeat Jack Rippel and Brian Parks to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal against Chris Robinson. Vilmont, in the meantime, had opened his trek to the hot seat with three straight shutouts, over James Harling, Randy Kukla, and Joseph Crugnale, before he gave up three racks to Warren Kiamco in a winners’ side quarterfinal win. He faced Edgie Geronimo in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Orcollo sent Chris Robinson to the loss side 6-3, as Vilmont was busy surviving a double hill fight versus Geronimo. Vilmont claimed the hot seat 6-2 and sent Orcollo to a fateful semifinal against Foldes.

Vilmont, who’s been at the tables for “around 30 years,” was a little surprised and at the same time, not all that surprised to be in the hot seat in this particular field of players. He was asked, right after defeating Orcollo, if he had any particular mental preparation he employed for matches against some of this field’s tougher opponents.

“I just play my game. It doesn’t matter who I’m playing,” he said. “These guys have a lot of tools, but it comes down to me.”

“I’m getting old,” he added with a laugh. “I’m just happy to make the balls.”

On the loss side, Foldes had picked up, more or less, where he’d left off. He followed his defeat at the hands of Orcollo with his second 6-0 shutout, this one over Joey Chin. Foldes went on to defeat Trick Sixty, Joseph Crugnale and Lance Salazar, before eliminating Mark Jarvis 6-3 and Brian Parks 6-1 to draw Geronimo, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Chris Robinson picked up Kiamco, who, after his defeat at the hands of Vilmont, had survived a double hill fight against Mitch Ellerman and defeated Tommy Baker 6-4.

Foldes defeated Geronimo 6-3. He was joined in the quarterfinals by Kiamco, who in a ‘wily veteran’ vs. ‘young gun’ matchup against Chris Robinson had sent the youngster home with a shutout to remember him by. Foldes went on to eliminated Kiamco 6-3 in those quarterfinals, for a second shot at Orcollo in the semifinals.

They locked up in their second double hill fight in those semifinals. This time, though, Foldes moved on and Orcollo did not, ending his brief four-event-in-a-row winning streak that had begun with his victory at a Midnight Madness event of the Music City Classic, followed with his 9-Ball Banks and Master of the Table win at Derby City and most recently, concluded with his victory at the Texas 10-Ball Open (at which he defeated Warren Kiamco in the finals).

Foldes had that intangible ‘momentum’ working for him as he stepped into the true double elimination final against Vilmont and opened up a quick 4-1 lead in the opening set. Vilmont sandwiched a rack right in the middle of Foldes’ four. Vilmont, though, let everyone who was there know that it wasn’t over yet. He ran a three-pack to tie things at 4. They traded racks to the double hill 5-5 tie, before Foldes sealed the deal to force a second set.

Though Foldes would win the opening rack of the second set, Vilmont would record another three pack, before Foldes won two to tie; to include a 5-9 combination in the tying game. They traded racks to a 4-4 tie, before Vilmont reached the hill first, after Foldes scratched in the 9th rack. Vilmos came back to tie it to force a second double hill finish. Foldes finished it early with a 2-9 combination to successfully defend the Andy Mercer Memorial title.

Rum Runner owner Gino Hill and his brother, Gordie, along with their assistant, Mike Ganz thanked their staff and official event referee Jim Blakeman for their work, as well as Daniel Busch and his POVPool staff for their streaming of select matches throughout the weekend. Busch added thanks for POVPool sponsors JB Cases, Tiger Products, Luxe Electric Car and West State Billiards.

Robinson comes back from semifinal to claim 7th Annual Cole Dickson Memorial

Chris Robinson (Emilyn Callado)

In the absence of its last three champions (Jeffrey DeLuna last year and Dennis Orcollo, the two years before that), the 7th Annual Cole Dickson Memorial field of 104 entrants was, in a manner of speaking, wide open. In the midst of his best earnings year to date (according to our records), three-time state champion and the 2015 Billiard Education Foundation’s national junior 9-ball champion, California’s Chris Robinson came back from a loss in the hot seat match to win the $3,500-added event hosted by Family Billiards in San Francisco, CA on the weekend of June 29-30.
 
Robinson had to get by Rodrigo Geronimo twice, in the more or less traditional place for such double meetings; hot seat and finals. Robinson got into the hot seat match after a winners’ side quarterfinal victory over Shaun Kougioulis and a winners’ side semifinal win over Andrew McCloskey, both 8-6. Geronimo’s path went through Spencer Ladin (winners’ side quarterfinal) 8-3 and Jason Williams (winners’ side semifinal) 8-2. Geronimo claimed the hot seat 8-6 over Robinson and waited on his return.
 
On the loss side, Kevin Scheper, Harold Cajucom, Allen Lalic and Doug Whaley became the first cash winners in the event, falling to (respectively) Neal Vichiensaen (who finished 4th last year), Sargon Isaac, Bryce Avila and Ed Sinchai in the battles for 13th-16th place. Vichiensaen, Isaac, Avila and Sinchai advanced through the next round, in their battles against the recently-arrived competitors from the winners’ side quarterfinals. Isaac downed Spencer Ladin double hill, Avila defeated Kougioulis 6-2, Sinchai got by Robert Yulo 6-4 and Vichiensaen survived a double hill fight against Ernesto Dominguez.
 
 
Isaac then downed Vichiensaen 6-4 to pick up McCloskey, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Avila eliminated Sinchai 6-3 to draw Williams, who was looking to improve on his 5th/6th place finish last year (he’d won six on the loss side before being eliminated).
 
Isaac moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-2 win over McCloskey. Williams improved on his performance last year with a 6-4 victory over Avila that put him into the quarterfinals with Isaac. Williams’ run was ended by Isaac in the quarterfinals 6-3 (Williams would later chuckle at the notion that at his current pace, he’ll win the 10th Annual Cole Dickson Memorial in 2022).
 
Chris Robinson was having no part of a semifinal scenario that didn’t conclude with him facing Geronimo a second time. He allowed Isaac only a single rack in those semifinals and earned that second shot. He took full advantage of the opportunity, downing Geronimo 11-9 to win the 7th Annual Cole Dickson Memorial.
 
Tour representatives thanked Delbert Wong – a long-time personal friend of Cole Dickson and 32-year-owner of Family Billiards – and his staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Simonis Cloth, JB Cases, Jam Up Apparel, Joey Chin Custom Cues and West State Billiards. The event was streamed live and free on YouTube through the facilities of POVPool and Daniel Busch.