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Gorst goes undefeated to claim 1st Annual Hannah Choi Memorial Title

Fedor Gorst, Shane Wolford, Kristina Tkach, Paul Oh and room owner Anthony Luong

There are times when words are insufficient to the task that they have been set out on a page to perform. So it is with reporting on the B & L Billiard Tournaments’ 1st Annual Hannah Choi Memorial, a $10,000-added event that drew 64 entrants to First Break Sports Bar in Sterling, VA last weekend (June 11-12). Spearheaded by a trio of Hannah Choi’s close friends – Paul Oh, Kristina Tkach and Fedor Gorst – the memorial was organized to commemorate Choi, who went missing from her home in early March and was discovered dead in a Maryland park weeks later. The person currently being sought in connection with her death, classified as murder, has still not been apprehended. 

Choi was an active player at Street Light Billiard Academy in Alexandria, VA, where Tkach, Gorst, Ruslan Chinakhov and other members of “Roy’s Basement,” along with players like Shane Van Boening, Efren Reyes and Nick Varner would gather along with Academy members, offering clinics, challenge matches and exhibitions.

“Hannah became Kristina’s handler, like a family member,” said Oh. “Hannah wasn’t like a professional player, although she was an APA 6, and she became close to Kristina. She was probably Kristina’s closest friend, lived with her whenever she was in-country.”

As a loosely-organized group engaged in the Virginia (and surrounding areas) pool community, the players would discuss any number of things around meals, table practice and tournaments. On more than one occasion, Choi had mentioned to the group the idea of organizing a Virginia-based ProAm tournament, which, for a variety of different reasons, had never really advanced beyond casual talk about it being a good idea.

“We’d had conversations about it,” said Oh, “wanting to hold a tournament in the area, so when Hannah passed, it was a no-brainer.”

Oh reached out to B&L Billiard Tournaments, in the persons of Brian Kilgore and Lai Li, within a matter of days after Choi’s passing. In less than three months, the circle of friends that had known Choi personally, organized the 1st Annual event that would bear her name.

“It meant a lot to Paul, Fedor and Kristina, who was her best friend,” said Kilgore. “Kristina talked to the players (at length) before the tournament began, telling them all of the things that Hannah Choi had done for her.”

Kilgore and the 64-entrant field were all on-hand to hear Tkach’s impassioned words. In retrospect, Kilgore regretted that the moments had not been recorded. Tkach did, though, write about Choi’s passing in an on-line post.

“I didn’t lose my best friend,” she wrote. “No…I lost so much more than that. I lost my soulmate, my partner, life mentor, my whole world.”

“But you didn’t leave me, right?” she went on to ask. “No, it just can’t be… you are somewhere here now, by my side, kindly looking at me, smiling, listening to me just like you always did.”

Tkach continued, eventually confronting the chasm of grief that lay before her; “the pain that doesn’t go away no matter what you do, eating you up from inside.

“But I can’t give up,” she added. “I have to keep grinding, growing and trying to be the best I can possibly be, because that’s what you would want me to do. I promise you will be proud of me.”

At the risk of presumption, one can only imagine that Hannah Choi would have accepted the need and impetus to discuss her passing and the memorial tournament arranged on her behalf, and then, expected all of us to proceed; “grinding, growing, trying to be the best that we can possibly be because that’s what (she) would want us to do.”

The 64-entrant, double elimination bracket that opened the proceedings had a proverbial ‘boat load’ of pool talent on board, including the very people responsible for the tournament’s existence; Paul Oh, Kristina Tkach and Fedor Gorst. Two of those three (Tkach and Gorst) would advance to the single elimination phase of the event and Gorst would win it. Things were set up through the event semifinals for Tkach and Gorst to square off in the final match, but Shane Wolford stepped in and left Tkach in the tie for 3rd place.

In one of the more entertaining matches of the event, Gorst opened up the double-elimination phase against junior competitor, Joey Tate. Live-streamed (as were selected matches throughout the weekend) by Omega Billiards, Tate encountered some early issues, arguably brought on by an initial concern that he might not make it to the event at all. He’d called Brian Kilgore to relate some ‘timing’ issues and assured him that though he was running late, he would be there in time. He made it on-time, by a matter of minutes and found himself facing Gorst in his opening round.

In the early going, Tate missed some ‘9’s and ‘10’s and found himself in a 3-1 hole after four. But he fought back to be within a single game at 6-5. Gorst prevailed and Tate would go on to lose his first loss-side match. 

Gorst advanced and ran into an immediate double hill battle against Atlantic Coast veteran Steve Fleming. He survived that battle as well, and then shut out Kevin West to become one of the eight winners’ side competitors advancing to single elimination. He was joined by fellow ‘winners’ side’ competitors Warren Kiamco, Greg McAndrews, Manny Chau, Roberto Gomez, Shane Wolford, Brandon Shuff and Chris Hansen. From the loss side, Rafael Reyes, Danny Mastermaker, Deo Alpajora, Kevin West, Dylan Spohr, BJ Ussery, Jr., Mhet Vergara and Kristina Tkach advanced to the final 16. Tkach, sent to the loss side by Manny Chau, had worked her way through William Moon, Lukas Fracasso-Verner and Roger Halder to join the loss-side’s group in the final 16.

Tkach got by Roberto Gomez in the opening round of single elimination and in the quarterfinals, drew Kevin West, who’d eliminated Chris Hansen. Gorst defeated Mhet Vergara and picked up Manny Chau, who’d sent Greg McAndrews home. Wolford, in the meantime, had knocked out Brandon Shuff and faced BJ Ussery, who’d defeated Rafael Reyes to reach him. Kiamco got by Deo Alpajora in the single-elimination opening round and squared off against Dylan Spohr, who’d ended Danny Mastermaker’s run.

Tkach downed West 9-7 and in the semifinals, drew Wolford, who’d defeated Ussery 9-7. Gorst eliminated Chau 9-4 and picked up Kiamco, who’d defeated Spohr 9-4. 

Wolford put an end to speculation and hopes for two of Hanna Choi’s best friends to meet in the finals with a 9-6 win over Tkach. Gorst downed Kiamco 9-5. In the extended race-to-9, Gorst and Wolford came within a game of double hill. Gorst pulled out in front in the end to win by two, 11-9. 

The 1st Annual Hannah Choi Memorial was in the books, with Gorst and Tkach proud to have played their part in making it a success. Paul Oh, though less than pleased with his finish ‘out of the money,’ as it were, was pleased at how well the entire affair had been arranged and executed, as was Brian Kilgore.

“It’s amazing to me how it turned out,” said Oh, noting that it was a combined effort on the part of the group of friends around Hannah Choi, who, over the years, “had eaten together, travelled together and worked together,” to include Anthony Milanesi (who’d donated a cue that he’d made for one of the raffles that helped bring money to the event), Ken Tranh and his wife, Linda, Joonick Jun and of course, the central trio of Tkach, Oh and Fedor Gorst. 

That core group along with Brian Kilgore and Lai Li thanked Anthony Luong and his First Break staff for their hospitality and a portion of the added money, as well as Cuetec Cues. They applauded the efforts of all 64 players who’d made Hannah Choi’s first memorial a memorable occasion. As something of an extended tour-promotion unit, they are already looking forward to the 2nd Annual Hannah Choi Memorial. While it’s a bit too early to determine how that will shape up, there is consideration being given to another Open event, as well as a Women’s tournament.

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2021 Ocean State 9-Ball – Greg McAndrews v Mike Demarco


Zvi comes back from semifinals to defend his Empire State 10-Ball Championship title

(l to r): Mieszko Fortunski, Konrad Jusczyzszyn & Zion Zvi

Carandang goes undefeated to capture Amateur title
At the conclusion of the 2017 Empire State 10-Ball Championships (Open/Pro division), at which Zion Zvi had gone undefeated through a field of 25, he spoke of coming back from a break that he’d taken over the past few years.
“I’m going to be more active,” he said at the time, noting that he’d be “coming back one step at at a time.”
One week later, he’d claimed the 8th Annual New England Hall of Fame Tournament title, and before the year was out, he’d pocketed the best recorded earnings in his 15-year career. On Sunday February 25, he began 2018 the same way, by successfully defending his title at the 11th Annual Empire State 10-Ball Championships. He missed going undefeated by a single game, battling for the hot seat, but came back to defeat Mieszko Fortunski in the finals. For the second year in a row, the $1,000-added Open/Pro division of the Championships drew 25 entrants to the event’s traditional venue, Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY.
Commencing on Saturday, February 24, Raxx Billiards also played host to the annual Amateur division of the Empire State Championships, competing in 9-Ball. This year’s $2,000-added event drew 111 entrants, three more than it had last year. Jason Carandang went undefeated through the field to claim his first major title.
Zvi’s trek to the winners’ circle advanced through to a winners’ side semifinal match against Michael Yednak. Fortunski, in the meantime, met up with Joey Korsiak in the other winners’ side semifinal. Zvi and Fortunksi got into the hot seat match with identical 7-4 wins over Yednak and Korsiak. Fortunski claimed the hot seat 7-2, and waited on Zvi’s return from the semifinals.
On the loss side, Yednak picked up Konrad Jusczyzszyn, who’d defeated Mike Panzarella 7-3 and survived a double hill match versus Jorge Rodriguez. Korsiak drew Greg McAndrews, who’d chalked up two straight double hill wins against Tony Robles Frankie Hernandez to reach him.
By identical 7-4 scores, McAndrews and Jusczyzszyn advanced to the quarterfinals over Korsiak and Yednak. Jusczyzszyn then downed McAndrew 7-3 in those quarterfinals. Zvi put a stop to Jusczyzszyn’s run 7-3 in the semifinals, and then, in a successful 11-7 re-match against Fortunski, claimed the event title.
[photo id=48723|align=right]Carandang and Romann battle twice for the Amateur title
They met early and late. Jason Carandang sent Steven Romann to the loss side in a double hill match early in the Amateur event. Caradang advanced to the hot seat, as Romann chalked up seven wins on the loss side to meet him a second time. The finals fell a game short of being a second double hill match (7-5), but the result was the same.
Caradang advanced through the field to a winners’ side semifinal against Ada Lio, the Predator Pro Am Tour’s top female at this early-in-the-season juncture. Shawn Jackson and Frank Cutrone met up in the other winners’ side semifinal. Carandang sent Lio to the loss side 7-2, as Jackson sent over Cutrone over 7-5. Carandang and Jackson locked up in a double hill fight that left Carandang in the hot seat, and Jackson on his way to the semifinals.
It was Lio, who picked up the eventual runner-up, Steve Romann on the loss side. He was four matches into the loss-side streak that was taking him to the finals. He’d most recently downed Adam Miller 7-5 and Jose Kuilan 7-4. Cutrone picked up teenager Lukas Fracassso-Verner, who’d eliminated Steinway Billiards’ owner, Manny Stamatakis in a double hill fight, and Paul Everton in an almost-double hill fight (7-5).
Romann defeated Lio 7-4 and advanced to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Cutrone, who’d put Fracasso-Verner on the wrong end of another double hill fight. Two more, apparently very popular 7-4 wins, in the quarterfinals against Cutrone and in the semifinals, against Jackson, gave Romann a second shot against Carandang. To no avail, as it turned out. Carandang completed his undefeated run with a 7-5 win in the finals.
A Second Chance event that drew 16 entrants was Mike Callaghan defeat George Poltorak 7-3 in the finals. Dan Faraguna finished third, with Debby Buyukdeniz in fourth place. Max Watanabe defeated Mike Salerno 7-2 in the finals of a Third Chance event that drew 8 entrants.
Tour director Tony Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Raxx Billiards for their hospitality, as well as title sponsor Predator Cues, NAPL, Ozone Billiards, The DeVito Team,,, AZBilliards, Billiards Digest and Robles also extended thanks to his entire Predator Staff, including his wife, Gail Robles, Mandy Wu, William Finnegan, Irene Kim, and Rob Omen. The next stop on the Predator Pro Am Tour, scheduled for March 3-4, will be hosted by The Spot in Nanuet, NY.

Turning Stone Classic XXIV – Sean Morgan vs Gregg McAndrews

Shaw goes undefeated on Predator Tour; Delimelkonoglu wins Amateur event

Jayson Shaw

Jayson Shaw picked up his third win on the 2015 Predator Tour, with an undefeated run on the weekend of July 11-12. The $500-added Open/Pro event drew 16 entrants to Amsterdam Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY. Kapriel Delimelkonoglu went undefeated, as well, to win the concurrently-run, $500-added Amateur event that drew 57 entrants.
Shaw had to get by Roberto Gomez twice to complete his undefeated run. They met first in a winners' side semifinal, as Zion Zvi and Sean "Alaska" Morgan squared off in the other one. Shaw downed Gomez the first time 7-3, and in the battle for the hot seat, faced Zvi, who'd sent Morgan to the loss side 7-4. Shaw claimed the hot seat and waited on Gomez' return.
On the loss side, Gomez ran into Tony Robles, who'd defeated Jennifer Baretta 7-3 and Jorge Rodriguez 7-2. Morgan drew Warren Kiamco, who'd gotten by Adam Wheeler 7-5 and given up a single rack to Hunter Lombardo. Robles battled Gomez to a double hill final game, but Gomez advanced to face Kiamco, who'd defeated Morgan 7-5.
Gomez took the quarterfinal match 7-2 over Kiamco, and then denied Zvi a second shot against Shaw with a 7-4 win in the semifinals. Gomez battled Shaw to within a game of double hill, before Shaw closed it out to claim the event title.
In the Amateur event, Delimelkonoglu had to put a stop to a five-match, loss-side winning streak by Carlos Luna to complete his undefeated run. As Luna was working on that loss-side streak, Delimelkonoglu advanced to a winners' side semifinal against Greg McAndrews. Pavam Bhargara, in the meantime, squared off against Dave Faraguna. Delimelkonoglu advanced to the hot seat match 8-2 over McAndrews, and was joined by Bhargara, who defeated Faraguna 8-7. Delimelkonoglu claimed the hot seat 8-6 and waited for Luna to finish his loss-side run.
Luna, who'd been sent to the loss side by McAndrews, defeated Dmitry Rosenfeld 7-4 and Amir Uddin 7-3 to earn a rematch against McAndrews. Faraguna picked up Abel Rosario, who'd defeated Jose Quillan 7-5 and Chris Karp, double hill. Faraguna and McAndrews picked up their second consecutive loss, immediately; Faraguna being eliminated Rosario 7-4, and Luna downed McAndrews 7-2.
Luna took the quarterfinal match over Rosario 8-6 and then sent Bhargara home 8-5. Delimelkonoglu ended Luna's loss-side streak with a 7-5 win to claim the Amateur event title.

Robles goes undefeated to win second straight Predator Open event

Tony Robles

With an undefeated trip through a short field on Sunday, July 1, Tony Robles won his second straight, Open event on his own tour; his fourth, overall, since February. To do it, he forced Zion Zvi into his third straight second-place finish on the tour. It would have been his fourth straight second place finish had Robles not defeated him in the semifinals of the Empire State Championships in February. The $500-added Open/Pro event drew 16 entrants to Eastside Billiards on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

They met first among the winners’ side final four, with Robles sending Zvi west 7-3. Robles advanced to the hot seat match where he faced Justin Daniels, who’d defeated Sean Morgan 7-3. Robles sent Daniels to the semifinals 7-5 and sat in the hot seat, awaiting Zvi’s return.

Zvi moved over and picked up Jennifer Baretta, who’d defeated Mike Dube and Joe Landi, both 7-4.  Morgan drew Mhet Vergara, who’d survived a double hill battle against Greg McAndrews and then given up only a single rack to Alex Osipov.  Zvi and Morgan advanced to the quarterfinals with identical 7-4 wins over Baretta and Vergara. Zvi  then defeated Morgan 7-3, and gave up only a single rack in the semifinals versus Daniels to earn his re-match against Robles. 

In the extended-race finals, Zvi was looking to exact revenge for his earlier loss among the winners’ side final four, but Robles stepped to the table with his own memories. While Robles had kept Zvi out of the finals of the Empire State Championships with a double hill, semifinal win, it was Zvi, a month later, who chalked up a commanding 7-2 semifinal victory that spoiled Robles’ bid for a third straight win on the tour. 

With Robles in the hot seat, Zvi had to reach nine games first, to extend the race to 11 games, and he almost pulled it off. Zvi was out in front by two at the 5-3 and 6-4 marks. When Zvi reached the ‘extension hill’  mark of 8 games, though, Robles was only one behind. Robles then won two in a row to hit the nine-game mark, and conclude his undefeated day.

As tour representative, Robles thanked the ownership and staff at Eastside Billiards, as well as sponsors  Predator Cues, The National Amateur Pool League, Delta-13 racks, Poison Cues,, and NYCGrind. 

Reyes goes undefeated on A/D Predator stop; The Iceman does likewise on Open/Pro

Wellington Reyes won three straight double hill matches to finish an undefeated, March 24-25 weekend on the A-D handicapped Predator Tour. In a concurrently run Open/Pro event on Sunday, Mika Immonen stopped a loss-side challenge from Tour Director Tony Robles to also go undefeated. The $500-added handicapped event drew 52 entrants, while the $500-added Open/Pro event drew 14 to Carom Cafe and Billiards in Flushing, NY.

The first of Reyes’ final double hill wins came among the winners’ side final four, when he sent Lidio Rasta to the loss-side 7-6. Andrew Cleary, in the meantime, defeated Wilfredo Albay 7-4 to join Reyes in the battle for the hot seat. Reyes chalked up his second straight double hill win with a 10-9 victory over Cleary that left him in the hot seat.

Albay and Rasta moved to the loss side and lost no time getting back into the swing of things. Albay shutout Hector Ruiz, and was joined in the quarterfinal match by Rasta, who’d eliminated Tony Liang 7-4. Rasta then squeaked by Albay double hill and defeated Cleary in the semifinals 9-7. Reyes, though, ended Rasta’s three-match, loss-side bid with his third double hill victory in the finals to complete his undefeated weekend. 

The Iceman’s journey through the short field on-hand for the Open/Pro event went through Robb Saez among the winners’ side final four. Saez moved west on the heels of a 7-5 Mika victory, as Jeremy Sossei was busy sending Zion Zvi over, 7-4. Immonen and Sossei battled to double hill before The Iceman sunk the 9-ball that left him in the hot seat.

Over on the loss-side, Tony Robles, who’d been sent over by Zvi, was at work on a five-match streak that would set him up against Immonen in the finals. He got by Brian Russell 7-1 and Frankie Hernandez 7-3 to pick up Saez. Zvi drew Jorge Rodriguez, who’d defeated Jennifer Baretta 7-2 and Greg McAndrews double hill. Robles gave up only a single rack against Saez, and a Zvi/Robles re-match was avoided when Rodriguez eliminated Zvi 7-5.

Robles downed Rodriguez in the quarterfinals 7-3, and then survived a double hill semifinal match against Sossei for a chance against The Iceman. Immonen allowed Robles only a single game in the match that completed his undefeated day.

Tour director Robles thanked the owners and staff of Carom Cafe and Billiards, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, The National Amateur Pool League, Delta-13 racks, Poison Cues,, and NYCGrind.

1st Wellington Reyes $1,000
2nd Lidio Rasta $700
3rd Andrew Cleary $450
4th Wilfredo Albay $300
5th Hector Ruiz $200
Tony Liang
7th Charles Young $125
Bill Davis
9th Mike Fisher $75
Patrick Meyers
Simon Lau
Shawn Sookhai


1st Mika Immonen $650
2nd Tony Robles $450
3rd Jeremy Sossei $300
4th Jorge Rodriguez $200

Saez gets by Zvi twice to go undefeated at Predator Open/Pro event

Robb Saez (File photo courtesy of Diana Hoppe)

Robb Saez got by Zion Zvi twice – once among the winners’ side final four and again, in the finals – to take top honors in the Predator Tour’s Open/Pro event on Sunday, March 18. Run concurrently with an Amateur event (see related report), the $500-added Open/Pro event drew 13 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria, NY.

In their first of two, Saez sent Zvi west 7-4 and turned to face Tony Robles in the battle for the hot seat. Robles had sent Greg McAndrews to the loss side 7-3. Saez got into the hot seat with a 7-4 win over Robles.

Zvi moved to the loss side where he picked up Sean Morgan, who’d defeated Jerry Tarantola 7-1 and survived a double hill battle against Frankie Hernandez. McAndrews drew Jennifer Barretta, who’d gotten by Mhet Vergara double hill and Lionel Rivera 7-1. By identical 7-4 scores, Zvi and Barretta defeated Morgan and McAndrews and squared off against each other in the quarterfinals. 

Zvi then defeated both Barretta in the quarterfinals and Robles in the semifinals by a score of 7-2.

The re-match in the finals saw Zvi and Saez battle to double hill before Saez sunk the final ball to secure the event title.

Thanks were extended to the ownership and staff of Steinway Billiards, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, The National Amateur Pool League, Delta-13 racks, Poison Cues,, and NYCGrind.

The Iceman wins Open/Pro event on Predator Tour

Mika Immonen

They’re friends, the two of them – Mika Immonen and Zion Zvi – and as it turned out, they faced each other twice in the Open/Pro event of the Predator Tour stop on the weekend of March 3-4. The Iceman won both times, once early, and again in the finals to finish undefeated. The $500-added event drew 11 entrants to Mr. Cue in Lindenhurst, NY.

As Zvi idled with a bye in the opening round, Immonen defeated Greg McAndrews 7-3. They met in the second round, and Immonen won his first of their two 7-3. Immonen moved among the winners’ side final four to face tour director Tony Robles. In the second pairing, Frankie Hernandez squared off against Jennifer Barretta. Immonen sent Robles to the loss side 7-2, as Hernandez downed Barretta 7-5. Immonen got into the hot seat with a 7-4 victory over Hernandez and waited for his friend Zvi to complete a four-match, loss-side winning streak to meet up with him in the finals.

Zvi drew a bye on the loss side and then shut out Brian Russell, to pick up Barretta. Robles drew McAndrews, who after being sent west by Immonen, defeated Steve Wright 7-3 and Scott Murphy 7-4. Zvi finished Barretta’s day with a 7-4 victory and was joined in the quarterfinals by McAndrews, who downed Robles 7-3. 

Zvi and McAndrews locked up in a double hill battle in those quarterfinals, but Zvi prevailed and advanced to meet Hernandez in the semifinals. A 7-4 win there gave Zvi the chance he’d been working for all along – a second chance against the Iceman. Immonen took their second set in the potentially extended race 9-4 to complete his undefeated day.

Tour director Tony Robles thanked the owners and staff of Mr. Cue, as well as sponsors Predator Cues, The National Amateur Pool League, Delta-13 racks, Poison Cues,, and NYCGrind.