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Dick Jaspers Victorious in Las Vegas World Cup

Final awards ceremony

Dick Jaspers continued his march of devastation through the three-cushion world by securing a 50 to 43 victory over Sameh Sidhom of Egypt in the finals of the 2022 Las Vegas World Cup. With the win, the Dutch master notched his third consecutive victory on the world stage. Having won the World Championship in December 2021 in Egypt and the Ankara World Cup in January 2022, Jaspers secured his position as the number one ranked player in the world. Jaspers, a few months shy of his 57th birthday, also exorcized a demon of his past. In 2003, the last time the World Cup was held in the United States, also in Las Vegas, Jaspers lost in the final to Samih Sayginer of Turkey. This time, he would not be denied the trophy.

Sponsored by Predator, the Las Vegas World Cup was held at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Resort from March 27 to April 2. It is one of 6 World Cup tournaments to be played in 2022 under the auspices of the Union Mondiale de Billard (UMB), the world governing body for carom billiards. The first World Cup was held in Ankara, Turkey in January, and the next one will be held in Vietnam in May, followed by tournaments in Korea, the Netherlands, and Egypt. Each World Cup has 149 players. Seventeen players are seeded in the final 32 players: the 14-highest ranked players, 2 wild cards from the organizer, and 1 wild card from the UMB. The other 15 players qualify through a series of four qualifying rounds: PPPQ, PPQ, PQ and Q. The final 32 players are placed into 8 groups of 4 (A to H). After a round robin play, the top 2 in each group advance to a knockout (single elimination) bracket of 16 players. The winner in each world cup receives 16000€ and 80 ranking points. Second place takes home 10000€ and earns 54 ranking points. A total of 106,500€ is awarded in prize money.

Jaspers reached the finals without a blemish on his record, winning three games in Group A. In the first round of the knockout phase, Jaspers squeaked out a win over Murat Coklu of Turkey, 50 to 48. The game was mere prelude. Having found his stroke, the Dutch wizard dispatched Marco Zanetti of Italy 50 to 17 in 17 innings for a 2.941 average, the best game in the main draw. In the semi-finals, Jaspers scored 38 billiards in 10 middle innings and topped Haeng Jik Kim of Korea 50 to 31 in 26 (1.923). 

Sidhom’s run to the finals was equally impressive. He emerged from Group F with victories over Belgians Eddy Merckx and Roland Forthomme, and a tie with Huberney Catano of Colombia. In his game against Merckx, Sidhom made 40 in 18 innings for a 2.222 average. He made 40 in 20 innings for a 2.000 average in a victory over the other Belgian, and defeated Quyet Chien Tran of Vietnam 50 to 38 in 34 innings. In the quarter finals, Sidhom battled with Pedro Piedrabuena of the United States, securing a 50 to 43 victory in a strategic game. In the semi-finals, Sidhom, with a high runoff 11, bested Jeremy Bury of France, 50 to 39 in 29 innings for a 1.724 average. 

In the finals, Sidhom jumped to a 13 to 3 lead, but then stalled, the points becoming harder to get. He limped for several innings, and Jaspers caught up at 14 after a run of 9. The players traded billiards for several innings. After 15 innings, they were notched at 21, each player showing some nerves. Jaspers was able to calm himself and pushed ahead, building a steady lead through the middle innings. The Egyptian cueist tried to cling to his opponent, but Jaspers continued to build his lead. At 44 to 36, Jaspers made 3, putting victory in sight. Sidhom responded with creative shot making and a run of 6, before missing a short-short-short from an impossible diagonal position. After the run, it was clear that Sidhom’s perseverance, creativity, and mental toughness had won over the crowd, but bad-to-impossible leaves of the balls eventually proved too much for the young dentist from Cairo. 

Jaspers stepped to the table, his white ball in the corner and balls 2 and 3 at the opposite end of the table. He pondered the position as the shot clock ticked down. With 4 seconds left, he played an up and down—short, short, long—clipping both balls after the third rail. After a missed double the rail, the balls rested in another impossible position. Sidhom played the shot of the game, a bounce-back five cushion for his 43rd point, but the balls would not cooperate. After Sidhom missed from a difficult leave, Jaspers closed out with a run of 2, securing his 27th World Cup victory. The crowd erupted into applause for the victor, but the audience also showed its appreciation for the second-place winner with a long ovation, and the 35-year-old Egyptian was emotionally moved by the acknowledgment.

America had 34 players compete in the World Cup, a dozen more than its allotment. America was the recipient of bad luck by the Vietnamese contingent, who could not secure Visas for all their players. At the last minute, 10 players from the Asian country dropped out, opening the door for eager American three-cushion enthusiasts. The highest finish of a United States player was accomplished by Pedro Piedrabuena of San Diego. The multiple-time US National champion was selected by Predator as one of its two wild card selections. Seeded into the final 32 players, Piedrabuena won his group with two victories and a tie, thereby advancing to the knockout phase. In the first round, Piedrabuena met an old foe, Torbjörn Blomdahl of Sweden. The American played a marvelous game, leaving the six-time world champion bad position after bad position. With a sprint at the end, Piedrabuena came out on top, 50 to 38 in 30 innings (1.666). In the quarter finals, Piedrabuena played another spirted game, but ended up on the wrong side of the ledger, losing to Sidhom 50 to 43 in 27 innings. For his efforts, Piedrabuena finished 6th in the final rankings, adding 26 points to his world ranking.

Predator’s other wild card selection, Hugo Patiño of New York, failed to get out of his group in the main draw. Drawn into Group C, Patiño struggled in a loss against Blomdahl, losing 40 to 23 in 23 innings. He fared better against Pedro Gonzalez of Colombia, winning 40 to 27 in 29 innings. Patiño’s best game came in a losing effort against Dani Sanchez of Spain, who notched 40 in 20 innings to Patiño’s 30 also in 20 innings. Patiño finished with a very respectable grand average of 1.291 but could do no better than 3rd in the group. Patiño finished 24th in the final rankings. 

Piedrabuena and Patiño were not the only Americas to shine on the Las Vegas stage. Hometown player Frank Torres, now well into his 70s, made a glorious run, advancing from the PPQ round to the Q round before falling short of the main draw. The Silver Fox, who finished 2nd in the 1987 world championship, finished 50th with a grand average of 0.907 and a best-game average of 1.235. Jesus Corona, from Las Angeles, had the high run for the entire tournament, a 16 made in the PPQ round. 

The World Cup will return to Las Vegas the next three years, again sponsored by Predator.

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2013 in Review – Part Five – It’s a Wrap!

Thorsten Hohmann had an impressive run in late summer. He’ll be one to watch in 2014 for sure!

The shrinkage that pro pool underwent in 2013 was perhaps forecast by the WPBA. In 1993 the WPBA had seventeen professional events. By the end of the decade they were a fixture on ESPN and the best women in the world were coming to America to be part of the growing feminine pool scene. The men were often chastised for not just following in the footsteps of the women. They were on TV, they had big-money sponsors, they had a real tour with real money and the future was looking bright. In 2003 they had eight events and they were all on ESPN. The following year they went up to eleven events and most of them were televised as well. But in 2005 Brunswick pulled up and that brought the beginnings of trouble. By 2010 the Tour was down to three events and it stayed down thee until 2013 when it went down to just two. Both of those, Soaring Eagle Masters and the Ultimate 10-Ball Championships were won by Ga-Young Kim. The WPBA website calendar for 2014 lists two events for 2014. One is not a pro event, the Regional Tour Championships, but the other one is and that is the Soaring Eagle Masters in February. We are told there are several other events in the planning stages and we will let you know when we receive details.

One player who will look back upon 2013 with a smilie is Thorsten Hohmann. Hohmann’s game intensified to the point he looked unbeatable, and for a while there he was. Between the middle of August and the end of September Hohmann won four consecutive major pro events. He won the Accu-Stats 14.1 Invitational, the World Tournament of 14.1, the Maryland 14.1 Championships and, just to show he is not mono-disciplined, he crowned the run with a World Championship when he won the WPA World 9-Ball Championship. Hohmann had a very consistent year. He enjoyed fifteen top-ten finishes and ended it with a win at the Kremlin Cup.

Other events of note in 2013 included the move of the CSI US Bar Box Championships to the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. As with many CSI events this one goes out of the way to be inclusive as it has 8-Ball and 9-Ball and 10-Ball events for both Men and Women as well as an Open division.

In May the Worlds elite players met in Shanghai for the China OpenLee Vann Corteza pocketed $40,000 for that win over Che-Wei Fu and in the Women’s Division Sha-Sha Liu grabbed $30,000 for her victory over Siming Chen.


Every four years we have the World Games where pool gets as close to the Olympics as it has ever gotten. This year the event was held in Cali, Colombia in late July. Chieh-Yu Chou of Chinese Taipei won the Gold medal in the Women’s Division with a squeaky 9-8 victory over Ga-Young Kim. The Men’s Crown fell to Darren Appleton by the same narrow margin as he got past Jung-Lin Chang 11-10. Marco Zanetti took the Gold for Caroms and Aditya Metha became the Snooker Champion.

September grabbed our attention with the World Cup of Pool. This doubles-format event is produced by Matchroom Sport and it is a very popular event in those countries where it is aired live on TV. This year Team Philippines consisting of Dennis Orcollo and Lee Vann Corteza snapped off Team Holland of Niels Feijen and Nick Van Den Berg to split the $60,000 first prize. This event, as with all the Matchroom events, is not afraid of being a bit different. This year they awarded $500 to the team of Karl Boyes and Darren Appleton for being the ‘Best Dressed’ team!

Niels Feijen had taken down fourth place at the U.S. Open and he was hungry for a win. He found it at the World Pool Masters when he bested Darren Appleton 8-6 in the final to claim the $20,000 first place prize. It is fitting that this was the crown he took as he and his teammate Nick Van Den Berg had come in second only weeks before in another Matchroom showpiece, the World Cup of Pool. With is year-end win at the Mosconi Cup, he added yet another Matchroom trophy to his collection when he was awarded the prestigious 20th Mosconi Cup MVP award. The 'Terminator' showed his place is on the big stage once and for all.

The Women’s World Ten Ball Championship was held once again in Manila and this time a home-town girl grabbed the honors. Rubilen Amit defeated the very formidable Kelly Fisher 10-8 to own the World Title. It was a very special moment for Amit to win in front of the home crowd and when the last ball dropped she actually jumped up into the arms of Kelly Fisher to celebrate. You have to love moments like that. Amit followed this up a few days later with another win in a Dragon Promotions event as she and her team of Captain Ga-Young Kim, Pei Chen Tsai and Siming Chen won the inagaural Queens Cup by beating the team of  Allison Fisher, Kelly Fisher, Jasmin Ouschan and Vivian Villareal.


This year’s version of the longest-running event in pro pool, the All-Japan Open was won on the men’s side by Pin-Yi Ko while the Ladies winner was Akimi Kajitani.

…And 2013 folded it’s tent and went home. 2014 will be challenging for the professional game. But challenges present opportunities and perhaps this time the game can grab one that won’t slip away. Several different ‘Reality’ shows around pool are being talked up and there is the possibility that the professional game could be organized by a group that could provide leadership and care taking to help generate more events.

To say the least, 2014 will be ‘interesting’.
 

To read the previous parts of our 2013 Review, click on the following links:

1 of 5: Derby City

2 of 5: The Trials of Tunica

3 of 5: The Big Opens and Turning Stone

4 of 5: Bonus Ball and the Mosconi Cup

5 of 5: It's a Wrap!

Four Men Qualify for AGIPI Billiards Masters Championship Rounds

Roland Forthomme

Our last day at the AGIPI Billiard Masters dawned snowy and chilly but the action in the arena was just beginning to find its heat. On table one Kyung-Roul Kim had to have a win against Roland Forthomme to keep his chances alive. On table two Jean-Christophe Roux knew that his chances were already gone but still he wished a good show against Nikos Polychronopoulos.

As is usually always the case, the early innings were spent adjusting to the rails. Runs of 1, 2 and 3 get the arms accustomed to the conditions of the day and prepare for grander things to come. Kim was the first to show comfort. In inning 3 he presented a run of 10 points to set the early mark and claim the first bonus of the day. At this point he led Forthomme 12-4 with an average of 4.0.

Roux had not shown his true form this week and today things also were not going his way. By the fifth inning he trailed 18-5. He was not off much. His caroms were just barely missing the mark time and again. His frustration showed more with each return to the chair. Sometimes the gods ignore your pleas. It is a terrible feeling, as being lonely in a crowd. The audience so wanted his points to make, but the balls refused all offers.

Roland Forthomme is a very tenacious player. He is a kamikaze who refuses to surrender to anyone. While his early efforts produced nothing spectacular, he was consistently running one or two or three per inning and after 6 innings was still in the hunt trailing Kim only by the margin of 13-10.  Kim tried to stretch out a bit in the last half of that inning by putting down a 5 to lead 18-10 but Forthomme showed no concern, only determination. He is a scary competitor. He is the kind of guy you would want on your side in a fight. If you broke his arms he would fight with his feet. If you broke his legs he would no doubt fight with his head. He would never lie down and certainly never give up.

That kind of determination usually pays off, but the brilliance of Kim kept breaking through the clouds. A run of 8 increased his lead to 26-15. Forthomme needed to develop the table into a position where he could close the gap.  But the balls he faced each time were not prone to development. He had to travel long distances each time and he rarely had his choice of speeds.

On table two the tragedy continued for Roux and in inning 14 he trailed Polychronopoulos 33-20. Again and again he could not generate more than a single point while the Greek was making twos and threes. Not the exciting performance of a hare, but the faster turtle will still win the race. By the end of the 17th inning the score had worsened to 46-27. A single inning later found Polychronopoulos on the hill at 49 with Roux requiring a miracle. The miracle avoided him and Polychronopoulos pounded the final coffin nail in inning 21 to bury the match 50-35. His average was an admirable 2.381 compared to the 1.667 of Roux.

Table one contained the true drama of the moment. In inning 15 Forthomme took the lead at 31-30 with a run of 4 points, a run that matched his best performance of the day. And Kim had cooled. He was having a great deal of trouble with the layouts that he was given and the zeros continued to fall his way. Now trailing in averages by 1.824 to 1.765, Kim needed to return to the form with which he had begun the day.

Forthomme continued to just grind away with short but consistent runs. He kept coming with great opening shots that positioned the balls for more points. After 21 innings he led Kim 39-32. Certainly not a comfortable margin, but a lead is a valuable asset as the finish line draws near. Kim seriously needed a run, but desperation and a smooth arm are not often found in the company of one another. Time and again the zeros drove him to the sidelines. Forthomme's small runs were like Chinese water torture. No single serious blows but the drops were wearing a hole in Kim's armor. And Forthomme can come with long runs at any moment. He had already given us a 15 and a 14 this week. In inning 23 he came with his best effort of the match thus far and posted a run of 5 on the back of a marvelous masse shot that brought the hands of the crowd together in earnest applause. At 44-33 Forthomme had the odds in his corner while Kim sat alone.

Finally, in inning 25, Kim found a table that he could work with. He massaged the balls around the baize and found point after point. He would not retire his cue until he had made 10 points and brought he match close at 44-43. Forthomme needed to put him away, not allow any more opportunities. A single point was not enough. Kim came back with the chance to win the match but another zero found his cue. That same zero crashed the effort of Forthomme, however, and so the match could have gone either way. By inning 28 the match was tied at 45, so the cruel brevity of a race to 5 points would determine this critical match.  

Forthomme reached the 50-point mark first, but Kim (playing the yellow ball) still had an opportunity to tie. And he only needed a run of five to do so. He fell short by two and Forthomme won 50-48 with an average of 1.613 to the 1.548 posted by Kim in a match of 31 innings.

The second set of matches on the final day featured Semih Sayginer VS Frederic Caudron and Ramon Rodriguez VS Martin Horn. Sayginer needed a win with a high average to have a chance at getting through. Caudron, with three victories already under his belt, was in a more comfortable situation. Rodriguez fate was in the hands of others, as he needed to beat Horn as well as have some other players lose. Horn was also on the cusp, but his chances were still good.

Horn began his charge early, coming straight out of the box with a run of 8 to begin the second inning. Sayginer and Caudron traded minor runs until Caudron found a run of 6 points in the second half of the 3rd inning to lead 11-6. The first man on either table to reach the halfway point was Frederic Caudron who, with a run of 6 in the tenth inning led Sayginer 30-15. Within moment Martin Horn also reached halfway on table two as he led Rodriguez 25-8.

Caudron was giving Sayginer very little air. In inning eleven he came with yet another run of 8 points to lead 38-17 and carry his average onto high ground at 3.167. Sayginer languished at 1.417.  Horn was delivering a similar message to Rodriguez as with the score at 27-11 his average of 2.455 towered above the 1.000 of the Peruvian.

Caudron never let up the pressure. In inning 13 he finished with an 8 to destroy Sayginer 50-13. His average was 3.846 compared to 1.308 for Sayginer. Caudron thus qualified for the finals in March.

This left us with still the match between Horn and Rodriguez to finish. After fifteen innings Horn had a nice lead at 36-16 and his average of 2.25 was dominating the 1.00 of Rodriguez. But Rodriguez made a nice run of 9 to keep hope alive at 36-25. He repeated that run of 9 performance in the very next inning to bring it very close at 36-34 and firm the arm of Horn with his 18 unanswered points. Horn then made a 3 to get to 39. Both men slowed their pace of play.  Neither wanted to make that first big mistake. They traded off short runs of 1 and 2 points that allowed Rodriguez to stay within reach without earning the lead.  

Trailing by 45-39, Rodriguez came to the table with a rudimentary opening shot. He capitalized on that and then made a stunning rail-first shot to lift his confidence. But he barely missed his fourth point and had to take his seat still trailing 45-42. He had by now lifted his average to 1.826 compared to 1.957 for Horn and knew that the match was well within his reach.  Again, neither man could grab momentum for a while. The innings drew short and disappointing.  

Then Rodriguez got hot and, at 46-43, he began a run of 7 points to reach 50 points first. A remarkable come-from-behind story. Horn, with the yellow ball, had the opportunity to tie with a run of 4 points.  He made the run and tied the score for our only tie math thus far of the week. Horn finished with an average of 1.923 and Rodriguez matched that with a 1.923 as well. The match required 26 innings. This result allowed Horn to also qualify for the March event.

Our final set for the week was Roland Forthomme VS Eddy Merckx and Nikos Polychronopoulos VS Kyung-Roul Kim. All four of the men in the room had a shot at qualifying for the finals in March. So this was a round of great import as the finals of the AGIPI Masters is the highest-paying event in the world of three-cushion. Kim, with a run of 9 points, took the early lead in his match 15-7 while Mercks led Forthomme 15-9.

Thirty minutes into the matches Eddy Mercks led Roland Forthomme 16-14 and Kim led Nikos Polychronopoulos 23-17.  Play on both tables was as studious as one can be under the stress of a 40-second shot clock.   

At the halfway point Merckx led Forthomme 25-20 while Kim had stretched out to a 34-19 margin over Polychronopoulos. The room was still noted by cautious play. No one seemed to be able to get on a roll. The play was certainly of a high caliber, but the tables just were not setting up for long strings. The averages proved the point with Kim, at 2.211, being the only man over 2. Kim was the most consistent player in the room. In inning 19 at his table he led 44-31 while Merckx led Forthomme 35-25 in their inning 24.

In inning 23 Polychronopoulos caught a gear and executed a nifty run of 8 points to bring the score to 49-41. Kim needed a single point to win and just could not find that final collision. Four times he came to the table and four times the rails would not respond to his commands.  Polycronopoulos kept clawing back into the match and drew within sweating range at 49-45. But finally Kim scored the final point and in inning 26 drew us to a close at 50-45. Kim carried an average of 1.923 to 1.731 for Polychronopoulos.

Merckx and Forthomme were still keeping it close. After 32 innings Merckx led 42-39. Forthomme, the man with the high run of the week at 15, just could not get anything going long enough to let his stroke out. Merckx fared no better. Their averages in inning 34 were 1.265 for Merckx and 1.147 for Forthomme.  

Forthomme grabbed a run of 4 points in inning 37 to tie the match at 44. Once again a short race would prove the victor. Merckx scored a 1. Forthomme matched that to tie us again at 45. Again Merckx found but a single point but this time Forthomme came with a 5 to end the match in the 39th inning. Forthomme carried an average of 1.282 to 1.179 for Merckx.

And so we end this leg of the AGIPI Billiard Masters. Four men have qualified for the March finals form the play this week. Those are Nikos Polychronopoulos, Roland Forthomme, Frederic Caudron, and Martin Horn. They will join Dick Jaspers, Filipos Kasidokostas, Marco Zanetti and Jeremy Bury. One of the four will take the title of Billiard Master and the first prize of 20,000 Euros.