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Kamila Khodjaeva Takes Her First Eurotour Crown

Kamila Khodjaeva

Kamila Khodjaeva won her maiden Predator Ladies Euro Tour title as she overcame Turkey’s Eyllul Kibaroglu in a tense final at the BHR Treviso Hotel in Italy. The Belgian girl, who has been competing on this tour since 2012, had made two finals before, but this time survived a tense battle against the game Kibaroglu to run out a 7-6 winner.

The Belgian Khodjaeva, looked to have the match in her control as she led throughout but a late rally from Kibaroglu, a recent gold medallist in the 10-ball division at the European Championships, saw her reach the hill first with a rare golden break.

Khodjaeva though battled back to take the final two racks for a fantastic victory.

“I was already happy being in the final but this was a chance to beat my own record but now it’s just unbelievable to win and I really hope that it will continue like this,” said the champion.

“My sister (Diana) and I have found a new sponsor and we will be competing throughout next year in Euro Tours, European Championships and other events. I was 12 when I won my first European Championship in the juniors so it’s been a long time coming.

“I’ve been away from the tour for a while for various reasons but I always enjoy playing on the Euro Tour, the atmosphere is always amazing, the competition is great so I’m really looking forward to be playing more,” she added.

The match itself was a tense thriller. Khodjaeva took the opener after Kibaroglu failed to convert her break shot, and then a composed run out from the break made it 2-0. A clumsy escape from a snooker in the next gave Khodjaeva ball in hand and she calmy ran the table for an ominous 3-0 lead

In the next, with the 2-ball unavailable, the Belgian elected to push out. Kibaroglu made the most of her visit by laying a snooker and then running out when the opportunity came. Never looking entirely at ease, the Turkish lady managed to run out from the break to get the score to 2-3 and take some of the pressure off.

However, Khodjaeva increased her lead to two racks in the sixth game as she ran out from the break and then a dry break from Kibaroglu signalled a safety battle before Khodjaeva failed to legally execute a jump shot escape to give ball in hand to Kibaroglu. She made no mistakes to keep herself in the match.

Both ladies had visits in the next rack, but Kibaroglu held her nerve to negotiate the table and level the score at 4-4. Khodjaeva, though, took the next against the break to restore her lead. A dry break though got Kibaroglu back to the table and she came with some terrific shots to clear and level this intriguing final up at 5-5.

A golden break from Kibaroglu got her to the hill first and gave her the lead for the first time in the match. Khodjaeva showed tremendous heart in the penultimate rack as she ran out under pressure to keep the match alive at hill-hill.

Disastrously, Kibaroglu broke dry in the final game. She then laid a difficult snooker which Khodjaeva escaped from with a jump shot to leave her opponent snookered. With the match hinging on this shot, Kibaroglu missed the one rail kick escape to give ball in hand to Khodjaeva. With the balls in some awkward positions the run out was no formality but she held on for victory,

The matches can be viewed live at www.kozoom.com

Results, live scoring and draw are available at www.epbf.com

Fisher goes undefeated to capture her- and first-ever Ladies 14.1 Straight Pool Championship

Kelly Fisher

Playing against one of the two members of the Filler family (Pia Filler) who made it to the two finals of the 16th Annual 14.1 Straight Pool Championships, held at Q Master Billiards in Virginia Beach, VA, soon-to-be BCA Hall of Famer Kelly Fisher finished an undefeated run through four matches in a Round Robin phase and three in a single elimination phase to capture the first-ever Ladies 14.1 Straight Pool Championships on Saturday, October 23. The extended race-to-100 drew a full room of spectators and viewers who watched on Facebook through the services of AZBTV, IStreamPool and the 14.1 Straight Pool Championships Facebook page.

Asked when she had last played in a straight pool tournament, Fisher responded with a single-word explanation.

“Never,” she said. 

She was not alone. Of the 15 women who competed in this first-ever 14.1 Ladies Straight Pool Championship, most of them indicated that it was a first-time experience for them, because, first of all, there aren’t that many. It was, however, an experience that they hope to have again. Tour founder, Peter Burrows spent a good deal of time thanking them all for coming and assuring them that next year’s Ladies event would be better, and hopefully, even more competitors.

“It’s a very interesting game,” said Fisher. “Quite up my street, actually. There’s a lot less luck involved and your opponent has to match your ball count. It’s not like in 9-ball when you pot seven balls and your opponent can get up, pot the last two and win.”

“And you have to call your shots,” she added. “I love that.”

There were a number of lessons learned for Fisher. Things that suggest that in any future straight pool ladies events, opponents will have cause for concern as they face the woman who played in her first and went undefeated to claim her first title.

“In 9-ball, there are a lot of stops and starts,” she said, “but this game requires focus for longer stretches of time and I learned that I need to improve on my concentration.”

“I learned that I need to improve a lot in areas that I didn’t know about in this game,” she added. “The safety game and the tactics side of it. In snooker, because I played it for so many years, I got to know how (balls) react when you break, and that’s another thing. I never broke a straight pool rack before I got here.”

“I’m not really good at it,” she said of straight pool, “but I’m keen to learn it.”

She recalled something that she’d learned years ago when she was playing snooker regularly. It was a lesson already-learned that she brought with her to Virginia and applied to her undefeated run at straight pool.

“Pot as many balls as you can,” she said.

She potted a total of 460 of them to claim the title; 200 in the Round Robin phase in five matches (50 in each), and 260 in the three events of the single elimination phase (80, 80 & 100). That was 264 more balls than all of her opponents combined.

Day Five, the final day of the 14.1 Straight Pool Chanmpionships began at noon today (Saturday), for both men and women, with four semifinal matches, two in the Men’s event and two in the Ladies event. In the men’s event semifinals, Joshua Filler faced Mieszko Fortunski, as defending champion Ruslan Chinahov squared off against countryman Fedor Gorst (more details on this will appear in a separate event report after the men’s final, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.) In the ladies event semifinals, Fisher faced April Larson, as Pia Filler took on Dawn Hopkins.

Fisher eliminated Larson 80-10, as Filler downed Hopkins 80-16. At 3 p.m., Fisher and Filler stepped up to the TV table and began their extended-to-100 race for the championship. Fisher got out to an early, although not extensive lead that throughout the match, Filler kept trying to whittle down to a manageable proportion. But the runs weren’t long enough to keep pace with Fisher, who kept expanding the gap. She finished it 100-46.

In a brief award ceremony, Fisher praised Pia Filler for her game play and thanked Barrows and the event sponsors for what she described as a “great . . . fantastic event” that she said “every year, (she and her competitors) had wanted to do.” She also accepted a request from Barrows to attend next year, noting that she was expressing the thoughts of all of the women in attendance, when she said “No doubt about it.”

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

 

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

Ruslan Chinakhov

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

And then there were four. And four.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riegler Joins Gradisnik, Tkach, Zalewska and Filler in Ladies Eurotour Single Elimination Board

Anna Riegler, Kristina Tkach, Oliwia Zalewska and Pia Filler

The young Austrian, Anna Riegler, 9-ball Bronze medallist at the recent girls European youth championships, proved her worth by beating the Predator Sankt johann Eurotour winner Anna Gradisnik 7-5 to book her place in Sunday’s single elimination. The jubilant youngster had already beaten France’s Nathalie Rohmer 7-3 before dispatching the Netherlands top player Tamara Rademakers 7-6 in the earlier rounds.

Anna Gradisnik made it through the losers qualification with a win over Norway’s Ine Helvik 7-4 to keep the host nations hopes alive.

After losing her first match today against Germany’s Diana Stateczny, Russia’s Kristina Tkach took the long route to the single elimination winning 3 on the bounce and will appear in the last 16 single elimination starting Sunday at 10:00 local time.

Number 1 seed, Poland’s Oliwia Zalewska enjoyed her taste of Swede, beating Sweden’s Louise Furburg and then Ann-sofie Lofgren to ease into the last 16 as well.

Pia Filler showed that the Filler name is not only reserved for her husband Joshua. After trailing 3-5 & 4-6 against Diana Stateczny, she held her nerve to clinch the win 7-6 but could not cope with the impressive Kristina Grim in the winners qualification match losing 7-5. Pia still crept into the last 16 with a last chance win over fellow German Pro, Christine Steinlage 7-4.

Matches continue Sunday morning at 10:00, watch all the matches live at
www.kozoom.com and follow results and schedule at
https://www.epbf.com/tournaments/eurotour-women/

Ana Gradisnik wins Predator St. Johann i.P. Open 2021

With a fiercely fought 7:5 victory over Pia Filler (GER), Ana Gradisnik (SLO) won the first women’s Euro-Tour after the Covid pandemic, the Predator Sankt Johann im Pongau Open 2021.

The women’s final between Pia Filler and Ana Gradisnik came somewhat unexpectedly. It was the No. 9 against the No. 11 of the current women’s ranking. While higher ranked players like Oliwia Zalewska or Ina Kaplan were eliminated earlier, the two finalists succeeded in reaching the final match. This way was partly very bumpy. In Gradisnik’s semi-final for example, her opponent Kristina Zlateva (BUL) missed the 9-ball at 6:6. A bit of luck, good performances and hard work brought the two opponents to cross swords in the last match of the event. But now into the final.

After a missed shot on the 5-ball, Gradisnik managed to win the first game. In the second rack, Filler missed another easy ball and allowed Gradisnik to take a 2-0 lead. After this rather uncertain start of the German, she had difficulties to find her game. So she attempted to get Gradisnik off the roll a bit in giving her safety positions and long and difficult shots. It worked in rack three since Filler pulled one back from Gradisnik, now trailing 1:2. But it seemed to be a storm in a teacup at first. Gradisnik won the next two consecutive racks as well and advanced to a 4:1 lead. When it rains, it pours! In rack six, Filler broke the pack and she scratched straight into the side pocket. Once again, Gradisnik showed no mercy and snatched another rack off her opponent, extending her lead to 5:1 in a race to 7. Filler did not seem to be able to get a foot on the floor. The more chances Filler left for Gradisnik, the stronger the Slovenian played. In rack seven, Filler managed to seize a point from Gradisnik and set the scoreboard to 2:5 from her view. Was that the turning point in the match? Not according to the liking of Gradisnik. She used the next rack to get on the hill with 6:2 against Filler, having her own break shot coming up in rack nine. But Gradisnik could not close the book on the match yet. Filler took that ninth rack and added the tenth as well to turn the score to 4:6. That added some spice to the match and pressure to Gradisnik. Would she be able to handle the pressure now that she felt in the final match? Her break shot in rack eleven was dry, no balls down, and Filler got to an open table, having a good position on the 1-ball. But Filler ran out of position on the 4-ball. That brought Gradisnik back to the table. Luckily for Filler, she left no shot for Gradisnik. However, Gradisnik answered with a great resafe which Filler missed. Again, lady luck was on the side of the German. She hid the cue ball unintentionally behind the 8-ball, again leaving no shot for Gradisnik. An exchange of safety shots followed. Now it seemed that Gradisnik was struggling. While Filler closed in on her, Gradisnik felt the heat and committed some mistakes. Finally, in rack twelve, Gradisnik benefitted from another missed shot from Filler and took the rack and the match with 7:5 to deservedly win her first women’s Euro-Tour title.

“I was so nervous entering this final it was unbelievable”, stated Gradisnik after the final. “This is my first Euro-Tour victory. I have already lost three times in the finals and this time, I really needed to win”, she added. When asked about her preparation, Gradisnik said: “I could not really practice a lot since I had a back injury which only allowed me to keep in shape playing a bit of table tennis”, Gradisnik explained. “So I actually saw this event as a preparation for the next Euro-Tour which is in my home country, Slovenia, later on this year. This is where I put my focus on and I want to perform well there in front of my people”. “I think this victory here will give me a huge boost and I will now practice a lot to perform to the best in the next event”, Gradisnik mentioned.

Predator St. Johann im Pongau Open 2021
Top Eight Players
1. Ana Gradisnik SLO
2. Pia Filler GER
3. Amalia Matas ESP
Kristina Zlateva BUL
5. Eylül Kibaroglu TUR
Lena Primus AUT
Chantal Stadler GER
Monika Zabek POL

Fefilova Wins Women’s VG 9-Ball Day Four And Final Bracket Bye

Round robin play is complete at the Women’s Poison VG 9-Ball Championship, and the players in the final single elimination bracket are now known.

Belarus’ Margaret Fefilova was the winner of the final day of round robin play, with an overall 2-1 record. Fefilova’s one loss was to Japanese champion Chihiro Kawahara, but Kawahara finished with the same 2-1 record after losing to German Pia Filler. Fefilova’s record of fifteen racks ran was enough to earn her the top position in the group.

Filler entered the final match of the day against USA’s Mary Rakin and found herself with her back up against the wall late in the match. Needing to run three of her last five racks against the ghost, Filler was able to navigate two of four to leave a final rack to determine if she would earn one of the two wildcard spots in the final bracket. The pool gods turned their back on Filler in that final rack though, as she had back to back fouls on the break for not getting three balls past the headstring, Those fouls left Filler and Rakin tied and since the final outcome of their match would not play into the roster for the final bracket, both ladies agreed to call it a day.

The final bracket will see Bulgaria’s Kristina Zlateva face wildcard Kelly Fisher and Germany’s Ina Kaplan taking on Turkey’s Eylul Kibaroglu. The winners of those two matches will face Japan’s Yuki Hariguchi and Fefilova respectively.

The single elimination matches will see each lady playing the ghost in a match against an opponent doing the same thing. Those matches will be races to four, best two out of three sets.

Each competitor is guaranteed $300 in prize money for making the final bracket, with first place earning $2000 in prize money.

Play will begin at 10:00 AM EST on Tuesday.  Watch the online coverage at https://www.facebook.com/CueItUpPodcast for all of the details and the streaming coverage of the matches.

Ina Kaplan Over Fisher On Women’s VG 9-Ball Day Three

Day three of round robin play is complete at the Women’s Poison VG 9-Ball Championship, and day three saw another surprise as World Champion Kelly Fisher dropped her match against Germany’s Ina Kaplan 5-3. Kaplan played her best 9-ball when facing Fisher, running 52 balls in eight rounds of play, while Fisher only managed 40 balls total.

Kaplan is now guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s single elimination bracket, joining day one winner Kristina Zlateva and day two winner Yuki Hiraguchi. The top two runner-up finishers from the round robin stages will also make the single elimination bracket and Fisher’s record of fourteen racks ran on day three keeps her in contention for one of those wildcard spots.

Day two’s runner-up Wei Tzu Chien only ran twelve racks in round robin play and she is now eliminated from wildcard contention. Turkey’s Eylul Kibaroglu ran fifteen racks as the runner-up on day one and is now locked into one of the wildcard spots. Fisher will now have to sweat the final day of round robin play, hoping that the day’s runner-up doesn’t run more than fourteen racks.

Day four of this event will feature another all-star field of players with Margaret Fefilova from Belarus, America’s Mary Rakin, Japanese Champion Chihiro Kawahara and Germany’s Pia Filler.

All of the ladies will be competing in 8 racks of 9-ball against the ghost, hoping to run more balls than their opponent. The top finisher in the four player group will earn her place in the final bracket, with two wildcards who don’t win their groups also making the final bracket.

Play begins at 9:00 AM Eastern Time and can be followed online at https://www.facebook.com/CueItUpPodcast

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

Pia Filler

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

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

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

 

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