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Burns and Kirshnitz go undefeated to win NE 9-Ball Series 8-ball partners event

(l to r): Gabe Kirshnitz & Andy Burns

Handicapped tournaments are always an exercise in numbers; different handicaps yielding uneven races, usually leveled by allowing a lower handicap a game or two ‘on the wire’ in a race to a single number. When it comes to partners tournaments, that numbers game gets even more complex. The handicaps of the two players in one partnership are added, and then, divided in half to come up with the working handicap for the team; a ‘6’ and a ‘4’ make for a ’10,’ divided by 2 yields a team that plays as a ‘5.’ This could be disconcerting to the ‘4’ who’ll be playing a little above his/her normal skill level, while the ‘6’ is going to be happier, playing just below his/hers. Then, there are the uneven numbers – ‘11’ for example – which, in the absence of a ‘5.5’ handicap, gets rounded up to compete as a ‘6.’
On Saturday, May 19, Stop #25 on the New England 9-Ball Series was an 8-ball partners tournament which hosted 42 teams of two with a dizzying array of individual and partner handicap numbers. Emerging from the pack to go undefeated were Andy Burns and Gabe Kirshnitz, who, as C+ players individually, had a combined handicap of ’10,’ and played as a ‘5’ team. Their finals opponents – Andy Kuang and Ming Xu – played as a ‘5’ team, as well, although instead of two ‘5’s, they were a ‘6’ (Kuang) and a ‘4’ (Xu). Kuang/Xu won five on the loss side to challenge Burns/Kirshnitz in the finals. The event was hosted by Buster’s Billiards in Somersworth, NH.
Burns and Kirshnitz emerged from the event’s lower handicap bracket, in which they went undefeated. They faced John Files and Steve Downs in the lower bracket finals and shut them out to earn their place in the hot seat match against Jodie Thompson and Javier Fantauzzi, from the upper bracket, who’d defeated Bill Fassett and Jose Pardo 3-2 (Fasset/Pardo racing to 5). Burns/Kirshnitz then shut out Thompson/Fantauzzi to claim the hot seat and wait for what turned out to be the team of Kuang and Xu.
On the loss side, Kuang and Xu began their loss-side trek to the finals with a 3-2 victory over Justin and Jay Cunningham (Cunninghams racing to 4), and then defeated Mike Waldon and Freddie Salazar, double hill, to draw Fassett/Pardo. Files/Downs picked up Daves Morrison and Kirchner, who’d eliminated Tyler Campbell and Amanda MacDonald 3-1 and the team of Carlos Augliar and Don Gagnon, double hill.
Kuang/Xu defeated Fassett/Pardo 3-5 (Fassett/Pardo racing to 6), and in the quarterfinals faced Files/Downs, who’d eliminated Morrison/Kirchner 3-2 (Morrison/Kirchner racing to 5). Files/Downs managed only a single rack in the quarterfinals, advancing Kuang/Xu to the semifinals against Thompson/Fantauzzi, racing to 4. Kuang/Xu earned their slot in the finals with a 3-2 win over Thompson/Fantauzzi.
With identical handicaps (10), both sets of finalists were competing in a straight-up race to 4. Burns and Kirshnitz allowed Kuang/Xu only a single rack in those finals and claimed the event title.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Buster’s Billiards, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Molinari, Bert Kinister,, Inside English, Professor Q-Ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell, Championship Cloth and OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America. The next stop on the NE 9-Ball Series – Stop 26 – has been cancelled due to a scheduling conflict. Stop #27, scheduled for July 15, will be hosted by Crow’s Nest, Plaistow, NH.

Smith stops strong loss-side challenge by Rupard to win NE 9-Ball Series stop

Eric Newell, Steve Smith & Josh Rupard

He almost caught him. Steve Smith, a B+ player on the New England 9-Ball Series Tour, was more or less cruising along during the Saturday, January 13 stop on the tour, and after three matches, had made it to the hot seat. Josh Rupard, in the meantime, an A+ player, who’d been defeated in the second round of upper-bracket play, worked his way through seven matches on the loss side to eventually challenge Smith in the finals. Rupard took the opening set of the true double elimination final, but Smith came back in the second set to win it and claim the event title. The $500-added event drew 27 entrants to Legends Sports Bar and Grill in Auburn, ME.
Smith and Rupard might have met up in the third round of upper-bracket play had it not been for Derrick Burnham, who sent Rupard to the loss side, and advanced to a winners’ side quarterfinal against Smith. Smith sent Burnham to the loss side and faced Martin Flagg in a winners’ side semifinal. Two C players, Eric Newell and Steve Downs, squared off in the other one.
Smith survived a double hill fight against Flagg, while Newell defeated Downs 5-3. Smith claimed the hot seat with an 8-3 win over Newell, and waited for Rupard to complete his loss-side run.
It was Flagg who had the misfortune to draw the final-bound Rupard on the loss side. Rupard had chalked up wins #3 and #4 against Kyle Pepin (forfeit) and Sam Khiev (8-4) to reach Flagg in the first of the event’s money rounds. Downs picked up Lindsey Monto, who’d eliminated Randy Gilbert 6-2 and George Morgan 5-2 to reach him.
Rupard, obviously picking up some speed, shut Flagg out to advance to the quarterfinals. He was joined by Monto, who’d defeated Downs 6-1. Monto put up a fight against Rupard in that quarterfinal matchup, chalking up three of the five racks she needed to defeat the racing-to-9 Rupard.
Rupard followed that quarterfinal win with a second shutout; this time against Newell (racing to 5) in the semifinals. Rupard would carry that momentum into the finals, but Smith, in spite of his wait in the hot seat, wasn’t giving in easily. Smith came within a game of forcing a deciding game in the opening set of the true double elimination final (8-4, with Smith racing to 6). In the second set, Smith kicked it up a notch, edging ahead of Rupard when the score was tied at 5-5 (Smith on the hill). Smith chalked up the necessary sixth rack to win the second set and claim the event title.
Tour director Marc Dionne thanked the ownership and staff at Legends Sports Bar and Grill, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Molinari, Bert Kinister, AZBilliards, Inside English, Professor Q-ball’s National Pool and 3-Cushion News, Delta 13 Racks, MJS Construction, Bob Campbell, Championship Cloth, and OTLVISE Billiard Mechanics of America. The next stop (#13) on the New England 9-Ball Series tour, scheduled for Saturday, January 20, will be a B+ and below, non-handicap tournament, with an upper bracket (B+ and B) racing to 6, and a lower bracket (C+ and below) racing to 5. The brackets will combine in the quarterfinals, with races to 5 for the rest of the tournament.