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Ashton Twins Bring Social Distancing and The Proximity of Help Together With a 9-ball Battle

Bev Ashton and Valerie Franiel

To women struggling with issues of domestic abuse, self-isolation in their home has the potential to be as dangerous as the Covid-19 virus. The need to escape the violence becomes much more acute and the agencies normally positioned to be of assistance get overwhelmed with aid requests, while at the same time, donations diminish. On Saturday, April 11 at The Hidden Spot in Calgary, the pool-playing Ashton Twins (Bev and Joanne) got together for a benefit 9-ball match; a race to 19 between them and after them, two brothers (Guy and Andrew Nicklin), that solicited donations for a local domestic abuse organization called Gems for Gems.
Five years ago, a friend of Bev Ashton, Jordan Guildford, used a teenage memory to launch a charitable campaign designed to benefit the victims of domestic abuse. As detailed in a blog post by Mica Lemiski on the Hillberg & Berk Web site, when they were teenagers, Guildford and her siblings had pooled the money their grandmother had given them to purchase Christmas gifts for themselves and used it, instead, to purchase a bracelet for their single Mom “that looked like leaves woven together.” Initially, when, upon opening the package, their Mom burst into tears and left the room, the siblings thought that they’d made a mistake, but when she returned, and explained to her children that the gift had, in fact, “reconnected her to being a woman and an individual, the link between jewelry and personal empowerment had been made clear to Jordan.” 
Fueled by the memory of her mother and the bracelet, Guildford decided to spearhead a jewelry drive to collect accessories she would give to women in shelters on Christmas. She called the campaign “Gems for Gems,” the intended message being that gems in the community would donate gems to the gems (the women) in shelters on Christmas. With only three weeks to collect, she set a goal of giving 25 packages. She collected enough to do 436 packages.
Now, Gems for Gems is a nationally-registered charity whose mission has expanded beyond the realm of crowd-sourcing jewelry and into that of domestic abuse education and prevention. They still operate the annual jewelry drive, but their outreach now includes a scholarship program and a series of workshops designed to empower survivors.
Bev Ashton and Jordan Guildford became friends while exchanging pleasantries on treadmills at Orangetheory Fitness in Seton, a suburb of Calgary. When Jordan, in conversation with Bev, recently explained that domestic abuse was having a tendency to be more acute in these times of self-isolation, Bev conceived of the challenge match with her sister and set out to make it happen. 
They settled on The Hidden Spot location in Calgary and, to maintain self-isolation guidelines, determined that it would be a closed event, with just enough people to make it happen; no spectators, bar patrons, or excess personnel of any kind. They communicated with Valerie Franiel to enlist the support of her E-sports Productions company to set up a live stream and the function of $20 donations to the charity. They launched proceedings earlier than Saturday by offering on their streaming site a set of individual challenge matches between individuals with pool tables in their home and the ‘ghost’ (a hypothetical pool opponent in a structured game).
“Before we started streaming the Ashton twins,” said Franiel, “we had already raised $1,000.”
There were, noted Franiel, only six people in The Hidden Spot when the matches started. And the first glitch in the machinery, so to speak, came when everybody realized that as a result of restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the room’s Internet service provider had suspended service. It took a while, a few hours, for them to get that connection up and running, but when it did, the matches began.
In the end, they raised just over $4,000 for Gems for Gems, as the FB stream drew nearly 10,000 viewers to the six-hour-plus streaming broadcast between the Ashton twins and then, the Nicklin brothers. The donations made each donor eligible to win one of two cues – a $1,000 (Canadian) Viking Custom Cue and a $1,500 (Canadian) Erbez Custom Cue – and a couple of Gems for Gems ‘swag bags,’ valued at $100 (Canadian) each. According to Bev Ashton, Jordan Guildford is more than happy with the donations to Gems for Gems.
“For her,” said Ashton, “$500 would have been cool, so with the $4,000, she was ecstatic.”
“We wanted to do something positive and good,” Ashton added, “while maintaining social distancing and offering some entertainment to people who are sitting bored in their houses.”
And oh yeah, there were a couple of pool matches broadcast on Saturday. The event opened with the Ashton twins, who should have been mic-ed to take advantage of their penchant for sibling trash talk that can border on the hilarious and for those who don’t know them, can occasionally sound vindictive. Joanne Ashton’s Web site, for example, notes that she was born 20 minutes before Bev and that it was the best 20 minutes of her life. 
Their Fargo rates are separated by 42 points (Bev/571 and Joanne/613), which, at the outset, in a race to 19, gave the higher-rated Joanne an 81.3% chance of winning the match (Fargo Rate match odds tend to give a higher-ranked player a better chance of winning with longer matches). 
“We have different styles,” noted Bev. “But she actually has more titles and has actually worked harder at it.”
Bev figured that the Fargo Rates were about right and generally speaking, represented their long-time hypothetical match score over a hypothetical 100 matches; Joanne, winning about 80 of the 100. It was Bev, however, who came out gunning. After a few back-and-forth matches to start things off, she opened up a substantial lead, which got as far as 10-3, before Joanne started the catch-up routine that would eventually tie them at 16. Win #17 represented Joanne’s first lead of the match, which she followed with two more to win it all.
The Nicklin brothers, Andrew and Guy, played a shorter race to 13. It was a much tighter match that went back and forth to an 8-8 tie, before Andrew pulled ahead to eventually win 13-9. 
“Everybody called it the battle of the almost-twins,” said Valerie Franiel, “because they look so much alike that everybody assumes they’re twins, but they’re not. Andrew is older by 13 months.”
According to Franiel, the success of this particular event has prompted her (and her company) to begin arranging for follow-up tournaments to include one this weekend (Saturday, April 18, 2 p.m., Mountain Time), which will feature a “Border Battle,” pitting Canadian Geoff Waterfall against USA’s Phillip Wright, who will each be playing against the ‘ghost’ from their home. Geoff will be in Rock Creek, British Columbia as Wright competes from Owatonna, Minnesota. Watch the E-Sports Productions Facebook page for further info on upcoming matches.
“I’m happy we went through it,” said Bev Ashton of her and Joanne’s benefit match; streaming glitch and eventually, loss to her sister, notwithstanding. “It was professional and fun and good.”  
The Ashton Twins and E-Sports Productions' Valerie Franiel thanked Viking Cues, Erbez Custom Cues, The Hidden Spot, Jennifer Miles with Desjardins Insurance, Brutal Game Gear, Philly’s Billiards and Gaijin Custom for their sponsorship of this event.

The Texas Tornado goes undefeated to win the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic

With its two previous winners ‘in the house’ – Brittany Bryant and April Larson – the 3rd Annual Ashton Twins Classic got underway on June 14, at 6 p.m. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Though Bryant would get two chances, hot seat and finals, to win her second Ashton Twins Classic, the attempts were disrupted by a Texas Tornado known as Vivian Villareal, who went undefeated to claim the event title. Defending champion, April Larson, was sent to the loss side in the third round by Line Kjorsvik in a live-streamed match on Saturday and was eliminated in a double hill, loss-side match by Liz Cole to finish in the tie for 9th place. Emily Duddy, who was third in the inaugural event and battled Larson in the finals for the title last year, defeated one of the Ashton twins (Beverly) in a second-round match, and then, after being sent to the loss side by Cathy Metzinger, was defeated in her second loss-side match by the second Ashton twin, Joanne. The $8,000-added event drew 46 entrants to The Hidden Spot in Calgary.
After being awarded an opening round bye, Villareal got by her first three opponents by an aggregate score of 27-4, giving up two racks to Leandrea Gaff, and one each to Claire Pipestem and Valerie Franiel, which set her (Villareal) up to face Monica Webb in one of the winners’ side semifinals. Bryant, in the meantime, who was not awarded an opening round bye, worked her way to the other winners’ side semifinal with an aggregate score of 36-17, sending Elizabeth Jensen (1), Aryana Lynch (5), Sandy Badger (4) and Line Kjorsvik (7) to the loss side and turning to face Cathy Metzinger in the other winners’ side semifinal.
Monica Webb put up a fight against the Tornado, chalking up more racks against her in the winners’ side semifinal than all of Villareal’s previous opponents combined. Villareal, though, advanced to the hot seat match 9-5, and faced Bryant, who’d sent Metzinger west 9-1. Bryant proved to be Villareal’s second strong challenge in a row. She chalked up seven against her, but once again, Villareal advanced, sitting in the hot seat, waiting for what turned out to be Bryant’s return.
On the loss side, Webb picked up Teruko Cucculelli, who, after a defeat by Metzinger in a winners’ side quarterfinal, had downed Bonnie Plowman 9-3 and eliminated Kjorsvik 9-6. Metzinger drew Joanne Ashton, who, after eliminating Emily Duddy 9-6, had also eliminated Franiel 9-5 and Liz Cole 9-7 (Cole had just eliminated Larson).
Webb ended Cucculelli’s loss-side run 9-3, and in the quarterfinals, faced Metzinger, who’d eliminated the last-standing Ashton twin 9-2. Metzinger and Webb locked up in a double hill, quarterfinal battle that eventually advanced Metzinger to the semifinals against Bryant.
Bryant, apparently very determined to get a second shot at Villareal, allowed Metzinger only two racks in those semifinals. In what proved to be a nail-biting, extended-race-to-13 final, Bryant got out in front early, staking herself to a 5-1 lead, which by rack #13 had been extended to a 9-4 lead and then, quickly, an 11-6 lead.
Over the next 40 minutes of the match, Villareal had cut that lead down to a single game. She capped the four-game run by attempting an 8-9 combination which initially failed, only to have the 8-ball continue to travel and drop into a side pocket, leaving Villareal with a straight-on shot at the 9-ball in the opposite side pocket. It was 11-10, with Villareal breaking.
Bryant stopped the bleeding to reach the hill first at 12-10, but the Texas Tornado, which had been lurking on the horizon through much of the match, started to pick up some speed. She won game #23 and when Bryant missed a tough shot on the 7-ball in rack #24, Villareal jumped on it and won the rack to force a single deciding game.
Bryant broke the last rack, sunk a ball and had a clean, albeit bridge-necessary shot at the 1-ball. She dropped the 1-ball in a lower corner pocket, but as she drew back from the shot, her right wrist nudged the 9-ball forward, out of its original position by about an inch. Tournament officials took a minute or two to sort that out to Villareal’s satisfaction, as Bryant contemplated the difficult shot she’d left herself on the 2-ball. She made the 2-ball, but on a much easier shot, rattled the 3-ball in a corner pocket.
Villareal pocketed the 3-ball and played safe, leaving Bryant with a potential jump shot to make the 4-ball. She opted for a kick off the long rail, putting the 4-ball back up-table on a short rail with the cue at the opposite end of the table, leaving Villareal a long, sharp cut shot. A subsequent missed bank shot by Bryant left Villareal with a long-rail cut shot at the 4-ball, which she made, and proceeded to drop the next four balls, including the 9-ball to claim the 3rd Ashton Twins Classic title. 

Edmonton hangs on to win first Alberta Cup trophy

Team Edmonton

Modeled after the Mosconi Cup ("with a twist," according to organizers), Cue Sports Live (CSL) held its first Alberta Cup, on the weekend of June 16-18. The 10-ball event pitted two of that Canadian province's cities against each other in teams of seven players each, drawn from six months of qualifiers. The cities of Edmonton and Calgary were represented by teams consisting of five men and two women, selected by slightly different processes. This 1st Annual Alberta Cup, was hosted by The Hidden Spot in Calgary, and saw the city of Edmonton claim the first title 15-13 over the city of Calgary.
Edmonton sported a team made up of seven players, which included their captain Garry Hauck. Eight qualifiers were held from which four males (Hauck, Rob Phillips, Carlos Barbosa, and Roger Colbert) and one female (Sandy Badger) were chosen. Hauck selected one more male (Brian Butler) and one more female (Cathy Metzinger). Calgary did things just a little differently, ending up with a team of seven players and a non-playing captain, Barry Hooey, who was chosen before the qualifying players had been identified. As with Edmonton, the qualifiers produced four males (Jason Onespot, Eric Vargas, Ben Francis, and Albert Augustin) and a female (Joanne Ashton), after which Hooey added one male (Joe Spence) and one female (Bev Ashton)
Edmonton got on the board first in Day One by winning the team match 8-1 (the only match that went to 8; all others were races to 5). Alternating between scotch doubles and singles, Edmonton took the next four, as well, and were up 5-0, having won 21 of the 32 games played. With one match to play on this opening day, a singles match, Calgary was, psychologically at least, in something of a must-win situation. Calgary's captain, Hauck, chose his personal pick for the team, Joe Spence, who stepped up to the challenge and downed Edmonton's Carlos Barbosa 5-1, which was also the score of the day's matches with Edmonton on top.
Calgary had some work to do on Day Two and they started off on the right foot, winning three straight double hill matches. Calgary's Joanne Ashton then downed Edmonton's Cathy Metzinger 5-2 to knot the teams at 5-5.
Edmonton wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, as Day Two progressed. Edmonton Captain Garry Hauck and his scotch doubles partner Rob Phillips defeated Calgary’s Ben Francis and Jason Onespot 5-2 to retake the team lead at 6-5. Edmonton went on to win five more, including a shutout by Edmonton’s scotch doubles team of Brian Butler and Sandy Badger over Calgary’s Erik Vargas and Joanne Ashton. Each team chalked up one more win to complete the Alberta Cup's second day, which ended with Edmonton up 12-6; three more matches away from victory.
As they'd done the day before, Calgary came to the tables on the final day (featuring all singles matches), looking to make up lost ground, and promptly chalked up four games to cut Edmonton's lead to 12-10. Calgary's Joanne Ashton, hoping to get her team within one, was on the hill in game #7 in this match (4-3) against Edmonton's Cathy Metzinger, when she (Ashton) scratched, shooting at the 9-ball. Metzinger closed out the game, putting the two of them at double hill (4-4).  Metzinger broke dry and with eight of the 10 balls in holes, Ashton found herself looking at an almost identical layout from the one she'd faced in the previous game.
"Well, this shot looks familiar," Ashton called out, as she took aim at the 9-ball. For the second game in a row, Ashton scratched shooting at the 9-ball, but this time, it cost her not only the game, but the match. It was Edmonton's first win of the final day and gave them the momentum shift they'd been looking for. 
Calgary chalked up match #24 to draw them back to within two at 13-11. Edmonton's Carlos Barbosa got to the hill first in game six (4-2) of match #25, but in game seven, missed a tough cut to give Calgary's Jason Onespot the break he needed to finish the rack and draw within one. Onespot broke and ran to force a deciding game. In that deciding game, Barbosa got to the 8-ball, looking at an easy layout on the 9-10, when he miscued and sunk the 8-ball in the wrong pocket. Onespot sunk the 9-ball, and left himself with perfect shape on the 10-ball. He sunk it to cheers from the Calgary fans in attendance, because the team was within one at 13-12.
At 3-3 in match #26, Edmonton's Rob Phillips, playing against Calgary's Erik Vargas, broke and ran to reach the hill first. In game #8, Phillips got as far as the 8-ball, poised to win the game, but scratched. Vargas finished the game, forcing a ninth and deciding game. Phillips promptly broke and ran to win the match, and put Edmonton on the hill at 14-12.
With the Alberta Cup on the line, Calgary's captain Brian Hooey put up the team's eventual MVP and his personal team pick, Joe Spence. Edmonton countered with Roger Colbert. Spence won 5-3, and, as the saying goes, the hometown and room Calgary crowd went wild, with their team now a single game away from double hill at 14-13.
Match #28 pitted Edmonton Captain Garry Hauck's pick, Brian Butler, against Calgary's Ben Francis. Butler took a quick 3-0 lead, but Francis came right back and chalked up two. Francis broke in game six and ran to the 8-ball, before rattling it in the hole, and allowing Butler to finish the game and reach the hill first at 4-2. Francis fought back in game seven to draw within one at 4-3.
Calgary's Francis broke rack #8, and though he sunk the 7-ball, he had no shot at the 1-ball. Francis opted to play safe, looking to take advantage of the three-foul rule to get on the hill with Butler. He reckoned, though, without Butler's experience with the game of snooker. Francis tried twice to put Butler in a foul situation, and not only did Butler foil both attempts, but in the second attempt, he left Francis tough, forcing him to foul. With ball in hand, Butler sunk the 1-ball, and the 2-ball, before lining up and making a 3-10 combination that gave him the match win and his team, the 1st Alberta Cup. The Edmonton team pocketed $4,000 and each team member will have his/her name inscribed on a trophy, which will be held in the winning city until further competition. MVP awards went to Edmonton's Cathy Metzinger, who won four of her five matches, and Brian Butler, who won five out of seven, including the championship match. Calgary's Joe Spence picked up an MVP award, as well, for his five out of seven victories. All three of the MVPs were captain picks for the teams.
Event director Valerie Franiel thanked the owner of the Hidden Spot, Joanne Ashton, for her hospitality during event qualifiers and the actual Albert Cup competition, along with sponsors  Cuejo Custom Cues (Darcy Musurichan), Fuss Cupcakes (Kostas Broumas), Recreation World (Jay MacDougall for the Olhausen balls), Elaine Hicks-Reaper from ReMax, Spruce Grove, Discount Custom Apparels (Tim/Ron), Barry Hooey, David Harding, AZ Billiards (Promotions), E&B Plumbing, ScoreSaloon (Jenny Lucas), Fuze Graphics (Curtis Lea), and Jerry W. Briesath.
The entire event was streamed live, courtesy of CueSportsLive, with commentary by Dave Harding, PJ Massicotte, Jim Wych, and a number of participating members from both teams.
According to Franiel, this 1st Annual Alberta Cup featured 213 games, and 33 hours of play, supported by (among other things) endless hours of work by volunteers. There will, she said, be more to come.

Cole returns NWPA Stop #1 favor, defeating Jones to claim Stop #2

Liz Cole (Courtesy of Sandro Menzel)

It was the same finalists, with a reverse result. For the second time on the 2017 Northwest Women's Pool Association (NWPA) Tour, Liz Cole and Kim Jones battled it out for a title. On Stop #1 in February, Jones downed Cole in the finals. On the weekend of April 29-30, at Stop #2, the $750-added Martha Hartsell Memorial Tournament, that drew 36 entrants to The Cue Ball in Salem, OR, Cole bested Jones in the final to complete an undefeated run. Selected matches were streamed live throughout the weekend by Rail2Rail Productions. 
In addition to the repeat performance in the finals, the event featured the return of Canadian Jana Montour, a former regular on the tour, who took about three years off from competitive pool to pursue further education. A mother of five, ranging in age from nine to 26, Montour decided that she needed time away from being a housewife, and traveled down from Canada to sign on to the NWPA's second tour stop in Salem, OR. In spite of the years off, she took fourth in the event, and said she was looking forward to getting back into the sport on a more regular basis.
Following victories over Alicia Kvaanika, Patricia Tipton, and Marian Poole (with an aggregate score of 21-9), Montour squared off against Jones (28-13 at that point) in a winners' side semifinal. In the meantime, Cole (21-8), squared off against Stephanie Hefner (21-10). Those four would finish first through fourth at the end. Cole and Hefner locked up in a double hill fight that eventually sent Cole to the hot seat match. She was joined by Jones, who'd defeated Montour 7-4. Cole took the first of her two against Jones 7-4.
On the loss side, Montour picked up Cindy Doty, who'd downed Rebecca Sivter and Natasha Hook 6-4 to reach her. Hefner drew Suzanne Smith, who'd defeated Fran Johnson 6-2, and Valerie Franiel 6-4. Hefner got by Smith 6-2, and, in the quarterfinals, faced Montour, who'd eliminated Doty 6-2.
Hefner ended Montour's return to the tables 6-4 in those quarterfinals, before being herself eliminated by Jones, double hill in the semifinals. Though Jones would come within a single shot at the 9-ball from forcing a deciding game, Cole completed her undefeated run with a 9-7 victory over Jones in the final.