Watanabe and Klein start but don’t quite finish Tri-State stop, leaving Watanabe with event title

Max Watanabe & Matt Klein

They met in the opening round of play at the Tri-State Tour stop on Sunday, December 8; Max Watanabe and Matt Klein. Familiar opponents on the Tri-State Tour, friends, two of the tour’s highest ranked players. Max at #1 among A players, Matt at #3. The kinds of players who might, at larger tournaments, be seeded so that they wouldn’t meet in an event’s opening round. They did here and Max prevailed 7-4, moving on to advance through the field, all the way to the hot seat. Matt, in the meantime, went on an eight-match, loss-side winning streak that ended up giving him a shot at redemption in the form of a second chance against Max in the event finals.

That didn’t happen. They opted out of meeting a second time, allowing Max’s earlier 7-4 win to stand as the defining match between them. On this day, at least. Max, undefeated, claimed the official title of the $1,000-added event that drew 28 entrants to Steinway Billiards in Astoria (Queens), NY.

Max’s path after Klein in the opening round went through Joe Mazzeo 7-5 and Debra Pritchett 10-8 to arrive at a winners’ side semifinal matchup against Chris Schmidt. Zain Sundaram, in the meantime, who’d started his day by shutting out Jason Goberdhan, allowing Bob Toomey only a single rack in a 6-1 victory and downing Jim Gutierrez 6-3, drew Jose Carlos Ramos in the other winners’ side semifinal.

Watanabe defeated Schmidt 7-5 and in the hot seat, faced Sundaram, who’d sent Ramos to the loss side 7-1. Watanabe played what proved to be his last match of the day, utilizing some strong safety play to claim the hot seat 8-6 over Sundaram.

Klein, in the meantime, was navigating his way through the loss side. He got by Mikhail Kim, Steve Kalloo and Luis Lopez, before surviving a double hill match against Debra Pritchett. He went on to down Eddie Medina 7-3 and drew Schmidt, coming over from the winners’ side semifinal. Ramos picked up a re-match versus Adrian Daniel, whom he’d defeated in a winners’ side quarterfinal and who’d eliminated Mike Strassberg 6-4 and Jason Goberdhan 6-3 to earn the rematch.

Klein downed Schmidt 7-3 and in the quarterfinal, faced Ramos who’d defeated Daniel a second time 6-3. Klein chalked up his seventh win of the day, sending Ramos home 8-5.

Momentum aside, Klein’s path through Zain Sundaram in the semifinals was not as easy as he might have liked or predicted. They battled back and forth and it was Sundaram who reached the hill (7) first. He gave Klein the smallest of openings in the next rack and Klein forced a 15th deciding game. He won that game to earn a well-deserved second shot against Watanabe, waiting for him in the hot seat.

With some good-natured trash talk and the opportunity to get home a little early, the two opted out of the final. As the undefeated occupant of the hot seat at the time of the negotiations, Watanabe claimed the title.

Tour representatives thanked Manny Stamatakis and his Steinway Billiards staff for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Ozone Billiards, Sterling-Gaming, Kamui, Phil Capelle, Bloodworth Ball Cleaner, Billiard Engineering, Pool & Billiards, Professor Q Ball, Bender Cues, and Pool & Billiards. The Tri-State Tour will take a couple of weeks off, as the Predator Pro Am Tour holds its season finale at Raxx Billiards in West Hempstead, NY this coming weekend and is followed by an Open Date for the Tri-State Tour. The tour will return on the final weekend of 2019 (December 29) for a $1,000-added, A-B-C-D event at Cue Bar in Bayside (Queens), NY.