Yang edges Reyes in Classic

Ching Shun Yang
Yang edges Reyes in classic

Taiwan's sensational “Son of Pool” Ching Shun Yang edged “The Magician” Efren “Bata” Reyes in a classic battle 9-8 and thwarted a Filipino sweep of the four semi final slots in the San Miguel Asian 9-Ball final tour stop in the hotbed of pool, Manila.

Torrential rains resulted in stifling conditions at the Trade Hall of Robinson” Galleria which were worsened when the air-conditioning broke down and Reyes may have paid the price for this. The wind from an electric fan placed in the venue appeared to have kept the 2-ball out of the corner pocket at a crucial stage of the match upsetting Reyes who complained politely about the incident.

The hot and humid conditions also kept former Philippine First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos and her American lawyer James Lynn from watching Reyes, a favorite of Ms. Marcos, in action. They had to settle for enjoying the atmosphere of the new Holiday Inn coffee shop with the “Godfather” of Philippine pool, Aristeo “Putch” Puyat who gave them a running account of how the match was going.

It was a titanic struggle all the way with two of the finest players in the world putting on an exhibition of riveting pool. Yang who won the lag eventually banked on that advantage in the alternate break format to set up a semi final showdown with Gandy Valle who stunned Yang in the opening leg in Singapore. Valle edged teenage star Chia Ching Wu 9-8 in a match littered with errors and some occasional brilliance to lead the way with two other hometown favorites, Ronnie Alcano and Antonio “Nikoy” Lining who will play each other in the second semi final.

Reyes quickly negated Yang's advantage in the opening rack with an unbelievable bank shot on the 6-ball up and down the table but after pocketing four balls on the break, Reyes made one mistake and Yang pounced on the error to clean up and tie the count at 1-1. Run-outs by both players and a 1-9 combination gave Yang a 3-2 edge but Reyes, with his second straight break and run out evened the count at 3-3 only to watch Yang masterfully match Reyes with a run-out of his own to take a 4-3 lead.

Reyes, a hero in the hearts of millions of Filipinos played a fantastic kick shot on the 2-ball which had TV commentator Bob Guerrero in awe and after a nasty snooker, Yang missed a masse as the 3-ball hung on the lip of the pocket and the score was once again tied at 4-4. Reyes edged in front by two racks after Yang missed a long shot on a 1-8 combo and when Reyes engineered a two rail kick on the 9-ball it appeared he had taken command 7-5.

But the cool and collected Taiwanese who almost certainly clinched the top spot on the tour by defeating Reyes, out-foxed “The Magician” in the words of the TV panel and with a comfortable 3-9 combination moved ahead 8-7 winning three straight racks to the consternation of the hometown crowd looking for a spectacular sweep by the Filipino aces.

Despite scratching on a fine cut on the 2-ball Reyes joined Yang on the hill after the Taiwanese missed a shot on the 6-ball to the subdued delight of the crowd but Yang was not to be denied. He flirted with disaster when he almost scratched, but the cue ball barely stayed out of the pocket and he ran-out to win 9-8 and remain poised for back-to-back victories to wind up the prestigious tour.

In a match that television commentators Guerrero and Anthony Suntay described as full of “great shots, big misses and bizarre moments” Valle who was on the hill at 8-7 almost threw his match away with an unforgivable miss on a simple 3-9 combination enabling Wu Chia Ching to grab the advantage at 8-8 with his turn to break. But with an unbelievable seventh dry break, six in a row on the same side of the table, Wu gave Valle an opening and despite some nervous moments the Filipino eventually ran-out to move into the semis with a 9-8 win and the prospect of facing Yang who is playing the best pool in Manila.

Lanky Ronnie Alcano, a standout on the Joss NE Tour in the US showed fans a glimpse of his potential with an impressive 9-6 win over last year's World Pool Championship runner up Pei Wei Chang while veteran “Nikoy” Liming scored a breakthrough win over Malaysia's Patrick Ooi 9-4 to enter the semi finals of the tour for the first time, in the process atoning for the Filipinos poor showing in Kaohsung where only Alcano made the quarter finals where he was beaten by Yang in an excellent match.