GENERAL SANTOS CITY– The country’s finest pool shooters seem determined not to allow this trophy to leave the country.
On Wednesday most of the Philippines’ best pocket billiards pros knocked down their foes in the double-elimination stage of the MP Cup Gensan World 10 Ball Championship here in the SM City mall of South Cotabato’s capital.
Lee Vann Corteza dominated Muhammad Zulfikri of Indonesia 9-2 in his first outing before walloping fellow Pinoy John Rebong 9-5 to reach the last 64 single-elimination bracket unscathed. Corteza, from Davao, has yet to win a world championship, and this could be his chance to take one on Mindanao soil.
Surigaonon Dennis Orcollo, a former 8 Ball world champ, is also into the single-knockout phase after surviving 9-8 cliffhangers against Filipinos Oliver Mendenilla and Roland Garcia.
Caloocan City’s Jeffrey De Luna was in dead stroke after a 9-0 thrashing of Imran Majid of England followed by a 9-1 blowout of Tadique Assis. Since he won both matches while conceding only one rack, he will be the top seed in the round of 64 and will thus earn the right to play the 64th-seeded shooter.
Warren Kiamco, fresh from his Derby City 9 Ball triumph, will also play in the last 64 after edging Raymart Camomot in his first match then hurdling Jani Seikkinen of Finland, 9-3.
Francisco Bustamante is also in the hunt for a second world title after downing Tapei’s Chen Hsin Teng and Croatia’s Ivica Putnik via 9-3 scores.
Elmer Haya, who reached the semis of last year’s world 9 Ball tournament, is also through to the last 64 after defeating Bewi Muhammad of Indonesia 9-7 then sending Portugal’s Manuel Gama to the one-loss side via a 9-3 score.
Another Mindanaoan, Roberto Gomez of Zamboanga City, also booked his passage to the knockout stage with wins of Roland de la Cruz and Sahroni of Indonesia. Former Philippine 10 ball champ Carlo Biado is in as well after a 9-4 win over Ryan Maglasang and a hil-hill triumph against Romeo Silvano.
Antonio Gabica, with wins over Liu Haitao and Karol Skowerski, is also safely in the last 64. Raymund Faraon, the 2014 All-Japan titleist, is also in the single-elimination rounds after wins over Kamal Chawla of India and Liu Chien Chieh of Chinese Taipei.
Unheralded Pinoy Emil Martinez is also in the round of 64 with a 2-0 slate, as are countrymen Jonas Magpantay, Jerico Bonus, James Aranaz and Oliver Villafuerte.
Filipino Canadian former world 9 ball champion Alex Pagulayan is also perfect after toppling Cheng Yu Hsuan and Elvis Calasang.
Highly-regarded 18-year old Anton Raga, from Tabunok, Cebu is the talk of the town after defeating Renemar “Revo” David 9-3 then overcoming Wang Can of China 9-5 to break into the last 64.
There are other Filipinos who are still alive in the one-loss bracket. Ronnie Alcano, who has both 8 ball and 9 ball world titles under his belt, stayed in the tournament with a 9-6 win over countryman Dondon Razalan.
The list of Pinoy survivors in the one-loss side is long. Patrick Gonzales, Revo David, John Rebong, Plong-plong Pulpul, Janno Mazon, Ramil Gallego, Michael Feliciano, Romeo Silvano, Dodong Didal, Ruben Cuna, Roland Garcia, Roland de la Cruz, Val Pauay, Sean Mark Malayan, Oliver Mendenilla, Ryan Maglasang, Jeffrey Calonge, Ricky Zerna, Raymart Comomot, William Millares, Elvis Calasang, Richard Alinsub, Baseth Mapandi and Johann Chua are Filipinos in the same boat: they need to win on Thursday to secure a slot in the last 64 or they go home.
Other notable foreign stars in the last 64 are England’s Darren Appleton, Germany’s Ralf Souquet, and Ko Ping Chung of Chinese Taipei. Chang Jung Lin, who won numerous tournaments in the Guinness World Series of Pool, has also qualified with a 2-0 record.
The round-of 64 knockout bracket will be finalized after the last of the one-loss matches are over and done with on Thursday. The knockout stages, which are all race-to-eleven matches, begin at the 6 pm session.
This tournament, sponsored by Manny Pacquiao, will pay US$40,000 to the winner out of a total prize pool of US$200,000. The final is on Saturday.
Carpet-less venue an issue.
Some players are grumbling about the lack of a carpet under most of the tables. Several said that their feet were slipping and sliding on the shiny stone tiles of the SM City Gensan atrium while they played. Only the main “TV” table, (the tournament has live streaming but no network TV coverage of full matches,) has a carpet.
Ralf Souquet, who won both his matches, said he is sticking to the shoes he usually plays pool with, even though there was some slippage when he played. Dennis Orcollo did not risk it, and bought new shoes with grippier soles. Antonio Gabica also used rubber-soled shoes and said he had no problems with the flooring.
In his match against Johann Chua (a 9-3 loss), Imran Majid could be seen wiping the soles of his shoes on a damp rag, presumably to get more traction.
Dressy leather shoes are part of the dress code for this event.
The players are mostly pleased with the tables, which are reportedly supplied by Star Paper of Sebastian Chua. They are purportedly from China but are using high-quality rails and Simonis cloth. One player said that one of the tables seemed to be slightly off-level but that the other tables play great.
As you can see from this picture, the pockets are tight, but the fall-off of the slate is shallow, meaning balls tend to topple in the hole once they are in the jaws.
Johann Chua felt that the pockets were generous and that it helped the Filipino shooters, who like an adventurous, attacking style of play.