By Ted Lerner
(Beijing, China)- With team supremacy and national pride riding on every shot, Great Britain and Japan stared down some heavy pressure and won dramatic sudden death shootouts to advance to the semi-finals of the 2012 World Pool Team Championship in Beijing.
After claiming a thrilling victory over a fancied and loaded China 1 squad, and silencing the hundreds of hometown fans inside the Tongzhou Luhe High School gymnasium, in the Tongzhou district of China’s capital, Great Britain now move onto the semi-finals where they will play red hot Chinese-Taipei in Thursday’s first semi-final.
With their well played shootout victory over the Philippines, Japan will take on China 2 in the other semi-final.
It was a fitting conclusion to Day 4 of the pool world’s biggest team event, as before this point, the best teams in pool were simply biding their time until the little fish were dispensed with and the big boys and girls could finally get at each other.
The day began with 16 teams out of the original 24 facing off for the first time all week in the single elimination format. This was also the first time fans would get to see the dramatic shootout decide who advanced and who went home.
The shootout is unique to team pool and is implemented when the two teams split their six matches against each other at three matches each. The 8 ball is then put in the middle of the table down near the short rail level with the first diamond and the cue ball is placed way down at the other end near the head string. The three men and one woman on each team take turns trying to pot the 8-ball in either far corner. All players play in sequence and the team to score six hits first with a margin of two or more(6-4, 7-5, etc.) wins the match and advances to the next round.All of the favorites such as Chinese-Taipei, China 1 and 2, the Philippines, Great Britain and Japan advanced into the quarterfinals untouched. But two matches in the round of 16 offered up tasters of what was to come later in the evening. Sweden, which had shown a lot of fortitude to get to this point, ended up tied in their match with another up and coming squad, Indonesia. The Swedes good fortune continued as they won the shootout 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Canada had been quietly doing their thing for the last four days as was South Korea, which featured two time US Open Champion and former World 9-ball champion, Ga Young Kim. The two quality squads battled neck and neck throughout and went to a shootout to decide the victor. Canada prevailed with a 10-8 win.
The quarterfinals in the evening session offered some terrific showdowns at the highest levels of the game. One match though, seemed a formality and indeed Sweden finally ran out of steam against Chinese-Taipei, falling 4-1. With World 8-ball champion Chang Jun Lin, veteran Fu Che Wei, Ko Pin Yi and female top player Chieh Yu Chou, Chinese Taipei has been cruising along untouched and is probably the favorite at this point.
The drama and nerves were reserved for the other three matches and deservedly so. The marquee match of the night saw Great Britain take on China 1. With two current World 9-ball champions in Darren Appleton and Kelly Fisher, along with Daryl Peach, Chris Melling and Mark Gray, the Brits have been fancied as possible champions from the beginning.
But with home court advantage, the China 1 side, featuring the power duo of Li He Wen and Fu Jian Bo, the always tough Liu Haitao, and female superstars Fu Xiaofang and Pan Xiaoting, were probably slightly favored.
This showdown was a rematch of the classic quarterfinal battle between nearly identical teams two years prior in Hanover, Germany at the first World Pool Team Championship. In that match Britain and China went to a shootout which the Brits won by the astounding score of 27-25. Great Britain went on to win the event.
This night China 1 appeared as if they didn’t want to let anything to chance and they were in control throughout. Up 2-1 in points and needing just four points to advance, China looked a sure bet as Li He Wen, in a rematch of the World 9-ball final just a few days earlier, had Appleton down 6-2 in a 9-ball race to 8. But Appleton, who had admittedly been out of it this week coming off his amazing world title win, turned dead serious and won the match 8-7.
Appleton wasn’t done yet. China won the mixed doubles 10-ball match to move within one of victory. But Appleton then stepped up and came through again, beating Fu Jian Bo 7-4 in singles 10-ball to force a shootout.
With hundreds of partisan fans watching, the Brits cashed in with four quick pots on the spot shot to move up 4-0. China closed the gap to 5-3 and the fans were sensing comeback. But Melling put a stop to the noise with a clutch pot to send Great Britain into the final.
At about the same time, Japan and the Philippines were headed toward a dramatic finale. The Philippines, with Hall of Famers Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante, along with Dennis Orcullo and Rubilen Amit, battled back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the match and force a sudden death shootout.
The shootout went back and forth and was tied at 3, 4 and 5. With each clutch pot, the players would shout and dance around the table and high-five their teammates. But the Philippines’ had a weak link in the shootout and it turned out to be Reyes, whose 57 year old eyes failed him each time he tried the shot. Japan won the shootout 7-5.
The home fans didn’t leave disappointed, however. China 2, with female stars Liu Shasha, Chen Siming and lesser known male players Dang Jinhu, Dai Yong, Han Haoxiang, had to go the limit with a relentless Canadian team which simply wouldn’t quit. At 3-2 the match was headed for a sure shootout, but Canada’s Brittany Bryant missed an open 2-ball in the very last rack of a mixed doubles 10-ball match, and this allowed China 2 to advance 4-2.
*The World Pool and Billiard Association(WPA) is the international governing body of the sport of pocket billiards.
Semi Final Matches, July 5
Chinese Taipei vs. Great Britain(1pm Beijing Time, GMT +8)
Japan vs. China 2(6pm Beijing Time)
Finals, July 6(2pm Beijing Time)
Chinese Taipei 4 -1 Sweden
Great Britain 3 -3 China 1(Great Britain wins shootout 6-3)
Japan 3 -3 Philippines(Japan wins shootout 6-4)
China 2, 4 – 2 Canada
Round of 16, Single Elimination Results
Matches are listed in order in which they are listed on the knockout chart
Chinese-Taipei 4-1 India
Sweden 3-3 Indonesia(Sweden wins shootout 6-2)
Great Britain 4 -1 Australia
China 1, 4 -1 Poland
Philippines 4 -0 Norway
Japan 4-2 Germany
Canada 3-3 South Korea(Canada wins shootout 10-8)
China 2, 4-0 Finland
Winning Team: $80,000
Runner Up: $40,000
*Each match between countries will feature the teams playing each other in a set of six matches, all alternate break; two races in 8 ball, two in 9-ball and two in 10-ball.
*One 8-ball match will be men’s scotch doubles, race to 6. The other 8-ball match will be a men’s singles, race to 6.
*In 9-ball, the teams will compete in a women’s singles, race to 8, and a men’s singles race to 8.
*In 10-ball, the teams will play one mixed doubles match(scotch doubles), race to 7, and one men’s singles match race to 7.
*The female player must play in the 10-ball mixed doubles match, and a 9-ball match.
*No player is permitted to play more than two matches per session.
Great Britain—Darren Appleton, Daryl Peach, Chris Melling, Mark Gray, Kelly Fisher
Chinese Taipei—Chang Jung Lin, Fu Che Wei, Ko Pin Yi, Chieh Yu Chou
China 2—Dang Jinhu, Dai Yong, Han Haoxiang, Liu Shasha, Chen Siming
Japan—Yukio Akagariyama, Toru Kuribayashi, Naoyuki Oi, Chihiro Kawahara