Team Europe Blitzes to Mosconi Lead

In a stunning turnaround that had members of the U.S. squad befuddled and bitter, Team Europe rolled through five straight match wins Saturday afternoon to take an 8-6 lead in the 2004 Mosconi Cup at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Trailing, 6-3, as the third day of the Ryder Cup-styled team 9-ball tournament kicked off, the Euros earned a much-needed boost when 23-year-old Nick Van den Berg scored a 5-3 win over mistake-prone Mosconi rookie Tony Robles. Then, in what may be looked back on as the event’s critical match, Germans Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann edged the U.S. duo of Johnny Archer and Rodney Morris, 5-4, to trim the overall score to 6-5 in the race-to-11.

With European fans becoming more boisterous by the game, snooker legend Steve Davis pitched an unlikely 5-0 shutout against Earl Strickland. Strickland was livid before and after the match, as Mosconi producers Sky Sports aired a pre-match promo that centered on the volatile Strickland’s actions during a match against Davis at the World Pool Championships in Cardiff in July. At that event, Strickland battled the pro-Davis crowd, the match referee, and Davis himself.

Scandanavians Mika Immonen and Marcus Chamat then topped Charlie Williams and Jeremy Jones, 5-3, in the final doubles match to give Europe its first lead of the event at 7-6. The day finished with Souquet pocketing a table-length kick at the 8 ball in the case game for a 5-4 triumph over Jones.

For more match highlights and photos from the 2004 Mosconi Cup, log on to www.mosconicup.com.

U.S. Assumes Command

On the heels of spirited and nearly flawless play from Mosconi Cup debutante Rodney Morris, Team USA won three of four matches Friday afternoon at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas to take a 6-3 lead over Team Europe in the annual Matchroom Sport-promoted team tournament.

Morris, unbeaten in his two matches thus far (one doubles win and one singles victory), made the most of every shooting opportunity and worked the capacity crowd into near hysteria while teamming with Johnny Archer in a 5-1 stomping of the German duo of Ralf Souquet and Thorsten Hohmann. Morris continually urged the pro-U..S. crowd for support during the match.

Day Two of the Ryder Cup-style event began with Jeremy Jones, who learned he would be leading off in singles competition just 20 minutes prior to the opening lag, beating Sweden’s Marcus Chamat, 5-3. Earl Strickland and Tony Robles then paired to topple Steve Davis and Nick Van den Berg by the same score. The only thing that kept Europe from squandering all four opportunities on Friday was Mika Immonen’s thrilling 5-4 win over Charlie Williams. Williams had fought back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the match, and had the break in the case game. Not only did Williams fail to make a ball on the break, but he left Immonen a 1-9 combination that sealed his doom. Because of the U.S.’s three-game lead, the promoters decided not to stage a fifth match on Friday, for fear that another U.S. win might lead to an early end to the race-to-11 tournament. In 2001, the U.S. ended the event on Saturday with a 12-1 thrashing, leaving Matchroom and TV partner Sky Sports with no Sunday programming.

For more information on the 2004 Mosconi Cup, log onto www.mosconicup.com.

U.S. Takes Early Mosconi Cup Lead

A surprisingly large and boisterous turn-out greeted Team USA and Team Europe on Thursday when the Mosconi Cup team tournament made its U.S. debut at the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas, and the players didn’t disappoint. In a five-match mix of singles and doubles play, the U.S. squad closed out the opening day with a 3-2 advantage in the race-to-11 tournament.

Uncertain of how the Mosconi Cup, wildly successful for nine years in London, would fare in America, promoter Barry Hearn of Matchroom Sport was overwhelmed by the 300-plus fans that filled the arena for the 11 a.m. opening lag. “This is absolutely fantastic,” said Hearn, who hopes to switch the Cup to a home-and-home series from this point on. Bouyed by nearly 100 Euros who made the pre-Christmas trek to Las Vegas, the first day featured raucous cheering for the two sides.

The opening match featured Johnny Archer, pool’s hotest player, against reigning World Pool Champion Thorsten Hohmann of Germany. Archer jumped to an early lead, and held on for a nerve-wracking 5-4 win in a match that lasted some 90 minutes.

Europe tied the match when the Scandanavian duo of Marcus Chamat and Mika Immonen rolled to a 5-1 win over Tony Robles and Charlie Williams.

The U.S. took a 3-1 lead after Rodney Morris made an impressive Mosconi Cup debut with a 5-3 pasting of Ralf Souquet, and the team of Earl Strickland and Jeremy Jones squandered a 4-0 lead, but outlasted Steve Davis and Nick Van den Berg, 5-4.

Europe stayed within striking distance of the Americans when Immonen topped Archer, 5-3, in the day’s final match.

For more information and photos from the 2004 Mosconi Cup, and match-by-match updates, go to www.mosconicup.com.

U.S. Open Organizers Forge Ahead

REGARDLESS OF how Circuit Court Judge Bruce H. Kushner rules in promoter Barry Behrman’s probation violation hearing on Sept. 8, the 28th U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship will get underway as scheduled on Sept. 15. And Behrman’s longtime tournament staff is expecting another huge field, playing in front of another jam-packed crowd at the Chesapeake Convention Center in Chesapeake, Va.

“We’re operating with the same staff that ran last year’s event,” said Chris Adams, league director at Behrman’s Q-Master Billiards poolroom and point man for the 2004 event. “Barry is putting up the $52,000 in added money, and we’re collecting entry fees. Right now, registration is right on par with last year, and we anticipate having as many players [215] as we had in 2002.”

While the size of the field may be close to its 2002 level, the quality of the field figures to be as strong as 2002… if not stronger. With the United States Professional Poolplayers Association (UPA) granting waivers to its players, and the 2002 event having been void of last-minute payout surprises, a number of top pros have indicated that they would, indeed, play in the 2003 Open.

“I’m planning on playing,” said top-ranked Johnny Archer. “The UPA has said it’s okay to play, and it is the Open.”

Also scheduled to play is defending champion Ralf Souquet of Germany.

It is possible, however, that the U.S. Open may miss out on some top foreign players, as the World Pool-Billiard Association has informed its member federations that the event is not WPA-sanctioned.

Meanwhile, the 57-year-old Behrman sits in a Chesapeake correctional facility awaiting his fate. Jailed after a second probation violation, Behrman could be released after his Sept. 8 court date, or he could spend as much as six years behind bars. Behrman was convicted in 2002 of a pair of felonies stemming from illegal gambling parties at his Chesapeake home.

Until Sept. 8, Adams said he and his tournament crew will continue preparing for the 28th annual edition of America’s biggest pro tournament.

“All the contractors and vendors have been contacted,” said Adams. “The bleachers, big screen TVs, microphones, etc., have all been ordered. We’re right on schedule.”

Lights are ON for Big Apple 9-Ball Challenge

Despite Thursday’s massive power outage, which brought New York City to a virtual standstill, the Big Apple 9-Ball Challenge at Master Billiards in Queens will kick off Friday afternoon as scheduled. According to tournament director Alexandra Dyer, power has been fully restored at the billiard club, and a stellar 90-player field is slated for action.

“I’ll admit,” said Dyer Friday morning, just prior to the player’s draw, “last night was really bleak. I tried to be philosophical, telling myself to deal with this the best way we can. Then the power came back on at around five o’clock this morning. It was such a relief.”

Dyer added that several players phoned in, citing difficulties in getting into the city, but that their arrivals were imminent.

“We’ll fall just short of a 96-player field,” Dyer said. “But I’m ecstatic that we have 90 players and such a strong field.”

Buoyed by the attendance of star players who participated in the eight-player International Challenge of Champions, held Wednesday and Thursday in nearby Uncasville, Conn., and won by Francisco Bustamante, the Big Apple 9-Ball Challenge field includes Bustamante, Efren Reyes, Holland’s Nick Van den Berg, Germany’s Ralf Souquet and American Johnny Archer. The $20,000-added tournament runs through Sunday.

Mosconi Cup First Day: Europe Sweeps America!

The Mosconi Cup matches held in London today had a surprising outcome: Europe, which suffered a crushing 12-1 defeat last year, has leapt to a 3-0 lead on the first day of this year’s competition.

In the first matchup, Team Europe team captain Oliver Ortmann and fellow German Ralf Souquet took on American team captain Johnny Archer and veteran pro Nick Varner. Team Europe took first blood with a 5-2 victory.

In the second match of the opening session, Scandinavians Mika Immonen and Marcus Chamat faced American young guns Cory Deuel and Charlie Williams. Immonen won the lag and ran out to take a 1-0 lead, and that set the tone for the match. Europe picked up another point with a 5-1 victory.

In the final matchup of the evening, American spirits were flagging, and the European support was growing stronger by the minute as home-team favorite Steve Davis and fresh-faced rookie Nick van den Berg faced Americans Earl Strickland and Jeremy Jones. This match was closer, 5-4, but with the same outcome: Europe took another point.

The Mosconi Cup will head into its second day with Europe holding an unprecedented shutout advantage. Check our live-coverage link at the top of the page for on-site coverage, or visit www.mosconicup.com.

Souquet Wins U.S. Open

Ralf, triumphant.

Ralf, triumphant.

In a mad dash to hold off pesky challenger Alex Pagualyan and complete the final match before Pay-Per-View satellite feeds went “to black,” Germany’s Ralf Souquet scored a heart-pounding 13-11 win in the final of the 27th U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Chesapeake, Va., Sunday night.

Souquet’s triumph over the Canadian contender was completed just three minutes before the plug was to be pulled on pool’s first pay-per-view effort, and brought the normally emotionless German to his knees in exultation.

In winning his first U.S. Open title, Souquet earned $30,000 from the $150,000 prize fund. Pagualyan, the 24-year-old Canadian-by-way-of-the-Philippines, played 11 consecutive matches in the loser’s bracket of the 215-player field, and earned $15,000 for his efforts. Five-time U.S. Open champion (and reigning WPA World 9-Ball Champion) Earl Strickland finished third ($10,000), followed by Hawaiian Rodney Morris ($7,000).

Souquet Wins in Nashville

316aRalf Souquet dominated Johnny Archer in the finals to win the IBC U.S. Championship, his second straight IBC event title. Souquet took the title from Archer in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1, at J. O. B. Billiards in Nashville, Tenn. Following about a week of on-site qualifiers, the event ran Sept. 13-15.

Souquet also racked up wins over Travis Stamper, 6-2, 6-3; local player Bobby Pickle, 6-4, 6-1; Japan’s Tetsu Haraquchi, 6-3,6-2; Jimmy Reid, 6-0, 6-1; and Canada’s Edwin Montal, 7-6, 6-1; before going on to crush Archer in the finals.

If $80,000 in prize money weren’t enough of an incentive, the event offered a unique chance for glory: The winner is to be immortalized in a wood carving commissioned by room owner Jim Blaylock.

Bustamante Wins Las Vegas Invitational

Bustamante zeroed in on the title in Vegas.

Bustamante zeroed in on the title in Vegas.

“He just plays great against me. It makes me a little sick sometimes,” said Ralf Souquet after the finals of the Gabriels Las Vegas Invitational, August 23 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino. By Souquet’s reckoning, it was the 26th or 27th time Francisco Bustamante had defeated him in a finals match. Bustamante was characteristically humble about the win. “The only reason I beat him is in the beginning he never made a ball [on the break].”

Bustamante won $7,000 for first place, Souquet took $3,800 home. While some of the top names (such as Johnny Archer and Earl Strickland) were absent from the 37-man, one woman field, a full complement of Filipino players and such heavy hitters as Rodney Morris, Cory Deuel, Kim Davenport and the tournament promoter himself, Allen Hopkins provided entertaining action for the hard-core pool fans and handfuls of American Poolplayers Association members who were there for their national team championships running concurrently next door.