Day One of the 2012 PartyPoker.Net World Cup of Pool is in the books and one thing is certain: the Philippines B team of Efren Reyes and Francisco Bustamante will be a threat to win it all again in this 9 Ball team event presented by Matchroom Sport.
The "Magkumpare" demolished an overmatched Hong Kong team of "Bobby" Lee Chen Man and Kenny Kwok, 8-3 in front of a huge crowd at Robinson's Place Ermita on Tuesday.
The Pinoys raced to a 4-1 lead thanks to some solid shotmaking and safety. In rack 6 Efren knocked in a lovely table-length bank/two-way shot on the one ball, but left Django with iffy shape on the two ball.
The Hong Kongers got on the table but Kwok missed the three ball and the Filipinos ran out for 5-1.
Hong Kong ran out the next rack to pull to 5-2 and could have narrowed the gap to 5-3 had Lee not jawed a makable 6-9 combination. The Philippines capitalized by running out to go 6-2 ahead.
Philippines B got to the hill in the next rack but Reyes muffed a long straight one ball and Hong Kong ran out and were once again within four, 7-3.
But Lee broke dry and the Pinoys ran out with the help of a superb cross-corner bank by Bustamante to win the match.
Bustamante will have to control the cue ball better if he and Efren Reyes are to win their third World Cup.
Philippines B now plays Canada in the round of 16.
Canada's Alex Pagulayan and John Morra played just good enough to edge Sweden's Marcus Chamat and Andreas Gerwen 8-7.
Sweden raced to a 3-0 lead but Canada reeled off seven of the next eight to reach the hill. Pagulayan was in fine form, showing a cross corner bank in rack six, a rail-first 1 ball in the next game, and lovely carom on the seven ball in rack 10.
Pagulayan has represented the Philippines in the SEA Games in both Pool and Snooker but for this event he wore the red and white of Canada. The shooter nicknamed "The Killer Pixie" migrated to Canada as a teen and honed his game there.
Morra missed a one ball in rack twelve and that allowed Sweden to pull to within two at 7-5. A 9 Ball in the break in the next rack cut the deficit to one. After Canada missed a jump in the next rack, Sweden ran out to force a final rack decider.
A nervous safety battle ensued but after Morra sunk a tough three ball Canada ran out for victory.
The impish Pagulayan hid behind referee Michaela Tabb on the last shot and embraced his fellow Torontonian after the nine ball disappeared.
Defending champs Germany got off to a sizzling start, crushing Serbia 8-1, in spite of Ralf Souquet being so ill with food poisoning that he had to be rushed to Cardinal Santos Hospital at 8:30 in the morning.
He complained of nausea and had an intravenous drip, registering a fever of 37.8 celsius. He was given medicines for stomach cramps.
Andreja Klasovic was the weak link for Serbia as he committed the most of the Balkan's errors. Partner Zoran Svilar was steadier.
Souquet looked no worse for wear. His shot of the match was a magnificent resafe on the four ball in rack seven. Partner Thorsten Hohmann was also in deadly form.
Germany will tackle either Finland or South Korea in the round of 16.
The Thai duo of Kobkit Palajin and Nitiwat Kanjanasri, shock runners-up last year, won their border battle with Malaysia's Patrick Ooi Fuk Yuen and Ibrahim bin Amir, 8-4.
Palajin showed some skill with a terrific kiss on the 2 ball off the three en route to winning rack 3 and bringing Thailand up 2-1.
In rack 5 Malaysia should have gone ahead 3-2 but Ooi played terrible shape on the nine ball off the eight ball, leaving Amir with a dicey cut with the mechanical bridge. The Sabah native sliced it in but could not avoid a scratch.
Malaysia took the next two to go ahead 4-3, but Palajin knocked in a difficult 8-9 combo to draw level.
The Thais took the next two, then Kanjanasri buried a one ball with a dart stroke jump shot in rack 11. Thailand ran out then did the same in the next rack for victory.
The Thais are not that well-versed in the art of safety, counter-safety and pushing out, but their bulletproof pocketing just might lead them to another deep run in this event.
Thailand plays either England or Belgium in the next round.
The United States team of Rodney Morris and Shane Van Boening also won hill-hill over India's Amar Kang and Raj Hundal in a bizarre match that had just about every odd circumstance possible in Pool.
The weirdness began in rack five when van Boening babied a one ball that failed to reach the side pocket, resulting in a no-rail foul. 3-2 India.
The Indians went up by two in the next, but the Americans took the next two racks. At 5-5 Kang, who is Punjabi but raised in Sacramento, California, attempted a crazy behind-the-back draw shot on the 8. He made the shot and somehow got the ball to draw seven feet straight into a corner pocket. USA 6-5.
In the next rack Morris appeared to get a golden break, but it was waved off by referee Nigel Rees because the break was adjudged illegal. In the World Cup, as in many 9 Ball tournaments, three balls must either pass the head string or be pocketed on the break, to discourage soft breaks. If not, the other party gains control of the table. On the Golden break of Morris, only one ball was pocketed and another crossed the headstring. The 9 was respotted.
The USA missed two tough 9 balls in that rack and Hundal missed another before Kang put it down for 6-6.
In the next rack it was India called for an illegal break, a shame since Kang hit the balls hard and the one ball was defenseless on an open table. The USA cleaned up to earn the hill but the Indians matched them a rack later.
In rack 15 Hundal missed a very hard cut on the three and the USA ran out for the win. Van Boening, with six unforced errors, must up his game if the pairing, which won the event in 2008, is to prosper this week.
India, with their colorful sequined team shirts, will be missed. The USA now meets Austria in the next round.
The Austrians, composed of Jasmin Ouschan's brother Albin, teamed with Mario He, outclassed Kuwait's Omar and Al-Shaheen Abdullah Al Yousef 8-2 in the other match.
The tournament officials are racking the nine ball diamond with the nine ball in the foot spot. The balls are also "tapped" for easier and more consistent racking. The players are all using cut-breaks but the one ball isn't going very often into the side pocket and there are no automatic wing balls into the corners. The result: lots of dry breaks on the tough, deep-shelfed Diamond Tables. Ideal conditions for a single-elimination, winner-breaks 9 Ball event.
Play continues tomorrow until Sunday, with the champion team banking the US$60,000 first prize.
Wednesday's marquee matchup is Philippines A, composed of Dennis Orcollo and Lee Van Corteza, versus Switzerland's Dimitri Jungo and Ronni Regli. It will be the second match of the 6pm session and will likely start no earlier than 7pm. There will be live coverage on Solar Sports.
As the host nation, the Philippines is allowed to field two teams. There are 30 other nations represented.
Regli, Pagulayan, and Ibrahim bin Amir all have Filipino ancestry. Bin Amir is from Sabah of Pinoy descent and speaks both Cebuano and Tagalog fluently. Regli grew up in Switzerland and speaks some Filipino, taught to him by his older brother.
Astonishingly, neither Regli nor bin Amir learned to play Pool in the Philippines.
Perhaps it really is in the genes.
The Passionate Fan will not be covering Day 2 of the World Cup of Pool because of Azkals coverage. But the Yahoo! Philippines Sports staff will do its best to fill in.
You can follow me on Twitter @bhobg333.