A new and novel Pool concept is coming to the Guinness World Series of Pool this year. For the first time, it's a Speed Pool event.
Forty of the world's top cueists will be vying for the US$41,500 first prize at Ciputra World in Surabaya, Indonesia. The event lags off this Friday and finishes up on Sunday. Matches will be televised live on Star Sports, with yours truly on the call.
The Philippines will be fielding former world 8 Ball champ Dennis Orcollo and Jeffrey De Luna, who has been in Indonesia for the past few months matching up with top Indonesian shooters in challenge matches. Newly-crowned world 9 Ball champ Darren Appleton will also be there, as will his fellow Englishman Chris Melling. Indonesian hopes rest on Irsal "Neza" Nasution, who was runner-up two years ago and reached the final four last year.
To add an extra twist, Jeanette Lee, the Black Widow from America, will also participate, as well as her Pool-player husband, George Breedlove.
Chinese Taipei will be represented by former Junior World Champion Ko Pin Yi and veteran Fu Che Wei. Germany's Thorsten Hohmann will take part as well.
There will be hordes of local players too. Guinness organized five qualifying events all over the archipelago to give Indonesian shooters a shot at glory. All told, 20 qualifiers will join the fray.
The players will initially be playing against the clock, not against each other. The balls will be racked like a traditional 10 Ball triangle. The player breaks and runs out the balls, with the ten ball being the last ball. Thankfully for them, the first 9 balls need not be run out in order. There will be a ten second penalty for every foul or missed shot.
The 40 players will play five racks in the first session and another five racks in the second. Their total times will be added up. The fastest 32 after the two sessions proceed to the knockout phase. Then it becomes a one-on-one knockout competition with each match a five-rack "pabilisan" shootout against another player. The final will be a 7-rack affair.
The Guinness World Series of Pool was originally a traditional 10 Ball tournament. In the first running two years ago Janno Mazon of the Philippines beat Nasution for the title. Then last year Ko Pin Yi vanquished America's Shane Van Boening to lift the trophy. This year it could be anyone's game with the new format. The venue has also shifted from the Taman Anggrek Mall in Jakarta to the historic East Javan city of Surabaya.
Coverage kicks off on Friday at 4pm on Star Sports. On Saturday and Sunday tune in at noon to catch the action. My commentary partner will be legendary Football pundit Paul Masefield, who I met in Oman two years ago during the Asian Beach Games.
Jeanette Lee won't be the only pretty face in Surabaya. ESPN Star Motorsports goddess Paula Malai Ali will likewise be in the production as a presenter.
The competition is sanctioned by the Asian Pocket Billiard Union.
I expect a highly unpredictable event where fast shooters will have the advantage over top players. It's a pity that Malta's Tony Drago, a famously fast player, does not seem to be in the Players List.