Ko Ping Chung, Fedor Gorst, Chang Jung Lin and Liu Haitao stand on the brink of history in Doha.
By Ted Lerner
WPA Media Officer
(Doha, Qatar)–After nearly ten hours of some of the most grueling and pressure packed pool seen in years, the 2019 World 9-ball Championship has now come down to the Final 4.
The four players left, Taiwan’s Ko Ping Chung and Chang Jung Lin, Russia’s Fedor Gorst, and China’s Liu Haitao are, to a man, already proven monsters of the game. Now each is poised on the cusp of history and will get their crack at pool immortality.
In one semi-final, the current World 10-ball Champion Ko will battle it out against Gorst. In the other semi-final, Chang will match wits with Liu. Both semis, which will be race to 11, alternate break, will begin at 11am Tuesday in Doha(GMT +3) at the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation. The Final, which will be race to 13, alternate break, will begin at 3pm Doha time.
Pool fans around the world looking at that list of talent on their betting sheet might be hard pressed to pick who to put their money on to take the sport’s most coveted crown. But anyone who has been lucky enough to be on hand in Doha for the last week, or watch the action online, would probably not hesitate to favor the man fondly known as “Little Ko.”
Ko got that endearing moniker by being the sweet younger brother to the great Ko Pin Yi, himself a two time former world champion. Fans have known Little Ko to have as much prodigious talent as his older brother, but it wasn’t until he won the World 10-ball Championship in Vegas in July this year that the diminutive 24 year old clearly had stepped out of that long shadow and started to establish his own greatness.
Indeed over the last four days in Doha, the 24 year old Ping Chung has exhibited an almost surreal-like confidence to do whatever it takes to win. His shot making is from another planet, he never, ever gets flustered, and he seemingly can do what he wants, when he wants.
These other-worldly skills were on full display in his three tough matches over ten hours today. In the round of 32 match against talented compatriot Lin Wu Kun, Ko got out to an early lead and held off Lin at every turn to win 11-8. In the round of 16, Ko came up against Russian veteran Ruslan Chinakhov who was playing some of his best pool in years. But Ko was in no mood to play nice, and he dominated Chinakhov 11-4.
By the time his quarterfinals battle against Vietnam upstart Do The Kien began, Ko looked a bit worn, and he fell behind 6-2. But as he did against Hungary’s Oliver Slzolnoki the night before in the round of 64, Ko grinded his way back in the match. In this case the Taiwanese absolutely put his boot down hard, winning 9 racks in a row for an emphatic 11-6 win and a spot in the semi-finals.
Little Ko’s battle with Russia’s Gorst promises to be a fascinating match up of two of pool’s great young talents. Gorst, just 19 year’s old, is a former World Junior Champion and has also won one Euro Tour event. His game and his personal demeanor appear well beyond his years, and this is not surprising when you discover that he has traveled and played extensively, especially in the US. He even speaks excellent English.
Like Ko, Gorst has a rock-solid game and low-key demeanor that serves him well when under pressure. His three fine performances today showed he is certainly ready for the big time. Should he win here in Doha, he would become the second youngest player, after 16 year old Wu Chia Ching in 2005, to win the World 9-ball Championship.
Gorst started the day with a very impressive 11-7 win over Taiwan’s Kevin Chang. In the round of 16 he blew a 7-1 lead over Poland’s Mateusz Sniegocki, and the match headed for the cliff and a sudden death rack. Gorst held his nerve with a very fine break and run to advance to the quarterfinals.
Without so much as having a bite to eat, he met up with Ko Pin Yi for what promised to be another slug fest. The early part of the match remained tight and nervy, but the young Russian stayed loose and calm and pounced on the few mistakes by Ko for an impressive 11-6 win.
The other semi final between Liu and Chang could well be described as pool’s battle of the hard core men. Both players are known for their tough, grinding style and it will be fascinating to see who blinks first.
With his many trips to the US and other countries over the years, Chang has certainly endeared himself to worldwide fans. Over the last few years the 34 year old Chang, the 2012 World 8-ball champion, has taken his game to new heights, including a win at the International in 2018. Another world title for Chang would certainly surprise nobody.
Chang played like a champion today, at least up until the end where he literally limped over the finish line. In the round of 32 he manhandled Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski, 11-5. In the round of 16 Chang came back from an early deficit to beat Spain’s Francisco Sanchez Ruiz, 11-7. Then in the quarters he looked to be in total control over Finland upstart Casper Matikainen, with an 8-2 lead.
Matikainen, who had defeated defending champion Joshua Filler in the round of 64, and had just beaten 2016 World 9-ball Champion Albin Ouschan in the round of 16, was a total revelation this week in Doha. And just when the quiet Finn looked like he would run out of gas, he began a glorious fight back against Chang. The pair ended up tied at 10 in a battle of sheer will and stamina. Chang, though, mustered one last bit of energy and skill and held on to break and run the very last rack for a nail-biting ticket to the semis.
China’s Liu has been knocking on this door of greatness for the last several years, and his three matches today showed he is ready to finally kick it in. In the round of 64, he came from two down late against Greece’s Alexander Kazakis to win 11-9. In the final 16 he came back from 6 -2 down to defeat Japan’s Naoyuki Oi, 11-9. In the quarters the Chinese went toe to toe with a streaking Alex Pagulayan. The pair had nothing between them for the first half, until Liu decided this time was his, and he put the Filipino-Canadian away, 11-8.
Should Liu win it all on Tuesday, he would become the first Chinese player to ever win the WPA World 9-ball Championship.
The winner of the 2019 World 9-ball Championship will receive $30,000. The total prize fund is $150,00.
*The 2019 WPA World 9-ball Championship takes place at the Qatar Billiards and Snooker Federation in Doha, Qatar from December 10-17, 2019. The event is hosted by The Qatar Billiard and Snooker Federation(QBSF), and is sanctioned by the World Pool Billiard Association, the governing body of the sport of pool.
Fans around the world will be able to view live scoring, results, brackets and live streaming of many of the matches via the QBSF’s free live streaming platform at esnooker.pl. Multiple tables will be available to view online at no charge to the public.
Tuesday, December 17 11am, GMT +3
Race to 11, Alternate Break
Jung Lin Chang (TPE) vs. Lui Haitao (CHN)
Ping Chung Ko (TPE) vs. Fedor Gorst (RUS)
Race to 13, Alternate Break
Jung Lin Chang (TPE) 11 – 10 Casper Matikainen (FIN)
Lui Haitao (CHN) 11 – 8 Alex Pagulayan (CAN)
Chung Ko Ping (TPE) 11 – 6 Do The Kien (VET)
Fedor Gorst (RUS) 11- 6 Pin Yi Ko (TPE)
RESULTS FINAL 16
Casper Matikainen (FIN) 11 – 6 Albin Ouschan (AUT)
Jung Lin Chang (TPE) 11 – 7 Francisco Sanchez Ruiz (ESP)
Lui Haitao (CHN) 11 – 9 Naoyuki Oi (JPN)
Alex Pagulayan (CAN) 11 – 9 Billy Thorpe (USA)
Chung Ko Ping (TPE) 11 – 4 Ruslan Chinakhov (RUS)
Do The Kien (VET) 11 – 8 Waleed Majid (QAT)
Pin Yi Ko (TPE) 11 – 9 Aloysius Yapp (SIN)
Fedor Gorst (RUS) 11 – 10 Mateusz Sniegocki (POL)
RESULTS FINAL 32
Casper Matikainen (FIN) 11 – 8 Yip Kin Ling (HKG)
Albin Ouschan (AUT) 11 – 8 Denis Grabe (EST)
Jung Lin Chang (TPE) 11 – 5 Mieszko Fortunski (POL)
Francisco Sanchez Ruiz (ESP) 11 – 5 Xu Xiaocong (CHN)
Liu Haitao (CHN) 11 – 9 Alexander Kazakis (GRE)
Naoyuki Oi (JPN) 11 – 6 Johann Chua (PHL)
Alex Pagulayan (CAN) 11 – 7 Chang Yu Lung (TPE)
Billy Thorpe (USA) 11 – 10 Carlo Biado (PHL)
Chung Ko Ping (TPE) 11 – 8 Lin Wu Kun (TPE)
Ruslan Chinakhov (RUS) 11 – 8 Maximilian Lechner (AUT)
Do The Kien (VET) 11 – 7 Chris Melling (ENG)
Waleed Majid (QAT) 11 -10 Wojciech Szewczyk (POL) vs.
Pin Yi Ko (TPE) 11 – 9 Jeffrey Ignacio (PHL)
Aloysius Yapp (SIN) 11 – 5 Darren Appleton (ENG)
Fedor Gorst (RUS)11 – 7 Yu Hsuan Cheng (TPE)
Mateusz Sniegocki (POL) 11 – 7 Liu Ri Teng (TPE)