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Darren Appleton and Bai Ge Won the First China Pool Champion

IMG_9888The first ever “China Billiard World Championship” was held from 28 January 2015 in the beautiful YuShan City (JiangXi Province) of China. A total prize money of RMB ¥ 3 million (approximately US$480,000), out of which ¥600,000 was awarded to the Men’s Champion, while ¥400,000 was awarded to its lady counterpart.
Although it might seem to be “odd cents” when comparing to most major snooker championships, the tournament is already head-to-head with the World 9-Ball Championship in terms of prize monies paid. The tournament was hosted by the China Billiard Association (CBSA), and in a scale much larger than any snooker or pool tournaments. Apart from regular Chinese Pool players, many current snooker and pool professionals joined the scene, 23 countries, spanning all 5 continents, and over 300 renowned international players participated in the event. Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Thorsten Hohmann, Chris Melling and so on are just a few names to mention. Almost all the top women players came to YuShan to compete for the honour.IMG_9618
IMG_9642In the Men’s Division, Darren Appleton was the one who laughed to the last, with tears and on his knees, by claiming the title in the end and pocketed away the US$90,000+ first prize.
It was 4 days before the stage 2 of the tournament came to its Final. Ironically, the two biggest name in its own category staged in this “clash of the titans”. Mark Selby, world snooker champion, and Darren Appleton, world pool champion, met in a race to 21 for the first ever world title in Chinese 8-Ball.
The path to the final was never easy for either player. Selby had to take on Chris Melling on the way then Liu HaiTao (China #1) in the semi-final, while Appleton saw off Neil Robertson (former world #1 in snooker) then the 2015 CBSA World 9-Ball Champion Chu Bingjie of China in the other semi.
Soon after the award ceremony completed as Bai Ge of China claimed the women’s title, the 20-racks first session of the men’s final commenced. In the first 16 racks, Appletonled only by a mere 2-rack margin (9-7). At the end of the session, the differnce remained the same when Appleton and Selby (11-9) left the battlefield during recess.
The final session started at 7:30 in the evening, and Appleton immediately increased the lead by winning the first 4 racks after returning. Mark Selby, who is renowned for his “comebacks”, took the next three racks, then two more in the next three to make it all square at 18-18.
Selby then took the 37th, and made the score 19-18 in his favour and took the lead for the first time in the match. The 38th rack was a tough one and after far too many attempts by both players in making pots, Appleton demonstrated top-level defense and gained “ball-in-hand” to clear the table.
Selby had the break in the 39th. With balls potted on the break, the audience was about to witness a clearance by this world snooker champion. Dramatically, Selby missed an easy pot. Appleton once again taught the world what top class defensive play is and reached the hill.
“Break and Run” was what the almighty Darren Appleton did in the 40th rack and brought himself down to his knees celebrating the tough and difficult win. Appletoncould not hold back his tears, it was a sweet revenge for Appleton after losing to Mark Selby in the English Blackball final in 2006 for a prize of £10,000.
Some might not understand why Appleton had four fingers up when receiving the trophy. This was because, after 24 years of hard work, he finally has in his pocket four world titles in the different categories of 9-Ball, 10-Ball, 14.1, and now Chinese 8-Ball.
Appleton revealed that the prize money could relief his recent mortgage. As well, buying a few drinks for his friends waiting for him to party in the Philippines (where the next tournament is being held) is inevitable. However, since Appleton has been too busy lately, the most important of all will therefore be going on a honeymoon trip with his newly wedded (in 2014) and beautiful wife Angie.
In the Women’s Division, in the end, Bai Ge claimed the championship by beating another seasoned Chinese 8-Ball player Zhang Xiaotong, walking away with a US$60,000+ first prize. The final score was 17-13. The direct translation of the name Bai Ge is “Pigeon”, and the champion really spreaded her wings and won the tournament with flying colours. She eliminated two world champions, Han Yu and Kelly Fisher, in the semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively. Another world champion Liu ShaSha suffered from serious flu during the tournament and lost to Kelly Fisher in the last 16. Zhang Xiaotong stormed into the final as strong asBai Ge did, also took on two world champions (Allision Fisher and Fu Xiaofang) befoer meeting Bai Ge for a race to 17 final.IMG_9354
The two-session women’s final was played one day before the men’s last match. In the first session, Bai Ge took the lead very soon and led by 7-3. Zhang worked hard and fought back to close the margin at 9-7 before the session ended.
The final session started on the next day, Bai Ge again was dominating the games. When the score was 15-11 in Bai Ge‘s favour, and when she sunk the 8, she literally jumped up and started celebrating. Obviously she forgot that it was a race to 17. “I was too emotional and thought I had won after sinking that black.” said Bai Ge, “When I started celebrating, the crowd was dead quiet, then I realised that the match was not over yet. After that I warned myself that I have to cool down immediately.”
Zhang then took the advantage of Bai Ge‘s emotional fluctuation and make 2 racks back. The score was at 16-13. After the break in the 30th rack, the balls did not spread as ideal as the players thought. Dramatically, when Zhang tried to break the knots, the 8-ball was accidentally kicked in the pocket. Sad for Zhang but Bai Ge could then really start celebrating her win.
j943051422866997This is the first international event that Bai Ge had even won. “My form was better than the day before!” said the Champion. “I did not feel any pressure and I was just trying to play my best. I was physically tired in the first session and hence I was not playing too well. My original target was to make it into the quarter-finals and that had already been acquired. I got into form very quickly in the final session. Whoever got into the final would like to win, and that was why I had that embarfassing ‘early celebration’ earlier on”.
Bai Ge expressed her gratefulness to her parents who had supported her all the way. The champion also made appreciation to the Shanghai Billiards Association and the PuDong Billiards Association, both councils have been taking care of her billiards career.
The Shanghai Billiards Association is planning to present a special “Non-Olympic Athlete Award” to Bai Ge. Previously, Pan XiaoTing, Fu JianBao, Liu YuZhen and Chu BingJie had also received this honour.
CN by X.L.Lee
EN by Samuel Lai

Alison Chang

Alison has had a passion for the game since she was only 9 years old. She is the photographer and owner of the website Alison-Chang.com.

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