The 2017 World Cup held in Ho Chi Minh City ended in dramatic fashion as Eddy Merckx mounted multiple come from behind victories to achieve his goal. His effort led to the defeat of several top14 players and former world champions as he secured his eighth World Cup title. Torbjorn Blomdahl playing a great tournament succumbed in the final in a see-saw battle that saw the lead change five times. Complete story, charts and image gallery follows. Also see Part 1 - The Qualification Rounds.
The fans in Vietnam were hoping the third time would be a charm for the home town players as the main event of the 2017 UMB World Cup in Ho Chi Minh City got underway. With a full inscription of 149 players, 105 from the Asian countries and 32 of those from Vietnam the billiard lovers were filled with exitement and looked to their top entrants to end up on top of the podium. The way the tournament unfolded signaled that upsets and surprises would rule the day.
The world's top 14 players (Dick Jaspers, Frederic Caudron, Torbjorn Blomdahl, Dani Sanchez, Nikos Polychronopoulos, Eddy Merckx, Jeremy Bury, Marco Zanetti, Sameh Sidhom, Heang Jik Kim, Jae Ho Cho, Nguyen Quoc Nguyen, Jung Han Heo and Murat Naci Coklu) were joined by three wild cards (USBA and Pan-American Champion Hugo Patino, Quyet Chien Tran and Minh Cam Ma) and the 15 who made it through the qualifying rounds (Eddy Leppens, Hyun Min Seo, Sang Pil Um, Sung-Won Choi, Semih Sayginer, Tayfun Tasdemir, Can Capak, Jae Guen Kim, Myung Woo Cho, Hoang Hung Ho, Chi Yeon Cho, Xuan Cuong Ma, Tung Hau Do Nguyen, Hyung Kon Kim and Dong Koong Kang.) to begin the single elimination knock-out main event to determine the champion. The draw in the first round of 32 included players from twelve countries (more than half from the Asian continent): Korea (11), Vietnam (6), Turkey (4), Belgium (3) and one each from Netherlands, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Greece, France and the United States.
In the round of 32, Eddy Merckx posted the best game of the main event in his initial entry into the tournament: 40 in 11 innings (3.636 average) with a run of 18 after the break that took him from 20 to 38 and needing just one more inning to close. Several big guns were eliminated in the first round including number 1 ranked Dick Jaspers and current World Champion Dani Sanchez. Check out the chart for best games and high runs.
Day Five - The Main Event (Round of 32)
Click the image to view the official result charts for round 1 of the main event (story, more charts and image gallery continues below):
Day Six - 1/8 & 1/4 Final Rounds
Day Six saw the field down to sixteen players. Only seven countries would send a player to the 1/8 final round which included half from Korea & Vietnam and the rest from the European contingent. A typical World Cup rivalry was underway. Who would prevail? The champion Eddy Merckx had his most challenging match facing hometown favorite and top 14 player Nguyen Quoc Nguyen. Struggling most of the way and falling behind it would be another big run for Eddy, this time 14, that not only put him back in the game, but enabled him to take the lead which he never surrendered winning 40-39 in 30 innings when Nguyen could not equalize.
Click the image to view the results charts from the 1/8 final round (story, more charts and image gallery continues below):
And suddenly the field WAS down to eight with the scales tipping back to the old guard. The last two Vietnamese hopefuls were both eliminated as was 1/2 of the remaining Koreans. Just 3 from the Asian continent faced 5 from the European group going into the quarter-final round.
The quarter-finals is where the Europeans made their final statement. All the Koreans were eliminated in the round of 8 leaving just four - each from a different country - to battle on the final day in the semi-final and final rounds. Eddy Merckx had his hand in the defeat of the Koreans as he bested Chi Yeon Cho an entrant who showed his strength by reaching the main event from the qualifying rounds. Still, it took a Merckx run of 11 to come from behind, take the lead and never look back as he finished the match 40-33 in a sparkling 15 inning effort.
Click the image to view the results charts from the quarter-final round (story, more charts and image gallery continues below):
Day Seven - The Finals
On the last day there were three rounds played. Two semi-final matches and the final match for the championship. The first match of the day was the most dramatic. It pitted Eddy Merckx against newly crowned 2017 European Champion Marco Zanetti of Italy. Having won his first match with a run of 18, and having come from behind in his two subsequent games, Merckx was clearly strong and dangerous. Zanetti had also played a great event defeating the very talented Korean players that he met including former World Champion Sung-Won Choi and Junior Champion Myung Woo Cho. The semi-final match was truly a classic. The lead changed hands 7 times! At the break it seemed that Zanetti would finish Merckx off and ready himself for another championship title. But then suddenly Merckx did it again, closing a 31-21 gap with a run of 10. And then the drama really began. From tied at 31, the players were again tied at 33. Then Merckx went ahead 35-33 when Zanettit fired back to lead 38-35. The crowd hung on every billiard... and every close miss. When Zanetti reached 39 and Merckx was stuck at 36 it seemed like it was over... but it was not. Zanetti missed his first out shot and Merckx was still alive... but he also missed! Then Zanetti missed his out shot a second time... and again Merckx could not capitalize. So there was Zanetti at the table a third time to close the match... and for the third time he missed, Merckx sweating every moment in the chair. But this time Merckx would not let the opportunity go by. He stepped up, ran four and it was over. Zanetti was out and Eddy was in the finals.
The match between Torbjorn Blomdahl and Murat Naci Coklu was also competitive and exciting. Coklu started out on top, but a Blomdahl run of 10 gave him the lead going into the break. When the players returned it was Coklu with steadier play who regained the lead. Blomdahl managed to tie it up at 28 and then took a small lead that he never gave back. Blomdahl finally ended Coklu's hopes at 40-33 in 17 innings. And so it would be Eddy Merckx versus Torbjorn Blomdahl for the championship.
The final match was another mighty battle where both players had points along the way where they struggled... and where they shined. The lead changed hands 5 times, with Blomdahl striking the first big blow with a run of 10. Then just like that he turned cold as ice missing his next 5 shots while Eddy played choppy but well enough to regain the lead. Then BAM! Blomdahl woke up and surged ahead with a run of 13 to lead at the break 25-16. On returning to the table Merckx would mount his final come from behind effort of the tournament. Training 30-26 in inning 13 his run of 8 would give him the lead for the last time. And with Blomdahl missing his next three shots Merckx cruised him with short bursts finishing with a run of 3 and out to take the title 40-32 in 17 innings.
Click the image to view the charts for the last days matches (image gallery follows):
Congratulations to Eddy Merckx of Belgium the winner of the third UMB World Cup Tournament of 2017.
Don't forget to check out our story on the preliminary rounds - CLICK HERE!
Live-stream provided by Kozoom. Selected replays are available on Kozoom for premium members. Pictures courtesy of our friends at Kozoom Intl. Results courtesy of UMB.