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Tournament Coverage

World Championship Up for Grabs after Pagulayan Loss
by Mason King Jul 7, 2005, 5:08 PM EST

Vilmos Foldes

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan, July 7 - The field at the World Pool Championship has been whittled down to 16, and it does not include 2004 title-holder Alex Pagulayan.

In the biggest shocker of the round-of-32, unheralded Hungarian Vilmos Foldes snuck past the wily Pagulayan, 10-8, after a few key mistakes by the diminutive Filipino.

With the score knotted 8-8, Pagulayan played a safe that soured and gave the 20-year-old Foldes a chance to show whether his nerves were up to the challenge of knocking off the world champ.

"All the time, I felt pressure," said the rail-thin and soft-spoken Foldes. "I was very nervous in the middle of the match. I missed some easy balls because of the nerves. - This match we had many spectators. Most of the time they were clapping for Pagulayan."

Foldes, the 2003 World Junior Champion, ran out that rack, then broke and ran the last for the win. A downcast Pagulayan shook hands with Foldes and nodded approval for his strong play.

This is Foldes' third trip to the WPC. He played in both 2003 and 2004, but failed to escape the round-robin stages. This year, he finished second in his group-stage bracket with a 6-1 record.

The difference in his play, he said, was that "I'm better in concentration - everything in the head. " In this match, I think I was stronger in the head [than Pagulayan].

"I'm very happy. It was hard match for me. We both missed many balls."

A resident of Pecs, Hungary, Foldes started playing pool at the age of 7 or 8 on a 6-foot table in a pub owned by his parents. "My father ordered a small cue and a small stand, so I could reach the balls," he said.

He matured into a three-time European junior champion. He now plays on the Eurotour and is familiar with the game of his next opponent, Holland's Nick Van den Berg, who earned his trip to the sweet 16 by beating Taiwan's Hua-Fong Wang, 10-6.

As to whether he could run the table and take pool's most prestigious title, Foldes pondered for a second, smirked and said, "Anyone can win."

With Pagulayan out, the smart money is now on Filipino Marlon Manalo, who continued to turn heads in Kaohsiung as he cooked Chien-che Huang of Taiwan, 10-0, to advance to the sweet 16. It was the first shut-out of the knock-out stages.

"That guy's a monster," said England's Raj Hundal. "He's an extraordinary player."

***

A NOTICEABLY SLIMMED-DOWN Rodney Morris sounded a lot like Efren Reyes after slipping past giant-killer Raj Hundal in his round-of-32 match at the World Pool Championship: "I got lucky."

The United States' Morris trailed Hundal, 9-6, when his English foe overshot his leave for a 6-ball shot by a few inches, and was left with an 80-degree cut on the 6. The burly Hundal had been making that kind of shot all match in a virtually error-free performance, but this time it rimmed out of the corner. Morris seized the reins, ran out, and then ran out the next three racks to steal the match.

"That was a freebie," Morris said afterwards. He had struggled after blowing an easy 9 ball in the first rack, and found himself questioning his subsequent play.

By reaching the sweet 16, Morris would be one of America's last remaining hopes in the WPC. He was a slimmer hope in one way - the Rocket had lost 15 pounds in two weeks, principally by burning 500 calories every morning on a Stairmaster.

"I just want to get my game in shape," the still-stout Morris said. I feel normal now. I'm not sluggish."

***

A DAY AFTER losing a tough match against Marcus Chamat, Johnny Archer was busy lobbying against the winner-breaks format at the World Pool Championship.

"Winner-breaks is absolutely no good," Archer said, after watching a match in which American Jeremy Jones won eight straight games against countryman Gabe Owen. "When you have alternating break, the guy that plays the best wins the tournament.

"If this wasn't the world championship, I would never come here. Every year, why do you think there are so many players no one has ever heard of in the top 8?"

After going 7-0 in the round-robin stage, which used the alternating-break format, Archer lost in his first match in the knock-out stage. During the match, Chamat won seven consecutive games to take a 9-1 advantage, and finally win, 10-5.

"Winner-breaks is exactly why I lost," Archer said. "[If they had played alternate break] I might have got up and dogged it still, but at least I would have had the chance."

Archer took his concerns to officials with event producer Matchroom Sport, but met with little success.

***

THE FOUR REMAINING Americans in the WPC field took the stage on Thursday. And under the best of circumstances, only three would play on in the round of 16.

Countrymen Gabe Owen and Jeremy Jones faced off the round of 32, with Jones winning eight straight games to score a 10-5, come-from-behind victory.

Road partners and good friends, Jones and Owen were well used to playing each other in tournaments, but playing for the world title gave the loss a special sting.

"We've both been having a good tournament," Owen said. "For one of us having to get knocked out of the tournament this early is a bummer."

After Owen forged a 5-2 lead and then lost control of the table, Jones confined him to only four more trips out of his chair. Owen's best chance at recovering probably came with Jones leading 6-5. He sized up a thin cut on a 6-ball shot, realizing there was a good chance that he would make the ball but also scratch in the side, and attempted the shot anyway. Indeed, he made the ball, and scratched in the shot.

"I should have played safe on it," he said. "I know it's going to scratch."

With Morris knocking off Hundal, and Cory Deuel beating Germany's Harry Stolka, 10-9, the Americans earned the best possible outcome: three players in the sweet 16.



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