Philippine native Ronato Alcano soundly defeated Ralf "The Kaiser" Souquet 17-11 in the finals of the World Pool Championship.
The 34-year-old Alcano, nicknamed "The Volcano," ran out to a commanding lead and never looked back, defeating a heavily favored German opponent who struggled with a defensive style of play.
Alcano, in contrast, played with a prototypical Filipino style, favoring a gun-slinging, offensive attitude throughout the match. He's also known for his long cue stroke and a two-finger grip on the cue stick.
Tactically, Alcano used a "soft break" throughout the final match, and for much of the tournament, favoring a predictable, even spread of balls rather than a typical break used by other players.
Alcano was so good with his soft break that Souquet, a former champion from 1996, may have lost by a bigger margin if the tournament hadn't switched to an "alternate break" format.
Speaking after the championship match, Alcano said he discovered the soft break after losing his first two matches of the tournament, putting him on the brink of elimination Early on, things were so bleak for Alcano that he needed to win his final match in group play by a score of 8-2 just to make the cut.
Alcano admitted that qualifying proved to be the biggest challenge for him in the tournament.
"As long as I entered the final round of 64, I thought things were going my way," he said.
In a steady pursuit of the title, Alcano dispensed with Taiwan's top-ranked talent, first with a victory over Kuo Po-cheng (郭柏成) by 11-5, and later in a quarter-final victory over defending champion Wu Chia-ching (吳珈慶) by 11-6.
Wu faltered with his break, scratching twice, before briefly experimenting with Alcano's soft break.
Earl "The Pearl" Strickland was one of the first to utilize the soft break in competitive play, most notably in the World Pool Championship 2004 where he complained of irregular racking on the part of referees.
Taiwan's top competitor Fu Che-wei (
Fu, nicknamed the "The Draw King," surprised many as he recorded a number of upsets to get to within one match of the final. Earlier in the competition he faced difficult competition, first dispensing with former champion Alex Pagulayan in group play.
A 33-year-old native of Pingtung, Fu has lots of international experience, regularly appearing on the San Miguel 9-Ball Tour, though his career has been lacking a major victory as he continues to be overshadowed by local marquee players such as Chao Fong-pang (
This time around, Fu played consistently, and was just one frame away from the finals, battling Souquet to the end in a classic match which saw both sides trade tactical shots around the 5. In the end, it was Fu who faltered with a thin shot, allowing Souquet the chance to pot a very difficult shot.
After sinking the shot, Souquet announced the outcome of the match would hinge on this shot, either being "champagne or water," and the chance to win yet another title.
A player with numerous wins such as World Pool Master, Souquet was intent upon adding another World Pool Championship to prove his earlier victory in 1996 was no fluke.
But, as fate would have it, Alcano played a better match, and a commanding lead allowed him to play with flair and audacity, thrilling the local crowd.