By Keith Paradise
CSI Media Staff Writer
Ozzy Reynolds and the staff at Cue Sports International didn’t exactly have an abundance of time when planning this year’s Diamond Las Vegas Open.
With CSI moving the BCA and USA pool league’s national and international championships – and these two professional events that run concurrent to the leagues – from late July in 2019 to mid-March this year, the planning and scheduling began almost immediately after last year’s edition completed. The good news, according to Reynolds, is that there wasn’t much that needed changed or fixed for this year’s version of the four-day tournament that is scheduled to get under way today the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
“The good news is we did a lot right last year,” said Reynolds. “The Schedule was right on target. It was just a matter of fine-tuning.”
Live coverage begins at 10 a.m. local time with Darren Appleton taking on defending World 10-Ball champion Ko Ping-Chung. Immediately following this contest, reigning Mosconi Cup Most Valuable Player Skyler Woodward will face former World 9-Ball champion Carlo Biado, with the match tentatively scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m.
The afternoon sessions will kick off with Billiards Congress of America Hall of Famer Francisco Bustamante matching up against five-time United States Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening. Competition will continue with 2016 World 9-Ball champion Albin Ouschan of Austria meeting the reigning champion, Russia’s Fedor Gorst.
Other notable Wednesday matches include former World 10-Ball champion Ko Pin-Yi playing Poland’s Mieszko Fortunski, who finished second at last year’s Las Vegas Open. Later in the day, former Aramith Masters champion Eklent Kaci of Albania faces Masato Yoshioka of Japan, a final eight finisher in last year’s World 10-Ball Championship.
The biggest change which players and fans alike will notice in this year’s version of the Las Vegas Open is the switch to 10-ball from 9-ball, a move that was made in order to better align the double-elimination tournament with next week’s World 10-ball Championships as well as eliminate some of the rules and formatting debates that come with 9-ball.
“Nine-ball is somewhat problematic on the pro level,” said Reynolds “The change also stays consistent with the Predator World 10-Ball Championship and the other things that we plan to build in the future.”
This consistency also allows tournament organizers to use the event as the final qualifier for next week’s 10-ball championship. Initially, the top two finishers in the Las Vegas Open who weren’t already entered in the championship were guaranteed bids into the event. However, with a handful of regional qualifiers unable to be held worldwide for a variety of reasons – most notably, restrictions in different countries due to the coronavirus precautions – Reynolds said that at least three at-large spots will be up for grabs this week at the Rio.
Those vying for the remaining entries as well as a $17,000 top prize will be facing a bracket that features some of professional pool’s best, with 39 of the top 50 players in the World Pool and Billiard Association’s rankings matching up in Las Vegas this week. The only two players
ranked in the top 20 not competing in this 128-player, double-elimination event are China’s Jiaqing Wu and Haitao Liu, both of whom were prohibited to travel due to coronavirus monitoring.
One player who will be back at the table this week is returning champion Niels Feijen. The former World 9-ball champion used a pair of breaks and runs coupled with some unforced errors by opponent Fortunski to claw back from a 7-5 deficit and win, 9-8, in the inaugural event last year. The Dutchman, who opens play against Mickey Krause at 7 p.m. local time, posted an undefeated record in last year’s 9-ball formatted, 106-player tournament.
Another change made to this year’s event was the addition of a 30-second shot clock on the main stadium table.
“We felt like that was necessary to pick up the pace of play and not bore our spectators to death,” Reynolds said.
The Diamond Las Vegas Open is a presentation of Cue Sports International and sponsored by Diamond Billiard Products, an industry leader in pocket billiard table manufacturing. The event is being hosted by the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino and broadcast live on YouTube by CSI Media, a subsidiary of Cue Sports International. For more information, visit www.world10ball.com
CueSports International (CSI) is an international billiards organization which produces the United States Open 8-ball, 10-ball, one pocket, bank pool and straight pool championships. CSI, which also operates national amateur pool leagues, has three divisions: CSI leagues, CSI events and CSI media. CSI leagues manages the BCA Pool League and USA Pool League, the events division produces numerous amateur and professional events and the media department creates live video billiards content. For more information about CSI, visit www.playcsipool.com or find CueSports International on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.
The Diamond Las Vegas Open is sponsored by Predator Group, Omega Billiard Supplies and Kamui cue tips.