JAKARTA YET AGAIN: Year 5 found the event back in Jakarta for the 3rd time. Ho Chi Minh was originally supposed to be the host venue, but fate brought the event back to Jakarta. Resort World was considering coming in as event sponsor on the condition that the venue be changed to Singapore, where they have a strong presence. When the deal fell through, Ho Chi Minh did not have sufficient time to prepare for hosting it. Brian stepped forward and agreed to host it once again in Jakarta, where he knew he would have enough support and an available venue.
THE VENUE AND HOTEL: In a measure to keep the costs down, the event was played at an existing Pool Hall rather than a hotel ballroom so that the tables and lighting would not be an issue. The Dungeon Pool Lounge was only recently opened, but has 7 tables (1 was removed for the event) and proved to be a great venue for the event. The only down side was that the crowd capacity had to be kept under 150 because of the smaller size, limiting the number of Jakarta supporters that wanted to come and see the event. Each team was given a choice of 4 local hotels to stay at so that we could pick the one that best fitted out budgets. Most of the Bangkok crew opted to stay at the Arion Swisbel, which was about a 15 minute walk to the venue (30 minuted by taxi in Jakarta traffic).
THE MEET & GREET: The Meet & Greet was held at The Dungeon Pool Lounge. It gave all of us a little time to familiarize ourselves with the venue, and well as get a bit of practice in on the tables we would be playing on the following day. It proved a good choice. There were less formalities, no press conference, fewer speeches, and a lot more socializing. The buffet was top notch, and everyone on the team was impressed. They were also impressed with the open bar for beer that went on for the next 3 hours. At 10:00 some opted to stay while others opted to explore a bit of Jakarta.
THE EVENT: It became pretty apparent early on that the competitive bar for this event had been raised substantially. Each team had first time players that could win tournaments in any of the participating cities. Bangkok had won the event 4 years in a row, and that proved to be something of a rallying cry for the other cities. Our victories were our competitions motivation to get to the next level. Jakarta, in an effort to get the monkey off their back, opted to play the best 12 players they had for the entire event rather than give others “Token” or “past loyalty” games. They clearly came to the event committed to winning it. Going in to the event, I expected Shanghai to be tough competition. They wound up finishing last. Freddy Soh of Shanghai, a former SEA games champion and winner of the 1st Singles event, finished with a record of 6-6….such was the elevated level of competition.
Four of the 7 rounds of play were on day 1. When it ended, the score was: Bangkok 48 – Jakarta 48 – Singapore 47 – Ho Chi Minh 44 – Manila 42 – Shanghai 31 – Phnom Penh 28.
Day 2 began with each of the contending teams knowing that they were going to be playing 5 of the 6 matches left. Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh both could play only one of their 2 teams in Round 5, while Bangkok and Singapore would have their turn in Round 7. We knew that we would have to build up a strong lead going into the final round, as we could only get a maximum of 12 available points. We had a lead of 7 against Jakarta after round 5, but it slipped to 4 after round 6. Going in to that final round we knew that Bangkok 1 would need a convincing win against Jakarta 1 and/or some help from Manila 2 in their match against Jakarta 2. Bangkok 1 knew that they were up against a tough task. It set the stage for some great drama to end the event. Ruari was up first, drawing Alex, one of Jakarta’s best players. Alex began it with a dry break that would prove to be his last appearance at the table. Ruairi ran it out, followed by a break & run. It was a bit of payback for his opening game of the event, in which he was the victim of a break and run against a talented new player for Ho Chi Minh. Bangkok 2-0. Then it was Alex’s turn against Klaudia. Alex won the 1st, but lost the 2nd in a game that was something of a very well played chess match. Bangkok 3-1. Cian was on next and played a great match against John. Both were very close, but Cian came out with 2 wins under a lot of pressure. Bangkok 5-1. By now the entire Jakarta contingent were there biting their fingernails as the pressure mounted. Next came Mao, who seems to have acquired the nickname “SuperMao” by his performance at the tables. It took him about 10 minutes to win both of his games. Bangkok 7-1. At this point, Jakarta were anxious for a way to stop the bleeding, but drew some comfort from their other team’s performance against against Manila. Jakarta 2 were in the process of hammering Manila 2… 10-2. Bangkok was going to have to win 3 of the final 4 games of the streaming match to win outright, or 2 to force a draw, which would have resulted in a Bangkok win via the head-to-head. The momentum was with us, but the Pool gods weren’t. Brad was up next, but the pool gods were aided by some spectacular play by Deepak. Brad never really had a chance, and Jakarta came away with 2 wins. Bangkok 7-3. The same happened to David in the final match of the tournament. The final score at the table was Bangkok 7 – Jakarta 5. That, coupled with Jakarta 2’s result against Manila 2 gave them the day in a tournament that could not have been any closer. Bangkok and Jakarta wound up dead even in the head-to-head.
EPILOGUE: Bangkok’s record in the 5 years of the event now stands at four wins and one 2nd place finish. There are those that say that there can be no victory in defeat. I disagree. We have gotten a lot of respect from our wins in the first four years due to our playing ability. Finishing 2nd to Jakarta gave us the opportunity to gain a measure of respect beyond that. I would say we did that in spades by the way we handled it. One of the Jakarta players came over to me after the event to give me a bottle of vintage tequila. He was very specific as to his reasons. He said it was because of the genuine sportsmanship we showed in defeat. He called our team a “Class act.” I would guess that there were a few at the event that might have expected a bit of whinging or sour grapes after 4 wins, but there was absolutely none. The Bangkok Heat made me truly proud, both on and off the tables, and that is what will fuel my efforts at organizing next year’s WIN in Ho Chi Minh.