Canadian Paul Potier participated in the 2015 Chinese 8-Ball World Championships, which took place in Yushan County of Shangrao city of Jiangxi Province on January 21st-February 2nd. Below is a detailed account of all aspects of his experience.
Once we arrived at our airport we were met by volunteers to help us get to our hotel. However, many of us arrived too late to take the last bullet train to Yushan so they bussed us to the train station and put us up at the hotel there. In the morning, the tournament organizer and the volunteers met with us and helped us get on the bullet train. It was a two and half hour ride at approximately 300 kilometers an hour. When we arrived at the train station in Yushan, we were met by many volunteers who organized us on to two chartered busses.
There were many billiard fans at the station to welcome us and witness our arrival. It seemed that the whole city—no, the whole country—knew that we were coming.
Traffic in China
From a foreigner’s perspective, it appears that there are no or very few rules to driving in China. All day everyday we witnessed cars, buses, taxis, rickshaws, mini trucks, mopeds, etc. moving in all directions on the roads and streets. They were also almost constantly on their horns, warning others of their approach. I never saw an accident, but I did notice that the vehicles never moved at a very fast pace. They got where they were going, slowly but surely. Good peripheral vision is a must there.
There were three venues used for meetings, practice, and matches for stage one; The two hotels that all the players were staying at, and a school auditorium. All stage two matches were played in the auditorium and table #1 was the TV table, but there were three tables that were being streamed online. The matches played on table #1 were filmed during all stages of the tournament.
A players’ lounge, media room, interview room, and practice room were all provided at the auditorium for the entire tournament. The players’ lounge was spacious with comfortable seating, and provided a large screen TV to watch the live matches on table #1. It was also constantly stocked with drinks, sandwiches, and snacks for the players. The International players stayed at The Yutai International Hotel, while the Chinese players stayed at another. The Hotels provided three complimentary meals a day. Meals were served banquet-style, and at least two and a half hours were offered for each meal time.
The food at the hotel was always buffet style and was OK, but it was pretty much the same food every day with occasional changes to lunch and dinner. The special dinners however—like on opening day—were always fabulous. They never seemed to stop bringing more dishes, and there were many choices as well. A feast in every sense of the word. I never saw so many bottles of water in my life. They were always supplying us with bottled water; at the venue, in the practice room, by our match table, in the players room, in the hotel room… everywhere. Cases and cases of water every day. It seemed that there were volunteers that were there just to supply us with bottled water.
There were dozens of volunteers working to assist the players with anything they needed at each venue, at any time of day. Most of these volunteers spoke English and Chinese, and did a good job as translators. They were all very friendly and helpful. The service from the actual employees was also wonderful and quick.
The tournament was played in two stages: stage one was the qualifying stage, and stage two was the championship stage where everyone was already in the money. Stage one was divided by approximately 120 male Chinese players competing for 16 spots, and approximately 80 male international players competing for 16 spots. The women had fewer players in stage one, but the format was the same; the female Chinese players competed for eight spots, as did the female international players.
There were three days of qualifiers in stage one, and every player who didn’t qualify on the first day got a chance to try again on the following two days. Stage two for men consisted of 64 players; 16 Chinese players and 16 international players who were invited straight into stage two, along with 16 Chinese players and 16 international players who qualified from stage one. The women only had 32 players in stage two, but the player breakdown was the same as the men.
In stage one, we played winner break and no call shot except on the 8-ball. We could break from anywhere behind the baulk line, and four balls needed to hit the rail in order for it to be a legal break. A scratch on the break gave the incoming player ball in hand from behind the baulk line. Other than that, it was basically the same rules as BCA. In Stage two they played call shot for every shot and alternate break.
Star Billiard Company was a major sponsor and provided all of the Billiard equipment for the event. The tables were 4 ½’ x 9’ Chinese 8 Ball tables. They were designed to be a very good test of excellent play. The pockets were rounded similar to Snooker tables, but made large enough to accept a 2 ¼” pool ball from any angle. However, if the object ball touched the rail even slightly before the pocket it would not go in.
The rails were also Snooker rails but designed to sit high enough to allow a 2 ¼” pool ball to rebound correctly. They covered these tables with #10, double shaved, one-directional nap, Snooker cloth. I have never played on better cloth in my life. You could literally soft roll a ball the length of the table and trust that it would go straight. All the players I spoke with seemed equally impressed.
To add to the quality of these tables, the slate beds were constantly heated with an electric heater. The tables were cleaned and ironed after each session. The balls were the Cyclops balls. They played fine, but the colors were different than what some of us were used to.
All players competing in stage one received approximately $500 towards their flight to China. There was a $100 entry fee charged at the time of check in to the host hotel. If you made it to stage two you had to pay an additional $300 entry fee, but you were then guaranteed $800 for making it to the last 64 or 32. Once you arrived in China, they covered your food, hotel, and travel. They even paid for the day hiking excursion. We were told that the area in and around where we were hiking was where the movie Avatar was filmed. However, I am not sure how to substantiate that claim.
The Men’s event had a total prize fund of approx. $500,000 with the Champion getting a whopping $100,000US. The Women’s event had a total prize fund of approx. $300,000 with the Champion getting approx. $60,000. The Men’s event paid out 64 spots while the women’s event paid out 32 spots. Over and above the prize fund, it appears that the total cost of this event was in the millions.
The men’s event saw Darren Appleton and Mark Selby—both from England—compete in the finals, with Darren winning by a score of 21-19 to claim the title of 2015 Chinese 8-Ball World Champion. The women’s event Champion was Bai Ge from China. Other notable finishes were Neil Robertson from England finishing in 3rd place, and Allison Fisher finishing in 4th place. Stan Tourangeau from Canada was the only player from our little group that made it to stage two.
I was told that the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association (CBSA) and Star Billiard Tables have committed to a minimum 5 year plan to promote this game in China and Internationally.