Brand new event set to kick off in Kuwait City with 128 of the world’s top players is the richest 9-ball event of the year.
By Ted Lerner – WPA Press Officer
(Kuwait City)–Welcome to the new frontier of pool.
The State of Kuwait is all set to host a brand new event on the pool calendar, the Kuwait 9-ball Open, an event that is making an auspicious start by immediately jumping to the top of the tournament heap as the richest 9-ball event in the world this year.
128 players from over 40 countries and all corners of the globe have gathered in this nation of 4.2 million people along the Persian Gulf, and will compete over the next 4 days for $275,000 in prize money, with $50,000 going to the winner.
In a sport whose schedule is too often deprived of big time marquee events, the appearance of a brand new tournament with real prize money has clearly caught the attention of players. 31 of the World Pool Billiard Association(WPA) top 32 players have made the journey here. Throw in a slew of other top talent, as well as the many rising Middle Eastern players who have been making great strides in the professional game over the last few years, and you have the makings of a terrific and entertaining showdown on the blue pitch over the next few days.
How exactly did Kuwait appear seemingly out of nowhere to become the host of the biggest 9-ball event in pool, and blaze a new trail for a sport often longing for a spark to ignite the game?
It’s all thanks to a young, ambitious 30 year old Kuwaiti named Mohammed Saleh, an oil engineer, successful real estate businessman, and a part time professional pool player. Unlike the nearby state of Qatar, which has created a niche for itself in hosting big time sporting events, including the 2012 Fifa World Cup, and of course, the World 9-ball Championship for eight years, Kuwait, despite being one of the richest nations on earth, has never hosted any big time sporting events. Saleh, whose father was a snooker player and who became hooked on pool since he was ten years old, wanted to do something for pool and for his country. So in 2015 he set out on the long and arduous trail of trying to put together a new 9-ball event that would be the biggest in pool.
He knew it would be hard work, but he was little prepared for the lonely journey as the powers that be in Kuwaiti sport and local business said it wasn’t possible, and often put barriers in his path. With countless hours of tireless work, however, and a fair share of his own money, Saleh’s dream has come to fruition this week in Kuwait City. The event will be the first in a five year deal with the WPA. Interestingly, as the Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship kicks off at the Al Ardiya Youth Center in Kuwait City, it will be the biggest international sporting event to ever be held in this Gulf nation. And with all systems go, the higher ups in Kuwaiti sport have enthusiastically jumped on board.
The event itself actually began a few days ago with the always tough qualifiers, which attracted some 200 players vying for 16 spots in Stage 2. The 128 players for the main draw will be divided into 16 groups of 8 players playing double elimination, race to 9, alternate break. Once the final 64 players emerge from the group stages after two busy days, the tournament will become a single elimination knockout, race to 11, alternate break, which will be run over the next two days. The quarterfinals, semis and finals will be played on the final day, November 5, with the finals being a race to 13, alternate break.
Hot favorites here this week include recent US Open winner Shane Van Boening of the USA, China Open champion Wu Jia Jing(formerly Wu Chia Ching), World 9-ball champion Albin Ouschan, and Scotsman Jayson Shaw, who has been lighting up tournaments for the last year.
But with so much serious pool talent all doing battle in the same room, the permutations are literally endless. As usual in this often topsy turvey sport, anything can happen and it probably will.
Whoever emerges victorious this week here in Kuwait, not only will they be able to claim the biggest prize in 9-ball pool, but also the first notch in pool’s newest frontier.
* The 2016 Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship takes place at the Al Ardiya Youth Center in Kuwait City from October 24 to November 5, 2016. The winner of the Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship will receive $50,000. The runner up will receive $25,000. The total prize fund is $275,000.
The 2016 Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship is being played under the patronage of the Kuwait Olympic Committee.
The WPA will be on hand in Kuwait throughout this year’s Kuwait Open 9-ball Championship providing up to the minute information, live scoring, photographs and in depth articles with insights and analysis from WPA Press Officer Ted Lerner.
Fans can interact with us through the WPA’s official Facebook Page for the event at this link; https://www.facebook.com/worldpoolbilliardassociation/
The WPA is also on Twitter; @poolwpa