Fu Finishes First at International Challenge of Champions
by Tom Martin
Just like his compatriots at home in China, Beijing-native Jian-Bo Fu defeated Philippine billiard phenom Dennis Orcollo in straight sets to take home the $50,000 top prize at the 18th Annual International Challenge of Champions.
The televised portion of this two-day, made-for-TV event began Thursday afternoon, with the first semifinal match featuring Dennis Orcollo facing off against Chinese-Taipei champ Jung-Lin Chang. Chang’s appearances at the table were brief, though, for Orcollo dominated the opening race-to-5 set with solid play that earned him a 5-1 win. Chang, who mimicked Orcollo by switching to the “soft break,” never got it working, and despite several impressive safety battles, down 3-0 in the fourth game a careless miss on a 2 ball sealed his fate as Orcollo cruised virtually unchallenged into the finals.
In the other match to determine the final two, returning ICOC champion Niels Feijen of The Netherlands was the dominate favorite over China’s ace Jian-Bo Fu. Both Fate and Fu did not agree, however, and after trading games and being tied 2-2 in the opening set, a series of push-outs and safety battles ensued. Several rolls went Fu’s way, leading in turn to several unforced errors by Feijen, who never won a game from there and gave up the set 5-2. The second set was no different, with neither player coming up with a shot after the break and Fu seeming to somehow come out on top. At 4-0 down, Feijen finally got on the scoreboard after Fu’s cue ball found the corner on a long, difficult safety attempt. Fu, a “ginsu” when it comes to slicing the balls, tried and missed a tough cut down the rail on the 1 in the sixth game, giving Feijen the game and a sliver of hope. A dry break for Feijen stopped him in his tracks, however, and similar to most games prior, Fu was able to just edge him out in the ensuing safety exchange.
As Orcollo and Fu squared off in the finals, Fu won the lag but Orcollo took advantage of a dry break and scored first blood, going up 1-0. Fu broke serve and tied the match at 1-1, then a rattled 2 ball started off a chain reaction of errors by Orcollo that ended in a lopsided 5-1 first-set win for Fu.
Orcollo seemed to recover in the start of the final set, with a nice two-way shot helping him hold serve in the first game, and Fu’s foul by touching an object ball on a massé in the second gave him a 2-0 advantage. A scratch in the third game and a solid break and run-out by Fu in the fourth put things back to even, and from there Fu took his game to another level, while Orcollo’s determination seemed to desert him along with his break. Fu emerged the winner by a 5-2 margin, and for the first time in two days the unflappable Asian actually pumped his fist and smiled. In lieu of a gold medal, Jian-Bo Fu takes home another trophy and check for $50,000. Like his countrymen a world away, he has proven that he is and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the sport of pocket billiards. Fans of sports betting certainly weren’t disappointed during this match!
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