Pedro Piedrabuena again proved to be the best three-cushion player in the United States, winning his third consecutive USBA national championship and sixth overall, by besting a field of 42 at Allen Hopkins Super Billiards Expo in Edison, New Jersey. In the final game, Piedrabuena defeated an old rival, Hugo Patiño, 40-24 in 31 innings. With his victory, Pedro Piedrabuena earned the right to play in the Pan American Championship (PAC) tournament in the week of June 17 Colombia. Joining him will be Patiño. In addition, Mazin Shooni will also play as he and Piedrabuena were unable to play in last year's PAC because of a calendar conflict.
Piedrabuena's victory ended four long but exciting days of play. The 42 players in this year's event marked a first - they ranged in age from 21-year-old Sergio Hernandez of Miami to 81-year-old Bob Tracy of Washington. And as in past tournaments, they came from all across the country. The field was divided into six flights of seven players for the preliminaries. Play was competitive throughout the first day as the tournament got underway. With one round remaining to play on the first day, unexpected tragedy struck when Paul Frankel (Professor-Q-Ball) fell off the stage that had been erected for the head table and broke 7 ribs. He had to be taken from the arena to a local hospital. At the time, Frankel was 2-1 with a legitimate chance to move into the semi-finals. The players' concern about Frankel's health was alleviated a few hours later when word leaked from the hospital that Frankel was resting, in good spirits and was even showing the nursing staff a few card tricks. His injuries caused him to withdraw from the tournament, thus nullifying his games.
The second day of preliminary play saw the biggest upset of the early round action -- Bob Tracy's defeat of Mazin Shooni, the 2007 national champion and the 2012 runner up. Despite that defeat, Shooni advanced into the semi-finals, where he found himself in Group I, clearly the toughest flight as it contained two other former champions Piedrabuena and Sonny Cho. The next shocker in the tournament came in the first round of the semi-finals when Jim Bishop, a New Yorker now living in Florida, ran 9-and-out to beat Piedrabuena, 30-25 in 28 innings. With Piedrabuena on the ropes, Shooni and Cho tried to put him away but couldn't. Shooni fell 30-18 and Cho lost 30-26. With a place in the finals on the line, Shooni beat Sonny Cho, 30-29.
In Group H, Patiño and Michael Kang appeared to be the favorites, but Kang lost to Hernandez, a tall Cuban-born player now living in Miami. Group J also saw another veteran, Carlos Hallon, fall to a new comer, Lupe Cruz of Iowa. In Group G, Jae Hyung Cho and Jamil Isreal advanced, leaving veterans Young Gull Lee, John Cristiano and Jim Shovak behind.
The eight finalists, in order of their seed, were Jae Hyung Cho, Hugo Patiño, Miguel Torres, Piedrabuena, Shooni, Sergio Hernandez, Lupe Cruz and Jamil Isreal. The eight players started the final day of play in a single elimination bracket. Cho defeated Isreal, Torres topped Hernandez, Piedrabuena again bested Shooni and Patiño beat Cruz. In the next round, Piedrabuena and Cho had the best game of the tournament, playing at a very high quality. Piedrabuena emerged from the battle, 40-30 in 15 innings (for a 2.667 average). Even in defeaat Cho played an excellent 2.143 game. In the other bracket, Patiño edged Torres 40 to 37 in 30 innings. The final game of the 2013 tournament proved almost anti-climactic as the two veterans played cautiously and had trouble finding their rhythm and the proper ball tracks. Piedrabuena built a big lead and Patiño struggled. Slowly Patiño found his stoke and closed the gap, but Piedrabuena pushed on to victory.
In consolation action, Jae Cho triumphed over Miguel Torres 40-33. Lupe Cruz ended his tournament in fine fashion, taking fifth place with a 40-38 victory over Shooni. Sergio Hernandez finished 7th, beating Jamil Isreal 40-22. At the end of the tournament, many of the veteran players commented upon the bright future of three-cushion in America. Three of the 20 semi-finalists were under 25: Sergio Hernandez, Thang Lé and Tony Ferrara.
At the award's ceremony, Andy Janquitto, the president of the USBA and this year's tournament director, extended his utmost thanks to Paul Frankel, Jim Shovak, Mazin Shooni, Charlie Brown and Merrill Hughes for their hard work on the tournament committee. Janquitto also singled out USBA board members Steve Andersen and Raye Raskin for their assistance during the final round play by keeping score and running a score clock. Janquitto mentioned other USBA members who volunteered to keep score or even vacuum tables, including Jim Watson, Victor Cuzzi, Camilo Medina and Sonny Cho. A special word of thanks went out to the wrestling coaches and the six wrestlers from St. Benedict's Prep School in Newark, New Jersey, who kept score, vacuumed tables, and operated scoreboards during the final two days of play.
The 2013 nationals also marked a new high water mark in the history of the USBA. Two live streams were maintained throughout the four days of the tournament, one by insidepoolmag.com and the other by dogloose, a renegade stream manned by USBA director Doug Deitel. Both streams provided chat room and audio commentary. Some viewers preferred the professional stream; others thought the pirate stream was better. Regardless, the two channels provided new access to carom billiards matches for lovers of the game from around the world. In the finals, the two streams broadcast the finals from different angles. Recordings of the matches can be found on ustream.tv/channel/dogloose-ch1. The USBA also entered the digital age in other ways. Deitel posted the results of all of the matches played in the tournament in real time on Twitter, which could be accessed via the USBA homepage by clicking the blue twitter bird in the upper left hand corner.
The USBA wishes to extend its thanks to Richard Helmstetter, Michael Bray, Bob Jewett, George Hart, Al Metzinger, David Levine, Jim Shovak, Marty Isserlis and Tommy Thomsen for their generous contributions. The USBA also thanks its sponsors for their continued support: Gabriels, Tiger, Simonis, Aramith, Professor-Q-Ball, and Consumer Lender Zone.
Carom players and fans may join the USBA on line at usba.net by clicking on the top menu "Members" then selecting "Member Benefits & Join".