by Arabdho Majumder • January 30, 2023
The field of 128 players for the World Pool Championship was split in half between seeded and unseeded players for the initial draw. For a variety of reasons, the unseeded section holds plenty of dark-horse candidates who could snap off the whole tournament on their day.
Here are five of those professionals who are worth keeping an eye on throughout the week in Kielce, Poland.
Plays No. 10 Ko Pin Yi in first round
A member of the elite 800-plus Fargo club, James Aranas would normally be amongst the favorites for any tournament. But he comes into the World Championship without much recent experience in major events.
In February of last year, he was deported and banned from the United States because of visa issues. As a result, he has just one tournament to his name from 2022 – the Asian Pool Federation (APF) 9-Ball Open. He was a finalist there, though, losing to the man he now faces in the opening round at the World Pool Championship, Ko Pin-Yi.
Aranas found his footing as one of the top pros in the world in the years before his visa troubles. He’s finished second and third at the Derby City Classic nineball event before. In 2021, he won the Brendan Crockett Memorial over a field which included other 800-plus Fargo players like Carlo Biado and Shane van Boening. A dangerous player when in form, look for him to make a sparkling return to pool’s biggest stage.
Plays No. 12 Abdullah Alyousef in first round
Another member of the 800-plus Fargo club, Johann Chua doesn’t have the Matchroom ranking to complement it largely because of his shallow tournament schedule. He finished third in the APF 9-Ball Open last year and won the Beasley Open in Raleigh, North Carolina, but he struggled to a 33rd-place finish at the 2022 US Open.
It’s hard to count out a player with Chua’s pedigree, though. He’s a former US Open quarter-finalist and World 10-Ball Championship and WPA Players Championship semi-finalist. He’s also picked up two All-Japan Open Championships for his trophy case. He’ll look to turn that experience into success on Matchroom’s stage.
Plays No. 62 Michael Schneider in first round
If you’re a long-time follower of pool, this is a highly familiar name. He’s the only former world champion in the field who’s unseeded. Much of his recent success has come in the discipline of one-pocket, but he’s still a dangerous nineball player as he proved in a third-place finish last week at the Derby City Classic.
There, he beat Robbie Capito, Joshua Filler and reigning world champion Shane van Boening in races to nine. All three are seeded for the World Pool Championship, and the latter two are seeded third and first, respectively. The Hall of Famer known as ‘The Lion’ will certainly be a dangerous upset threat in Poland.
“I was happy with the way I was playing, so if I keep it up, I think the future is looking bright for me,” he said at the Derby.
Plays No. 44 Imran Majid in first round
The Dutchman has had mixed success over the last few years, but there’s flashes of how dangerous he can be. His poor 2022 didn’t see him finish higher than 17th in any tournament. He was knocked out in 65th at the World Pool Championship. The year before, though, he reached the last 16 of the World 10-Ball Championship and US Open 9-Ball, a Matchroom event.
Teutscher received a favorable draw, avoiding the favorites in the first round. His round one opponent Imran Majid also has a lower Fargo (784) than the Dutchman (793), though at that level, it’s splitting hairs.
Plays No. 11 seed Eklent Kaçi in first round
The lowest Fargo Rate of these five but one that found surprising amounts of success in 2022, Dimitris Loukatos has already shown his upset potential. He beat Mieszko Fortuński at the PRP Open in Spain last year to reach the last 16. He also snapped off the Predator Germany Open in 10-ball, beating a red-hot Wiktor Zieliński in the final.
He finished 57th on the AZ Billiards Money List for 2022. He’ll look to continue his breakthrough performances on the biggest stages, Matchroom events, and fight his way into the top 64 on their rankings for seeding purposes. He’s currently 94th.
Unlike Teutscher, Loukatos has one of the hardest draws in the tournament. His opening opponent in Eklent Kaçi is a former world 10-ball champion and has been on the Mosconi Cup team on multiple occasions.