Take your cue from new Vietnamese world billiards champ

By Ngoc Ha   June 1, 2018 | 12:48 am PT
Take your cue from new Vietnamese world billiards champ
Tran Quyet Chien plays in the final of the 2018 Three-Cushion Carom Billiards World Cup held in Ho Chi Minh City last month. Photo by VnExpress/Dong Huyen
Tran Quyet Chien says tough times made him determined and calm about pursuing his passion.

He was so crazy about billiards that he did not just play truant, he dropped out of college after two years.

Tran Quyet Chien was not from a well-off family and had basically learnt to play by watching adults as he grew up in the southernmost province of Ca Mau.

In his poor neighborhood, the billiards table was an entertainment hub. Kids like Chien watched how adults played and imitated them.

He was poor then, but Chien remembers it as the happiest time of his life.

Life got much tougher after he moved to Saigon and started to both play and work other jobs to make ends meet. There was a point when he was so broke that he had to borrow money to buy a cue.

Today, he can look back at those days and smile.

Chien’s unswerving passion for billiards created history on May 27 when he became the first Vietnamese cueist ever to win a world championship.

In a closely fought nail-biting final, he beat compatriot Ngo Dinh Nai to win top prize at the Three-Cushion Carom Billiards World Cup that wrapped up in Ho Chi Minh City this week.

His outstanding performance, which included a 40-39 victory in the semifinal over current world number one, Belgian Frederic Caudron, boosted 33-year-old Chien to the rank of 10th best cueist in the world.

Chien’s achievement has made him a hero and opened a new chapter for Vietnam’s billiard scene, but the cueist has not forgotten his tough past, because he firmly believes it pushed him to where he is today, and made him a determined, calm and collected person.

He is sad that he has lost in touch with a childhood friend who shared his passion for the game.

Chien started to participate in three-cushion carom billiards tournaments in July 2012, when he came third in the Asia billiards championship. He went from strength to strength since, reaching the semifinals of the 2013 and 2014 Billiards World Cups, reaching a world ranking of 17 in 2015.

But the billiards world sat up and took not of Chien when he finished runner up at the 2016 Three-Cushion Carom Billiards World Cup in Guri, South Korea.

Chien is clear about how he plays. "Winning or losing is not important, I just want to enjoy doing what I like, because that’s my passion.

"But I am also a very competitive person. I want to take part in every single tournament, whether it’s domestic or international."

With his new, shiny gold medal, Chien earned $19,200, maybe not much for an athlete playing other games, but not a small sum for him and his family. Chien is happy, living with his wife and two children in a small rented apartment. Besides the income from billiards, he still works part time at clubs while pursuing his passion.

Chien and his Vietnamese teammates will now fly to Belgium to participate in the Three-Cushion Carom Billiards World Cup from June 11-17.

The cueist was hopeful that his latest victory would not just be a great motivation for himself, it would also motivate many other Vietnamese players to pursue their passion for billiards.

"To all the people out there who have a passion for billiards, let me say this: Don’t think too much, just play with all your heart."

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