Caesar Chandiga and Rukia Naiga emerged victorious in a thrilling culmination of the 2023 Nile Special National Pool Open Championships, held in the confines of Lugogo’s Indoor Arena.
Chandiga showcased his prowess in the Men’s final (race to nine), when he fought from a 2-0 deficit against Hazali ‘Hazard’ Lukomwa to clinch a 9-5 frame win.
His resilient performance earned him not only the coveted title but also the keys to a brand-new Toyota Mark X and a substantial cash prize of Sh5m.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s category, Naiga triumphed over her younger sister, Rashidah Mutesi, in a nail-biting finale.
Naiga’s victory secured her a Toyota Raum and a commendable prize of Sh3m, cementing her status as the best Female player in the region.
The Reign of King Caeser!
Chandiga’s journey to the final was highlighted with a commanding 7-0 win over two-time winner Jonan ‘Joker’ Turigye in the semifinals.
He had earlier on got the better of Rashid ‘Dog City’ Wagaba 6-2 in a mouthwatering quarterfinal.
Notably absent from his path was Ibrahim ‘The Killer’ Ssejemba, who was shockingly ousted in a dramatic round two by Moses Omara in a dramatic last game that needed ‘VAR intervention’ after the umpire had displaced the balls pointing to time expiry.
Into the final, Chandiga was to face off with a familiar face in Hazard who had previously eliminated Lawrence Ssengonge in the semis, the laster had shocked Kenneth Odong in the Quarters.
Fondly known as ‘The Scorpion,’ Chandiga who was cheered on by a huge crowd from Gulu, started slowly as Hazard who was oozing with confidence took an early 2-0 frame lead.
But his class came to the fore, with three straight frame wins to take the lead. He later on capitalised on Hazard’s errors, including failure to twice pot his black, as he cruised to a spectacular 9-5 frame victory.
Chandiga joins an elite list of former champions – Mansoor Bwanika (2018), Fahad Ssewankambo (2014, 2017), Sula Matovu (2016), Amos Ndyagumanawe (2015), (2014), Jonah Turigye (2010, 2013), Alfred Gumikiriza (2012), Haliphan Ntwali (2011), Fred Namanya (2009), Bob Menani (2001).
Naiga Tops Sister Showdown
Rukia Naiga emerged victorious in a memorable clash against her younger sister, Rashida Muteesi.
In a thrilling race to six, Naiga initially led 3-1, but Muteesi fought back, leveling the score at 3-3.
The tension escalated as Muteesi forced a 5-5 tie and the sixth frame couldn’t be played as the allotted time had expired, leading to a decisive 6-red shootout.
In the six-red shootout, two players (one after the other) are required to pot six red balls as fast as they can, and whoever does so in the quickest time wins.
Muteesi looked to have set the bar high, clearing her table in 29 seconds.
Facing immense pressure, Naiga responded by potting her six balls in 26 seconds, securing her championship.
Amidst Naiga’s celebrations, a metre away was an inconsolable young Sister Mutesi in tears, who had previously got some good wins over the sister in past competitions.
But it was this latest installment of the sister battles that mattered most, and it was Naiga who managed to reign supreme.
It’s a defeat hard to take in for Mutesi who was beaten by Rita Nimusiima in the 2018 final.
Nimusima was on Saturday knocked out by Naiga while Mutesi eliminated a formidable Marion ‘Anka Sheila’ Kisakye in the other semifinal.