Amateur Snooker - 2015 IBSF Men’s World Amateur Snooker Championship
9th-21st November 2015 / Sunrise Select Hotel, Hurghada, Egypt
AWESOME ADVANI CONTINUES TO ETCH
HIS NAME IN HISTORY
Indian cuesports superstar Pankaj Advani claimed snooker’s most prestigious prize outside of the professional game for the second time, when he beat China’s Zhao Xintong 8-6 in the final.
It means a staggering 15th world title over various disciplines, age ranges and formats for the 30 year old, and a return to wearing the crown he first possessed in 2003.
In fairness, Advani coasted most of this event. Whilst the tricky conditions were too much for the majority to handle, ‘The Pune Potter’ was classy and composed throughout the fortnight in Hurghada.
Arguably the pre-tournament favourite because of his vast experience, Pankaj waltzed through his six player round robin section undefeated. He also exhibited how he had acclimatised by constructing a magnificent 141 break - which would stand as the highest.
As one of the top qualifying seeds, he was spared the preliminaries and moved straight to the round of 64 where he comprehensively beat Peter Bullen (Belgium) 4-0 with runs of 64, 63 and 57.
He then enjoyed further reasonably straightforward tasks against Amir Sarkhosh (Iran) 5-2 and Gary Thompson (Scotland) 5-1 to book his place in the quarter-finals.
There he continued to flex his muscle over fellow former professional Alex Borg of Malta.
In what should have been a competitive clash, Advani was once again in relentless mood. Efforts of 57, 90, 50 and 108 starved his experienced opponent of opportunities during a 6-0 clean sweep.
His first real workout was probably against young German prospect Lukas Kleckers in the Last 4.
Kleckers, currently recognised as his countries top player, was living up to his potential with a fantastic run in the Egyptian resort.
He showed character to threaten Advani, recovering from deficits of 5-1 and 6-2 in the best of 13 tie, to move within one of his counterpart.
However, the champion elect held his nerve when making a decisive 58 in what would be the last frame of the encounter.
The opposite side of the draw was becoming very hard to predict, with a number of worthy candidates still in the hunt for the overall honour.
Thailand’s Kritsanut Lertsattayathorn come through the group phase as top seed, and for a while he looked like a genuine contender, before bowing out to surprise package of Ben Jones (Wales) in the quarters.
Much talked about youthful figures of Jamie Clarke and Yuan Sijun were gone come the Last 32, which left 18 year old sensation Zhao solely flying the flag for China.
He was untroubled in navigating the group stage, and then served up a whitewash on former pro tour player Mohamed Khairy.
In the Last 8 he would cross cues with another future star in Malta’s Brian Cini, who had been in great touch when dispatching players in the ilk of Varun Madan, Tomasz Skalski and the before mentioned Yuan.
Cini took a 2-0 lead, but Zhao responded in a six frame winning streak to motor on.
He would then really turn it up a notch in his meeting with Jones in the semi-finals. Breaks of 68, 69, 64 and 67 put him 6-0 up, and although the Welshman averted the dreaded ‘donut’ when consoling himself with the seventh, the deal was sealed for Zhao in the next.
The all Asian final would be a continuation of a theme over recent years in this great championship. It was the third consecutive year that the showpiece match was contested by players from the far east continent. In fact, it also guaranteed the sixth straight winner in as many years from that area too (and 8th in 9).
Advani instantly made an impact with contributions of 106 and 56 to settle in quickly.
Zhao, already under the cosh, managed to grab a foothold with a 53 in the third, but India’s finest would swell his profit when swooping frames four and five. The next pair were shared, which would leave the score 5-2 at the end of the first session.
Only a trio of frames away on the resumption, further breaks of 93 and 77 put Advani on the brink, and Zhao to the point of no return at 7-4 down.
However, Zhao was not yet done. In a resilient last ditch stand, runs of 126 and 82 moved him to within reaching distance of his rival.
But if Advani was worried by the youngster's rally, then it didn’t show, as the virtuoso finished in a blaze of glory with a trophy clinching 109 in the fourteenth.
He becomes the first cueist in history to hold the IBSF World Snooker, Billiards and 6 Red titles at the same time.
For Zhao it meant yet more final heartbreak in this competition. Two years earlier he succumbed to countryman (or should I say boy!) Zhou Yuelong at the same point in Latvia.
The question is now whether or not Pankaj will accept the fresh two year professional tour card on offer for winning. He famously resigned his pro status a couple of seasons ago, and I think he may decline the invite again. I believe he doesn’t want to compete on the circuit full time, one of the reasons being that it potentially interferes with his beloved billiards - his first cuesports love.
If this is the case, Zhao would deservedly be next in line for that vacant position.
Full more information and full results, please visit the IBSF website here.
Picture above courtesy of the IBSF.
Written and published by Michael Day on the 22nd November 2015