In a tournament that was first contested for in 1947, Duncan Bezzina added his name to the distinguished roll of honour for a fourth time when he won the 2019 Malta National Snooker Championship on Friday evening.
Organised by the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association, the event was held over several weeks with the top players in the country being whittled down via two different group phases. Eventually, just four hopefuls remained for the semi-final knockouts.
Held on consecutive nights at the purpose-built Malta Snooker Academy in Hamrun, the latest champion was discovered. Bezzina began his match against reigning champion Brian Cini with breaks of 64 and 53. The opening four frames were shared but Bezzina found some freedom after the mid-session interval to ultimately win 5-3.
In the other last four encounter Aaron Busuttil ousted the vastly experienced former professional Alex Borg – a 13-time winner of this championship – in a deciding frame, 5-4.
Seeking a maiden victory in this competition, but now in his third successive final, Busuttil started the showdown impressively by constructing a 99 break in frame one. Bezzina struck back in the next before an effort of 44 helped him to a 2-1 advantage, although his opponent levelled things up with a clearance from green to black in the next.
Frame five may have proved to be crucial come the final outcome. After making a 44 earlier in proceedings, Busuttil rattled a mid-distance frame ball pink when stretching. Bezzina capitalised by potting the pink and getting pin-point position on the final black that he duly sank.
On resumption after the interval Busuttil regrouped with a 60 to square up at 3-3 but runs of 47 and 69 saw Bezzina establish a two-frame cushion and move just a frame away from glory. A 40 break aided a determined Busuttil to reduce the gap back to one, but 38-year-old Bezzina kept his cool in the tenth to emerge a 6-4 victor. It was perhaps a case of déjà vu as this was the same scoreline when the two met in the 2017 final.
Former winners of Malta’s biggest domestic snooker title include Paul Mifsud, Joe Grech and Tony Drago.
During last year’s World Snooker Federation Championship that was held on the island, several host nation representatives qualified for the knockout stages with Bezzina finishing as the best performer after losing to eventual runner-up Adam Stefanow in the last 16.
Busuttil, Cini and Borg are all set to feature at Q-School in Wigan later this month as they aim to secure a ticket onto next season’s professional circuit.
Vilius Schulte successfully defended the Lithuanian National Snooker Championship last weekend to complete a career hat-trick of victories at his country’s most prestigious snooker championship.
Held at the KN Club in the capital city of Vilnius, the tournament was organised by the national governing body – the Lithuanian Billiard Federation – which holds a series of ranking tournaments during their domestic season. Nearly 40 competitors from across the Baltic state entered.
Schulte dropped just one frame in his opening two rounds before making breaks of 67 and 45 in a 4-0 quarter-final win against Simonas Dragūnas. He then eliminated Tomas Puodziunas, 4-1, to secure another final appearance.
Tadas Andrejevas was his opponent in the title match; Andrejevas had seen off last year’s runner-up, teenager Nikita Kolpacenko, in the other last four tie. However, Schulte continued his dominance in retaining the title, wrapping up a 4-0 triumph with a run of 62 in the last frame.
Lithuanian champion for the first time in 2015, 24-year-old Schulte took part in the European Amateur Championship earlier this year where he qualified top from his group before bowing out in the last 64.
2019 Lithunian National Snooker Championship
Results (from the quarter-finals onwards)
Vilius Schulte 4-0 Simonas Dragūnas
Andrej Maksimov 3-4 Tomas Puodziunas
Tadas Andrejevas 4-1 Maisiejus Mindaugas
Artur Judickij 3-4 Nikita Kolpacenko
Schulte 4-1 Puodziunas
Andrejevas 4-2 Kolpacenko
Schulte 4-0 Andrejevas
Welcome to our new, monthly international round-up feature that focuses on the latest tournament news from nations who are members of the World Snooker Federation structure.
Earlier this month we brought you news of how Declan Lavery and Gary Britton won their respective Northern Ireland and Channel Island Championships, and there have been several other national champions crowned across Europe during April.
Photo: Mikkel Bo Rasmussen / 1st Down Photo
Daniel Kandi continues to dominate the snooker scene in Denmark; defending the recent national championship at the Copenhagen Pool and Snooker Club.
Played across the Easter period, the top 16 ranked players from the Danish rankings were joined by 16 qualifiers for the straight knockout event. The 35-year-old Kandi, who also triumphed at the multi-nation Nordic Championship earlier in the year, became the first player ever to win the title without dropping a single frame.
Following 4-0 wins in the opening two rounds, Kandi defeated Ejler Hame (4-0), Kenneth Kjærsgaard Pedersen (4-0) and Gilbert Albertsen (5-0) in the quarters, semis and final respectively.
A competitor at Q-School in the past, Kandi made headlines in this tournament last year when he constructed a 147 on his way to the championship – the first maximum break in a Danish tournament. Kandi’s latest success is his seventh national title.
Ales Herout emerged from a thrilling climax as the winner of the 2019 Czech Republic National Snooker Championship.
After two qualifying events had whittled down an initial entry of over seventy players to 36, the final stages of this annual competition were held at the Arenia Snooker Academy in Trebic.
Herout – ranked as the Czech number one player going into the tournament – relinquished just one frame on route to the semi-finals where he ended the hopes of former winner Daniel Mily, 4-2. In the final he met Heath Williams, who likewise had a reasonably comfortable path through, except for a 3-2 win against another former winner, Lukas Krenek, at the quarter-finals stage. In the previous round Krenek had dispatched defending champion Jan Matejicek.
Williams established a 3-1 lead in the final but Herout followed suit to force a ninth and deciding frame. After Williams had missed the last yellow when poised for glory, Herout coolly cleared the table to secure the accolade for the third time.
Later in the month Williams recovered from this narrow loss to win the Czech Republic Seniors Championship for players over-40 after defeating reigning champion Jean-Marie Hustin 4-1 in the final.
Bratislav Krastev bounced back from his disappointment of losing the final last year by getting his hands on the Bulgarian National Snooker Championship trophy once again.
Held at the National Snooker and Billiards Academy in Sofia, Krastev – a qualified WPBSA coach – didn’t drop a frame in the groups stage as he qualified for the last 16 knockouts.
Following another trio of wins, the 30-year-old reached the final where he faced reigning champion and long-term rival Georgi Velichkov – the player he had succumbed to twelve months previously. It was the fifth time that the pair had met in a final on the Bulgarian circuit this season and for Velichkov it meant he had reached the final of every single event that campaign. However, multiple-time winner Krastev regained the title, dethroning Velichkov following a 5-2 success in the final. The highest break throughout the competition was made by Velichkov with an effort of exactly 100.
Prior to the event Viktor Iliev won the Bulgarian Under-21 title after defeating Jan Laushman 4-1 in the final.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
It was a high-five for Mario-Zeljo Milosevic after he won his fifth consecutive Bosnia and Herzegovina National Championship at the Union Jack Snooker Club in Sarajevo.
The tournament was the concluding chapter to a qualifying system where the top 16 players from six preceding competitions were invited to take part.
Milosevic, who has future professional ambitions within the sport, topped his group before eliminating Mirza Vukovic (3-2) in the last eight and Robert Kovacevic (3-1) in the last four. Kenan Terzic was his opponent in the final; he secured his berth there following a semi-final victory over Rijad Sisic. Despite going 2-0 down in the final, 20-year-old Milosevic chalked up four frames on the spin to retain the title again.
In a tournament that featured a female competitor and a cueist as young as 8-years-old, Pavel Baciu emerged as the winner of the 2019 Moldavian National Snooker Championship.
Contested in Chisinau, the twenty-eight players involved were split into round robin groups before 16 were confirmed for the knockout phase. Baciu lost just two frames as he came top of his group, putting him through as the number two seed.
Either side of a 3-2 quarter-final win over 10-year-old Vladislav Gradinari, Baciu enjoyed whitewash victories against Munteanu Constantin (3-0) and Alexei Balan (4-0). Meeting Alexandru Sturza in the final, Baciu recovered from losing the opening two frames to sweep the next five for a 5-2 success. Despite tournament wins elsewhere on the domestic scene, it was his maiden triumph in the biggest event on the Moldavian calendar.
Jersey’s Gary Britton won his fourth Channel Islands Amateur Snooker Championship last week – an annual spectacle that is a unique one-off match contested between the recent winners of the individual Guernsey and Jersey Amateur Snooker Championships that were decided only a few weeks before.
First to book his berth there was Adam Shorto, who claimed the Guernsey title for a sixth time when he dethroned defending champion and longtime rival Martyn Desperques in the final.
After coming through the earlier rounds that were played throughout the season, Shorto was looking to regain the trophy for the first time since 2015 and avenge defeats to Desperques in each of the previous two years’ finals. The pair are no strangers to each other having challenged numerous title matches across the last two decades.
Shorto started the best-of-nine encounter well as he opened a 2-0 lead with breaks of 35, 52 and 45, but Desperques – the 2018 Channel Islands Champion – kicked in to level proceedings with efforts of 116 and 54.
However, after the mid-session interval, the pendulum swung back in Shorto’s favour as he re-established a two-frame cushion to go on the brink, and despite watching his opponent cut the deficit in half, he constructed a 69 break in frame eight to emerge as a 5-3 victor.
The following week Britton produced a stunning comeback against familiar foe and reigning World Seniors champion Aaron Canavan to retain the Jersey Championship.
Held at the First Tower Billiards and Snooker Club, this too was the culmination of a tournament that had been played across the season. Canavan appeared on course for success when runs of 73 and 52 put him 3-0 up and just one frame away from the trophy, but as is so often the case, an interval proved to be a game-changer.
A re-invigorated Britton returned for the second half; he got a foothold in the tie by chalking up the fourth frame before contributions of 62 and 55 drew him level at 3-3.
Canavan acted first during the decider with a break of 41, but a subsequent 40 and 28 from Britton completed the dramatic turnaround. A competition he first won in 1997, it was his sixth time to receive the accolade.
Channel Islands Final
Each year the islands take it in turns to host the showpiece match; the 2019 edition was held at the Gremlin Club in Guernsey.
A keenly contested final that went the distance, there was never more than a frame between the duo. Home player Shorto nabbed the opening frame on the black, but a 41 break in the next helped Britton level. Shorto then produced a 60 to take the lead again although Britton bettered it with a 61 to square up at the interval.
The sequence continued following the break as Shorto moved in front two further times, yet on each occasion Britton clawed it back after crafting runs of 63 and 70.
Shorto had led the match four times and despite getting in first during the decider, it was Britton who ousted him on the colours to take the title back home with him across the water.
Having had spells away from the sport in the past, this was Britton’s fourth Channel Islands success in the snooker discipline – his last came in 2001.
“I’m pleased to the win the title once more after a while, particularly after losing my last two Channel Islands final and twenty-two years after my first one. It was also good to beat the World Seniors champion (Aaron Canavan) to win the Jersey title.” said Britton.
Both the Guernsey Billiards and Snooker Association (GB&SA) and the Jersey Billiards and Snooker Association (JBSA) are members of the World Snooker Federation (WSF).
A new name will be etched onto the Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship trophy after Antrim’s Declan Lavery claimed the national title for the first time last weekend.
Dating back to as far as 1927, this prestigious event has been won in the past by major champions Alex Higgins and Mark Allen. Organised by the Northern Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association (NIBSA) – a member of the World Snooker Federation (WSF) – this year’s edition featured over seventy hopefuls who contested the competition across three consecutive weekends. The early rounds were played at the Minnesota Snooker Club in Ballymena and a subsequent ‘Finals Weekend’ was held for the eight remaining contestants at the 147 Snooker Club in Antrim.
Lavery began his bid with victories over Kevin McGlinchey (3-0), John Robinson (3-1) and Paul Currie (4-2) to book a berth in the quarter-finals at his home venue. Three breaks of 90 and a 59 helped him to a 5-0 last 8 win against youngster Christopher Clifford, thus setting up a clash with ex-professional and seven-time champion of this tournament, Patrick Wallace.
The 35-year-old held 4-1 and 5-3 advantages in the best-of-11-frames encounter, but seasoned campaigner Wallace struck back to force a deciding frame. However, aided by a run of 55 – his fifth half century of the tie – Lavery came through to reach the final for the first time following four semi-final defeats in the past. Waiting for him there was Darren Dornan from Drumaness, who had eliminated Raymond Fry, 6-2, in the other semi.
During the first session of the final Lavery made breaks 51 and 106 to take control, but efforts of 70 and 63 kept Dornan in touch as he trailed by just one frame at 4-5 come the end of the opening salvo. On resumption, though, Lavery wasn’t prepared to relinquish his lead as he won five of the next six frames to emerge a 10-5 victor and secure the most significant accolade of his career so far.
A former Under-16 and 19 national champion too, Lavery’s latest success means he has earned a wildcard into the professional Northern Ireland Open at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast later on in the year.
A jubilant Lavery said “I’m overjoyed to win the title. It was my real goal in snooker to win it and get my name on the trophy alongside three of my best mates (Mark Allen, Colin Bingham, Jordan Brown) and Alex Higgins. I can’t wait to play in the Northern Ireland Open at the Waterfront”.
Earlier in the week, Shea Moore defended the Under-21 championship title with a 5-3 comeback final win over Christopher Clifford.
Clifford opened a 3-0 lead in the final before Moore turned the tables with a five-frame winning streak that included a half century break in each of the last three frames.
2019 Northern Ireland Amateur Snooker Championship
Results from the quarter-finals onwards (breaks in brackets)
Patrick Wallace (60, 62) 5-3 (56, 50, 54) Stephen Brady
Christopher Clifford 0-5 (90, 90, 90, 59) Declan Lavery
Anto Heaney 4-5 Darren Dornan
Mark Jackson (50) 4-5 (57) Raymond Fry
Wallace 5-6 (73, 52, 54, 53, 55) Lavery
Dornan 6-2 Fry
Lavery (50, 51, 106) 10-5 (70, 63, 58) Dornan