Five Star Aly’s American Snooker Title

Five Star Aly’s American Snooker Title

Ahmed Aly Elsayed made history as he claimed a fifth United States National Snooker Championship title at the Q-Ball Houston in Texas on Labor Day.

Players from several different states took part in the annual four-day event; the most prestigious on the United States Snooker Association (USSA) calendar.

Defending champion Aly qualified for the last 16 having finished top of Group A, winning his opening three matches without dropping a frame, although he did lose his last fixture to Cheang Ciing Yoo.

The New Yorker, who lifted the trophy last year in Brooklyn, eliminated Rushil Vig 3-0 and Steven Wong 4-1 in the last 16 and 8 respectively. He then secured a fifth consecutive – and an overall record eighth – appearance in the final courtesy of defeating Nitin Mehta 4-1 in the semi-finals aided by breaks of 63 and 53.

In a repeat of their earlier round robin tie, Aly’s opponent in the showpiece was Yoo, who had advanced from the group in second place. The Washington cueist dispatched Thomas Tan, two-time champion Ajeya Prabhakar and 2017 winner and last year’s runner-up Raymond Fung in the knockouts.

Aly compiled a break of 78 to win the second frame, but maiden finalist Yoo was in control early on as he opened a 3-1 lead. However, the top seed was not to be denied. A run of 64 in the fifth helped him on his way as he strung together four successive frames to emerge a 5-3 winner.

Victory number five in this tournament means Aly matches Tom Kollins’ long standing overall title haul. Kollins was the first champion of this event in 1991 and won his fifth title ten years later.

It is not the first time that Aly has retained this championship; he also won it 2009, 2010 and 2011. Earlier this year at the same venue, Aly reached the quarter-finals of the Pan American Billiards and Snooker Association (PABSA) Championship when he lost to eventual champion Igor Figueiredo. He has also featured in the last two editions of Q-School.

Both the USSA and PABSA are members of the World Snooker Federation.

Photos supplied by SnookerUSA.com

Brilliant Bolton’s Australian Double

Brilliant Bolton’s Australian Double

Matthew Bolton completed another unique double when he added the 2019 Australian National Snooker Championship title to the national billiards crown he claimed in June. 

Held at the RACV Club in Melbourne, home of the upcoming World Billiards Championship in October, players from across the country contested this prestigious annual Australian Billiards and Snooker Council event that was first played for in 1953. 

Bolton, who briefly spent a short spell on the professional circuit courtesy of winning the Oceania Snooker Championship a few seasons ago, got his campaign off to a fine start as breaks of 61 and 51 helped him defeat Robin Beggs 4-0. Finishing off with an effort of 126 he eliminated Stan Gorski 4-2 in the last 16 and then registered a top run of 59 ending Shaun Dalitz’s hopes in the quarter-finals, 4-0. 

Returning for ‘Finals Day’, the 40-year-old from Perth in Western Australia put on an excellent performance to dismiss last year’s runner-up Charlie Chafe 5-2 in the last four, compiling breaks of 54, 137, 124 and 50.  

During the same session, 2016 winner James Mifsud sealed his spot in the final after ousting Kurt Dunham 5-4, despite Dunham crafting a 136 in the second frame of the match. This temporarily stood as the tournament’s highest break before Bolton bettered it by one point not long after. 

The opening frame of the final went to Bolton, although Mifsud levelled with the aid of a 46. Bolton then went into the mid-session interval 3-1 up, and although his opponent closed the gap when taking frame five on the last black, contributions of 60, 55 and 52 got him over the line as a comfortable 6-2 victor and saw him lift the trophy for the second time in his career. 

Dave Collins and Steve Mifsud have previously won both the Australian National billiards and snooker titles in the same year, but Bolton, who also secured both in 2014, becomes the first player in history to have achieved the feat twice.

Woods and Lynch Win Women’s Championships

Earlier in the month, defending champion Jessica Woods won her sixth Australian National Women’s Snooker Championship at SA Snooker Venue in Adelaide. 

Cueists from five different states featured in the event with the players initially split into round robin groups. Woods was supreme as she eased into the knockouts after winning all four of her group games 2-0. 

New South Wales’ Woods eliminated Carlie Tait 3-0 in the quarter-finals, and despite dropping her first frame of the championship, she defeated Theresa Whitten 4-1 in the last four, a match in which she recorded a 52 break.  

Her opponent in the final was Taylor Meyer, who had come through three consecutive deciding frame finishes to make it there. However, Woods remained relentless and retained the trophy following a 4-0 victory. She has now won this event the last six times she has entered it. 

At the same venue before the snooker event, Anna Lynch got the better of Caroline Ruscitti by 255 to 222 in a ninety minutes final to triumph in the Australian National Women’s Billiards Championship. Lynch had previously won all three of her group games before denying Lyndal Ellement in the semi-finals. During the final she also made the highest break of the event with an effort of 54. 

Photo credits: George Spiteri, Matt Huart

Anderson’s South African Title Triumph

Anderson’s South African Title Triumph

Returning after an 11-year absence from the event, David Anderson secured a maiden South African National Snooker Championship last month at the Q-Masters Snooker Centre in Montclair.

Organised by Snooker and Billiards South Africa, this annual event is one of the most established national snooker tournaments in the world with roots going back to as far as 1937. This year 60 players travelled to the Durban based venue to take part.

Runner-up in 2005 and 2008 – his last appearance – Anderson didn’t take long to get into the swing of things as he won all six matches to top his group and qualify for the knockout phase as the number two seed. There he eliminated Cuban Moodley, Anton Klanfar, Rafique Limbada and Kiashan Moodley to set up a final with top seed Fakhrie Gierdien. Anderson lost the opening two frames of the final, but he wasn’t to be stopped at the last obstacle for a third time in his career as he turned proceedings around to emerge a 6-4 victor, despite his lack of recent matchplay snooker.

Although Anderson has enjoyed success in other cuesports, this most recent triumph will be especially sweet as snooker was the first that he harbored ambitions for when younger. In 1996, as a 15-year-old, Anderson reached the quarter-finals of the World Under-21 Championship in his homeland where he was eliminated by future professional world number two Stephen Maguire.

Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, he was involved in a severe car accident that left him hospitalised for six months. Despite having learnt to walk again, Anderson has been left with a handicap in his bridge hand that hampers him when he plays – especially in cold conditions. Yet he has managed to adapt to this problem, and although after the accident he mainly focused on the smaller tables, the national snooker championship was a title that still meant a lot to him.

Anderson said “It’s a full circle for me. I started in snooker, achieved everything else, but now I have got the one title that I wanted the most. I would like to thank my sponsors Max Tsai from Fury Cues and Andy and Jenny from Andy Cloth for their support.”

In the preceding South African 6-Red Championship Tauroq Samsodien went one better than his finish 12 months before to get his hands on the trophy. During the knockout portion of the competition Samsodien defeated Anthony Twiggs, Kyle Akaloo, Kiash Moodley and then Ricky Tregonning, 6-3, in the final.

2019 South African National Snooker Championship

Results (from the quarter-finals onwards)

Fakhrie Gierdien 5-4 Ricardo Tregonning

Faaris Khan 1-5 Jonny Sideratos

Tauriq Samsodien 3-5 Kiashan Moodley

Rafique Limbada 2-5 David Anderson

Semi-Final

Gierdien 5-0 Sideratos

Moodley 2-5 Anderson

Final

Gierdien 4-6 Anderson

Garzia Retains Italian Snooker Title

Garzia Retains Italian Snooker Title

Pierfrancesco Garzia defended the Italian National Snooker Championship following a 5-4 victory against Valerio Grandi last month in Trezzano sul Naviglio.

The five-day event held at the Best Western Hotel Goldenmile Milan was the culmination to the domestic season. National governing body the Italian Sport Billiard Federation – a member of the World Snooker Federation – was celebrating its fifth annual edition of the competition. A total of 55 players from seven different regions across Italy participated in three separate categories.

Naples based Garzia, representing the Mezzo Colpo Billiard Club Bologna, qualified top from his round robin group without losing a frame before defeating Alessandro Bacchetta (4-1) and Antonino Foti (4-2) in the quarter and semi-finals respectively.

In the title match 32-year-old Garzia faced debut finalist Valerio Grandi, who likewise was undefeated on route, and had eliminated last year’s runner-up Stefano Battelli, 4-0, in the last four. During an encounter that lasted five hours, Garzia initially led 2-0, later trailed, but claimed the last two frames to emerge from a deciding frame, 5-4.

Multi-discipline cueist Garzia, who played at the European Amateur Snooker Championship earlier this year, said – It was a tough tournament, especially when you defend a title this puts on massive pressure. Fortunately, my experience of playing on the big stage pool scene let me handle the pressure well; I scored half-centuries in the group stage.

“It was hard to win with a player like Valerio in the final. I never give up – I was 4-3 down in frames and behind 40-1 on points. In the final frame I think I showed some good quality snooker; I have given the game some quality practice time and hard work. I want to say thank you to my friends, family and sponsor Taom Billiards, now I look forward to playing in more, and maybe even bigger, snooker events. I can’t wait for that.”

During the same weekend Marco Oppes won the ‘B’ Category Championship while David Meroni was victorious in the ‘C’ Category Championship.

2019 Italian National Snooker Championship

Results (from the quarter-finals onwards)

Pierfrancesco Garzia 4-1 Alessandro Bacchetta

Antonino Foti 4-0 Marco Palma

Valerio Grandi 4-2 Adamo Uboldi

Stefano Battelli 4-0 Simone Zappi

Semi-Finals

Garzia 4-2 Foti

Grandi 4-0 Battelli

Final

Garzia 5-4 Grandi

Lindblom’s Swedish Snooker Success

Lindblom’s Swedish Snooker Success

Simon Lindblom came through a nervy conclusion in the final to win his second Swedish National Snooker Championship earlier this month.

A title first contested for in 1984, the latest annual edition of the event was held across four days at the Snookerhallen venue in the capital city of Stockholm. The main draw consisted of 32 players made up of 24 seeds determined from the national rankings and eight qualifiers who had progressed from Thursday’s round robins. The following phase of the competition whittled down half of the remaining entries via a double elimination format before a straight knockout was instigated from the last 16 onwards.

Number five seed Lindblom won his opening two matches to advance into the knockouts where he crafted breaks of 64 and 53 when dispatching Nils Ritenius Manjer, 4-0, in the last 16. The 24-year-old then overcame George To, 4-1, and multiple-time winner Kevin Zarekani, 5-0, in the quarter and semi-finals respectively. It meant that Lindblom had dropped just two frames in reaching the final.

However, Lindblom had to draw on other qualities in the title decider as 2007 champion Jim Johansson provided a much sterner examination. A runner-up four times since his victory twelve years previously – including in 2018 – second seed Johansson was also undefeated on route. He emerged from a four-hours plus quarter-final duel with Max Nettleton that went to a deciding frame but subsequently enjoyed a straightforward 5-0 win over former Nordic Championship winner Belan Sharif in the last four.

It was Johansson who started the final stronger as he went into the mid-session interval 3-1 up. On the resumption, though, aided by runs of 54, 39 and 42, Lindblom strung together four consecutive frames to move within one of the trophy at 5-3. Momentum shifted again when Johansson secured frames nine and ten, but Lindblom was resolute in the decider as an effort of 38 helped him sealed a 6-5 success. This latest national triumph for Lindblom arrives three years on from his first, when he also claimed the title by virtue of a final frame.

Last year’s winner Henrik Svedstedt was pipped by Sharif in the last eight while top seed and two-time champion Mats Eriksson perished at the same stage to Zarekani.

National governing body the Swedish Billiard Federation is a member of the World Snooker Federation.

Photos by Tony Barmin.

2019 Swedish National Snooker Championship

Results (from the quarter-finals onwards)

Simon Lindblom 4-1 George To

Belan Sharif 4-3 Henrik Svedstedt

Max Nettleton 3-4 Jim Johansson

Mats Eriksson 2-4 Kevin Zarekani

Semi-Finals

Lindblom 5-0 Sharif

Johansson 5-0 Zarekani

Final

Lindblom 6-5 Johansson

European Accolades Awarded in Belgrade

European Accolades Awarded in Belgrade

Several continental titles were decided during the recent 12-day stay of the European Billiards and Snooker Association (EBSA) at the Hotel Crown Plaza in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade.

Players from 31 different countries took part in this festival of European amateur snooker with 6-Red, Open, Women’s, Seniors and Team Championships on the agenda. It was the first time that the Snooker Federation of Serbia had hosted such an event.

6-Red Championship | Champion Callewaert

In the 6 Red discipline, Alexis Callewaert won his and France’s first ever European accolade when he ousted fellow debut finalist Pawel Rogoza.

Callewaert finished second in his group to qualify for the knockouts where his most impressive victory was a 4-1 success over defending champion and KO top seed Shachar Ruberg (Israel) during the last eight. The 23-year-old followed that up in the semi-finals by denying Spanish national champion Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz, 4-2.

Both players traded frames in the final, but despite Poland’s Rogoza reaching the hill first, it was Callewaert who claimed the last two frames to come through as a 5-4 victor. The Frenchman is set to be the EBSA nomination for the SangSom 6-Red World Championship that takes place in Thailand during September.

European Open | Ice Cool Kristjan

Former Crucible qualifier Kristjan Helgason added another continental trophy to his collection after he was victorious in the 2019 European Snooker Open – an event that reverted back to the traditional 15 red format.

Icelandic Champion Helgason saw off opponents from England, Albania and Bulgaria on his way to the last eight where he stopped the charge of promising 12-year-old Bulscu Revesz (Hungary), 4-1, and then Ruberg by the same score to book a spot in the final.

Better known for his skill on the American Pool table, Sanchez-Ruiz once again showed off his cuesports versatility to make his maiden European snooker final. However, highlighted by a top effort of 73, experienced Helgason came up trumps in recording a 4-1 triumph. The 1998 European Amateur Champion will be rewarded with a wildcard into the main draw of the 2020 Gibraltar Open.

Women’s Championship | Stateczny Shocks

The European Women’s Championship conjured up a surprise as Diana Stateczny became only the sixth different winner in the 23-year history of the event.

Germany’s Stateczny bossed her round robin group, qualifying top after winning all four of her fixtures 2-0. The 39-year-old was pushed in the last 16 by Ewelina Pislewska (Poland), but a 40 break in the decider was perhaps the crucial factor as she squeezed through, 3-2. A second final berth in this competition – nine years on from her first – was confirmed when she subsequently ended the ambitions of teenagers Polina Astakhova (Russia) and Linda Erben (Germany).

In the opposite chair for the final was Russia’s Anastasia Nechaeva, who had created a huge upset when she dethroned defending champion Wendy Jans, 4-1, in the quarter-finals. Belgium’s Jans was aiming for a record-extending seventh title in a row; incredibly, she had also reached the final in every one of her 19 previous appearances in this tournament.

Defeated by Jans in the 2013 and 2014 finals, Nechaeva initially went behind in this year’s showpiece but efforts of 49 and 31 contributed to her moving 2-1 up. Stateczny though would be the one celebrating her maiden triumph after stringing together the next three frames for glory to etch the first German name on the trophy. 

Seniors Championship | Ten-Time Morgan

Darren Morgan continues to dominate the 40s and over category as he defended and won his tenth European Masters Championship.

Since retiring from the professional ranks in 2006, the former world number eight has been a serial winner on the amateur circuits. The 53-year-old Welshman qualified for the knockouts without dropping a frame and only lost three in total getting to the final with standout victories over Helgason (4-1 in the last 16) and England’s Wayne Brown (4-1 in the semi-finals).

Fellow experienced cueist Alan Trigg (Ukraine) was Morgan’s opponent in the final. Likewise, Trigg finished top of his group without reply before enjoying a relatively serene passage through the knockouts that included a 4-2 win over a returning Tony Drago (Malta) in the last eight.

Breaks of 48 and 46 helped Morgan take the first frame in the final, although 60-year-old Trigg responded by acquiring the next two to move 2-1 up. However, Morgan wasn’t to be denied as runs of 46 and 44 assisted him back in front before success in frame six meant he raised the trophy for a fifth consecutive year.

As a result of this win, 1994 World Championship semi-finalist Morgan will return to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield for August’s ROKiT World Seniors Championship.

Team Championships | Open, Women’s and Masters

Represented by reigning national champion Duncan Bezzina and the legendary Drago, European Team Championship gold went to Malta.

The duo formed a cohesive unit in the two-player competition that involved frames of singles and doubles action. Malta were strong throughout; losing just a frame in the groups and therefore attaining top seed status for the knockouts. Bezzina and Drago then eliminated teams from Croatia, Belgium and Ukraine to make the final, where they got the better of Polish pairing Mateusz Baranowski and Tomasz Skalski, 4-2.

Russia’s Nechaeva and Astakhova retained the Women’s Team Championship title they won in Bucharest last year following a 3-0 defeat of Germany (Stateczny & Erben). There was more kudos for Morgan, who alongside Wayne Morgan, triumphed as Wales 1 in the Masters Team Championship when they pipped England 1 set-up of Brown and Chris Hart in the final.

For the full results from all of the championships, please visit the EBSA website.