Former European Amateur champion and main tour professional Kristján Helgason won his 14th Iceland National Snooker Championship on Saturday.
A member of snooker’s top tier for a total of eight years in the past, Helgason made history in 2000 when he came through World Championship qualifying to appear at the Crucible Theatre; becoming the first player from his nation to do so.
Since his exit from the professional circuit in 2004 he has mainly appeared in big amateur events, winning titles such as the Nordic Snooker and European 6-Red Championships. At last year’s World Snooker Federation Championship in Malta, Helgason reached the semi-finals before losing to Adam Stefanow in a deciding frame.
Throughout the Icelandic Snooker Association’s domestic season eight open ranking events were held with the top 16 players qualifying for the national championship. Once again, defending champion Helgason was simply in a class of his own at the Billiardbarinn venue in the capital city of Reykjavik.
After receiving a walkover in the opening round, he eliminated Unnar Bragason (5-0) and Ásgeir Jón Guðbjartsson (7-1) in the quarter and semi-finals respectively. In the final Helgason faced Jón Ingi Ægisson; the duo had previously teamed up together to win the European Masters Team Championship in 2017.
Helgason took the opening frame although Ægisson responded well in going 2-1 up. However, Helgason showed his pedigree and broke away by reeling off the next eight frames in a row to run out a 9-2 victor. During the match he made nine half-century breaks – one in every frame he won.
Both Helgason and Ægisson will travel to Serbia at the end of May to compete in both singles and team action at the European Billiards and Snooker Association’s 6 Red and Team Championships.
2019 Iceland National Snooker Championship
Results – from the quarter-finals onwards
Kristján Helgason 5-0 Unnar Bragason
Ásgeir Jón Guðbjartsson 5-2 Guðni Pálsson
Jón Ingi Ægisson 5-4 Gudbjörn Gunnarsson
Bjarni Jónsson 3-5 Örvar Guðmundsson
Helgason 7-1 Guðbjartsson
Ægisson 7-6 Guðmundsson
Helgason 9-2 Ægisson
Poland’s Adam Stefanów is through to the final of the inaugural WSF Championship following a dramatic 4-3 victory against former professional Kristjan Helgason in Malta.
Having already secured his place in the last four with an impressive 4-2 victory against last week’s WSF Seniors Championship winner Igor Figueiredo earlier in the day, it appeared as though his run was coming to an end as he fell behind 3-1 against Iceland’s Helgason who hit top scored with a break of 119 in the third frame.
But the 24-year-old had other ideas however as he closed the gap to a single frame with a break of 52, before restricting his opponent to just nine points during the final two frames as he completed a memorable turnaround.
“I told myself to keep on trying and I was just waiting for a chance from Kristjan,” explained Stefanów immediately after the match. “He played too good to go 3-1 up, he didn’t miss many balls.
“But I made breaks of 57, 60 to go 3-2 and then he started to miss and I made a good 40 under pressure in the decider. I felt really comfortable, I have been there so many times and I am only 24 but I just realised how much experience that I have from playing for 14 years so I just tried my best.”
Stefanów is now just one victory away from earning a two-year ticket to the World Snooker Tour for what would be the first time in his career if he can take victory in tomorrow’s best-of-11 frames final in Malta.
Visibly emotional as he wiped away the tears while potting the winning balls, Stefanów revealed the extra significance of a tournament that until just a few weeks ago he was not expecting to be competing in.
“It’s just a crazy story really,” explained Stefanów. “I’m not supposed to even be here, but I had a good run in the European Championships last month Sofia, Bulgaria and I got a wildcard to play.
“The last three years have been really hard as I have been living in Sheffield, England and working full time in a restaurant as well as playing snooker full-time. I have been very dedicated but I couldn’t do both anymore and recently came back to Poland after receiving a good job offer.
“So I came into the tournament knowing that it could be my last chance and 3-1 down I thought it would be good to finish with a semi-final in a tournament like this one. But I said ok last tournament, keep trying, keep trying and now I am into the final. When I came back to Poland I thought that I am not good enough to be on the main tour, but now tomorrow I am playing a match to be there so it is crazy!”
As he now awaits the winner of the day’s second semi-final between countryman Kacper Filipiak and 18-year-old Luo Honghao of China, Stefanów has no doubt as to who he wants to come up against in tomorrow’s title decider.
“I hope that my friend Kacper can come through tonight and that we are going to play together and show that we have really good players in Poland. We both still very young and I am really happy for snooker in Poland that we have been able to play well this week. If one of us can take the tour card it would be massive for snooker back home.”
Earlier in the day both Stefanów and Filipiak secured their places at next month’s professional World Championship in Sheffield, together with fellow semi-finalists Kristjan Helgason and Luo Honghao by making it through their quarter-final matches in the morning.
The second semi-final gets underway at 9:00pm local time, ahead of tomorrow’s two-session final from 10:00am, with the first to six frames being crowned the first-ever WSF Championship winner and earning their place on the World Snooker Tour.
The inaugural WSF Championship is now down to just eight players in Malta, one of whom will leave on Saturday night having secured their place on the World Snooker Tour for the next two seasons.
However, with four tantalising places at next month’s professional World Championship qualifiers on offer for those who can make it to tomorrow evening’s semi-finals, the pressure is already on as we enter the business end of the tournament.
Among the first players to book their places in the last eight this evening were Poland’s Adam Stefanow and former professional Igor Figueiredo, who will now meet with a place in Sheffield at stake tomorrow.
Playing on the main table against the last of the Maltese players in action in their home country Duncan Bezzina, Stefanow closed out a comfortable 4-1 victory with breaks of 70 and 52 to progress. It was a similar story for next opponent Figueiredo who following a number of close early frames against Irish former pro Michael Judge, stepped it up a gear with runs of 86 and 89 to secure the win.
The highest break of the evening was made by Iceland’s Kristjan Helgason, who made 101 in a swift 4-0 victory against Marcin Nitschke of Poland to move into the quarter-finals.
There he will face Kishan Hirani, one of three Welsh players to come through a deciding frame during a memorable 15-minute spell late Thursday evening. Hirani saw off Singapore’s Lim Chun Kiat following a tense final frame to move to within a match of qualifying for Sheffield.
In the bottom half of the draw, the second of the evening’s Welsh winners Alex Taubman edged out former professional Kuldesh Johal 4-3, celebrating an important victory with a fist pump as he potted match ball. Awaiting him in the quarter-finals will be another former main tour player, Poland’s Kacper Filipiak who hit a top break of 76 in a 4-0 whitewash of Scotland’s Michael Collumb.
The final quarter-final match will see 23-year-old Jamie Clarke – looking to make his breakthrough onto the main tour for the first time – take on the impressive Chinese youngster Luo Honghao after the pair came through their matches this evening in contrasting fashion.
For Clarke, a nail-biting final frame against Belgium’s Kevin Hanssens, settled by a gutsy pot on the final pink with the rest to take a 4-3 victory, while teenager Luo was a dominant 4-0 winner against Ireland’s Thomas Dowling to progress.
The quarter-finals get underway at 11:00am local time, with places in the semi-finals – and more – to be decided as the tournament enters its penultimate day.
For more information about the tournament please visit www.worldsnookerfederation.org