WORLD MATCHPLAY BILLIARDS CHAMPIONSHIP
The Centurion Hotel, Midsomer Norton, Somerset
27th February – 2nd March 2001
Australia Robby Foldvari Belgium Martin Spoormans England Paul Bennett David Causier Roxton Chapman Brian Dix Clive Everton Peter Gilchrist Mark Hirst Mike Russell Andrew Sage Peter Sheehan Chris Shutt Ian Williamson India Arun Agrawal Aditya Goenka Nalin Patel Geet Sethi Ashok Shandilya Thailand Rom Surin
The professional players gave some welcome relief from this season’s
unremitting diet of 50-up games as they reverted to time-limit
matches for the World Matchplay Championship at Midsomer Norton.
Even so, a lack of communication between the Indian and English
associations almost decimated the field, as it was discovered at a late
stage that the event clashed with the Indian National Billiards & Snooker
Championships being held in Chennai over the same period.
More by good luck than good management, the Indian billiards finished
on 23rd February leaving just enough time for most competitors to
make the flight to England. However, any player who had also entered
the Indian Snooker Championship, which followed on from the billiards,
had much more of a problem. Devendra Joshi, the new Indian Champion
(see report p.15) was the most notable casualty as he was refused
permission to withdraw from the snooker competition. Regular
competitor, Manoj Kothari, was also forced to miss the event and
Ashok Shandilya only managed the trip after his employers offered a
last minute replacement to the Billiards & Snooker Federation of India.
Geet Sethi, who for the second consecutive year, chose not to enter the
Indian Championships, was one of the few players from that country
not effected by these difficulties.
108, 87, 68, 60
140, 119, 77
|Aditya Goenka||326||(8.4)||Clive Everton|
With twenty professionals in the line-up, there were four preliminary
matches to decide who would meet the seeded players. The closest of
these was a nerve-racking encounter between Aditya Goenka and Clive
Everton. This was a low-scoring match which had a highest break of 50
by Everton. However, what it lacked in quality it made up in drama at
the end, as with seconds remaining Goenka came to the table nine
points in arrears. Under great pressure he managed to put together an
unfinished run of 14 to get home by just 5 points.
Rom Surin looked in good form, showing some superb ball-control,
although he was hardly challenged by Martin Spoormans who was
making one of his rare appearances on the professional circuit. The
Thai player, now in his second season, made short work of his opponent
producing two centuries and a match average of 25.5 in a one-sided
664-255 result. The other winners in the preliminary round were Mark
Hirst and Paul Bennett.
139, 100, 98, 77, 69, 68
180, 135, 73
79, 62, 56
65, 55 54
94, 94, 90, 89, 59, 52
70, 62, 50
66, 54, 52
86, 58, 56, 57, 55
302 101, 72, 66, 61
As reigning champion, Peter Gilchrist was seeded No.1 and therefore
in the opposing half of the draw to the two players above him in the
current ranking list. These were hot favourite and World Champion,
Mike Russell, and Geet Sethi, who were seeded No.2 and No.3
respectively. Gilchrist started his title defence in fine style as he
overwhelmed his occasional practice partner Paul Bennett 801-314.
Mike Russell had a little more trouble in shaking off the challenge of Ian
Williamson, who while always in arrears, was within striking distance
of the Champion for most of the match. Then a late break of 72,
immediately followed by a massive 302, secured the result for Russell.
Peter Sheehan looked as though he might cause an upset as he recovered
from a 180 break by Roxton Chapman to take the lead with 15 minutes
of the match remaining. However, Chapman then produced a crucial
run of 135 to secure a victory which could just as easily have gone the
Geet Sethi also made it through to the next round although he struggled
to produce any form for most of his match against Aditya Goenka. It
was only in the second hour that he began to draw away from his
fellow-countryman, eventually running out an easy winner.
It was a similar story with Nalin Patel who had great difficulty in
throwing off a tenacious challenge from Mark Hirst. However, Patel
managed to do just enough to hold off the Yorkshireman, steadily
increasing his lead throughout the match to win by 144 points.
289, 205, 156, 93
207, 110, 100, 83, 71, 63, 55
95, 93, 80, 74, 55, 53
155, 92, 66, 64, 52
288, 206, 124, 63
Peter Gilchrist’s run came to an end in the quarter-finals when Roxton
Chapman decided to play one of those games of which he is always
capable, but only occasionally seems to produce. After a cautious start
by both players, Chapman put together a devastating sequence of 289,
10, 205, 93 and 156 to leave Gilchrist trailing by over 600 points and
without hope of recovery. Chapman’s winning margin eventually being
a massive 707 points.
Mike Russell also looked impressive, with his first three scoring visits
against Robby Foldvari yielding 63, 124 and 288. Adding another
double-century soon afterwards, he was now leading by 520 points
and averaging 98.1 With Foldvari having insufficient time to make up
this deficit, Russell was content to cruise to a comfortable 725-276
Chris Shutt versus David Causier is always a match worth watching,
and this encounter was no exception as Shutt jumped off into an early
lead with a break of 207. There followed a period of typically fluent
break-building from both players with Shutt emerging the better,
extending his lead to almost 300 points at 562-275. At this stage Shutt
was averaging 56.2 but there followed an unusually long period of
inactivity before he picked up the pace again with runs of 71 and 100.
By now, Causier was over 400 points in arrears and even consecutive
contributions of 93, 74 and 55 could do little more than reduce Shutt’s
winning margin to 241.
Geet Sethi never looked in danger as he cruised to a comfortable win
against Nalin Patel, who provided scant opposition for the former
World Champion. A top break of 155 by Sethi suggested that he might
be coming into form for his semi-final encounter against Mike Russell.
301, 160, 140, 128, 120, 94, 94, 85, 50
202, 137, 90, 59
255, 149, 149, 108, 99, 99 96, 94, 59
With the semi-finals extended to three hours, the audience at the
Centurion Hotel were treated to some magnificent billiards from Chris
Shutt and Roxton Chapman. As in his previous match Shutt started
well, a quick-fire 140 coming at his second visit, then preparing with a
46, he put together a magnificent 301, failing just one point short of the
tournament high break. Continuing in much the same vein, he finished
the first 90 minutes leading 800-212 with an average of 66.7 In the
second session, Chapman also decided to show what he could do, but
although he put together breaks of 202 and 137, he could still make no
impression on Shutt who continued with a sequence of 128 (full) 160,
120, 94 and 50 to round off the match 1,342-760.
Geet Sethi, who is increasingly concentrating on his business interests,
did not have the ideal preparation for this event when he was caught in
the devastating Indian earthquakes just a few weeks previously, and
the subsequent transition to the deep snows of a Midsomer Norton
winter could not have been particularly helpful either. Mike Russell
started their match in an almost identical fashion to the other semi-final,
racing into an early lead with breaks of 42 and 149. By the interval,
Sethi had made no real impression on the World Champion and was
barely in touch at 566-276. Needing a good start to the second session,
Sethi found himself instead watching another master-class by Russell
who opened with a 94 and then added 255, 96 and 108 in quick
succession. Sethi could find no answer to this scoring power and Russell
finished an easy winner at 1,395-501.
301, 164, 113, 108, 104, 98, 85, 84, 83, 74, 72, 69, 64, 63, 55, 51
133, 97, 90, 59, 55, 53
Chris Shutt does not have a very good record in finals against Mike
Russell, although to be fair, not many people have! This was Shutt’s
seventh attempt, and although the previous six had been unsuccessful
it began to look as though he really had a chance to reverse this trend as
he held on to Russell for over an hour of the first session. At this point,
Russell, who was leading by a relatively narrow 42 points, came to the
table and added 301, 113 and 85 in consecutive visits. Finishing the
session with additional breaks of 51 and 64 he looked to have things
well under control at 930-356. Shutt posted his intentions to stage a
come-back by taking his unfinished break of 41 to 97 after the restart,
but when Russell immediately replied with 108 his resistance fell away.
A brief rally which produced a run of 133 was countered by another
burst of four visits by Russell which were worth 74, 83, 164 and 104.
The final score of 1842-911 emphasises Russell’s current superiority
over his rivals at the time-limit format, and with the next World
Professional Championship being played over rounds of between two
and four hours duration, it is difficult to see who will put up a serious
challenge for his title.
The result ended Russell’s drought this season which had seen him earn
just £350 from the two previous WBA sponsored (50-up) tournaments.
The £7,500 cheque for winner and tournament high break, restoring the
customary order of things. Chris Shutt, whose 301 missed the high-
break prize by just one point, nevertheless collected £4,500 for his four
days work, confirming his position as the most likely of the chasing
pack to one day overtake Russell as the premier player.