English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Amateur Billiard Player : Summer 2002

The Amateur Billiard Player : Summer 2002

WORLD PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

The Centurion Hotel, Midsomer Norton, Radstock (18th – 24th May 2002)

The Players

Australia
Robby Foldvari
Belgium
Martin Spoormans
England
Paul Bennett
David Causier
Brian Dix
Clive Everton
Peter Gilchrist
Mark Hirst
Lee Lagan
Dave Nichols
Gary Rogers
Mike Russell
Peter Sheehan
Chris Shutt
Ian Williamson
India
Pankaj Advani
Arun Agrawal
Devendra Joshi
Manoj Kothari
Alok Kumar
Shushrut Pandya
Nalin Patel
Geet Sethi
Ashok Shandilya
Dhruv Sitwala
Thailand
Rom Surin

Mike Russell re-established himself as the undisputed head of his
profession when he defeated Peter Gilchrist in the final of the
World Professional Championship on Friday 24th May to take the
title for the fifth time. Gilchrist had put a temporary stop to Russell’s
reign last year, but on this occasion had no answer to the scoring power
of the World No.1, who throughout the competition, looked to be a
class above his rivals.

One entry who failed to put in an appearance was the talented World
No.7 Roxton Chapman. Players arrived at the Midsomer Norton venue
to receive the sensational news that he would no longer be competing
as a professional having joined the Royal Air Force!

In the absence of Chapman there were still twenty-six players who
took part in this championship, including several new members, showing
an encouraging demand for professional status. These should have
included the Australian Billiards Champion, Matthew Bolton, who
had confirmed his membership of the WBA but did not enter, claiming
to have been given insufficient notice to make the necessary travel
arrangements. Hopefully Matthew will display his talents on the
professional circuit next season.

The event had been hastily switched to the West Country town after
fears that the original venue in India could have been unsafe due to the
continuing unrest in that country. Although it finished as a stylish
showcase for top-class billiards, the championship started with
controversy and an element of farce.

The farce centred around Lee Lagan, entering his first tournament as a
professional, who had sent in his Application Form and entry fee at
the beginning of April. To check that all was well, he telephoned the
WPBSA administration at Bristol a few days later and it was confirmed
that it had been safely received. However, on 11th April, the day
before the deadline for entries, Lagan had a call from Tournament Director
Alan Chamberlain who asked whether he intended to take part as he
had not received his details. More phone calls to Bristol revealed that
the application, previously acknowledged as received, had mysteriously
“gone missing”.

With the Bristol office adamant that they must receive another
application by the stipulated deadline Lagan was now faced with a
major problem. Usually relying on the traditional postal system for
communication, he had to arrange for a duplicate entry form to be sent
to him by Email via David Causier. However, he was unable to print
the attached document and they had to journey across Middlesbrough
to use the facilities of John
Hartley. This done, the
form was again completed
and faxed back to Bristol,
who still refused to accept
the entry unless it was
accompanied by payment
of the appropriate £75 fee.
As Lagan does not hold a
Credit Card, and with the
5.00pm deadline looming, it
was now necessary to find
someone who would pay
the fee for him by this
method. Having tracked
down a helpful friend who
was prepared to do this, he
again rang Bristol to give
them the details, only to be
told they had found his
original application, and
cheque! World No.1 Mike
Russell had a word of advice
for the rookie professional. “I always send my mail to Bristol by
registered post” he said, showing the value of his long experience in
dealing with the Governing body.

The controversy arose principally because of the last minute change of
venue for the Championship. Rom Surin, who had been advertised in
the draw as competing in the Indian qualifiers was now included in the
English group. Additionally, while the main body of the qualifiers took
place in Harrogate in April, Surin’s match against Paul Bennett was
scheduled for the day before the main competition at Midsomer Norton
on Friday 17th May. It was stated that this was done to save Surin
addition travel expenses, should he qualify. Although it was noticed
that the same courtesy was not extended to Martin Spoormans who
was obliged to travel to the Harrogate qualifiers from his home in
Belgium and would have been required to make a second trip had he
won through this group.

These arrangements may have suited Surin, but Bennett, who had
already booked absence from work on the originally advertised dates,
was less than pleased with the change. Not only would he be required
to make the long journey from Teesside, but it was pointed out that
should he win the match, his next game was schedule to take place after
the week-end. This meant either an expensive stop-over, or a repeat
journey two days later. The dispute was eventually resolved by
arranging Bennett’s match for the Monday, so that the winner would
play their next match on the same day.

English Qualifying Group (Harrogate)

The majority of the English qualifying group was decided at the
Manhattan Club, Harrogate, over 23rd-24th April. Lee Lagan made his
debut against Bradford’s Mark Hirst who more than matched the
Teesside player over the first hour of their match, establishing a lead of
232-205 during this period. However, from this stage Lagan dominated.
A break of 287, which opened a sizeable lead, could have been more
except for the artificial hazard of the baulk-line crossing. His third
attempt at this manoeuvre left his cue ball in the baulk area with the
balls otherwise perfectly positioned for continuation. Even so, this
break was the highest of the qualifying group and helped him to a two
hour total of 848 and an average of 33.9. Both of these statistics also
being by far the best performances seen at Harrogate.

Lagan then needed to defeat Clive Everton to book his place in the draw
at Midsomer Norton. Everton, who was taking leave from his BBC
commentary duties at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield,
put up one of his better performances in recent years, starting with a
nice 77 break he held a 111-103 advantage after 30 minutes. Lagan was
still struggling with the baulk-line crossing as runs of 91 and 95 both
ended when his cue ball found the baulk pocket. However, these were
enough to ease him into a comfortable lead, and although not at his best,
a late run of 111 clinched an ultimately easy win.

Dave Nichols was the other debutante at Harrogate, but had less success
than Lagan. Having had the misfortune to lose the tip of his cue a few
hours before his opening match against Gary Rogers, Nichols was
compelled to play with one which was newly fitted. This may have
contributed to an undistinguished game which soon became slow and
defensive. However, he demonstrated that he was not totally devoid of
luck by scoring a fluke with his very first shot as a professional! The
match eventually went Nichols’ way 379-268, but although again
starting with a fluke against Peter Sheehan in the next round, he found
this opponent be a much tougher prospect. Even so, a much better
performance and a break of 85 helped him to a good position, holding
a 509-449 advantage with just 25 minutes remaining. However, at this
stage, it was Sheehan to took the initiative and Nichols was unable to
keep up with the seasoned Widnes professional, now in his fifth year
on the circuit, who secured a narrow 30 points win.

Ian Williamson was the third qualifier to take his place in the main draw
with a win over Martin Spoormans, who had previously recorded a
narrow victory over Brian Dix.

Preliminary Round
(2 hrs)
Lee Lagan
287, 111, 71, 64, 67unf
848 (33.9)Mark Hirst
335 (12.9)
Martin Spoormans
62
428 (7.4)Brian Dix
424 (7.3)
Dave Nichols
102, 64
379 (7.2)Gary Rogers
54
268 (5.1)
Qualifying Round
(2 hrs)
Lee Lagan
111, 95, 91
529 (18.8)Clive Everton
80, 77, 64
421 (15.0)
Ian Williamson
57
413 (10.6)Martin Spoormans
298 (7.5)
Peter Sheehan
102, 88, 84, 60
546 (16.1)Dave Nichols
85, 63, 57, 56, 51
516 (15.6)

Indian Qualifying Group (Mumbai)

The Indian qualifying stage took place at the Gymkhana Club in Mumbai
over 22nd-23rd April. In his debut match as a professional, sixteenyear-
old Pankaj Advani, who is perhaps India’s brightest prospect,
could have hoped for an easier draw than National Champion, Ashok
Shandilya. Still not quite in the same class as Shandilya, he lost this
encounter 645-551, but having progressed to the professional ranks
after just six years of playing the game, he is surely destined for greater
things.

Another young and improving player, Dhruv Sitwala, booked his place
with a comfortable win over Arun Agrawal, while Devendra Joshi ran
up the highest two-hour aggregate in a 858-394 result against Alok
Kumar.

Manoj Kothari, whose constant experiments with technique and stance
have seen his game deteriorate substantially over recent years, managed
to scrape a narrow 30 point win over unknown rookie Shushrut Pandya
and take the last qualifying place from the Indian group.

Qualifying Round
(2 hrs)
Ashok Shandilya
197, 90, 69, 63, 62
645 (19.6)Pankaj Advani
112, 79, 67, 62, 52
551 (17.2)
Devendra Joshi
159, 93, 87, 80, 79, 62, 61, 58
858 (28.1)Alok Kumar
100, 51
394 (13.6)
Dhruv Sitwala
109, 98, 62, 57, 52, 50
647 (20.9)Arun Agrawal
287 (9.5)
Manoj Kothari
459 (6.5)Shushrut Pandya
429 (6.0)

Main Competition

Midsomer Norton

Preliminary Round
(2 hrs)

The match to find the eighth and final qualifier was the re-arranged
fixture between Paul Bennett and Rom Surin which took place on
Monday 20th May at the Midsomer Norton venue. This pair had met
in the final of the 1999 IBSF Championship in Ireland just prior to
them both embarking on their professional careers. On that occasion
Surin, competing under his alternative identity of Praprut
Chaithanasakun, put up a brilliant display to outclass Bennett with a
top break of 471 and an eight-hour match average of 40. Although he
has never achieved this standard as a professional, nobody expected
that he could perform so badly as he did in this match, failing to register
a single break over 50, as Bennett swept to an easy win. Surin was
obliged to return to Thailand without a penny in prize-money while
Bennett guaranteed himself a minimum of £1,000.

Paul Bennett
85, 63, 58, 56
681 (25.2)Rom Surin
188 (6.7)
First Round
(4 hrs)

The main competition had actually begun two days prior to the
qualifying match, proceedings starting at the uncommonly early hour
of 9.15am with the defending Champion Peter Gilchrist taking on Lee
Lagan. With both players struggling to produce any significant scores,
Lagan, who made the best of the early exchanges, had opened up a 40
point lead when Gilchrist suddenly awoke with consecutive
contributions of 221 and 97. This helped him to an advantage of 681-
473 at the interval. Although Lagan picked up his game in the afternoon
session, Gilchrist still scored the more heavily of the two, and although
neither produced a century during this period, Gilchrist won
comfortably enough at 1298-770.

Nalin Patel had a subdued start against Ian Williamson, but in a match
dominated by safety exchanges, established an interval lead of 389-
238. Bearing in mind the pedestrian pace at which the match was
played, this was a more significant advantage than it may otherwise
have seemed, and Patel duly hung on to his advantage to win 762-638.
This win ensured that Patel retained his position in the top eight of the
rankings for his fifth successive year.

Just as the Patel/Williamson match produced only yawns from those
spectators brave enough to endure it, the contest between Peter Sheehan
and Chris Shutt gave the starkest contrast in excitement and drama.
Sheehan took an early lead and for some time looked as though,
unbelievably, he would cruise to an easy victory, holding a lead of 461-
155 after 90 minutes of the first session. However, Shutt came back in
the last 30 minutes and with consecutive runs of 62, 80 and 193 finished
the first two-hours barely a hundred points in arrears. The match
resumed the following morning, with Shutt continuing his charge, breaks
of 70, 120, 91 and 78 taking him to the front 917-758. To his credit,
Sheehan responded in great style to a come-back which would have
disheartened a lesser player. Helped by breaks of 84, 62 and 76, he
regained the lead at 1113-1016 and then closed down the game. In a
tense and nervy conclusion, Sheehan’s tactical play now afforded little
opportunity for Shutt, whose best chance allowed him to compile a run
of 38 unfinished, still leaving him 17 points short of his target the end.
A disappointment for Shutt, but a worthy victory for Sheehan who
was probably overdue a success against one of the leading players.

Geet Sethi looked sharp in his match against fellow-countryman Ashok
Shandilya. In the first two-hour session he averaged 45.7 to establish a
healthy 646 point lead at the interval. With breaks of 95, 90 and 141,
Shandilya then fought back to reduce the deficit to 350, but this was as
close as he came as Sethi then settled the match with a run of 295. This
was Sethi’s highest break under the baulk-line rule for the last three
years.

Opening his account in the Championship, Mike Russell showed no
signs of rustiness as a break of 225 at his second scoring visit, gave him
immediate control in his match against the 28 year-old Indian prospect,
Dhruv Sitwala. With little coming back from his opponent, Russell
cruised to a 737-336 advantage at the end of the first session. Then,
thrilling the audience with a display of exquisite billiards he added
consecutive contributions of 134, 186, 83, 197 and 288, averaging 64.3
for the second session, and completing an easy victory.

David Causier started in similar fashion to Russell, a run of 213 coming
at his fifth visit, but thereafter he was given a much tougher examination
by Devendra Joshi who proceeded to match him break for break. But
try as he may, Joshi could never quite manage to get within a hundred
points of Causier, the Teesside player eventually finishing winner by a
133 point margin.

Paul Bennett was given a couple of hours rest between the completion
of his two-hour match against Rom Surin and the start of his four-hour
encounter against Robby Foldvari. A slow start from both players saw
them level-pegging after thirteen visits each with the referee not required
to count above 22 for either player. Then Foldvari opened a gap with a
run of 148, his highest of the match. This signalled the start of a familiar
exhibition of safety tactics from the Australian, which his opponents
find so frustrating and the spectators so tiresome. It is ironic that
Foldvari is known for his ability to play fast and attractive billiards to
at least as high a standard, should he choose to do so. However, the
tactics were successful on this occasion as Bennett could find no answer,
and despite late breaks of 187 and 51 in consecutive hands, was never
in the match and Foldvari went through comfortably 783-513.

Roxton Chapman’s unexpected absence gave a walk-over to his
scheduled opponent, Manoj Kothari, who being the weakest of the
four Indian qualifiers would surely have had little chance of reaching
the quarter-finals under any other circumstances.

Peter Gilchrist
221, 97, 82, 80, 79, 66, 65, 60, 58, 53
1298 (19.7)Lee Lagan
91, 61, 56, 53, 52, 51
770 (11.9)
Nalin Patel
94, 66
762 (11.7)Ian Williamson
85, 84, 82, 67
638 (10.0)
Peter Sheehan
93, 84, 81, 76, 66, 62, 59
1163 (15.5)Chris Shutt
193, 120, 91, 80, 78, 70, 69, 62
1146 (15.5)
Geet Sethi
295, 119, 106, 105, 87, 85, 82, 78, 75, 66, 51
1475 (37.8)Ashok Shandilya
141, 141, 95, 95, 90, 74
939 (24.1)
Mike Russell
288, 225, 197, 186, 149, 134, 91, 89, 83, 83, 79
1702 (46.0)Dhruv Sitwala
103, 98, 94, 82, 75
695 (18.3)
David Causier
213, 115, 109, 93, 89, 61, 60, 59
1291 (23.9)Devendra Joshi
150, 117, 115, 99, 95, 94, 93, 75
1166 (21.6)
Robby Foldvari
148, 97, 77, 58, 50
783 (14.2)Paul Bennett
187, 51
513 (9.3)
Manoj Kothari
w/o  Roxton Chapman
scr  
Quarter-finals
(4 hrs)

The quarter-finals were played over two days with the first session of
each match commencing on Tuesday 21st May.

Peter Gilchrist soon pulled clear of Nalin Patel who struggled to put
together a break in double figures over the first two hours of their
match. The following day Patel played a great deal better, an improvement
which may have been related with the table having been stripped down
and recovered overnight following a complaint regarding its level. He
averaged 39.3 for the second session, but Gilchrist also stepped up
several gears, averaging 55.8 over the same period, making a top break
of 205 supported by three more centuries. The result was an easy win
for the defending Champion by almost half the game.

Peter Sheehan was never in front against Geet Sethi who highlighted an
otherwise lack-lustre first session with a break of 171. Looking to be
well in control Sethi was then given some anxious moments as Sheehan
charged back with contributions of 140, 107 and 148. Adding a run of
87 midway through the second session he was now only 33 points
adrift. But after this surge of scoring, neither player was able to strike
a decisive blow and the match ended with Sethi having restored his
advantage to 180 points.

There was an intriguing clash of styles when David Causier, perhaps
the fastest and most unorthodox player on the circuit, met Robby
Foldvari, one of the slowest and most deliberate. Although they could
only manage one century break each on the opening day, it was Causier
who went into the second session with an advantage of 231 points.
The Australian made the start he needed when a run of 96 recovered
some of the deficit early after the resumption. However, Causier did
enough by punctuating the long periods of tactical play with two
centuries, and although Foldvari added a run of 151 he did little else,
Causier progressing to the semi-finals.

Manoj Kothari found Mike Russell far too much of a handful. Sporting
a new cue, the result of yet further experimentation to rediscover his
lost form, the 1990 World Amateur Champion struggled to put together
a break in double figures. In fact, other than a break of 46 early in the
second session, his highest single contribution in four hours was just
27. Meanwhile the World No.1 was running in a series of big breaks. A
285, 162, 149 and 100 came in the first session (average 45.2) and then
opening the second session at a blistering pace, three more centuries
helped him to add over 600 points to his score in the first hour. The
result was a foregone conclusion long before the end which saw Russell
progress to a meeting with David Causier in the semi-finals, and Kothari
return to India with a £2,000 reward for his brief contribution to the
Championship.

Peter Gilchrist
205, 118, 117, 110, 102, 100, 95, 90, 70, 64
1403 (30.5)Nalin Patel
112, 78, 75, 65, 56, 50
768 (16.7)
Geet Sethi
171, 152, 73, 57
1091 (19.8)Peter Sheehan
148, 140, 107, 87
911 (16.6)
David Causier
114, 107, 103, 96, 62, 60, 52
1024 (18.6)Robby Foldvari
151, 124, 96, 56
656 (11.9)
Mike Russell
285, 162, 151, 149, 106, 102, 100, 98, 97, 92, 79, 64, 63, 59, 56, 52
2167 (34.4)Manoj Kothari
402 (6.3)
Semi-finals
(5 hrs)

The semi-finals were extended to five hours, both being played over
two 2½ hour sessions on 23rd May. Peter Gilchrist wasted no time in
seizing the initiative as he compiled 104 from Geet Sethi’s break-off
shot. Adding a run of 217 three visits later, and 135 soon after that, he
powered into a lead of over 400 points. Sethi never recovered from this
disastrous start and could do no more than try and hang on as Gilchrist
forged further ahead reaching the interval with an advantage of almost
700 points. Sethi’s first century (139) came at the start of the second
session and although he managed two more by the end of the match
(163 & 108), it was far too little as Gilchrist extended his lead with
consistently heavy scoring to simply outclass his illustrious opponent,
recording an excellent match average of 45.3

Mike Russell gave the spectators a little time to settle in their seats
before starting the show, scoring just 27 points in his first ten visits
(having failed to trouble the Marker at all with his first seven). He then
unleashed a truly magnificent effort of 581, easily the highest break of
the competition. Causier, who had been left unchallenged to carve out
a lead of 137 points before this, suddenly found himself in a match.
Russell soon followed his great break with consecutive efforts of 133
and 201, completing the first session with 287 and 55 unfinished to
average 65.1. Causier had no answer to this onslaught, and now trailing
by nearly a thousand points at 1301-349, was facing a second session
almost superfluous other than for exhibition purposes. This was duly
delivered as Russell took his unfinished break to 210 adding no less
than three more double centuries during this final period. Causier
contributed to the entertainment with breaks of 162 and 224, but was
never in with a hope of recovery.

Peter Gilchrist
217, 194, 135, 133, 113, 110, 104, 98, 68, 90, 87, 74, 60, 53
1767 (45.3)Geet Sethi
163, 139, 108, 98, 65
851 (21.3)
Mike Russell
581, 287, 275, 244, 216, 210, 201, 133, 121
2456 (59.9)David Causier
224, 162, 89, 89, 88, 83, 58
1094 (26.7)
Final
(6 hrs)

There was no doubt that the players who met in the final had been
clearly the two most outstanding during the course of the Championship
and a keen contest was anticipated. Three two-hour sessions were
arranged for the day, the first starting at 10.00am and the last concluding
at 9.00pm. Unlike his slow start against Causier, Mike Russell was
immediately out of the blocks with contributions of 114, 189 and 223
in his first four scoring visits. The latter break, unusually for Russell,
being played all round the table and occupying 32 minutes. All this left
Gilchrist trailing by over 400 points and although he did his best to
limit the scoring opportunities thereafter, he would never be closer
than this to his Teesside friend and rival. Russell, who had been slowly
increasing his advantage, struck again when he ended the second session
on 376 unfinished. Taking this to 421 on the resumption, he had extended
his lead to over a thousand points, effectively settling the match. If the
contest was over, the entertainment wasn’t, as the capacity audience
were treated to a final session which was full of big breaks. A double
century (224) from Gilchrist, and runs of 98, 198 and 106, were
countered by 196, 86, 81 and 85 from Russell. Gilchrist, who had been
playing the final session only for pride in performance averaged 46.9
for the last two hours, but the honours went to Mike Russell for the
fifth time in his career.

Mike Russell
421, 223, 196, 189, 168, 114, 104, 88, 86, 85, 81, 55, 54
2251 (38.8)Peter Gilchrist
224, 198, 106, 98, 96, 89, 87, 81, 58
1273 (21.9)

In the last hundred years, only Rex Williams (7) and Tom Newman (6)
have won more contests for the Professional Championship. At the
moment it looks to be short odds that Russell, with his unrivalled
mastery of the floating white technique, will exceed even these
performances before the end of his career. Russell received £13,500
from the total prize fund of £45,000 which included £1,000 for his high
break of 581. Gilchrist collected £7,500 as runner-up.


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