India’s most successful cueist Pankaj Advani on Saturday added another feather in his cap by winning the IBSF World Snooker Championship after battling past his Chinese opponent Zhua Xintong in the final to take his world title count to 15.
Advani, 30, once again mesmerised the green baize to prevail over the teenage sensation 8-6 in the best-of-15 final at Sunrise Crystal Bay resort in Hurghada. The victory for Bengaluru’s ‘Golden Boy’ comes just after he clinched the IBSF Billiards crown in September. He is also the first person in history to take the short (6-Red) and the long snooker format in the same calender year.
Advani held his nerve to make it 7-4, but the youngster wasn’t done yet. Xintong went ballistic in the next two frames to make the multiple world champion eat humble pie and a match was on at 7-6. Xintong drew first blood in the 14th frame, but Advani dug deep into his reservoir of experience to finish the tournament in style with a century break of 109.
This was Advani’s first 15-Red Snooker title since 2003 when he won the crown in China. Though Egypt proved lucky for the champion, who had won his first 6-Red world title here last year. Earlier, Advani had started the match by capturing the first two frames with breaks of 106 and 56 in the first and the second respectively against the 18-year-old Chinese cueist.
Xintong took the third with a break of 53 and looked in total control of the fourth when he got trapped by a deadly snooker behind the brown ball. Unable to convert the snooker, Xintong gave Advani a half chance at the top end which was immediately punished with a spectacular opening red stun pot along the top cushion. Advani thereafter took a 3-1 lead.
A deadly safety play by Advani once again put Xintong glued to his seat as India’s posterboy of cue sport kept trapping the teenager inside the baulk line to get openings and went ahead by 4-1. Xintong, who was seen to be at the receiving end for the first time in the championship, was not as smooth and controlled as he had been all through to the tournament and unexpectedly landed a couple of times in awkward positions while on a break.
However, the talent was visible as every time he came out of the situations unfolding his vast repertoire of strokes to win the sixth frame with a finely crafted break of 72 points and brought down the deficit to 2-4.
In the seventh frame, Advani, well aware of the wide range of potting and break building capability of his opponent, never got tempted and applied his extraordinary cushion skills to every time come inside the baulk line and keep Xingtong at bay.
At this juncture one could see Xingtong’s restlessness as he ultimately succumbed to the game plan of Advani. Calm, composed and sharp as always, Advani made full use of the opportunity and crafted a well-controlled break of 74 points to race ahead to a 5-2 lead at the interval. But real drama unfolded after the break as Advani’s pocketed a frame to stretch the lead to 6-2 but Xingtong suddenly unleashed his talent to pull back two frames.
Xintong continued to turn things around after Advani won a frame and the Chinese cueist got two — the score reading 7-6. Advani finally showed whose the ‘King’ as he came up with a break of 109 to finally pocket the frame and a victory well deserved.