Three Winners Crowned at GB9 British Grand Prix
Imran Majid ended a two-year wait for British silverware at the Barceló Daventry Hotel July 17 by taking down man-of-the-moment Karl Boyes with a staggering 9-2 scoreline to win the GB9 Pro Cup. Looking like the calm and composed Maharaja of old, Majid’s quest for glory was never really challenged as he dropped no more than five racks against any of his opposition on the day, with wins over Dominic Clemens 9-5, So Shaw 9-1, Paul Williams 9-3, and Jayson Shaw 9-5. Majid substituted the smooth cueing for some smooth talking after his final victory and said about the achievement, “Yeah, it’s a good feeling. Obviously I’ve gone through a little bit of a dry patch—taking six to seven weeks out to get married and stupidly changing my cue stick have been the major reasons. Admittedly, it has taken me a while to get back into the swing of things, but I want to let everyone know that ‘The Maharaja’ is back from his slump and ready to kick butt. My lions and elephants are roaring again! I have to say, hats off to my wife, Alia. She is a clinical physiologist, and we’ve been working on meditation and breathing techniques, so on top of the support she gives me, the bounce back is down to her, too.”
An indicator of Majid’s return to form might well have been his performance at this month’s Austrian EPBF Eurotour event, where wins over German stars Thorsten Hohmann and Ralf Souquet took him to a ninth-place finish. The winner of that event was Majid’s opponent in the Pro Cup final, Boyes. Of the current world 8-ball champion Boyes and the GB 9 Ball Tour, Majid commented, “Karl’s had a fantastic year and is on fire currently, so to win the final 9-2 is great. The standard is getting higher all the time, and I’ve always said that sooner or later Britain will dominate. We just don’t miss as many balls as everyone else. The GB 9-Ball Tour has had a huge part to play in that. Take today for example: This venue in Daventry is easily on a par with other world events such as the Eurotour. It’s really great.”
The strength in depth of the tour is really to be found in the Challenge Cup. In a tense hill-hill decider, 23-year-old self-employed Joiner, Adam Shaw, fended off Shane Appleton to win 9-8 and become the third different winner in three events. The final rack summed up the sport of 9-ball pool: tension, safety, cueing under pressure, and inevitably, that little bit of luck. With two balls remaining, Appleton’s one-rail escape to hit the 8 ball looked for all the world to be headed into the corner pocket until agonizingly pulling short and resting over the hole for Shaw to do what he does so well and with apparent ease—not miss.
“I’ve played some good players along the way, and every game seems to have been tight and almost a bit of a struggle, coming from behind a couple of times. I’m made up,” said Shaw immediately after the final. Like the previous Challenge Cup winner, Ben Finch, Shaw came through one of the pre-season qualifying events to gain his tour spot, proof again of the growing stature of the sport in Great Britain. “I played snooker a little bit when I was about sixteen, but it was the UPC University pool that really got me into nine-ball. From there I obviously spotted the GB9 and thought, ‘When I’ve got the money, I’m there.’ I knew I was capable of taking a trophy home, but did I honestly think I would? Probably not, as the standard of play is just so high, I just hoped I would I guess. The aim now is to finish in the top eight of the Challenge and then give it a go against the big boys in the Pro.” Shaw’s path to victory saw him oust Phil Hughes 9-4, Colin Rennison 9-3, Stephen Capaldi 9-8, Andy Worthington 9-7, Neil Cummins 9-7, and Andrew Morris 9-6.
Shane Appleton’s run to a second consecutive Challenge Cup final could be seen by some as being as noteworthy, if not more so, than actually taking home the trophy. There seems no creature more competitive than an Appleton; however, “It’s hard to take the positives right now because nobody remembers the runners up,” said Appleton. “I suppose when I look back I’ll be chuffed to bits, especially considering I’ve only been playing American for eight months. I enjoyed the final—last-rack deciders are a bit of a lottery, especially when there’s a few people watching and there’s safety involved. I thought I’d fluked the eight ball after he’d snookered me—to see it sit over the pocket is a bit sick. Fair play to Adam, though.”
Karl Boyes is currently enjoying one of the few sporting phenomena that every participant in any game dreams—a winning streak. The 27-year-old from Blackpool, simply known as “Guapo,” took the spoils over “Dynamite” Darren Appleton in the final of the GB9 British Grand Prix by 11-7 at the Barceló Daventry Hotel July 18. In a month that has already seen Boyes take his first coveted EPBF Eurotour title (in the process topping the European rankings) and a year so far yielding a pair of WPA world titles, Boyes’ first ranking win on home soil this season completes a very neat national, continental, and world set.
Boyes’ victory was housed in what many of the players called “the perfect venue” when performing their now ritual pre-tournament walk-around on the Friday evening. Spacious enough to easily allow the 16 SAM Magno Pro tables, as well as the growing mass of spectators now following the GB9 action, Daventry provided one of the most professional tournaments ever held in Great Britain to date. Play commenced July 17, with the only brief for the competitors to qualify for a last 64 berth and the opportunity to cash in on the £6000 on offer the following day.
Boyes first blasted through Stuart Daff 9-3 in the round of 64 before Ipswich’s Phil Morgan 9-5. A sterner test followed in 2009 World Junior runner-up Phil Burford 9-6, a match that saw no less than eight break and run-outs, six of which were from Boyes—a healthy figure indeed considering the momentum-inhibiting alternating-break format. A convincing 9-3 victory over another in-form Briton, Mansfield’s Scott Higgins, in the quarterfinal set up a clash with Blackpool neighbor and rival for headlines, Daryl Peach. “The Dazzler” and Boyes combined will have a nation’s hopes on their shoulders in September when they will become “Team England” in Manila for the World Cup of Pool. Peach will quite rightly be billed as the senior player of the scotch pairing, but in Daventry at least, it was young master Boyes calling the shots, taking their semifinal encounter 9-4.
Darren Appleton‘s charge to the final could be considered a “B-game master class.” Appleton single-handedly created the atmosphere on the final day as he vocally battled against not only his inherent quest for perfection but also the increasingly hungry opposition in the next chair. Battling from behind to snatch victories against both James Welch 9-7 and Ben Moore 9-8, Appleton’s pedigree went on to take him past Damian Massey 9-5, 2010 BCAPL double winner Chris Melling 9-5 and in the semifinal, Tony Drago 9-6.
Other stand-out performances on the day were provided by Challenge division players Dave Nelson, who took out GB9 Paul Medati Trophy runner up James Kay 9-6 to achieve a superb fifth-place finish and Andrew Morris, a 9-5 victor over Mark Gray, a finalist at the previous four tour stops, at the last 32 stage. However it is still Gray who sits proudly at the top of the British tree with a 12-point lead over Darren Appleton.