The 2011 GB9 Midlands Classic

The 2011 GB9 Midlands Classic
11-13 March 2011 from Barceló Daventry Hotel

Phil Burford, Jayson Shaw and Damian Massey were the title winners at the first GB9 event of 2011 at the Barceló Hotel in Daventry.

Phil Burford

Phil Burford

Most players will agree that the 93 days since Chris Melling sank the final 9-ball in Blackpool back in November 2010 have flown by, and it was plain to see that the off-season brought with it a certain anticipation for the best American pool players in Great Britain to hit the ground running on the tour’s return to Northamptonshire. Countless new faces entered the cauldron of pool knowing they were taking their place in what many people, players and spectators alike, are quoting as the best national pool tour on the planet.


WIZARD PULLS TRIGGER ON SHOTGUN

Drama was to be expected from the word ‘go’ and early results certainly didn’t disappoint. Paul Williams and Jonathan Mathers both came through 9-8 against Adam Shaw and Paul Stoves respectively, with Craig Osborne scraping past newly promoted Ben Finch 9-7. Certainly the upset of the competition, perhaps indeed the weekend, was Shane Appleton; in his first match since winning last season’s Challenge division, he eliminated British number 1 Mark Gray 9-5. The hunter at that point became the hunted with David Nelson then blitzing Appleton 9-1. He too was then defeated by Phil Burford, with Burford joined in the quarter-finals by Daryl Peach, Craig Osborne and Jayson Shaw. The Shotgun from Ipswich appeared more comfortable and took a methodical approach in dispatching the 2007 World Champion from the tournament, with both only managing 3 break-and-runs between them in the match. ‘The Wizard’ was much more ruthless in his semi-final, hardly giving Burford a chance to breathe in taking a 6-0 lead, including 2 break and dishes of his own. Burford could only split the next six racks with Shaw, rallying with a dish of his own in rack 11 before Shaw saw out the match in the 12th rack to complete a resounding 9-3 victory in less than 42 minutes.

Both Osborne and Shaw appeared to bring the same attitudes with them to the final table; Osborne was calm, prepared and literally dancing his way to the table, whereas Shaw was somewhat more focused and primed for battle. It was the latter, and ruthless, attitude which prevailed, with the Glaswegian storming to a 9-2 victory to give him his first GB9 title since August 2008. “It feels great to win the first event of the season”, said Shaw. “I have been practicing every day for a month now as I have a new club with my own table in it. I want to thank the Q Club (in Glasgow) and all the GB9 staff for a great tour”.

“OMENOUS” MASSEY SECURES CHALLENGE CUP

With such an influx of new players on the 2011 tour, the first Challenge Cup event of the season could have been one of the most open competitions in GB9’s three year history. In the end, however, two of the tour’s stalwarts in ‘The Omen’ Damian Massey and Andrew Morris came through to contest the final. The early rounds still drew out names to watch out for in future competitions; congratulations must go to the likes of Sam Thistlewhite, Shaun Chipperfield, Shane Davies, Neil Craycraft, Gabor Szalay, James Topliff and Phil Wildman, who all reached the last 32 at their very first attempt. Standout new player of the competition was Welshman Kristian Phillips; starting his campaign at 5pm on Friday evening, managing to beat James Shade, Mark Shepherd, Mark Morris, Jason Howard, Gabor Szalay and Kevin Simpson before finally falling in the semi-finals to Andrew Morris 9 racks to 5. Massey’s 2011 campaign also started at 5pm, seeing off Darren Murray, Danny Orme, Chun Hao Man, Dean Reeve, Adam Stevens, Richard Main and finally Glen Cooney to secure his berth in the final to face Morris almost exactly 24 hours later.

Playing some clinical pool in the final itself, Massey took a 7-0 lead before a then dejected Morris rallied with four back to back racks of his own, showing he wasn’t giving in just yet. A tricky 9-ball halted Morris’ run and Massey took an 8-4 lead. The Bournemouth man then held his nerves to see out the 13th rack as he secured the 14 Challenge ranking points, the £800 winner’s prize and, most important of all, his second GB9 title. An ecstatic Massey said “I’m delighted to win my second Challenge event on GB9. I seemed to hit form in the quarter finals and from then I was confident of the win; to be honest I’ve never been more focused than I was in the final.” Massey also had kind words for GB9 player/referee Martyn Royce. “He was superb – very professional, spoke clearly and with authority, and I hope he continues to referee more games in the future.”

LOCOMOTIVE STORMS THROUGH THE FIELD

The main event resulted in one of the latest finishes and gutsiest tournament finishes seen since GB9’s inception. Ipswich’s Craig Osborne saw himself in his second final of the weekend, but this time facing fellow Pro Cup semi finalist Phil Burford. Both entering at the last 64 stage, Osborne saw off Jonathan Mathers 9-5 and Louis Callaghan 9-6, before recording 9-7 victories against Damian Overton in the last 16, Kevin Uzzell in the quarter-final and Daryl Peach in the semi-final. ‘The Locomotive’ Burford, in contrast, seemed to breeze his way through to the final, conceding only 14 racks in five matches before his clash with Osborne. He defeated both Paul Wensley and Challenge Cup finalist Andrew Morris by 9 racks to 2 to reach the last 16, and then dispatched Luke Rollinson 9-3, Mark Gray 9-1, and Imran Majid 9-4 to set up the County Durham v Suffolk finale.

The pair took no risks in splitting the first six racks for a score line of 3-3, which include Burford’s first two of three break and runs in racks 2 and 4. Osborne was on course to record a break and run of his own in the 7th, but missed a cannon on the 6-ball, following up with a clumsy safety shot which allowed Buford to take the back four balls and lead for the first time at 4-3. He extended that to 5-3 with the third break dish of the match, including some remarkable cueing over the 9-ball in potting a tricky 5-ball.

Just when Osborne could have done with a turn in fortunes, he lost rack 9 after a very unfortunate in-off playing the 2-ball, with Burford clearing the remainder of the table to take a three rack lead for the first time. In rack 10 Burford broke dry for the first time resulting in Osborne again reducing his deficit to two. This was quickly reduced to one rack in the 11th, before another safety battle resulted in Osborne once again to bring he score line level once again leaving people wondering if the match was going all the way. Burford poached the 13th rack before also taking a perhaps undeserved 14th after Osborne potted a magnificent 3-ball before going in-off, leaving Burford to see out the rack. Osborne cut the deficit back to one again after a clever safety shot on the 4-ball. Burford scratched off of the 16th break, and within 90 seconds the match had become a best-of-5 match for the £1300 first prize.

Mistakes then started to appear in both players’ games. Osborne’s clumsy shot on the 6-ball in rack 17 allowed Burford to sneak into the lead once again, and an equally clumsy push out appeared to pave the way for Burford to move into a two rack lead once again there and then, but in the 18th rack Burford missed a tired shot himself on the 4 before Osborne did almost exactly the same on the 5, ultimately moving Burford into a 10-8 lead and one away from the title.

Osborne asserted control over the 19th rack, kept hold of it and reducing the deficit to 10-9. Nerves were tested to the limit in the penultimate rack with an epic 10-minute safety battle on the 3-ball which was finally won by Osborne, who went on to win the rack and send the first main event of the season all the way to the wire. Osborne was perhaps unlucky to break dry in the final rack of the match, but youth came through at exactly the right time. Burford, as he had done both throughout the match and the whole tournament, showed experience far beyond his 20 short years to take his first ever main GB9 title and become the youngest ever winner of a GB9 main event. “I would like to thank Stan Shuffet for teaching me Pro One/CTE. I use this system full time now and after living in America for five months last year, I believe my game has jumped up at least a ball!” claimed an understandably delighted Burford. “The level of player certainly got harder each round. I’m moving to America in about 4 months and will be playing full time out there”.

Despite the goliath nature the match ended up taking, credit should be given in heaps to both Burford and Osborne for a truly memorable match. Seldom has a single match shown such spirit by both players, not least with the match finishing at just shy of midnight, and many will feel there was no better advert for both the tour and the sport of 9-ball in general than seeing two fine players giving their all. Needless to say, the same passion will return back to Daventry on 17 June when the finest American pool cueists in the country come back for their second shot at glory in the 3rd GB9 Paul Medati Trophy.

In 2011 GB9 is proudly sponsored by Barceló Hotels, SAM Leisure, Simonis Cloth, Aramith Billiard Balls and CueClubInternational.com making the perfect combination of the very best equipment in the most outstanding venues.

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