Another weekend another spectacular success for the IPA Tour, this time Birmingham were the centrepiece and I have to say the Hilton certainly did us proud.
16 tables were in action from 9.00am onwards, so keeping an eye on all the action took some doing (glad it wasn’t in my remit), but to be fair, the score cards came in thick and fast and the results were automatically updated on various social websites, so something for everyone.
Being a player who understands the game but has never played at this kind of level, I have to say I was very impressed with the number of eight ball clearances and the lack of nerves shown by players of all ages, amateurs and professionals alike – all of which reminded me why I only play for a pub team – but that’s another story.
Trying to write a clear unbiased review of the whole weekend was frankly an impossibility with so many games and so many faces of all ages, colours and creeds, and I ended up watching as much as I could live and the internet stream on the laptop at the same time, which simply made my head spin, so common sense suggested that I paid more attention to specific games – so sorry to those I missed, and to all the great shots I failed to see (and the lucky ones)!
Not knowing all the players, I kept a look out for the juicy draws, and Morray Dolan v Carl Morris looked like a fun one with the vice chairman playing the ex secretary in a sort of IPA committee play off, – I always find it interesting to see how friends cope against each other in an important tournament? For once in my life I got something right as this turned out to be a crackerjack of a match, the perfect mix of tactics and pure potting, though the shaking of heads by both players on a regular basis and the odd wry smile suggested not everything went exactly according to plan! In summary (ball by ball becomes a tad repetitive), Carl had the upper hand in the early stages leading 1-0, 2-1, 3-1 and even 4-2 but a fine fight back by Ifield lad Morray saw him roll through five of the next six frames for a 5-7 victory, and a place in the last 32 (*though that’s as far as he got). Looking across as that match ended I realised that I had just seen a former World Champion knocked out in Carl Morris, while on the table next to him was another World Champ going out in the shape of Jason Twist, and a further table away was Giuseppe D’Imperio, the recently crowned British Open and Amateur Champion – was I watching the wave goodbye of the old guard, and the continued crowning of the next generation? By now, I was beginning to soak up the atmosphere and as players left, either lucky, unlucky, or in disgust, the draw began to take shape and we could finally see the wood for the trees, though trying to work out the likely winner seemed fairly pointless when I couldn’t get a bet on (come on all you bookmakers, why can’t we have a punt?).
After a brief sabbatical (sandwich), I returned to find all that glitters is not gold and Giuseppe was no longer involved having lost 7-3 to John Roe but believe you me, there was still plenty of talent on show worth watching. The cream were slowly beginning to rise to the top and this was a good chance to see how the “newbies” would cope as the pressure started to mount, as opposed to some of the more “seasoned” tour players? Unlike other sports I have attended I have to say referees were only called to decide on difficult decisions, with sportsmanship the order of the day (it’s not only golf, you see), and even a short power cut on some tables caused little more than a grin and a pause before the matches quickly resumed – pool players seem to be hardy folks?
If I was paid by the word I would list you all 96 original open entrants and their results but sadly that is not the case, so I waited for the quarter finals before really knuckling down to the nitty gritty.
8.10pm or so saw the call for the first quarter final when Phil Harrison v Adam Davis, Jordan Shepherd v Simon Ward, Rob Chilton v Gareth Potts, and Rob Wharne v Jimmy Croxton stepped up to the plate, all looking pretty evenly matched contests at the off, but then who knows where the pool gods will be smiling on the day? With four tables to watch (one in the separate live streaming room), table-hopping should have been the order of the day but I settled for Phil and Adam and what on paper looked like a cracker. I missed the first couple of frames to be fair, after which it was Mr Davis all the way as poor Phil could hardly put a foot right with dry breaks and the odd self inflicted snooker from what looked like winning positions – just not his day I am sorry to say, but as always he just smiled it off and will be back to fight another day.
Jordan Shepherd saw off Simon Ward by 7 frames to three to face Rob Wharne in the second semi, but to be fair the Adam Davis Gareth Potts semi was the one that really caught the imagination in what some saw as the match most likely to produce the 2012 champion. For those unable to attend it was live streamed, but I wanted to soak up the atmosphere so off I went to “ringside” for a better view of the action – and for once I am glad I did. It was, in my naïve view, an absolute classic with some shots that clearly came from a text book I have never read as well as some standard pool genius and even a long running refereeing question. Gareth had (if my drink addled memory remembers correctly?), played a yellow to a pocket and there was a question as to whether it had stopped before dropping – or not? Thanks to the wonders of technology (live streaming), the I.T. wizards were able to rewind and freeze frame as needed in front of a qualified referee which led to a (politely disputed) call and a replaced yellow (which then dropped again lol), though to be fair, Gareth did go on to win the frame. Whether or not that affected his focus only he can answer, but the facts will show Adam Davis went on to win 7-5 and go in to the final where he met Jordan Shepherd who won his semi 8-7 in what must have been a good match – but even I can’t be in two places at once.
At 11.38pm or so (?) the finalists were called and as I had been in the other room typing, I had to barge my way through to try and get a decent view – crowds at a pool match, whatever next? A final is a final and nerves seemed sure to play their part, and so it seemed to this tired scribe as Adam Davis raced in to a 3-0 lead, which pretty much set the tone. The opening frames seemed almost repetitive as Jordan raced in to lead before grinding to a halt, leaving clearances for his opponent and putting himself on the back foot from early doors. No one can accuse him of being a quitter though as he fought back to 3-2 looking as if he could turn it all around, but it just wasn’t to be as 3-2 became 7-2 and the inevitable 8-3 in the best of 15 final. Adam looked more relieved than anything at the post match press conference, admitting that his own lack of form since last year had left him needing a bit of a kick start, but he was being too modest in my opinion and has been playing well all tournament A deserved winner on the day, he walked away with a cheque for £3000 and a trophy for the mantelpiece (do people still have mantelpieces?), though take nothing away from the runner up or all the other players (those mentioned and those I missed) who made this a tournament par excellence –and something to try and live up to next time around!