I think it would be fair to say that despite the hundreds of hours put in by the IPA committee and other players as well as outside sources, there was a lingering hint of trepidation heading in to the first event of the 2013 tour – had they made the correct decision in switching to blackball rules, would it go down well with the players, and perhaps even more importantly, would it be popular with the thousands watching via the live stream – a bit like sitting outside in the dentist waiting room worried about what will happen next?
As it turns out (like most dental appointments), there was nothing to worry about whatsoever, and the weekend was a resounding success and step one on the path to the publicity such a popular sport (and its top players) actually deserve. Seventeen tables were set up in the one huge room at the Blackpool Hilton which made for an amazing atmosphere, and with an Amateur and an Open tournament going on, there was action wherever you looked and of the very highest standard. Household names such as Phil Harrison, Adam Davis, Gareth Potts, and Jason Twist were all in action, some trying these rules for the first time in such a prestigious competition.
With entries from around the World including a strong presence from France, Malta, and the number one player from South Africa, the entry list was more cosmopolitan than normal (which we see as a good thing), and with a strong line up of seasoned blackball players joining those from the old “World rules” IPA tour of 2012, we all looked forward to seeing who exactly would come out on top. With frame by frame scoring both on line and on twitter plus regular updates via Facebook, as well as a quality livestream, pool fans the world over tuned in (literally) to watch the action, and from the feedback received, we know they weren’t disappointed with the more attacking and open blackball style.
Walking around talking to the players (of all standards) I did not hear one murmur of complaint about the rules or indeed anything lese with compliments flying about like confetti about the venue, the tables, the rules – and especially the atmosphere which was second to none, all games referee free barring a question, and personal integrity the order of the day – forget golf or cricket, pool is the number one sport for honesty now!
Naturally the games ticked over, some at lightning speed, others taking a little longer including the odd marathon and with late Saturday night rolling in to early Sunday morning we finally had our first final as Jordan Shepherd took on blackball legend Pat Holtz in a match that for once actually lived up to and surpassed the hype. From 5-4 up the younger Welsh talent pulled away for an 8-4 victory that no one can say wasn’t deserved with Pat magnanimous in defeat as always, and looking forward to the next tour event in Bradford mid June!
On Sunday the amateurs took the limelight and to be fair, it was hard to tell the difference between them and the pros on occasion, the standard these days is genuinely that high. Once again the numerous entrants were finally whittled down to a final of Anthony Morrison v Paul Harkness with both players having some tough old battles along the way to get down to the last two. A 6-1 scoreline was hardly a fair reflection on runner up Paul but the balls can be cruel sometimes in this games and statistics never lie as we crowned a new winner on the IPA tour, one who I am sure will be very eager to attend every other event from now on!
To end with, the players and spectators invariably told me they had really enjoyed the weekend, that the chance to play or just watch such high calibre pool players was a chance of a lifetime, and clearly a fantastic success – if I had a pound for every time I was asked when the next event was (14th June seeing as you asked), I would be off down the pub, which shows just how much everyone is looking forward to getting back to the pool tables.
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