World Championships Review – the best ever!

Where do we start?

It was without doubt, THE most dramatic and exciting of weeks at the 10th staging of the IPA World Championships, with both the Open and Ladies finals going down to final frame thrillers – but more about that later in this review.

The Grand Hotel was the venue for the flagship event on the pool calendar – the title every serious pool player wants on their C.V., and what a fitting venue name it was – little did we know what was in store. The betting for the Open centred around the Professional player of the year Mark Boyle – the current Number One, and former Champion Marc Farnsworth, who showed some superb form in the final event in the lead up to the Worlds. The Ladies event seemed to be destined for the dominant player of the year – Deb Burchell – but would any of these star players live up to their billing as favourites?

We got underway on the Tuesday with the qualifiers as we searched for 32 players to join the seeded Professionals in the last 64 – when the drama of a single elimination knockout would really start to take off.

There were some notable names of qualifiers who made it through the bloodbath, including the likes of Jake Newlove, Rob Wilson, Lee Shepherd & Toby Bolt, alongside many others.

Then we had the live draw for the last 64, and the tournament felt truly underway as the household names looked to make their presence felt, though it didn’t take long before the seeds started to tumble – notably Robert Stephen and “The Rocket” Gav Robinson, but in total 12 were to fall at the very first hurdle.

The last 32 was no different, with current title holder Clint I’Anson dumped out 3-0 in sets by an inspired Liam Roberts, and fourth seed Ross Fernie heading for the exit door with a similar scoreline against Jake Newlove. Cory Rees was another name who needed to start planning for the 2025 event and Marc Farnsworth came through a thriller against Rob Wilson in a high-quality encounter.

One amazing fact relating to the World Championships is that Mark Boyle had never made it past the last 16 – an incredible statistic for the Number One ranked player in the world – and everyone waited to see if he could break the hoodoo this year.

Amazingly he fell early doors once more, this time to Simon Ward, as last year’s beaten finalist produced a stunning display to get the better of Boyle over 4 enthralling sets. Gareth Hibbott, many peoples pick for the title came through in the deciding set against former World Champion Liam Dunster, and Farnsworth won the battle of the North-East with a comfortable win against Craig Brown.

Farnsworth’s run came to an abrupt end when losing to Newlove in the ‘quarters’ to end his title hopes, leaving us with a line-up of Simon Ward v Gareth Hibbott & Jake Newlove v Andy Croasdale for the semi-finals, and a list of question marks. Would Gareth regain the title he last won in 2016, would Simon Ward, runner-up on two occasions finally win the title his ability deserves, or would it fall to the 11th seed Andy, or the only remaining amateur Jake?

As you would expect from Ward and Hibbott, the quality was outstanding. Could Ward make a record third final appearance or could Hibbott become the first two-time winner of the event? As we all predicted it came down to the final set and it was Hibbott who edged it in the end in what was another IPA classic.

Who would he meet in the final? Would it the ‘Amateur’ (in name only) Jake Newlove or would Andy Croasdale, who had come through the draw quietly and (relatively) unnoticed, take his place in his first IPA World final? Unfortunately for Croasdale, he did not find the vintage form that had got him to the semis, and his opponent took full advantage of his errors, coupled with some excellent play of his own, to take his place in the Saturday night showdown against Hibbott.

Prior to that we had an incredible Ladies final to look forward to, between Elite Lady Rhiannon Graham, and teenage Welsh sensation Keira Whitcombe, both representing the next generation of Lady pool payers who are taking the game forward in leaps and bounds.  Burchell, the pre-tournament favourite was taken out in Round 1 by the impressive Chloe Payne, who would go all the way to the semi-final where she was narrowly beaten by Graham. Whitcombe did not drop a set until she met her semi-final opponent Bec Sweeney who pushed her all the way in a tight battle, so who would win the battle of the ‘new era’ stars from the Ladies?

As was no doubt written in the stars, it went to a deciding frame of a deciding set. There were chances on both sides in a final frame that had the huge live and online audience on the edge of their seats, but if was left to Graham to rue her missed chances as Whitcombe sealed the deal, to become the youngest IPA World Champion of all time.

And so the stage was set for the Open final – Hibbott v Newlove for the glory, the title, and a not too shabby £15,000.

Hibbott raced out to 3-1 lead in sets in a race to 4 – surely it would be plain sailing now? Not a chance – back roared Newlove to force a deciding set, whilst the spectators tried desperately to get a vantage point where they could watch the final stages unfold.

A stunning combination shot from Newlove put him 3-2 ahead after a missed black from Hibbott and it was Newlove to break in the sixth frame and within a whisker of the title. A ball down from the break meant first chance to Newlove – but could he take it? He got down to his final red…but……agonisingly missed it, leaving Hibbott, with nerves of steel, to complete the clearance and force a decider.

And so we came to a one frame shoot out – with Hibbott to break. A ball down – could he finish the match off in style, with the balls anything but easy. With incredible composure under the utmost pressure – the shout of ‘come on’ as he landed on his final red told us the end was very near. Two simple pots and Gareth Hibbott became the 2024 IPA World Champion – the first player ever to win the title twice.

The match will go down in history as one of the best ever and all those who witnessed it – both in the arena and online – will be talking about it for years to come.

After we had all caught our breath, we still had four more finals still to complete to round off a superb week of pool.

First up we had the Seniors final between Mark Boyle and a rejuvenated Chris Bowron to get finals day underway. Both players had come through arguably the toughest field in IPA Seniors history, but who would capture their first IPA World title? Boyle started the stronger racing into a 3-0 lead in a race to 8 frames but back came Bowron to lead 5-4, in a see-saw battle. Boyle would not be beaten though, and he stormed back to take the title with a hard fought 8-6 victory to become the 2024 IPA World Seniors winner.

Next, we had the Masters category for players over 50 years old, and again a tough field was on show and our two finalists – Bash Maqsood and Tony Halpin had both earned their final berth. Maqsood had to beat new World Champion Gareth Hibbott in the quarters to progress, and then another Pro in Richard Swaffield in the semis. The final was a little one sided as Halpin failed to produce the heroics of the previous rounds, and it was Maqsood who would be crowned 2024 IPA World Masters Champion.

There was an equally competitive field for the Mixed Doubles – always a popular event at the World Championships, with some very strong partnerships, but it is not always the big names that come out on top. The finalists were Greg Davis/Clare Peaty against Dean Wilson/Lauren Chantler – all first-time finalists at the IPA Worlds, and it was the pairing of Davis & Peaty that proved too strong for their opponents, displaying all the skills you need to become a successful pairing, dovetailing their skills superbly to take the title by 6 frames to 1.

The traditional ending to the World Championships is the Open doubles, which as usual features some incredibly strong pairings, making it virtually impossible to predict a winner. However arguably the two strongest pairings on paper at least did indeed make it to the final. Mark Boyle, looking for his second World title was partnered with Geo Edgar, and they would be up against the strong Welsh pair of Craig Marsh and Stephen Ellis – a mouthwatering and fitting end to the World Championships.

It was Boyle and Edgar who produced the quality when needed, and coupled with some uncharacteristic errors from their opponents, ran out 7-4 winners to become the 2024 IPA World Doubles Champions, to bring the action to a close after a fabulous 6 days of pure drama.

And we get to do it all again next year – look out for the dates to be announced, with entry available to all.

All the match videos are all available to watch at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbLJlkbqiGAyamPqZKrCMAavLYAkYsyMv