65 players from 15 countries descend on the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds next week for the first ever unified World Billiards Championship. This is the 6th time the club has hosted the World Championship, but the first time it has been jointly organised by two world governing bodies and the first to attract this level of entries.
The newly formed World Billiards Ltd has brought together the International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) and World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association (WPBSA) events for a unified World Championship. The result has been a record number of entrants who will battle it out over 12 days and 2 different formats for the title of 2012 World Champion.
For the first time this year both lady and junior players will be competing alongside the men. Amongst lady entries from Australia, England and India is current Ladies World Champion Revanna Umadevi from India. Junior champions from England, India and Ireland will also be pitting their skills against the best in the world. Countries sending players for the first time include Guernsey and Canada.
Favourite for the title is current World Champion and undisputed king of billiards Mike Russell. Originally from England but now based in Qatar, Mike is making the annual trip to defend the title he has made his own, having won a total of 16 world championships since his first in 1989 at the age of 20.
Spearheading a strong Indian contingent is Pankaj Advani, who at only 27 is himself a multiple world champion. Pankaj is currently embroiled in some controversy after qualifying for the final stages of a professional snooker event due to start in China whilst the World Billiards Championship is still taking place. Advani has taken the decision to withdraw from the event in China to concentrate on billiards, something which has delighted the billiards fraternity, but somewhat angered the snooker one.
Heading up the English challenge is two-time runner-up David Causier. Causier won every event he entered last season on the World Billiards tour and will be hoping to add the World Championship to his growing list of titles.
Other contenders for the title include former champions Peter Gilchrist (Singapore) and Geet Sethi (India) who alongside Mike Russell are the only players to have made a competitive 1000 break in the modern game. Also expected to mount a strong challenge this year is 10-time Australian champion Matthew Bolton who last year recorded a break of 831 on his way to the final of the timed event.
The World Championship was brought to Leeds in 2007 by Northern Snooker Centre owner Jim Williamson at a time when the tournament was on its knees with only 16 entries. Following his passing in 2009 Jim’s son Chris inaugurated the Jim Williamson Memorial tournament which also runs alongside the World Championship and keeps alive the name of the man who kept the billiards World Championship going during some of its most difficult times. Chris Williamson said “we are delighted to welcome so many players from so many countries to the Northern Snooker Centre for this festival of billiards. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a great tournament.”
Local interest comes from Chris’s brother Ian who is a former UK professional champion, and Jonathan Bagley, the current English Masters snooker champion. Both will be hoping to put in strong performances to keep the flag flying for Leeds.
Play starts on Wednesday 17th October when a qualifying competition will determine who will fill the last 4 remaining places in the championship proper. The main tournaments will then run every day starting at 10am through until Sunday 28th when the final of the timed event will take place. Entry to spectators is free of charge.
World Billiards is indebted to Chris Williamson and the Northern Snooker Centre for their help and generous sponsorship of this event.