Ricky Walden has won the 2014 International Championship after a superb 10-7 victory over Mark Allen in Chengdu.
After a relatively slow start from both, the final transpired to be a wonderful occasion of attacking snooker that produced a worthy winner.
The pair was both seeking a hat-trick of ranking event successes in China after a World Open brace for Allen and a Shanghai Masters-Wuxi Classic double for Walden.
Early on it appeared as though Allen’s thrilling 9-8 victory over Mark Williams in the semi-finals on Saturday – arguably the match of the year – had drained him to some extent with his opponent capitalising for a 3-1 advantage at the first mid-session interval.
However, the Northern Irishman compiled runs of 113 and 52 as he overturned the deficit for a 5-4 lead following the opening session.
The standard of the contest then improved dramatically as the evening’s bout of play got under way.
England’s Walden quickly leveled before going two frames in front at 7-5 in what was developing into a rapid ding-dong affair.
28 year-old Allen again responded, though, as the tenacious Northern Irishman, known for his fighting spirit, knocked in breaks of 68 and 74 to go 7-7 and set up a grandstand finale.
But Walden was not to be denied and, where many have faltered with the winning line in sight in the past, the 31 year-old seized almost every opportunity presented to him in the remaining three frames.
A succession of sizable contributions, aided by a flurry of brave, attacking shot selections, ensured that he captured the title in style with breaks of 85, 103, 54 and 62.
Allen played a poor break-off shot in the penultimate frame and was unlucky when Walden fluked a red in the last, but in reality there was nothing really he could have done to deny his relentless opponent.
It will go down as another disappointing conclusion to a tournament for Allen, who has reached the final of four consecutive events only to be beaten in three out of the four ties.
That said, he can take solace in the fact that his consistency, coupled with the fact that he did himself justice in today’s showdown in contrast to a heavy defeat in September’s Shanghai Masters final to Stuart Bingham, is cementing his status as one of the sport’s elite players.
For Walden it marks an incredible victory that sees the Chester cueist collect the lucrative £125,000 winner’s cheque, and will fill him full of confidence ahead of the rest of the season with big competitions in the Champion of Champions, UK Championship and Masters on the horizon.
The final two encounters of this year’s International Championship – both involving Allen – were real humdingers and will inevitably mask what was an otherwise relatively disappointing tournament with a distinct lack of atmosphere in the arena.
The attendance was higher for Sunday’s final action, particularly in the second session, but improvements will be needed if this is to truly be considered as the fourth major in the future.
Regardless of that, it remains an important tournament to emerge victorious in and it is a significant scalp to take in Walden’s ever-improving career in the sport.