Mark Allen has won the International Championship after a 10-5 triumph over Neil Robertson in Sunday’s final showdown in Daqing.
The Northern Irishman controlled the majority of the contest, compiling an impressive four century breaks to bring his overall tally for the tournament to an incredible 14.
To that end, Allen had probably been the standout player of the week and it was perhaps fitting that it was his name etched on the trophy, erasing the disappointing memories of falling short at the final hurdle in 2014 and again twelve months ago.
The tone for the final was arguably set in the very opening frame when Allen capitalised on his opponent breaking down on a break of 65 by firing in a cool clearance of 72 to pinch an initial advantage.
Robertson immediately responded with the encounter’s first ton to level but could subsequently offer little as Allen went on a six-frame winning surge that helped him to establish a 7-1 cushion.
The latter crucially won a couple of edgy exchanges in the third and fifth frames but breaks of 119, 108, and 108 elsewhere ensured that he fully merited the one-sided scoreline.
Australia’s Robertson, who was defeated in the inaugural International Championship title decider in 2012, dug deep and at least put a modicum of pressure on Allen when he constructed breaks of 93, 84, and 121 to claim three frames on the bounce and reduce the arrears to 7-4.
But Allen, who had missed a couple of bad balls at the beginning of the second session and was beginning to look a touch edgy, finally settled again by taking a forgetful twelfth frame and followed it up with yet another hundred break to move to within the brink.
After the last mid-session interval Robertson briefly rallied again with a 113, the seventh century of the affair, but Allen sealed the deal in the next for a deserved triumph.
The success, for which the 32 year-old pockets a hefty cheque worth a £175,000, represents Allen’s fourth ranking title of his career.
This return for a player of his obvious talent is often seen as being a little on the low side, especially when contemporaries such as Robertson, Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump, and Shaun Murphy have all won significantly more.
Yet, Allen is still at an age where there’s possibly plenty of trophy-laden years ahead of him and, of course, he began 2018 in terrific fashion by capturing silverware in a Triple Crown event for the first time with glory in the prestigious Masters.
China has certainly proven to be a happy stomping ground for the Antrim man known as the “Pistol”.
Despite openly hating travelling and much preferring the comforts of his own home, three out of Allen’s four ranking titles have now occurred on Chinese soil.
The new world number seven will head to the Champion of Champions next and his home comp at the Northern Ireland Open later this month brimming in confidence.
Given the fact that he has often enjoyed streaky spells of hot and cold performances throughout his career, it’ll be interesting to see if he can prolong this momentum with more important titles to come.
For Robertson, it was a tamer ending to the week than he would have been hoping for but it was still an excellent run that proved that his Riga Masters triumph at the outset of the campaign might not have been a one-off this term.
The International Championship itself was a decent event with average attendances, the norm for tournaments in China, but the favourable playing conditions led to an abundance of entertaining and attacking snooker on display.
There were questions about the generosity of the pockets, with the players combining to compile a whopping 107 century breaks – the first time a professional tournament eclipsed the century of centuries mark.
Allen certainly took full advantage and produced arguably the finest standard of his entire career to lift the International Championship crown.