Hibbott is crowned king but Blackball Pool is the winner at IPA Worlds


Sean Trivass | February 8, 2016

And so, with tears in our eyes (not literally), we came to the last day of five here at the Bradford hotel and three more finals to crown the various IPA World Pool Championships winners.

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The morning started bright and early by our standards, at 09:30 GMT, as the second of the Doubles semis saw Gareth Hibbott (who is having an amazing week) and partner Dean Shields progress to the final where they would meet French stars Christophe Lambert and Roger Dumortier, in what looked in advance to be a down-to-the-wire battle.

While they rested (the concentration needed at the top level must be simply exhausting), the first Open semi-final saw a see saw of a battle between Clint I’Anson and Craig Marsh that had to be seen to be believed as the former raced to a 5-0 first set win which had his travelling supporters in seventh heaven – however briefly.

Never one to shirk a comeback, Marsh just wouldn’t lie down and, despite losing the first frame of the second set, took the next five on the bounce to make it one set all, and move us in to a decider. After sharing the first two frames, it was Marsh who took the bull by the horns to take the next four and run out the 2-1 winner, thus booking his place in the evening final.

With a spot of time off, Marsh sat and watched the other semi-final between Gareth Hibbott and Ronan McCarthy; and what an absolute classic that was.

Hibbott raced into an early lead and soon won the first set, leaving those that don’t know pool to think it was all over, but no one ever underestimates McCarthy when it comes to a war. He took the second set and went 3-1 up in the decider with a clearance opportunity for 4-1, and this time it was Hibbott who had a fight on his hands. A mini Hibbott comeback saw them level at 4-4 in the final set (a one-frame decider), and he eventually went through after a match we will be talking about for years to come.

Next up we had the Ladies final which was a repeat of last year – with pretty much the same result. Shona Lucas is a very good player (you don’t make two consecutive World finals otherwise), but Deb Burchell was in pretty much unstoppable form rattling off the first few frames with some seriously impressive clearances and leaving her opponent a little shell-shocked.

It’s hard to get back into this game when your opponent leaves you so little table time, but to her credit Lucas did win a couple of frames and mount a mini comeback though it wasn’t to be. So, Burchell became the second (and last) person this weekend to retain a title of World Champion at what is acknowledged as the best tour with the best players.

On a busy day that utilised the live stream table to the full, we quickly moved on to the doubles where Mr Hibbott and Mr Shields took on Monsieur Lambert and Monsieur Dumortier in an England v France battle that we all looked forward to.

In a race to seven, the English went 2-0 up but were quickly pegged back to levels before the French heroes (who are massive in their country by the way, where pool is treated with a lot more respect) edged into the lead at 2-5 before the pendulum swing and the English lads started a comeback.

At 6-5 down, Hibbott went in off the break, which can spell disaster, but Dumortier under hit a yellow leaving them the chance to make it 6-6 (which they took) leading us to the dreaded blackball shootout that only applies in Doubles.

After five each no one had missed (try it – it’s not that easy and with that sort of pressure….), which saw the white move to the centre of the baulk line to ramp up the difficulty level. Dumortier was successful, all be it with a bit of a wobble, as was Hibbott as they all showed their class until Lambert missed (and went in off at the same time), leaving Shields to step up to the mark and seal the victory to the delight of their vocal supporters.

At the risk of sounding cliched, it really did advertise everything good about blackball at the IPA events – top quality pool, tension, drama, tactics, and mutual respect – what’s not to like about any sport with all those qualities?

The last event of the day was, as you would expect, the big one. Craig Marsh v Gareth Hibbott (surely the player of the week regardless) in the Open Final – three sets of a race to five in each, with the winner able to call themselves World Champion and form a field of absolutely top class players.

Both are professionals (ranked two and seven respectively), so neither were ever too far away from the top of the betting, but it was till hard to tell which way it would go and it proved to be as tight as any pool match can get!

Hibbott raced away to take the first set 5-2 but was quickly pegged back to 5-3 in the second, moving us on to an exciting decider. It was literally nip and tuck and there was never more than one frame in it all the way until they reached the point of 4-4 with one left to play.

Close to 200 entries, five days of intense competition, the best players in the world and the best facilities – and it effectively became best of one to decide the World Champion for 2016!

It was expected to be a nervy, tactical battle with so much at stake, but Hibbott broke and dished and cleared the table at one visit to become the new and deserved 2016 IPA Blackball World Champion – which he can add to the doubles title he also won after a particularly good week at the office!


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