Alfie Burden’s moment of glory

The Englishman not only made good use of the chances that came his way but also committed fewer mistakes than his adversary in pressure situations in the final, writes V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Given the high standards that Alfie Burden (England) and Igor Figueiredo (Brazil) had set right through the tournament, their marathon clash in the final of the ONGC-IBSF World Snooker Championship in Hyderabad recently came as no surprise. The 32-year-old Brazilian, who had been practising on 10-foot tables until nine months ago and who became the first player from his country to reach the final of a world snooker championship, was the favourite considering his safety play and classy potting of the long balls. But Burden rose to the occasion to emerge champion with a 59-31, 78-50, 66-1, 0-98, 53-66, 65-102, 81-32, 1-89, 97-33, 19-81, 47-50, 94-0, 69-58, 107-28, 39-49, 64-15, 51-67, 82-26 victory.

The 33-year-old Englishman not only made optimum use of the chances that came his way but also committed fewer mistakes than his adversary in pressure situations.

The final was a virtual feast which had the 500-odd spectators glued to their seats. Burden seemed to be in a hurry as he opened up a 3-0 lead, but Figueiredo fought back well after struggling to settle down initially. The Brazilian seemed to be under some pressure at the start of the final, but he soon demonstrated his growing stature with quality potting, especially of the long balls. Two big breaks of 98 and 52 in the fourth and fifth frames helped Figueiredo bounce back into the game.

However, much to Figueiredo’s chagrin, Burden soon blended class and safety play that upset the Brazilian’s rhythm. And the turning point of the final was when Burden came up with an unfinished break of 103 — the only century break of the final — in the 14th frame. The effort completely transformed the Englishman even as Figueiredo refused to give up by taking the 15th and 17th frames.

In a way, the final frame was emblematic of what separated the winner from the loser. Burden led 61-14 but missed a couple of simple balls and even committed a foul. It was a clear chance for Figueiredo to bounce back again, but he blew it. Even his potting of long balls, which had been his strong point, deserted him at that juncture. Burden was quick to seize the chance and storm to victory.

“I still don’t think that I played my best right through this event. But I am glad to be the world champion. It is a fantastic achievement. I dedicate this to my parents back home,” said an elated Burden.

“There were many moments when I was on the rack and clearly struggling as Igor played some unbelievable snooker,” he said. “Definitely, I was under pressure throughout the match and it was a case of fighting for my life,” the champion added.

Figueiredo said: “I have no regrets, for I lost to a great player whose game was on a different level under pressure. For someone who started playing on the big table only a few months back, I believe that I did my country proud with this runner-up position.”

The Indians were a big disappointment in the event. Their performance clearly belied pre-tournament expectations.

The Indian challenge, led by the 2003 champion, Pankaj Advani, fizzled out in the quarterfinal stage. The tournament was widely perceived by many as India’s best chance to win the world title for the second time after the 2003 edition. The host’s biggest hope Advani was stunned by Anthony Brabin in the round of 32, the latter winning 77-59, 70-45, 71-0, 44-73, 65-55, 2-62, 30-65, 67-23. Following Advani’s defeat a pall of gloom descended on the venue which was already struggling to come to terms with the demise of P. Upendra, a former union minister and father of Capt. P. V. K. Mohan, president of the BSFI.

For Brabin, it was a sweet revenge as he had lost to Advani in the 2004 edition of the tournament in Holland.

Advani later admitted that he had struggled from the start and never really got into the groove. “I don’t want to offer any excuses. He deserved to win for he played much better,” said the Indian.

Brabin’s delight didn’t last long though as Kamal Chawla defeated him 7-70, 51-69, 72-61, 120-14, 65-15, 73-53, 103-15 in the round of 16. He notched up breaks of 106 in the fourth frame and 78 in the final frame.

However, the next day it was the turn of Chawla, the lone Indian in the quarterfinals, to bow out, losing to Figueiredo. It was pretty clear from the start that the erratic Indian was no match for his opponent who proved to be too superior in every aspect of the game. With his impeccable potting Figueiredo, fresh from his Hamburg Open triumph, scored an easy 86-21, 85-6, 79-2, 72-6, 61-58, 28-52, 69-20 win.

“I was just not able to focus. In contrast, Figueiredo was very confident and came up with some wonderful potting,” said Kamal.

Burden reminded the sparse crowd that he meant business when he shocked former world champion Steve Mifsud of Australia 8-98, 86-0, 62-30, 64-56, 76-7 in the round of 64.

One of the few moments of joy for India was provided by R. Girish who shocked third-seeded Mohamed Shehab (UAE) with a 4-1 victory. He, however, was stunned by his team-mate and wildcard entrant, Lucky Vatnani.

THE RESULTS

Final: Alfie Burden (England) bt Igor Figueiredo (Brazil) 59-31, 78-50, 66-1, 0-98, 53-66, 65-102, 81-32, 1-89, 97-33, 19-81, 47-50, 94-0, 69-58, 107-28, 39-49, 64-15, 51-67, 82-26.

Semifinals: Igor Figueiredo bt Yu Delu (China) 62-78, 20-76, 63-0, 56-13, 74-17, 13-89, 130-0, 106-38, 74-58, 0-142, 78-12; Alfie Burden bt Philip Williams (Wales) 86-34, 82-44, 79-49, 73-66, 13-68, 35-67, 80-23, 16-74,76-52, 98-33.

Third place: Yu Delu bt Philip Williams 69-61, 59-37, 56-35, 60-56.