Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar defeated Pankaj Advani in a dramatic final to win the 31st Asian Snooker Championship.
Held at the Viva Home Expo Hall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a total of 71 players from 22 different countries took part in the championship, once again demonstrating the sport’s growing popularity across the continent.
Following the groups stage, 28 contestants qualified for the knockout rounds. Akbar – the current Pakistan national champion – won three of his four group fixtures to make it through. He then ousted fellow countryman Mohammed Asif 4-3 and the UAE’s Khalid Al Kamali 4-3 in the last 28 and 16 respectively.
Akbar gave himself more breathing space in the quarter and semi-finals with a 5-1 victory over Shahram Changezi – in a rerun of their national championship final meeting from earlier in the year – and a 6-2 elimination of Mohammed Reza Hassan (Malaysia).
In an all-subcontinent title match, Akbar’s opponent was Indian national champion Advani, who was undefeated on route and had recorded a 6-0 success over China’s Zhang Yong in the last four that included a break of 115.
Having been runner-up in 2004 and 2012, Advani was hoping it would be third time lucky, but it would be Akbar lifting the trophy for the first time following a draining, but epic, seven-hour final.
On three occasions Akbar held a two-frame advantage, although the experienced Advani pulled it back to 5-5 before taking the 11th frame to stand on the edge of glory.
However, 22-year-old Akbar was resilient himself, levelling up at 6-6 and – despite being 30 points down with just one red left in the deciding frame – then managing to emerge a 7-6 victor.
Akbar is the third Pakistani to win this continental championship; players representing five different nationalities have triumphed in the last five editions. Former winners of this title include James Wattana and Ding Junhui.
Success means that Akbar will be offered a two-year professional tour card for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons.
Event date: 23rd-30th April 2015.