Aaron Busuttil produced a memorable comeback as he dethroned defending champion Brian Cini 6-5 in the final to win to the 2023 Maltese Snooker Championship – claiming the national title for the first time in his career by potting the final black ball in the deciding frame.
The victory will be a source of great pride and satisfaction for the 31-year-old who had previously lost in four consecutive finals between 2017 to 2021 (no event held in 2020), and a semi-final in 2022.
A national championship first won in 1947, the event was organised by the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association and held over several weeks at the purpose-built Malta Snooker Academy in Hamrun.
Players on the Maltese domestic snooker circuit are split into leagues, with the 20 cueists in the premier division competing for the island’s most prestigious prize. For the 2022/23 campaign, those top tier players were placed into two pools of ten, with the top four in each qualifying for the knockout phase.
Busuttil won eight of his nine league matches – his only loss being a 4-3 defeat to Cini – to finish second. He ousted Chris Peplow 5-4 in the quarter-finals and then hit breaks of 119, 66, 54, 52 and 50 as he pipped four-time winner Duncan Bezzina 5-4 in the semi-finals where he needed to win the final two frames to reach the title match again.
Reigning four-time champion Cini topped Group A with nine wins from nine and he extended his perfect record by eliminating Ivan Attard (5-1) and former professional Alex Borg (5-2) in the last eight and four respectively.
In a repeat of the showpiece encounters from 2018 and 2021 – both won by Cini – it appeared that the 26-year-old was coasting to another national championship triumph as he registered runs of 51, 51 and 77 in establishing a 4-0 lead in the best-of-11 frames tie.
With the prospect of another final defeat looming large, Busuttil mounted a recovery and gained momentum by taking the next three frames (67 break, frame seven) to cut his arrears to just one at 4-3, although Cini moved one away from the trophy as a 55 break helped him deposit frame 8.
However, Busuttil was not to be denied. He made a 60 break on his way to securing frame nine, forced a decider with frame ten, and then achieved an ambition to become the Maltese champion by sinking the last ball remaining in the eleventh and final frame.
Busuttil is set to compete at the upcoming 2023 Q School in Leicester.
In the Masters Championship, Bezzina defeated Borg 5-1 in the final for the title.