Brian Cini defeated Aaron Busuttil 6-2 in the final to win the 2021 Malta National Snooker Championship. It is the third time that the 24-year-old has claimed the title following previous victories in 2016 and 2018.
A national championship first contested for 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.
Qormi cueist Cini won all seven of his round robin matches, dropping only six frames in the process as he qualified for the last eight knockouts. He then eliminated experienced ex-professional and multiple-time winner of this tournament Alex Borg 5-1.
In the semi-finals, Cini made breaks of 66, 84 and 133 on his way to recording a 5-0 success over Frans Mintoff. In the previous round, Mintoff dethroned defending four-time champion Duncan Bezzina 5-3.
Busuttil – aiming to lift the trophy for the first time – also reached the title match very impressively, relinquishing just two frames in his opening nine matches before ousting Chris Peplow 5-4 in the last four with a top run of 63.
In the final itself, Cini was on course to chalk up the opening frame with an effort of 59 but Busuttil cleared with 33 to take it on the final black. Busuttil then doubled his advantage with frame two.
However, Cini recovered, stringing together six consecutive frames featuring breaks of 53, 85 and 50 to regain the championship. The result meant more final heartbreak for Busuttil who has now lost in the last four finals. In 2018 he was denied by Cini in a deciding frame.
Both Cini and Busuttil recently travelled to England to take part in Q School. Cini won five matches in Sheffield and registered a number of sizeable breaks including two 120s, whilst Busuttil got to the last 32 of Event One.
Speaking after his triumph, Cini said “Winning this championship is always an honour for me; there are some good players in it. Throughout this tournament I managed to compile a couple of good breaks, the highest one being a 140 in the group stages.
“Before the knockout stages started, I was in the UK for Q School where I practiced a lot of hours at the Victoria Snooker Academy, so coming back to Malta I felt well prepared and confident.
“Coming into the final I knew it was going to be a tough match against Aaron – he’s a very good and dedicated player. The final didn’t start the way I wanted and found myself 2-0 down but I managed to win the next three important close frames and then found my rhythm.
“I would like to thank the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association together with SportMalta for organising yet another great tournament, and to Xandira live and AMA live stream for broadcasting the final matches. I would also like to thank all of my sponsors.”
Photos are courtesy of Matthias Brancaleone and the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association.
Article by Michael Day.