Kacper Filipiak became the first player ever from Poland to win the European Amateur Snooker Championship following a 5-4 victory against David Lilley in the final at the U Magic Palace Hotel in Eilat, Israel on Saturday afternoon.
Organised by the European Billiards and Snooker Association (EBSA), a member of the World Snooker Federation, this prestigious continental event provides a pathway onto the professional circuit and has previously been won by players such as Mark Allen and Luca Brecel. Celebrating its 28th edition, 125 entries representing 33 different nations took part in the week-long festival.
Filipiak, European Under-21 champion in 2011, topped his group after winning all three of his round robin fixtures. Progressing into the knockout phase as the fourth seed, the 23-year-old eliminated Dean Young (Scotland) 4-0, Marcin Nitschke (Poland) 4-2, Ivan Kakovskii (Russia) 4-3, Kevin Hanssens (Belgium) 4-0 and then Greg Casey (Republic of Ireland) 4-1 to be his country’s maiden finalist in this tournament.
His opponent in the final was experienced Englishman David Lilley who was trying to win a second European crown, twenty-four years on from his first in 1995. The North-East maestro had triumphed in the warm-up Israel Open competition that proceeded this, and he continued his momentum at the venue qualifying second from group before navigating his way through the knockouts. In the semi-finals he ended the ambitions of Shachar Ruberg – the last remaining hope for the host nation.
The best-of-nine frame final would be a predictably tight affair. The Pole – twenty years younger than his counterpart – started stronger as he took an early 2-0 lead, although Lilley managed to get a foothold with success in the next. In a close climax to frame four, Filipiak doubled the final pink to re-establish a two-frame buffer going into the mid-session interval.
Lilley responded positively to this setback on resumption of play, stringing together the next three frames to turn the tables and go 4-3 up; just one away from the championship. However, Filipiak treated the audience to a deserved decider when he squared it at the end of frame eight.
More twists and turns would come during a nervy final frame. The youngster got in first but broke down on a break of 36. Lilley went in for the counter-attack, but his effort of 51 fell short of the finishing line with two reds remaining.
After a tense passage of play, Filipiak converted an opportunity when coolly potting yellow to blue to claim the biggest title of his career so far. The win also means that Filipiak has earned a guaranteed two-year professional tour card for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 campaigns.
It will be a return to the sport’s top tier for Filipiak, who burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old after his Under-21 glory. He struggled to adapt to the rigours of the circuit and was relegated after just a year, but with considerably more experience now behind him, he is better equipped to deal with the tough challenges ahead.
Lilley’s initial emotion is likely to be disappointment, but he can still achieve his dream of full-time professional status via the Challenge Tour and the one-year world ranking list in the coming weeks.
Throughout the latter stages of the tournament there was a cosmopolitan palette on display. The quarter-finals were made up of players from seven different countries, including promising teenagers Florian Nüßle from Austria and Patrik Tiihonen from Finland.
Florian Nüßle (Austria) 3-4 Greg Casey (Republic of Ireland)
Kevin Hanssens (Belgium) 0-4 Kacper Filipiak (Poland)
David Lilley (England) 4-2 Patrick Tiihonen (Finland)
Shachar Ruberg (Israel) 4-2 Michael Wild (England)
Casey 1-4 Filipiak
Lilley 4-1 Ruberg
Filipiak 5-4 Lilley
Andrew Pagett (Wales), 123