Daren Taylor ousted defending champion Steven Wong 5-4 in a compelling final on Labor Day to win the 2023 United States National Snooker Championship.
Organised by the United States Snooker Association (USSA), the prestigious annual event – which was first held in 1991 – returned to the Embassy Billiards Club in San Gabriel, California for the first time in 11 years.
Further evidence of the increasing popularity of the sport in the States, a record field of 64 entries took part in the competition. The players were split into 16 round robin groups of four, with the top two from each pool advancing to the knockout rounds.
Based in Pheonix, Arizona, Taylor – who is the son of former top 16 professional David – was competing in the Championship for the first time. He finished second in Group J before defeating two-time champion Ajeya Prabhakar 3-2 in the last 32 and then making an 81 break on his way to seeing off Naiel Tito 3-1 in the last 16.
In the last eight, Taylor resisted a comeback from two-time Pan American Championship runner-up Renat Denkha, winning 4-3 having previously led 3-0 (Denkha – 93 break, frame four). Earlier in the tournament, Chicago cueist Denkha recorded a break of 105 which would stand as the event’s highest.
Returning for Finals Day, Taylor showed grit once again as he pipped number two seed Cheang Ciing Yoo 4-3 in the last four, constructing a counter-attacking 54 clearance in the deciding frame as he won on the final pink.
Emerging from the other side of the draw was title holder Wong, who secured the accolade for the first time in his career twelve months ago at Ox Billiards in Seattle.
One of four former winners in this year’s draw, top seed Wong – who is the owner of the host venue – topped Group A. In the subsequent knockouts he defeated Jay Sha 3-2 (from 2-1 down), Rick Rady 3-2, Kevin Wong 4-0 and then Romil Azemat 4-0 in the semi-finals.
In the final there would never be more than a frame between the players. Wong led twice early on but Taylor crafted efforts of 52 and 44 as he claimed frames four and five either side of the mid-session interval and went in front for the first time at 3-2. Taylor also struck a break of 50 in frame six although it was Wong who took it to level at 3-3.
Frames were then traded again; Taylor deposited the seventh with the help of a 65 break, but Wong forced the tie all the way with the eighth.
However, for his third consecutive match, Taylor got the task done in a deciding frame as he went on to lift The Tom Kollins Trophy, becoming the 15th different winner of the title.
The image of Daren Taylor is courtesy of snookerUSA.com