Only six weeks to go until Christmas, and that can only mean one thing – time to close out the GB9 season with the 2018 British Grand Prix. All eyes were on the £1250 first prize and the small matter of the British Grand Prix trophy – not a bad stocking filler for the deserved winner!
Competition was ferocious as usual in the early rounds, but most of the big fish progressed where expected. Mark Foster survived a hill-hill scare against rapidly improving Stephen Slater, and Kurtis Weaver scraped through against Lee Creighton in a tense deciding rack.
Manuel Montejo Fernandez made an impressive start to his maiden GB9 event, taking out John Chapman, Chris Fraser, and Adam Stevens. However, there was no shame in a 9-5 loss to former UK number one Craig Osborne who looked in solid form, with his three break and runs proving to be the difference. Elsewhere Stewart Colclough looked particularly commanding against Michael Beeston, dispatching of him 9-3.
Paul Taylor pushed Montejo Fernandez all the way, missing out on a place in the last sixteen only by a single rack. Into the last sixteen though, Fernandez was then on the opposite side of that scenario against a very impressive looking Mark Gray. With four break and runs, Fernandez had it all to do to stay in the game, and that he did very well. Gray however used all his experience to close out the game in the final rack, after Fernandez was first in with an opportunity.
Chick McCaig’s good run to the last sixteen was ended when he met Elliott Sanderson, and Stewart Colclough again gave very little wriggle room for his opponent, defeating Dave Hopkin 9-3. Likewise Chris Seville, who’d scored wins against Marcel Price and So Shaw, met his match against Kurtis Weaver, falling 9-5.
Into the last eight were all the familiar big guns. Elliott Sanderson squeezed past Stewart Colclough 9-7, his rack-running making the difference, and Osborne, Gray and Majid used their big game experience to get past some of the future of UK Nine-ball, Weaver, Buckley and Foster.
Fittingly, old foes on the table and good friends off it, Osborne and Gray got through their semis against Elliott Sanderson and Imran Majid respectively, to meet in the final. As is always the case in high-stakes pool, the difference came down to a few key moments for Osborne – a couple of strategic errors and an uncharacteristic miss when running out handed the edge to Gray after initially racing to a 3-0 lead. Gray hung in though and closed the match out 11-9 – no doubt thinking of his daughter Sophia in the process who’d kindly instructed him beforehand to “bring a trophy home”!
Mission accomplished Mark – 2018 British Grand Prix champion!
In the Super Cup, the round one matches got off to a start on the Saturday evening, after a day’s play. Fatigue can sometimes be a factor here, but the top players do tend to manage their concentration and energy levels well.
Dave Hopkin came through a tough battle against James Brennan 10-8, and there were impressive wins from Michael Beeston and Benji Buckley, taking care of experienced pros Craig Osborne and Imran Majid. Elsewhere, in the ‘Battle of the Blondes’, Stewart Colclough took the share of the spoils against Tom Staveley.
Meanwhile Osborne had dusted himself off though and went on to beat Kurtis Weaver and Dave Hopkin, before falling to Colclough 10-5.
Chick McCaig was going strong, holding his nerve after surviving a hill-hill battle with Elliott Sanderson and taking care of Manuel Montejo Fernandez. Mark Gray was another task altogether however, and Gray clinically ended McCaig’s hopes with a 10-1 win.
Imran Majid, despite his early round loss against Benji Buckley, was coming strong as the hours went by on Remembrance Sunday. He inflicted Elliott’s second loss of the tournament on him, before dispatching of fellow tour young guns, Mark Foster and Michael Beeston, followed by Stewart Colclough.
Mark Gray then put on another surgical performance, beating Benji Buckley 10-4 and scoring three break and runs in the process. With Imran waiting in the final, Benji will have been eyeing up a repeat of the earlier match-up to take the trophy, but it wasn’t to be.
Imran however continued his fine form in the final, coming with three break and runs and taking him yet another Super Cup. Thoroughly deserved after coming through on the one-loss side – a perfect way to end the season.
Cyclop Challenge Cup Tier 1
The first of the two Challenge events got underway, and with it, was the final chance of picking up a trophy in 2018 for some of the UK’s finest. Nothing was going to be easy though, with half of the last sixteen games all going hill-hill.
Adam Stevens survived against ex Challenge winner Morray Dolan, Scot Lee Creighton and Chris Fraser knocked out the two Terries – Davies and Challenger, and Chris Cowie fell to free-flowing So Shaw.
Kev Simpson continued his fine form this season with an impressive run, beating Steve Weaver, Allan Brown and Chris Fraser before eventually bowing out to So Shaw in the semi-final.
On the other side of the draw, Marcel Price was capping off a great season, taking out compatriot Terry Davies, Dave Evans, Adam Collins, Alan Coton and Adam Stephens to secure a place in the hot seat.
So Shaw’s game though was at a high level throughout the weekend, coming with some patches of real high quality play. Four break and runs against Barry French, five against Chris Cowie, and three against Kev Simpson. The story was similar in the final and Marcel Price looked good, but Shaw’s firepower proved to be the difference.
9-6 So Shaw – Congratulations Challenge Tier One Champion!
Cyclop Challenge Cup Tier 2
The competition was fast and furious in the Cyclop Challenge Cup Tier 2, and predicting the winner was always going to be a tough feat.
Some of the tour’s relatively new faces this season continued to show good form, as well as some of the old guard. James Jack had a solid start, beating Fenn Sternberg and Robert William Jarvis before coming up against new boy Shaun Johnson and falling short. Shaun himself had taken out Fi Radomski, and Lee Noble beforehand, before going on to beat Adrian John Wood and Steve Della Pietra, setting himself a place up in the final.
On the other side of the drawer, Mark Newell was having a similarly impressive run. John Chapman fell early to him, as then did Ryan Coton and Remi Passiatore.
Mark Morris had had a good run with some impressive scalps too, dispatching of Carl Weaver, Mark Shepherd, and me (Can Ibrahim – certainly no complaints there) and it’s fair to say he was gaining some momentum and confidence in his performances.
Unfortunately for Morris though he drew the in-form Mark Newell, who put paid to Morris’s hopes of a first Challenge 2 win.
In the final, it really could have gone either way and as such it was fitting it went to a deciding rack. It was Newell who held his nerve and clinched it though. What a way to round off the season – Challenge 1 beckons in 2019!