With the 2008 IBSF World Championships starting in Austria next Monday, I take a look back at the history of the event and some of the finalists who have gone on to make a name for themselves on the professional circuit. I also provide information on this year’s tournament including a link to how the groups are made up this year…
The event first took place in 1963 in Calcutta and was won by Welshman Gary Owen who came through the round robin format in place at the time, winning all of his matches. Three years later he managed to defend his title in in Karachi following a notable win over John Spencer, though it would be Spencer who would have the last laugh, defeating Owen in the final of the reformed world professional championship in 1969. Still though, Owen was a highly talented player, the first of many who would win the IBSF tournament.
Despite taking place only once every two years during the 70’s, a number of players were able to make a mark on the tournament, not least Ray Edmonds who won the tournament twice, in 1972 and 1974. Although he was not to repeat this success on the professional tour, he was also a fine billiards player, taking the World Professional Billiards Championship in 1985.
Someone who did enjoy success on the professional snooker tour however was the 1976 winner Doug Mountjoy who hammered Malta’s Paul Mifsud 11-1 in the final, a record to this day. Although it took him a number of years to find his feet as a pro, Doung went on to win two ranking event titles and reach a career high ranking of number five in the world in 1990/1.
As for the 1978 final, this was contested between two real characters, Welshman Cliff Wilson and future professional champion Joe Johnson from Bradford. Wilson was an exciting player to watch and his achievement of breaking into the top 16 in 1988 at the age of 55, with the eyesight problems that he had should not be underestimated. Had he been born a few years later then surely he had every chance to become a world champion. Johnson though did manage it of course, winning the 1986 final against Steve Davis as a total outsider. Although he has now retired as a player these days he can still be heard commentating for Eurosport on the ranking event circuit.
Another one-sided final was to kick-off the 1980’s as ‘The Whirlwind’ Jimmy White began to make a name for himself with an 11-5 win over Australian Ron Atkins. At just 18 years old, this made White the youngest winner of the event to this day and set him on the way to a highly successful professional career.
From 1984 the event was now hosted on a yearly basis and it was to be Paul Mifsud, now fully recovered from his 1976 thrashing, who initially benefited, becoming the third and to date the last man to win the event twice in a row.
From 1987-9 though we saw some real stars of the future take the event in Darren Morgan, James Wattana and 1997 professional champion Ken Doherty. All going on to be top 8 players, they really got their careers going as they made a name for themselves on the international stage. Morgan continues to win regularly in the seniors tournaments, Doherty continues to compete on the main tour and coming full circle, James Wattana will again be competing in this competition in 2008 having lost his main tour place last season.
The most notable player to compete in the competition in the early 1990’s was current world number 32 Dominic Dale who lost out in Bangkok to Thailand’s Noppadon Noppachorn in 1992. It is interesting that while many winners of the event have gone on to bigger things, relatively few runners-up have managed to push on themselves and become a real force on the professional tour. Dale has been an exception to this rule though and has since win two ranking event tournaments, most recently the 2007 Shanghai Masters.
A player who has experienced both winning and losing in finals of the IBSF World Championship is Stuart Bingham, a winner in 1996 but a losing finalist the following year when he lost out 11-10 to 2007 Grand Prix champion Marco Fu. Both have gone on to forge successful careers as professionals, though it is perhaps surprising that Stuart hasn’t quite delivered and made it into the top 16 yet.
Current provisional number 3 Ryan Day also showed his potential by reaching the final in 1998, though it was to take him a number of years to really establish himself on the main tour. With three finals in the last couple of years it now looks like his first ranking event title should not be too far away.
Rounding off the 1990’s was fellow Welshman Ian Preece, who took the 1999 title against David Lilley. Although currently a main tour professional, he has still to show the skills that took him to that title on the big stage however.
The current decade started with a bang as current world number two and four times ranking event winner Stephen Maguire became the most successful player in recent times to win the IBSF crown. Taking the title 11-5 against Englishman Luke Fisher, Maguire has every chance of repeating his world success at professional level in the next few years.
Since then the most notable victories have fallen to young guns Michael White and Mark Allen, both seemingly possessing the potential to go all the way in the game. Mark Allen of course is currently in the top 16 and looking to really push on in ranking events while White is currently plying his trade in the PIOS in an attempt to regain a spot on the main tour. He is still very young however and has plenty of time on his side.
So will this year’s winner go on to similar success? Will it be a young star or an old stager? Who knows, with so many players competing in the event it is difficult to pick a winner at this stage.
To view the entrants and how they have been allocated to the groups, please click here to visit the IBSF website.
The format of the event has been described by isashan on the GSC forums as being as follows:
There are 13 groups. As I am informed 4 from each group qualifies, that makes 52 qualifiers. The best 12 players from the round robin groups, i.e. the group winners except one, will be seeded into the last 32 round. The other 40 will play a match best of 7 to leave 20 players and join the others into the last 32. Then it’s best of 9.
Hopefully that will be easier to follow in practice than it sounds!