Ex-pros shine in Austria at IBSF World Championships

With the group stages of the IBSF World Amateur Championship coming to an end today, we can already see that most of the famous faces in the competition have qualified for the knockout draw…

The most familiar names to followers of the professional game are probably those of former world number 2 James Wattana (pictured) and Kirk Stevens who were both placed in a tricky looking Group A this week. Both however have made light of it, each winning six matches out of six before they met each other today off today in their final match to decide who would top the group. In the end it was Wattana who ran out a 4-1 winner in that match, but both will move safely into the next round now.

Another ex-pro who topped his group was Lee Page who won all seven of his group F matches this week. The man from Kidderminster who spent a season on the main tour in 2006-7 will now go through to the knockout stages, as will strong amateur player Lasse Munstermann who finished second in the group.

Likewise, Welshman Darren Morgan also won all of his group matches to progress to the next stage and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. He still seems to win every seniors event going including the recent Masters event at the Home Internationals, so he must be fairly match sharp.

China’s Xiao Guodong also progressed to the knockout stages with a 100% record and I think that he will be one of the favourites now, given the season he has had so far at Prestatyn, winning two events already. It will depend on how he copes against more experienced players like Wattana and Morgan though I imagine and it might be that he falls short, time will tell.

Not finding things so straightforward however was former world number 14 Peter Francisco, the man famously banned for five years following a match-fixing controversy at the 1995 World Championship. Although he has only managed to win three matches however, he has a better frames difference than young Polish starlet Michal Zielinski and qualifies for the knockout stages as a result.

Also having to work a bit harder was Malta’s Alex Borg, but he qualified from Group H following a 4-0 win over Sebastian Hainzl this morning. At 39 years old he isn’t getting any younger but he is still capable of winning matches at this level and could go far.

As could Craig Steadman, winner of the main competition at the recent Pontin’s festival, as well as the PIOS Event 4 against Mike Hallett last week. He recovered from losing his opening match to win his next five, ensuring that he moves into the knockout stages. Similarly the Australian duo of Steve Mifsud and Glen Wilkinson also lost a match each, but booked their places in the final stages comfortably enough in the end.

I believe that the draw for the knockout stages will be made either tonight or tomorrow so stay tuned for the latest on that…