Thai Snooker 2011: The Last Four

Friday was semi final day in Ubon Ratchathani, with the stage set for an intriguing final match-up no matter who came through to contest Saturday’s final.

Earlier in the week, the eight quarter finalists had been whittled down to four – the first result coming in the match between Suchakree Poomjaeng and Noppon Saengkham. One might have expected Noppon to prevail here given that he is a young player on the rise, but Suchakree kept chances to a minimum and knocked in breaks of 75 and 80 along with a number of smaller contributions to ensure that Noppon was never allowed a foothold in the game. The final score of 4-0 saw Suchakree into a semi final with Somporn Kantawang who over came Tumthong Cheunban 4-2 aided by breaks of 74 and 85. Somporn, who is now 45, has already been Thai champion on two previous occasions, but the last came ten years ago, and his appearance in the last four might not have seemed likely based on his form over the past three or four seasons, but this week he has certainly been reminding everyone of just what he can do.

Suchakree might also be considered an unlikely semi-finalist, given that he spent several years away from the game to spend time with his family, before picking up a cue again at the age of 34 to launch a revival. Indeed, when I caught up with him earlier in the season he said that he had few personal ambitions left in the game other than the hope that he would see the younger Thai players achieve success on the world stage. I might put those words down to modesty, because on that afternoon when I was tasked with trying to beat him, he delivered a lesson in safety play that I for one will never forget. He was in a wholly different class to anyone I’ve ever run into down the years, even though by his own admission he was a little out of practice and was perhaps over-cautious as a result. With the recent successes of his brother Dechawat, I think Suchakree might have been spurred into proving what he can do, and if he does manage to go all the way it couldn’t happen to a nicer chap. Should he end up in a final with someone like Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, it will certainly be a contrast of styles: he won’t give Thepchaiya too many chances, but then again Thepchaiya doesn’t normally need all that many.

In the third quarter final, Kritsanat Lertsattayathorn”s improbable run came to an end as Thepchaiya turned on the steamroller after losing the opener. Runs of 85 and 111 helped him through to a semi final with Atthasit Mahitti, who came through his clash with Issara Kachaiwong 4-1 with main contributions of 76, 51 and 56. This means that unless Somporn Kantawang manages a third triumph, the Thai National Championship Trophy will have a new name on it, as neither Atthasit nor Thepchaiya has yet managed to become national champion, though each has been runner-up, and of course both have been IBSF World Champions. It has often been said, though mainly by Thais, that it is harder to become Thai champion than Asian champion, because to win the Asian you only have to beat one other Thai. Whichever remaining Thai holds the trophy aloft on Saturday will definitely have earned the honour.