Advani survives a Keen battle

Chitra, Vidya showruthlessness in their opening match to race past opponents

Advani survives a Keen battle

Title favourite Pankaj Advani got off the blocks in scratchy fashion while compatriots Chitra Magimairaj and Vidya Pillai made smashing starts on the opening day of the IBSF World Snooker Championship here on Wednesday.

Fresh from his double glory at the World Billiards Championship, the 29-year-old Bengalurean suffered a mid-match loss in concentration before recovering in time to down Malaysian Keen Hoo Moh 4-2 (71-34, 85-0, 25-62, 46-58, 67-19, 69-44) in his Group H tie at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium.

Contenders in the women’s section, Chitra and Vidya, however, were ruthless in their openers, romping to 3-0 victories. While Chitra downed Philippine Floriza Andal 60-29, 65-24, 72-17, Vidya powered past Russian Anastasija Singurindi 49-40, 54-41, 71-33 in quick time.
Former national champion Meenal Thakur and Neena Praveen also made positive beginnings, the former defeating Carmelita Yumito of Brazil 3-0 (60-17, 83-39, 64-28) and the latter easing past Hong Kong’s Ip Wan In Jaique 3-0 (57-41, 56-26, 49-36).

Advani, returning to snooker after his record-breaking victory in the World 6-red Snooker Championship at Egypt in June, initially appeared to be in fine touch, showing glimpses of the form that has seen him nail three individual world titles in a span of five months.

Following a cautious beginning in the first frame, Advani got the opening he had been waiting for when Keen missed a red pot while attempting to break the bunch. Seizing it with both hands, he rifled in a break of 60 points before losing position with four reds left to lead 60-17. Keen tried to make a comeback but Advani had it wrapped up when the Malaysian failed to get the snookers he was aiming for.

Advani stepped on the accelerator in the second frame, smashing an 85-point break as writing appeared to be on the wall for Keen. The Malaysian, however, scripted a turnaround in the next two frames, cashing in brilliantly on rare errors from the Indian. Seemingly complacent, 12-time world champion Advani allowed Keen to take a grip on the match as the Malaysian won the third and fourth frames despite himself committing errors of his own and struggling for positional play.

Realising that further slip-ups could hurt him pretty badly, Advani pulled up his socks thereafter to eventually ease past Keen. He showed the patience in safety play that was missing in the previous two frames, recalled his attacking instincts as the Malaysian once again found the challenge tough to contend.

Malaysia’s Thor Chaun Leong and Chinese teen sensation Yan Bingtao, two major contenders for the title, notched up contrasting victories. Thor, the reigning Asian snooker champion who was caught napping in the opening frame, woke up from his slumber in quick time to defeat Qatar’s Mohsen Bukshaisha 4-2 (0-128 (108), 66-40, 79-7, 70-1, 42-50, 69-30).

Yan, just 14 but oozing with plenty of talent, didn’t waste much time, beating Sweden’s Jim Johansson 4-1 (95-26, 22-85, 70-7, 71-10, 89-1). Playing snooker betraying his age, he kept pulling off some stunning shots that had Johansson completely surprised.

Although Johansson managed to reel off a frame, that’s all he could manage as Yan dictated the pace brilliantly to warm himself up nicely for the bigger contests ahead.

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