November 25, 2013

SB Classic Derby: Ruthless Parsons is Cueball King

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 2:01 pm
Ant Parsons: A Grand Finalist again.

Ant Parsons: A Grand Finalist again.

Sunday saw heat five of this season’s qualifiers for the Snookerbacker Classic and after the last successful event at a new venue in Liverpool, this time we took the tournament to the Cueball in Derby for the very first time.

It’s always a risk going to a new venue, I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit Derby before the weekend but had heard good reports of the venue from several trusted sources and the exchanges I had been having with Danny and Paul who run the place in advance of the tournament made it clear to me that this is a club with ambition, run by snooker people after the corporate fat-cats at Rileys had almost run the place into the ground with their pool, darts and ale focus and total lack of knowledge of how to run a successful snooker club.

On arrival we were greeted by Marc, who showed us around the place and explained the lay out. It was smaller than I had imagined but that added to the feel of it, the snooker tables are nicely separated from the bar which is accompanied by a small area with pool tables (an unfortunate necessity of modern times, hopefully soon to be rid of for the next generation). The viewing area however is fantastic with a glass wall offering views of all the main tables in the snooker hall which remains the beating heart of the building.

Also greeting us was Mark Jones, who was waiting for his daughter Hannah to finish her practice session for the day. Mark took no time in totally rubbishing Paul Beech’s hotel recommendation which we had followed to the letter and talking to us about all manner of things while telling Hannah to get back to the table until he said she could stop, in the nicest possible way of course. Mrs SB left proclaiming that the club had a nice ‘feel’ to it, I agreed and almost at once our minds were at rest and we were ready for a day which we were promised would involve much local rivalry and banter.

I heard early the next morning from Syd Wilson, who would have been one of the favourites to progress, to say he was unable to make it and had to withdraw which left the path clear for another of the fancied runners, Middlesborough’s Ant Parsons, to the Quarter Finals whilst the other seven first round matches got underway.

The players had already been marvelling at the lemon cheesecake bites that Mrs SB had supplied on her now legendary antique silver cakestand and the SB Classic first timers seemed delighted with this addition to the tournament, they also lapped up the goodies provided free of charge by generous sponsors John Parrott Cuesports.

Highlights of Round 1 included what was (at that point) the highest break in this year’s Classic when former professional Jamie Bodle knocked in a classy 121 against Troy Brett. The two are local rivals and as Bodle went on to win 4-2 the rather unsympathetic local crowd, again with Jones as the ringleader of the tormentors, greeted Troy with the question of what it was like to be Derby’s number two player, clearly not adhering to snooker’s timeless etiquette of sympathy and pats on the back for the losing player, but I’m glad to say it was all in good humour, well at least I think it was anyway.

In the meantime, Hannah, who had arrived without her disgracefully hungover parents was on her way to beating Paul Beech 4-1 eventually under the watchful and ever-critical eye of her doting father who managed to make it out of bed to catch the last few frames, in body at least. Hannah is clearly improving in leaps and bounds since going full-time and it’s there for all to see, something that Mark puts down to a number of factors, not least her coaching regime which he believes is bringing out the best in her, not that he’d tell her that of course. Mrs Mark eventually arrived wearing dark glasses fresh from some podium dancing under the influence of alcopops at a circus the previous evening. Yes, you did just read that last sentence correctly.

There were also wins for Sean Hopkin, Bash Maqsood, Joe Steele, Andy Marriott and Stefan Mazrocis. Mrs SB took an instant liking to Stefan I have to say, his penchant and compliments for her cheesecake and general cheerful demeanour is always going to be a winner with her and she asked if he had entered any more, which is a sure sign that she likes someone. Meanwhile I chatted away with Andy Marriott about our mutual manlove of all things Morrissey, we’re having a race to the end of his poetic autobiography and I’m sure we’ll catch up on that again soon, we also both discovered a David Bowie / Wizard of Oz link that had seemingly passed us by for years, all courtesy of Mozza.

Parsons took to the table to face Marriott in the Quarter Finals and after losing the first frame (one of only two he was to lose all day, both to this opponent) the North East man really got into his stride and even managed to better Bodle’s earlier break by a single point, setting the new highest break of the tournament which carries a £300 prize at 122. Obviously still with Mozza on his mind, Andy simply proclaimed afterwards ‘I know it’s over’.

Roycey doing his Ref School thang.

Roycey doing his Ref School thang.

Local rivalry was meanwhile reaching fever pitch on table 10 as Bash Maqsood fist pumped his way to a deciding frame victory over Sean Hopkin. It’s fair to say that the two had a real battle out there, I would hope that if they faced each other again their behaviour at the business end of the match would be a little more in keeping with the spirit of the tournament. But it clearly meant a lot to Bash to win and Sean was obviously very disappointed to lose. It’s big stakes out there for the players and sometimes that can take over a little.

Mazrocis rolled back the years in beating Hannah 4-0 which almost signalled the Jones family exit, but not quite yet as Mark was again holding court in the bar area. This was no disgrace for Hannah as the Crucible veteran obviously still has a really solid game and I think may be planning a comeback of sorts on the Seniors tour. Meanwhile Joe Steele’s dad was polishing off the lemon cheesecakes at a rate of knots as the Stoke Potter put paid to Jamie Bodle’s hopes, Joe coming through that one 4-2.

The semi-finals saw a very one-sided affair between last year’s Grand Finalist Parsons and Maqsood, Ant rolling out a comfortable 4-0 winner under the watchful eye of Martyn Royce, who had spent all morning going through the motions with three Ref School hopefuls; David, Steven and Marc, who had travelled to Derby to learn some of the basics of snooker refereeing from the Roycemeister himself. Joe played solidly to end Stefan’s run and book a place in the final against Ant while his dad reached for more lemon cheesecake, it must have been nerves.

It’s fair to say that Ant took control of the final from an early stage, Joe didn’t really do an awful lot wrong and Ant was clinical in his scoring to again score a whitewash and progress for the second year in succession to the Grand Finals. He was delighted at the end and as ever was very complimentary about the tournament, as were all the players we spoke to in fact. It seems a great day was had by all.

Ant’s next stop last night was to go and film a feature with the BBC in York ahead of his match against Ding Junhui in the UK Championship which will be shown live on Saturday, be sure to tune in and cheer him on.

A huge thanks goes to all at the Cueball that made the day go so well. The club is going from strength to strength and the enthusiasm of Danny, Paul, Marc and all the staff as well as the obvious gratitude of the local players at having a great club to play in shines through. We can’t wait to return there again. You can view and like their Facebook page by clicking here. If you’re in the area, pop in and see how it’s improved since they got hold of it.

Ant’s win sees him join Ben Harrison, Kishan Hirani, Adam Wicheard, Jamie Clarke, Anthony Jeffers and Mitchell Mann in the Grand Finals and next weekend we’re in Leeds to find two more to join them.

Currently Callum Lloyd and Joe Steele sit in pole position on the Order of Merit List with five more qualifying events to go. The top two from this list will also qualify for Grand Finals Day. 

You can view all the results from the Derby SB Classic qualifier here.

The latest standings in the Order of Merit list are here.  

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