Champion of Champions Crowned at Landywood

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The WDBS Champion of Champions was staged for the first time in almost four years last weekend as eight winners were crowned at the Landywood Snooker Club in England.

Previously held in 2018 and 2019, the tournament returned following an enforced absence due to the global pandemic and was played under an all-new format which saw the top two from each group qualify to play a best of 11 frame overall final.

Eight finals were held in all, encompassing physical, intellectual and sensory disabilities, with each winner presented with the Nick Oliver Trophy.

Shahab Siddiqui with trophies

Groups 1-5 (Physical)

The Group 1+2 final (wheelchair) was won for the first time by Shahab Siddiqui, who defeated Tony Southern 6-2 in a deceptively close final that saw several frames decided by the final black.

Siddiqui, who was runner-up to Aslam Abubaker at the event in 2019, built a 4-1 lead by the mid-session, to move to within two frames of glory. Southern, himself a previous finalist five years ago, claimed the first upon their resumption to threaten a fightback, but Siddiqui was not to be denied as he won the next two to earn his biggest WDBS title to date.

Joe Hardstaff with trophies

In Group 3, Joe Hardstaff completed a fairytale month by defeating top ranked Kal Mattu 6-3 to lift the title for the first time.

Having entered the recent Hull Open with an outside chance of qualification, Hardstaff memorably claimed his maiden WDBS crown following victory against Mattu at the Tradewell Snooker Club to break into the top two positions.

It was Hardstaff who led 3-1 in the early stages, before Mattu claimed frames either side of the mid-session interval to draw level as the match passed halfway. The final three frames would all go Hardstaff’s way, however, as he produced what he has himself described as some of the best snooker that he has ever played.

William Thomson presented with trophies by Nigel Mawer QPM

The Group 4 final also saw another new winner crowned as Scotland’s William Thomson raced to a 6-1 success against long-time rival Daniel Blunn.

Runner-up to Blunn in 2018 and Mickey Chambers in 2019, Thomson produced a dominant performance as he restricted his opponent to just 29 points during the first three frames on his way to establishing a 3-0 lead.

Although Blunn got off the mark in frame four, Thomson was not to be deterred and added the next three to win the Champion of Champions for the first time.

Dean Simmons with Trophies

In Group 5, Dean Simmons received a walkover against Mickey Chambers to win the title for the first time. Simmons, who recently reached the final of the Hull Open, was competing in the tournament for the first time.

Alan Reynolds with father and David Grant

Group 6 (Intellectual)

Alan Reynolds claimed his maiden Champion of Champions title in Group 6A after he raced to a 6-0 success against 2019 runner-up Mohamed Faisal Butt.

Making his debut in the competition having joined the Tour in 2021, Reynolds underlined his status as the top ranked player in the Group with a convincing victory.

Leroy Williams with Nigel Mawer QPM

There was, however, a repeat champion in Group 6B, after Leroy Williams became only the second player ever to successfully defend their title at the Champion of Champions, following a hard-fought 6-4 victory against Matthew Haslam.

Looking to emulate 2018 and 2019 Group 7 champion Nick Neale, Williams made the stronger start to lead 3-1 and 4-2, only for Haslam to respond and draw level at 4-4 as he looked to repeat his victory against Williams in the final of the Hull Open last month.

But it was the experienced Williams, who would claim the final two frames to emerge as the victor and retain the Nick Oliver Trophy following his success in 2019.

Mike Gillespie lifts trophy

Groups 7-8 (Sensory)

Group 7 (visual) number one Mike Gillespie won the Champion of Champions title for the first time following a 6-4 win against veteran Paul Smith in Landywood.

The pair, who have met in three previous WDBS finals, enjoyed a hard-fought contest which twice saw Gillespie lead by two frames at 2-0 and 4-2, only for Smith to fight back and draw level on both occasions.

Again, however, it was Gillespie who would not fall behind and the Yorkshire player won another two tight frames to get over the line a 6-4 winner and lift the title for the first time.

Lewis Knowles kisses trophy

Finally, Group 8 (deaf) saw Lewis Knowles lift the title for a second time following a comfortable 6-1 success against Shabir Ahmed.

Having met in the final of the event on each staging of the event, Knowles having won in 2018, with Ahmed taking victory in 2019, it was a familiar match up between the two dominant players in the group over the past six years.

As the opening two frames were shared, yet another close final between the two looked to be in prospect, but it was not to be on this occasion as Knowles claimed five in a row to win the trophy once again.

Group photo of all players

World Disability Billiards and Snooker congratulates each of this year’s eight champions, as well as the runner-ups who qualified for the tournament on account of their achievements over the past two years on the Tour.

Thanks also go to Paul Lloyd and his team at the Landywood Snooker Club, for providing us with their facilities during the weekend.

The WDBS Tour will return with the inaugural staging of the Irish Open from 28-30 July 2023. Entry for the event is now open via WPBSA SnookerScores.