The final stop on this season’s World Disability Billiards and Snooker circuit takes place this weekend, as the Cueball Derby once again plays as host to the 2019 WDBS Derby Open.
Supported by leading packaging company DS Smith, the event is staged for players with visual (Group 7) and hearing (Group 8) impairments who will both compete within their own individual classification groups. Using British Blind Sport guidelines, for the first time Group 7 will be split into two sub-categories dependent on the competitor’s severity of impairment.
Before the competitive action gets underway at the weekend, Friday will be our regular curtain-raising Open Day where individuals and groups of all disabilities are encouraged to come along and try snooker regardless of previous experience. A mix of both technical coaching and fun activities will be provided by our team of WPBSA World Snooker coaches at the Go Green Energy Coaching Zone.
Formation of the 7A category means we are guaranteed a new main event champion in Derby.
Potential candidates for the title include Bob Craft and Gary Gallacher. Craft came close to a maiden WDBS triumph last year when he reached the final of the UK Open, whilst Scotland’s Gallacher is a two-time Challenge Cup winner, most recently at March’s Southern Classic held in Swindon.
Another tour stalwart, Scott Swanson, will also make the trip down from across the border, seeking to go deep in the event. Recent tour addition Hassan Ali will be back in action, whilst newcomers Danny Dyche and Donna Healy-Sharpe make their debuts.
Group 7B contains a trio of former winners and a pair of two-time finalists, but the player to beat is the in-form Nick Neale.
Last year at this venue, Birmingham’s Neale defeated Mike Gillespie, 3-1, in the final. Neale was in irresistible form throughout that weekend, constructing several half century breaks including a top effort of 92. Since then Neale has remained the kingpin in the category scooping further titles at the Champion of Champions, Hull Open and the Southern Classic.
There are, however, players who have the tools to topple him, this includes Gillespie who won at the Cueball during its first hosting of a WDBS tournament in 2017. The player who Gillespie defeated in the final that day – Paul Smith – is a four-time gold medalist on the circuit whose latest glory was at the Open Disability Championship last autumn.
David Baker and Ronnie Allen are aiming to go one better and become a main title winner having both been close in the past with two runners-up finishes each. David Martin and Ben Chappell will also be hopeful of reaching new territory.
Shabir Ahmed has pretty much dominated the Group 8 scene for the majority of the past two years and will go to Derby as the tournament favourite once again.
Ahmed has fond memories of the Cueball venue; it was here in 2017 where he claimed his first WDBS title, while 12 months ago he retained the title in dramatic circumstances when he came back to oust rival Lewis Knowles in an epic final that went to the final black in the deciding frame.
In total Ahmed has now won six WDBS titles, including five of the last six Group 8 events staged since the start of 2018. The only blot on that record was at November’s Champion of Champions when Knowles overcame him in a final frame to secure his elusive maiden win. Knowles has since lost to Ahmed in the Southern Classic final some eight weeks ago, but that success in Gloucester proves that he can defeat the group’s number one player.
This category continues to thrive with a record field of 27 set to participate in the coming days. Within the entry are 2016 Woking Open champion David Ingham and 2017 Hull Open champion Blake Munton. WDBS main event finalists Richard Gott and Nikolas De Whytell are also scheduled to be present.