World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) successfully staged its prestigious new Parris Cues Champion of Champions event for the first time last weekend in Gloucester.
Held at the South West Snooker Academy, the event brought together 24 players who competed across six competitions representing each of our regular disability classification groups to determine this year’s overall champions.
As well as prize money, the players were competing for the magnificent Nick Oliver Trophy (learn more about Nick and his story here), as well as a place at next year’s World Snooker Federation Championships in Dubai, with travel/hotel costs to be paid by regular WDBS sponsors 360Fizz.
There was victory for Daniel Lee in the Groups 1-2 wheelchair competition as he defeated the experienced Tony Southern 4-2 to win his biggest WDBS title to date.
Already a three-time WDBS champion coming into the event, Lee narrowly defeated two-time WDBS champion Graham Bonnell 3-2 in his opening match before edging out Craig Welsh and Tony Southern to qualify for the final, while Southern also survived a close match with Bonnell on his way to securing second position in the group.
It was a close final in which Tony threatened to a force a deciding frame, but it was Lee who was able to pot the final colours and secure victory.
“It has been a great honour to be part of this event this weekend,” said Lee. “I am very happy. The prize on offer [a place in Dubai] was definitely in the background and it was a very tight, tough match in the final. Tony has been around a long time and it became a bit of a battle, but I am just happy to get through it.
“It [a place at the WSF Championships] has given me motivation to practice for sure. To be able to go out there and represent WDBS and show what people in a wheelchair can do, I will give myself every chance and practice hard. Realistically it is going to be tough for me but I’m going to enjoy the experience and I’m grateful to be there. I just want to go over and promote this brand [WDBS] and what we are all about. We will conduct ourselves in the right way, enjoy it and give it our best shot.”
In Group 3 there was a win for Daniel Blunn who became the first player to reach the milestone of having won six WDBS titles following a 4-2 victory against Scotland’s William Thomson in the final.
The event marked a significant turnaround for Daniel who lost 4-0 to Thomson in the final of last month’s Open Disability Snooker Championship in Northampton, his third final loss to his rival since 2016. This weekend however saw Blunn record a comfortable 3-0 victory against the Scot in the round robin group stage, before coming out on top a 4-2 winner in the overall group final to book his place on the plane to Dubai next spring.
“I know I have won five tournaments prior to this but I have been beaten by William in three finals so obviously I am glad to win this one, it is my time,” said Blunn, who has cerebral palsy. “I’ve beaten him before in group games here and in Preston, but never in a final so it was good to get one back I suppose. He didn’t play as well as he can to be honest and I didn’t either, but I was able to pot the crucial balls and crucial times, stay in front and got through.”
Earlier this year Daniel became the inaugural winner of the WDBS Belgian Open in his classification, a trip that was actually his first ever overseas and he can now look forward to his second snooker tournament outside of the UK in Dubai.
“I will have to bring some sun tan lotion, it’s quite hot so I hear!” added Blunn. “It will be very tough but there are six pockets, we have all got tips on the end of our cues, let’s have a go and see what we can do. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be there. There’s no reason why we can’t compete among able-bodied people, everyone can play snooker.”
Meanwhile in Group 4-5 we saw David Church come through the field to win his second WDBS title with a 4-1 victory against David Moore.
Having been invited to the event as a late replacement for India’s Raja Subramanian, David Moore impressed in the round robin group stages by winning both of his matches to top the group. Despite taking the opening frame in the final however, it was Church, who had already come through a long match on Sunday morning against Andy Johnson to qualify for the final, who took the next four to win his first title since the 2017 Open Disability Snooker Championship.
“I didn’t really play well all weekend really, but I kept hanging in there, doing what I could do and I managed to get the win on the weekend,” said Church. “To come through a four and a half hour match in the final knowing that whoever won would get to the final, I was happy I got through and that I had given myself a chance. Now I’ve won this one, I have got a trophy to take home and a plane ticket to Dubai so I am very happy.
“Dubai will be the furthest that I have ever travelled, it’s amazing whether I win a match or not. I am not going to go there expecting to win, I am just going to play and if I win a game I will be happy and if not it’s a great experience.”
In the Group 6 classification group for players with intellectual disabilities there was a fifth WDBS title for Daniel Harwood, who defeated fellow Liverpudlian Andrew Galley 5-1 in the final. The pair had already enjoyed a high-quality match in the round robin stages which saw four breaks made over 50 including a tournament-high run of 77 by Harwood on his way to a 4-2 win and it was the serial champion who was able to repeat that victory in the final.
In Group 7 there was a third WDBS title for Coventry’s Nick Neale, who whitewashed four-time champion Paul Smith to complete a dominant weekend during which he dropped just two frames in Gloucester.
“I am over the moon because there is such a big prize at the end of it,” said Neale. “It has been a long couple of days but I am really happy to win. It means the world to me because it has been a long road back for me to pick my cue up again, I didn’t think that I would ever play again but my girlfriend and my dad gave me a kick up the backside and said I was too good not to play. This is a dream because I have put a lot of hard work in and to be going to Dubai to play in such a great event, I am really looking forward to it.
“My goal coming into the weekend was to try to play good snooker and to get to the final and then I thought to myself over the best of nine, even if you go two or three behind you can still get back into the match. The atmosphere out there was great and to be back playing in an arena like that was definitely a good buzz.”
The final match of the weekend to finish was a dramatic Group 8 final which saw Lewis Knowles edge out Shabir Ahmed 5-4 to win his first ever WDBS title, after three previous final defeats to Ahmed during the past 18 months.
The tone was set in the opening frame which was won by Knowles on a re-spotted black, with the underdog moving into a 4-2 lead after the first six frames. Back however came four-time WDBS champion Ahmed, a clearance of 22 in frame eight bringing him back level and forcing a deciding frame for the title.
Having suffered close defeats to Ahmed in the past, it was impressive to see Knowles perhaps play his best frame of the match when it really mattered, eventually coming through on the colours to secure the title and become this year’s Champion of Champion in the deaf classification group.
The event was sponsored for the first time by Parris Cues, with founder and renowned cue maker John Parris on site throughout the weekend and on hand to present the trophies. Each player received their own trophy to take home and keep in recognition of their achievement this year, as well as being presented with the stunning Nick Oliver Trophy, a perpetual trophy which will have the names of each of our winners engraved on its base following this event.
WDBS would like to thank John for his support and also Cathy and Vince, who joined us on what was an emotional final day of the event for both as their late son Nick Oliver was remembered during the presentation of the trophy.
We would also like to thank Tony Cannon, who volunteered his services to help us provide live streaming of a WDBS event via YouTube for the first time, while regular helper Michael Day also provided excellent commentary during the weekend, supported by other members of the WDBS team and players. You can watch back all of the footage from the weekend here.
Finally, we would also like to thank all of the players, officials, supporters and our venue at the South West Snooker Academy, which of course was where the WDBS began with its first event back in 2015. The continued growth of the organisation owes its thanks to the support that has been received by many and we will continue to provide more and more opportunities for disabled people to play cuesports in the future.
View full tournament results from the competition via MySnookerStats here.
View event photos at our Facebook page here.
View the updated WDBS Roll of Honour here.