IPA Preview – We are off to Newcastle for the European Pool Open.

After a month or so to recover from the drama of the IPA World Pool Championships we are back this coming weekend with the European Open with the usual list of trophies to be won – and the usual suspects in opposition.

The 21 tables in use are going to see plenty of action with 260 players (another sell-out) in serious competition, playing the sport we all try down the pub – some successfully, others (like me), less so.

The beauty of this sport (unless it goes against you) is that however skilful you are (and some of these players are on another level), you still need lady luck on your side now and then. A good break with a ball down can be a frame winner – the same break with nothing down hands the advantage to your opponent, and even half a roll too much pace can leave you snookered, with a centimetre shorter perfection. For me, as well as watching shots I can only dream of playing, that is the lure of 8 Ball pool – despite knowing plenty about the top players, it isn’t as easy to predict as some sports which is part of the challenge.  Can we find any of the winners this weekend – read on and we will see what happens (betting is available with various bookmakers if you search under “pool”, for those who like that sort of thing), with live scores available on cuescore.com.

European Professional

The crème de la crème go head to head in the event everyone wants to win, and the reality is there will almost certainly be an upset or two along the way – but who will cause it, and whose heads will roll? Gareth Hibbott will arrive full of confidence after being crowned World Champion last month and his consistency always makes him a threat regardless of the draw, earning him a place on our early shortlist, but cowardice suggests I stick with the one and only Mark Boyle.  The ever-popular Scotsman sits proudly on top of the Professional rankings by a wide-margin, and will be itching to get back to winning ways after disappointing at the World Championships.  His cue skills have never been in question (have a look at this for starters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Llh-ZEIGPZo), and if he gets the run of the balls he could take some stopping.

Likeliest winner: Mark Boyle

Defending champion Marc Farnsworth

European Open

With no offence to any of the players, the Open sees the amateurs and professionals slug it out, but although there will be some scalps taken along the way, I would be surprised if we don’t see a professional crowned the winner.  Although not privy to behind the scenes conversations, I get the feeling Marc Farnsworth has rekindled his love of the game and will be chomping at the bit to climb back up the rankings, with the Number One spot his obvious target. It wasn’t that long ago that he was the dominant force in the sport and this is just the sort of event where he can remind us all of his true abilities. I am going to take a guess that he has been putting the hours in on the table to get back to his peak and if that is the case, I would suggest that he is one they will all want to avoid as the tournament progresses.  Mark Boyle and Gareth Hibbott certainly deserve a second mention, here but my nominated danger is Liam Dunster. His controlled measured style is ideally suited to these events where patience is a virtue, and as one of the more unflappable (is that even a word?) on the tour, there are far worse options out there.  

European Amateur

If you thought picking the winner of the main events was tricky, try working with the amateurs. As the IPA Tour is open to all new faces arrive each season, and unknown quantities make this a needle in a haystack job for me. Telling you any of these players could win this doesn’t help either of us, and decisions have to be made – good or bad. Charlie Begley is more than capable on his return to action and is one to consider, but I have a feeling we are yet to see the best of Geo Edgar. He has a tough draw in the first round and I can only hope he doesn’t fall at the first hurdle, but if he negotiates that and gets more table time, he could well go from strength to strength. 

European Elite Ladies

The Ladies side of the IPA tour keep going from strength to strength month in month out, but the Elite field sees the best of them pitting their wits and skills against each other. I am not allowed to bet as part of Team IPA, but if I had simply followed Deb Burchell I would have been quids in. Others may match her skillset, but when it comes to the will to win and steely determination, I know who I want to have on my side. She will have to see off the winner of Alice Paylor and Keira Whitcombe in her first match which is no gimmee, but if she can do so she may well stream-roller the rest all the way through to collecting the trophy. 

European Ladies Open

I don’t think many understand the mental pressure of playing in these tournaments, and the deeper you go, the less time off comes your way. Asking or even expecting Deb Burchell to do the double is a really big ask that should never be underestimated, but why look elsewhere if I think she is the best player? A lot may well depend on how far she goes in the other tournament and how tiring that can become, and if she is not at her best then Rhiannon Graham may be the one to step up to the mark.

European Ladies Amateur

Familiar faces and unknown quantities here make this by far the hardest tournament to even attempt to predict – rightly or wrongly.  I have been hearing good things about the game and attitude of Maria Nieto who could be an outsider to consider here – how she handles the format and the opposition at this level is open to question, but she has plenty of ability to call upon and is one to at least consider.

How can I watch?

Our live streaming is available throughout the World via billaird.tv and also on the IPA YouTube Channel here https://www.youtube.com/@IPAPOOL from 3pm UK time on Friday, 2pm Saturday, and 12pm to the finish Sunday. 

How can I play?

Too late for this event I’m afraid but all are welcome on the IPA tour – more details are available here https://ipapool.com

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