August 13, 2018

Giant-killer Ijaz stuns Babar in final to clinch NBP snooker title

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Giant-killer Muhammad Ijaz staged an incredible fightback to stun third seed Babar Masih in the marathon final of 10th NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 at the NBP Sports Complex in Karachi on August 13.

Trailing 2-6 in the best of 15-frame encounter, the unseeded Ijaz, making his maiden appearance in the final of any national ranking tournament, pulled it back dramatically to win the all-Punjab final 8-6 with the scores of 43-63, 78-42, 21-83, 39-93, 94-20, 20-79, 58-67, 17-57, 68-45, 58-51, 56-40, 62-1, 58-02, 77-50. 

Hailing from the city of Sargodha, the 30-year-old Ijaz, younger brother of Muhammad Sajjad, the three-time national champion and a former world number two, who was also watching the final, kept his cool and never lost belief in himself. 

“I was indeed concerned at having gone to interval 2-6 down. But I kept saying to myself that it’s just matter of one frame to turn the tables. Thankfully I won the very first frame after resumption and I didn’t let the momentum slip out of my hands. Indeed it was a very tough match for me but honestly I never lost hope,” Ijaz remarked in a brief conversation soon after collecting the first national ranking title. 

The 31-year-old Babar, a seasoned cueist from Rawalpindi, was disconsolate for obvious reasons at having let the trophy get out of his hands from a vantage position. 

“Oh yes I really don’t know how it happened. I was supremely confident about running away with the title when the interval was announced at which point I was leading 6-2. It looked a matter of time for me to complete my victory. But I was unable to exercise much control in the latter half of the match as I ran out of luck. Indeed it’s disappointing to have lost the match which I should have won comfortably,” he regretted. 

The first half of the final was all about Babar as he fired breaks of 62 and 81 in successive frames to establish his dominance. Ijaz did win second and fifth frames but he seemed down and out when his opponent won the next three frames on a trot to move 6-2 up. 

But the story changed in the second half which was all about Ijaz as he pulled it back magnificently and all attempts from Babar to stop the carnage didn’t yield results. Ijaz emerged as the deserved champion in the end, signing off with a superlative break of 54 in the 14th frame. 

Saeed Ahmed, President and CEO of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), who was the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony, presented a cheque of Rupees one lact to Ijaz alongwith the glittering trophy. 

Babar had to be content with a purse of Rupees forty thousand with the runner-up trophy while top seeded Muhammad Asif, who was edged out by the eventual champion in the semifinals, collected the award of Rupees five thousand for registering the highest break of the nine-day event (138). 

Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) and Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, Co-Chairman, PBSA, addressed the ceremony which was also attended by the top NBP officials, including Iqbal Qasim and Shaukat Mahmood Khattak.

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August 9, 2018

Cueist Muhammad Sajjad confident of regaining form, titles

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Muhammad Sajjad, one of the most prolific cueists of the country during the last one decade, has sounded confident about regaining his top form and recapturing the titles having slipped out of his hands during the current year. 

The three times national champion and who has remained the runner-up in both the World Championship as well as the Asian Championship, was reacting to his early elimination in the 10th NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 being staged at the NBP Sports Complex in Clifton, Karachi on August 9.

Sajjad, having clinched the National Championship in 2008, 2010 and 2017, failed to force his way into the knockout rounds of the second national ranking event of the year which may not allow him to participate in the third and final competition of the year due to be held next month. 

“By the look of things I am unlikely to qualify for the upcoming ranking tournament in September. Neither do I stand much chance to be given direct entry in the next year’s National Championship for which I will be required to qualify by playing and performing in the Punjab Cup,” he remarked in a brief conversation after succumbing to yet another defeat in the last league outing of the ongoing NBP Ranking Championship.

“Indeed it has been a nightmarish year for me at the table. But this is not going to be the end of the world for me. I have enough belief in my capabilities to bounce back and reclaim the trophies,” he said. 

“As far as this particular tournament is concerned, I just couldn’t recover after been hammered in straight frames in my opening game. But such things do happen in every athlete’s career and I am not too perturbed about it,” the 32-year-old Sajjad, hailing from Punjab’s city of Sargodha, shared. 

When inquired about the decline in his form leading to inconsistency and failure, he reckoned that one of the reasons could be the changes in his style of play which he had brought about by watching some of the top cueists of the world. 

“Probably that proved to be my undoing and I was unable to gain the usual command over my game. Therefore I will revert to my original style of play which had earned be laurels and medals,” he added. 

He didn’t consider the young and emerging cueists of the country as major threats to him in future. Neither did he feel threatened by the vastly experienced hands in the circuit.

“The youngsters are talented but I have the skills and the confidence besides the experience to take them on. I am capable of defeating any cueist, irrespective of his name or reputation,” he asserted. 

It may be recalled that Sajjad, acclaimed for his potting and break-building abilities, had gone down fighting 7-8 to Yan Bingtao of China in the epic final of the IBSF World Snooker Championship in 2014 while he was also the runners-up in the Asian Snooker Championship 2010 having lost to Issara Kachaiwong of Thailand in the final.

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August 7, 2018

Kizilbashing win Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Kizilbashing emerged as the champions in the 23rd edition of the Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament 2018 which concluded at the Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium, Karachi, on August 5. 

Comprising of Anwar Mumtaz Kizilbash, Tehsin Gheewala, Anis-ur-Rahman, Hasan Askari, Rashid-ul-Ghazi and Sheikh Abdul Muqeet, Kizilbashing won the two-day event by accumulating 96.03 points in seven rounds. 

The Karachi Bridge Associates (KBA), led by its President Dr Minhaj Qidwai, and also featuring Faraz Hyder, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi and Abdul Kader Bhurgri, claimed the runners-up slot with an aggregate of 89.02 points. 

The Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP), captained by its chairman Khurshid Hadi, and also having seasoned campaigners like Kemal Shoaib, Abdul Rahman Allana, Major Akhtar Zaidi and Javed Ahmed Miran, finished third with its tally of 76.44 points. 

The fourth position was clinched by Shahab IV, containing Shahab Latif Khan, Abdul Qadir Sakaria, Farhat Abbas and Muhtashim Ashai, who aggregated 70.85 points. They were leading the table at the end of the second round. 

Another fancied team Bilal, having the presence of Shahin Iqbal, Parvez Mirza, Gulzar Ahmed Bilal, Farrukh Liaquat and Muhammad Ghufran Ashraf, had to settle with the fifth position as they secured 70.29 points. 

Only eight teams contested the annual event having offered handsome prize money of Rs 150,000, donated by Khurshid Hadi, Founder Chairman, MSAP and a former President of the PBF. 

The championship is being organized by the KBA to pay homage the late Muhammad Aslam Shaikh, a former Secretary of the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), acclaimed to have devoted his life for the development of the game. 

The PBF and the KBA had jointly instituted the memorial event in 1996 whose declining attendance over the last couple of years has caused concerns. As compared to the average of 16 to 17 teams participating in the earlier years, the participation had gone down to 11 teams last year and it further dropped to only eight this year.

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August 5, 2018

NBP President inaugurates Ranking Snooker Championship

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The top functionary of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) has pledged greater support for snooker in particular and sports in general as part of their policy of promoting healthy activities throughout the country.

Saeed Ahmed, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NBP, announced that their institution was looking forward to continue backing snooker as the cueists were bringing laurels for Pakistan. 

Talking to the media corps, after inaugurating the 10th edition of NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 at the NBP Sports Complex in Karachi on August 5, he expressed his delight with the improved performances of the Pakistani cueists at the regional as well as at the international level. 

“It’s particularly pleasing to note that the performance level of the cueists has improved considerably after getting employment at our bank. Obviously the job security is a vital element and the cueists have been able to concentrate single-mindedly on their game instead of worrying for other things,” the NBP President reckoned. 

He also commended the role of Iqbal Qasim, a cricket great, in having facilitated the promotion of various sports from the platform of NBP for decades. 

“He (Iqbal Qasim) brings professionalism. He was a cricket star in his playing days and then turned out to be wonderful administrator as he headed our sports division so successfully over the years. We have welcomed him back wholeheartedly at the same position and he’s delivering again,” the NBP President acknowledged. 

The President of the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA), Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, in his brief remarks on the occasion, complimented NBP for being the only department to have supported snooker consistently. 

“Besides sponsoring and hosting a national ranking snooker tournament every year for the past one decade, NBP has also provided jobs to more than half a dozen cueists which has helped tremendously in boosting cue sports all over the country,” the PBSA President recognized. 

The chief of the NBP Sports Division, Iqbal Qasim, gave the assurance to the participating cueists that better arrangements would be made for them in the future with the expansion of the complex. 

Shaukat Mahmood Khatak, Executive Vice President, NBP, added that more facilities would be added at the sports complex in due course of time.

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August 4, 2018

Khurshid Hadi regrets thin attendance in Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The low turnout has marred the 23rd edition of the Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament 2018 got underway at the Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium, Karachi, on August 4.

Only eight teams turned out for the annual event, organized by the Karachi Bridge Associates (KBA), to pay homage the late Muhammad Aslam Shaikh, a former Secretary of the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), known to have devoted his life for the development of the game. 

The thin attendance looked all the more disappointing for the fact that the event offered handsome prize money of Rs 150,000, donated by Khurshid Hadi, Founder Chairman, Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) and a former President of the PBF, with even the fifth placed team assured of a share in it. 

According to the information made available by the organizers, the tournament was participated by 11 teams last year which was the lowest in its 22-year history. Now the record has come down to eight teams in its 23rd year. 

The PBF and the KBA had jointly instituted the memorial event in 1996 in the memory of Aslam Shaikh, who was tragically murdered in August 1995. 

Khurshid Hadi, having headed the PBF with distinction for a couple of tenures until 2008, conceded that the declining attendance in the bridge tournaments of late was a cause of serious concern and appropriate damage control measures must be taken by the administrators of the game.

He pointed out that the ongoing development work at the National Stadium was also one of the contributing factors in not letting the interested players reach the Aslam Bridge Hall due to the hardships they faced. 

Meanwhile Shahab IV, comprising of Shahab Latif Khan, Abdul Qadir Sakaria, Farhat Abbas and Muhtashim Ashai, got themselves on top of the tree in the points table at the end of the second round with their score of 27.44 points. 

KBA, led by its President Dr Minhaj Qidwai, and also having Faraz Hyder, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi and Abdul Kader Bhurgri, were a close second with 26.58 points while Kizilbashing, containing Anwer Mumtaz Kazilbash, Tehseen Gheewala, Anis-ur-Rahman, Hasan Askari and Rashid-ul-Ghazi, were placed third with 23.87 points. 

MSAP, captained by its chairman Khurshid Hadi, and also having the likes of Kemal Shoaib, Abdul Rahman Allana, Major Akhtar Zaidi and Javed Ahmed Miran, had moved to fourth position with 18.68 points after having endured a setback in the opening round.

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NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 offers enhanced purse

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A total of 40 cueists, instead of the customary 32, will be participating in 10th edition of NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 getting underway at the NBP Sports Complex in Clifton, Karachi, on August 5. 

The Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA), accepting the demands of the country’s top performing cueists, has enhanced the number of entries, the prize money and the daily allowance for the participants. 

The total prize money in the nine-day championship, being sponsored by National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) for the 10th year running, has been raised to Rs 185,000. The daily allowance for the each participant will now be Rs 2,500 per day instead of Rs 2,000. 

The winner of the event will now be getting Rs one lac instead of Rs 60,000 while the runner-up will receive Rs 40,000 with the losing semifinals and the losing quarter-finalists getting Rs 10,000 and Rs 5,000 each respectively. The highest break award will earn a purse of Rs 5,000. 

Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Bilal, Babar Masih, Muhammad Majid Ali, Muhammad Ahsan Javaid and Ali Haider are the six seeded cueists from the province of Punjab while the other two seeds Sultan Muhammad and Zulfiqar Abdul Qadir hail from the host province of Sindh. 

The 40 participants have been divided equally in eight groups for the preliminary rounds whose matches will be spread over five days. The winner and the runner-up of each group will qualify for the knockout rounds, starting with the pre-quarter-finals. 

Top seeded Muhammad Asif (Pjb), Agha Bilawal (Sindh), Rashid Mahmood Abbasi (Isb), Ian Mark John (Sindh) and Sirbuland Khan (KPK) are drawn in the Group A while the Group B comprises of second seed Muhammad Bilal (Pjb), Shahid Aftab (Pjb), Khurram Hussain Agha (Sindh), Muhammad Sajjad (Pjb)and Shaikh Muhammad Mudassir (Pjb). 

The Group C contains Babar Masih (Pjb), Sohail Shahzad (Sindh) Muhammad Ijaz (Pjb), Muhammad Umar (Pjb) and Imran Shahzad (Pjb) while the Group D features fourth seed Muhammad Majid Ali (Pjb), Qadeer Abbas (Pjb), Aamir Sohail (KPK), Musaddiq Mahmood (Isb) and Muhammad Shahbaz (Pjb). 

The Group E is composed of fifth seed Muhammad Ahsan Javaid (Pjb), Aakash Rafique (KPK), Muhammad Imran (KPK), Muhammad Faizan (Sindh) and Umair Alam (Sindh) while the quintet of sixth seed Sultan Muhammad (Sindh), Muhammad Naseem Akhtar (Pjb), Rambail Gul (KPK), Muhammad Asif Toba (Pjb) and Abdullah (KPK) constitute the Group F. 

Seventh seed Ali Haider (Pjb) leads the pack in the Group G in the company Asjad Iqbal (Pjb), Mubashir Raza (Pjb), Haris Tahir (Pjb), Abdul Javaid (Pjb) while the Group H has the presence of eighth seed Zulfiqar Abdul Qadir (Sindh), Abdul Sattar (Sindh), Farhan Noor (Pjb), Usman Ahmad (Pjb) and Sharjeel Mahmood (KPK). 

The league matches will continue to be best-of-seven-frame contests. The quarter-finals will be of best-of-nine-frame matches; the semi-finals best-of-11-frame; and the final best-of-15-frame. As in the past, the semi-finals and the final will be telecast live on Geo Super.

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August 2, 2018

Khurshid Hadi adds value to Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Khurshid Hadi, Founder Chairman, Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP), and a former President of the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), has come to the rescue once more by sponsoring the latest edition of the Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament 2018 which will be getting underway at the Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium, Karachi, on August 4 

The tournament, an annual feature in the bridge calendar for the past couple of decades, is organized to pay homage the late Muhammad Aslam Shaikh, a former Secretary of the PBF, who was murdered in August 1995. 

He has been hailed as person who had devoted his life for the development of the game. 

The PBF and the KBA had jointly instituted the memorial event in 1996 and it has been held regularly since then.

The MSAP Chairman, Khurshid Hadi, has now added greater attraction of prize money and the KBA was approaching all duplicate bridge players to make it a grand and memorable one. 

Khurshid Hadi’s own team, comprising of some of the bridge stalwarts, will also be participating in the event alongwith other fancied outfits, expected to turn up in event being held in the memory of one of the most eminent bridge personalities of the country. 

The activities of duplicate bridge are in full swing at the Aslam Bridge Hall, despite difficult approach due to development work being carried on at the National Stadium. 

The Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament 2018 will be spread over two successive days and the proceedings will commence at 2.30 pm on both days.

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Iqbal Qasim’s return as NBP sports chief welcomed by PBSA

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The return of Iqbal Qasim as sports chief of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and the increment in the winner’s purse of the annual event highlighted the media launch of the 10th edition of NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 held at the Karachi Gymkhana on August 2.

The details about the championship, to be staged at the NBP Sports Complex in Clifton, from August 5 to 13, were unfolded by Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA). 

He was handed over the sponsorship cheque of Rupees 13 lacs by Shaukat Mahmood Khatak, Executive Vice President, NBP, on the occasion. 

Iqbal Qasim, one of the cricket greats, who had retired from the bank, after having headed the sports division for a couple of decades, has been brought back by the management to regain the lost glories and his return was warmly welcomed by the snooker fraternity. 

“As the sports head, his monumental role in having as many as five cueists employed at NBP deserves special mention. Now his return at the same position augurs well for cue sports and we are confident that greater support would be extended in his new tenure,” Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, Co-Chairman, PBSA, acknowledged in his speech. 

“NBP has been the leading department in supporting snooker over the years and their continued sponsorship for the past one decade has helped enormously in raising the standard of cue sports and bringing home more medals,” the former PBSA President recognized. 

The modest and unassuming Iqbal Qasim, in his brief remarks, promised more facilities for snooker at the NBP Sports Complex despite the space constraints. He vowed to continue supporting the cause of cue sports which has been bringing laurels for the country on a regular basis. 

Meanwhile the winner of the NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2018 will be getting Rs one lac which represented a substantial increment of Rs 40,000. The total prize money in the nine-day event will be Rs 185,000. The runner-up will receive Rs 40,000 while the losing semifinals will be getting Rs 10,000 each while the losing quarter-finalists will be given Rs 5,000 each. 

The highest break award carries a purse of Rs 5,000. Besides raising the number of participants from 32 to 40, the PBSA, upon the request of the cueists, has also increased their daily allowance and each of them will now be getting Rs 2,500 per day instead of Rs 2,000. 

As far as the format of the championship is concerned, the contestants have been divided equally in eight groups for the preliminary rounds whose matches will be spread over five days. 

The winners and the runners-up of each group will qualify for the knockout rounds, starting with the pre-quarter-finals. The league matches will be best-of-seven-frame contests. The quarter-finals will be of best-of-nine-frame matches; the semi-finals best-of-11-frame; and the final best-of-15-frame. 

As in the past, the semi-finals and the final will be telecast live on Geo Super, the premier sports television channel of the country.

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