August 23, 2014

Brilliant Faisal Khan leads India’s triumph in Jubilee Insurance Asian Team Event


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The brilliance of Mohammad Faisal Khan allowed India to retain the crown as they prevailed over arch-rivals Pakistan in the final of the 2nd Asian Team Event Snooker Championship 2014 at Hotel Avari Towers, Karachi, on August 23.

India A, comprising of Kamal Chawla, Faisal Khan and Dharmendra Singh Lilly, overpowered Pakistan A, featuring Mohammad Asif, the 2012 world champion, and Mohammad Sajjad, 3-1 in the final with the frame scores of 104-0, 95-1, 26-99, 83-43. 

The presentation ceremony was held soon after the conclusion of the final in which handsome cash prizes, trophies and medals were awarded to the outstanding performers. 

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, was the chief guest of the evening while Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Commissioner, Karachi, was the guest of honour. They credited the organizers for doing a fabulous job. 

The top functionaries of the Asian Confederation of Billiards Sports (ACBS) and the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) were also present on the occasion. 

Earlier in the day, the Indian trio had stunned the favourites Iran, being represented by Hossien Vafaei Ayouri, the 2011 world champion, and Amir Sarkosh, having clinched the Asian 6-Reds title a few days ago, in the semifinals 3-1 with the frame scores of 136-0, 76-4, 58-61, 82-42. 

Pakistan had cruised in the final by hammering the dangerous Thailand, having Kritsanut Lertsattayathorn and Boonyarit Kaettikun, in the semifinals 3-1 with the frame scores of 71-53, 119-12, 1-76, 62-13. 

Faisal Khan remained India’s hero of the day as he starred in both the crunch matches which motivated his teammates, Kamal Chawla and Dharmendra Singh, to also rise to the occasion. He won both his singles matches in the final against Pakistan. 

He got his team off to a flying start as blanked Mohammad Asif in the opening frame, chalking up a fantastic break of 70. The momentum was sustained by Kamal Chawla who outfoxed Mohammad Sajjad in the next frame, compiling a superb break of 91. 

Asif-Sajjad pulled it back for the home side by winning the doubles frame against the duo of Faisal Khan and Dharmendra Singh. Sajjad was under intense pressure when he appeared to take on Faisal Khan in the fourth frame and the latter pressed home the advantage. He capitalized on his early lead and overcame some nervous moments to seal the fate of the tournament. 

Faisal Khan had led India off to a spectacular start in the semifinals too, registering breaks of 81 and 55 in the opening frame against the supremely confident Amir Sarkosh. Kamal Chawla doubled the lead by outplaying Hossien Vafaei Ayouri. The Iranians kept the contest alive by narrowly winning the third frame but it was all over for them when Kamal Chawla defeated Amir Sarkosh in the fourth frame. 

In the other semifinal, Mohammad Asif edged out Kritsanut Lertsattayathorn in the opening frame and Mohammad Sajjad, with a classy break of 85, humbled Boonyarit Kaettikun in the next frame. The Thailand pair comfortably won the doubles contest but Mohammad Asif outgunned Boonyarit Kaettikun in the very next frame to guide Pakistan into the final.

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August 22, 2014

Highly educated Shahram Changezi brings grace to snooker arena


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The doyen of sports journalists in Pakistan, Gul Hameed Bhatti, while reviewing one of my books, had observed that it’s always better to have more than one option professionally. He was referring to my degree in civil engineering and my passion for writing which had brought into journalism.

He was absolutely right. Having the luxury of choice is a blessing. You don’t feel like working and you never get tired when doing things that you actually love. Obviously it’s not always easy to get into that kind of position. 

There have been very few athletes who have also excelled in academics which provided dual career options. Cricketers of the pedigree of Abdul Hafeez Kardar, Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Rameez Raja were also successful in securing degrees in higher education. 

Shahram Changezi, a former national snooker champion, appears to be the first-ever top ranking cueist of the country, who has excelled in academic career as well.

He is currently representing Pakistan in the ongoing Jubilee Insurance 2nd Asian Team Event Snooker Championship 2014 being staged at Hotel Avari Towers in Karachi, is a rare breed of athletes having made it to the top while having pursued scholastic activities. 

Born at Islamabad on April 3, 1983, he has been raised in the federal capital. He matriculated from the Islamabad College for Boys G-6/3 in 1990 while he did FSc from the Punjab College a couple of years later. He graduated in business administration at the Preston University in 2009 before doing masters, also in business administration, from the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, in 2011. 

He has been employed at the headquarters of the prestigious National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) as Admin and Protocol Officer since 2013. 

Shahram Changezi had started playing snooker at the age of 15. He earned the Best Player of Punjab award at only 17 while he became the Punjab Cup champion in 2005 which paved the way for his entry in the national circuit.  It didn’t take him long to make his presence felt at the national level and he was crowned as the champion in 2007. He retained the title in 2008, the year which also saw him becoming the top ranked cueist of the country for the first time. He helped Pakistan win a bronze medal in the 2010 Asian Games in China.

He remains the only Pakistani, besides the England-based Shaukat Ali, to have featured in the in the top 100 UK Order of Merit, having done it in 2011. He was Pakistan’s third ranked cueist in 2012. 

Shahram Changezi’s academic career witnessed breaks to fuel his passion for snooker. He had taken a break from education from 2001 to 2004 and then again from 2009 to 2013. He took several years/semesters off in order to participate in the various snooker events. 

He is still one of the best exponents of cue sports in the country and he has the fierce determination to earn more glories for the country. He has completed his education but engaged in a full-time job at a leading university might not allow him the kind of time he would have ideally liked to devote to the game.

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August 20, 2014

Iran’s Amir Sarkosh clinches Jubilee Insurance 6-Red Asian snooker crown


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

An Iranian was expected to win the title but more than Amir Sarkosh, the eventual champion, it was the prolific Hossien Vafaei Ayouri who had looked likely to run away with the trophy. 

Amir Sarkosh defied all odds and staged a magnificent comeback in the final against Boonyarit Kaettikun of Thailand to pocket the 11-nation Jubilee Insurance 3rd 6-Red Snooker Championship 2014 at Hotel Avari Towers, Karachi, on August 20. 

Trailing 3-6 down in the best of 13-frame final he grabbed the last four frames on a trot to win the fiercely fought encounter 7-6 with the frame scores of 46-44, 12-46, 1-52, 33-0. 43-31, 1-54, 12-45, 0-66, 0-49, 46-0, 63-8, 37-32, 41-28. 

The final lived upto the billing with high-class snooker being witnessed. Amir Sarkosh took the opening frame but his opponent hit back to claim the next couple of frames. He moved ahead 3-2 by pocketing the next two frames but Boonyarit Kaettikun went on the rampage in the following four frames to go 6-3 up. 

Staring defeat, Amir Sarkosh kept the contest alive by taking the 10th and 11th frames rather comfortably. There was fierce contest in the last two frames and he managed to win both of them to run away with the trophy. 

Earlier in the day, Amir Sarkosh had displayed similar resilience in the semifinals when he edged out Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar 6-5 with the frame scores of 39-0, 39-24, 42-15, 6-38, 7-46, 23-34, 42-0, 6-61, 60-6, 0-61, 71-0. 

His victory made amends for the shocking defeat of his whose compatriot, Hossien Vafaei Ayouri, a former world champion, at the hands of Boonyarit Kaettikun who won the other pre-final 6-3 with the frame scores of 13-37, 41-0, 56-14, 36-21, 40-19, 24-39, 33-17, 7-40, 35-25. 

While Hamza Akbar was eliminated in the semifinals, six of the seven home cueists crashed on the opening day of knockout games. The defeats of Asif Toba and Mohammad Sajjad in the quarter-finals hurt Pakistan badly as both of them had looked in superb form. 

Sajjad went down fighting against Amir Sarokosh after 10-frame battle but Asif was literally blown away by the rampaging Hossein Ayouri in what turned out to be a one-sided affair. 

The only all-Pakistan quarter-final, featuring Hamza Akbar and Sohail Shahzad, went to the full distance of 11 frames. Fortunes fluctuated dramatically until Hamza won the final frame after having been blanked in the last two. 

The only quarter-final, which didn’t have a Pakistani, also went to the wire as Boonyarit Kaettikun edged out Ang Boon Chin after a 11-frame duel. 

The pre-quarter-finals were held earlier in the day in which top seeded Mohammad Asif was routed by compatriot Hamza Akbar while second seed Hossein Ayouri survived a scare at the hands of India ’s Rahul Ajay Sachdev. 

Sohail Shahzad and Mohammad Sajjad emerged triumphant in the all-Pakistan pre-quarters as they overpowered Asjad Iqbal and Shahid Aftab respectively while Asif Toba blew the whistle on Syria’s Omar Alkojah. 

Saleh Mohammad of Afghanistan, who won the Asian Championship in Karachi last year, fell in the pre-quarters this time round, losing narrowly to Boonyarit Kaettikun after an absorbing 11-frame contest.

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August 18, 2014

Seven home cueists enter Jubilee Insurance 6-Red snooker knockout phase


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 
(Pakistan News &  Features Services) 

As many as seven of the eight participating Pakistan’s cueists stormed into the knockout stage of the 11-nation Jubilee Insurance 3rd 6-Red Snooker Championship 2014 whose league matches concluded at Hotel Avari Towers, Karachi, on August 18. 

Mohammad Asif, Shahid Aftab, Asif Toba, Hamza Akbar, Asjad Iqbal, Sohail Shahzad and Mohammad Sajjad forced their way into the pre-quarter-finals with Abdul Sattar being the lone home cueist to miss the boat after two days of league matches. 

A total of 37 cueists from 11 countries had entered the fray and now it’s down to the knockout phase with 16 cueists having cleared the first hurdle. The pre-quarter-finals and the quarter-finals will be held on August 19 while the semifinals and final will be taking place on August 20. The four-day tournament will followed by the 2nd Asian Team Event, starting on August 21. 

Third seed Kamal Chawla of India, sixth seed Mohsen Bukshaisha of Qatar and eighth seed Mutaz Saleymeh of Palestine failed to qualify for the knockout stage of the competition and besides the seven home cueists those having entered the pre-quarters are Ang Boon Chin (Singapore), Hossein Vafaei Ayouri (Iran), Amir Sarkosh (Iran), Chau Hon Man (Hong Kong), Boonyarit Kaettikun (Thailand), Omar Alkojah (Syria), Saleh Mohammad (Afghanistan), Au Chi Wai (Hong Kong) and Rahul Ajay Sachdev (India). 

Top seeded Mohammad Asif, the 2012 world champion and the top seed for the event, and unseeded Ang Boon Chin qualified for the next round from the Group A ahead of Mohammad Raees Senzai of Afghanistan, who was ranked second in the group. 

Second seed Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, who annexed the world crown in 2011, emerged the Group B champion by taming Shahid Aftab, who also advanced to the next round. India’s premier cueist and third seed Kamal Chawla was eliminated as the top two slots in the Group C were shared between the unseeded duo of Amir Sarkosh and Asif Toba. 

Fourth seed Chau Hon Man and Hamza Akbar took the top two slots in the Group D while fifth seed Boonyarit Kaettikun and Asjad Iqbal qualified from the Group E.

The unseeded duo of Omar Alkojah and Sohail Shahzad stormed in the pre-quarters from the Group F as sixth seed Mohsen Bukshaisha was sent packing early. 

Seventh seed Saleh Mohammad and Au Chi Wai shared the top two positions in the Group G while the unseeded pair of Mohammad Sajjad and Rahul Ajay Sachdev moved innto the next round ahead of eighth seed Mutaz Saleymeh. 

The performance of top seeded Mohammad Asif gladdened the hearts of his supporters as he managed to win all four league matches. Mohammad Sajjad also remained unbeaten in the league matches, as did Hossein Vafaei Ayouri and Chau Hon Man. 

Close encounters are expected in the knockout phase as the pre-quarter-finals will be spread over two sessions on August 19. The morning session will start at 10 am and the remaining four fixtures will start at 1 pm. All are quarter-finals are due to commence later in the evening, at 5 pm.

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11-nation Jubilee Insurance 6-Red snooker event cues off


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The 11-nation Jubilee Insurance 3rd 6-Red Snooker Championship 2014 was inaugurated formally at Hotel Avari Towers, Karachi, on August 17. The four-day individual event will be followed by the Jubilee Insurance 2nd Asian Team Event, starting on August 21.

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, was the chief guest in a colorful inauguration ceremony in which top officials of the Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS) were also present. 

The Jubilee Insurance Group, which has been supporting the cause of cue sports in the country for quite a few years now, has renewed the pledge to have a long-term relationship. 

“It’s very heartening for us, as sponsors, to watch the game of snooker prosper with every passing year. The level of commitment of all the stake-holders is praiseworthy and we are happy to be playing our role in the further development of cue sports,” Tahir Ahmed observed. 

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), welcomed the contingent of foreign delegates, officials and cueists to Karachi, wishing them the best of luck during their week-long stay for the twin continental events, offering lucrative prize money of US$23,625. The Asian Team Event carries prize money of US$14,250 while the 6-Reds tourney will be US$9,375 at stake. 

“We have tried our level best to rope in as many teams as possible. It was never easy to achieve the goal in the present circumstances but it’s extremely satisfying to have the participation of cueists from 11 countries. We may be short on quantity but we are high on quality,” he observed while referring to the presence of some high-profile cueists on the occasion. 

While the PBSA has stolen the limelight by roping in a large number of foreign participants in a most uncertain scenario, the top cueists of the country proved their mettle on the table in the shorter format of the game on the opening day of the twin events. 

Mohammad Asif, the 2012 world champion and the top seed for the event, got off to a spectacular start, winning both his matches in the Group A on the opening day. After overpowering Mahanna Naseer Obaidli of Qatar 5-2 in his first game he demolished Katen Chawla of India in straight frames. 

Pakistan’s other seven cueists, Shahid Aftab, Asif Toba, Hamza Akbar, Asjad Iqbal, Sohail Shahzad, Abdul Sattar and Mohammad Sajjad, also recorded a victory each on the first day to make the day for the hosts. 

Second seed Hossein Vafaei Ayouri of Iran, the 2011 world champion, began his campaign on a sensational note as he whipped Majed Saeed Abdulnabi of Bahrain very quickly after registering big breaks in the first three frames. Third seed Kamal Chawla of India also started his campaign on a winning note as he tamed Lim Chun Kiat of Singapore 5-2 in his opening game.

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India’s participation boosts twin Asian events in Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The twin Asian snooker events, having started in the port city of Karachi on August 17, received a massive boost with the participation of the Indian cueists, who were issued visas at the eleventh hour.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), didn’t mince words in stating they were mighty relieved with the participation of the Indian cueists, who will also be the defending champions in the team event. 

The Jubilee Insurance 2nd Asian Team Event and the Jubilee Insurance 3rd 6-Red Snooker Championship 2014, being sponsored by the Jubilee Insurance Group, are being held at Hotel Avari Towers from August 17 to 23. They are offering lucrative prize money of US$23,625. 

The Asian Team Event carries prize money of US$14,250 while the 6-Reds tourney will have US$9,375 at stake. “Certainly the presence of India has made a huge difference. They have elevated the profile of the tournament. The Indians have played here in the past as well and they have been quite popular visitors. It’s very heartening to host them again,” he stated. 

“The contingents of Saudi Arabia, Nepal and Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pulled out at the eleventh hour but we are happy to have as many as 11 countries being represented in the twin events,” Alamgir Shaikh remarked. 

Besides hosts Pakistan, the 10 countries taking part in the twin events are Afghanistan, Bahrain, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Palestine, Qatar, Singapore, Syria and Thailand. The PBSA had extended the invitation to all the 35 member countries of the Asian Confederation of Billiards Sports (ACBS). 

Having staged a continental event here only last year, the organizers were confident of getting participation from around 25 countries this time but they may have to be content with 11 countries only. 

Meanwhile Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, during his speech in media launch, announced additional cash prizes for the Pakistani cueists taking part in the back to back events. He paid glowing tribute to the young cueists for having earned glories for the countries during the last years, urging them to carry on their excellent work at the table. 

Javed Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee Life Insurance, commended the rise in the standard of snooker in Pakistan and hoped that the journey will continue with the coordination of all the stakeholders. He vowed to further support cue sports and looked forward to sponsoring the World Snooker Championship in Pakistan in 2016. 

Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Commissioner, Karachi, assured the PBSA of the total support of the local administration in providing the security to the foreign cueists and delegates during their stay in the city. 

Jahangir Khan, a living legend of squash, reckoned that the soft image of the country will improve greatly by hosting the twin events. He encouraged Pakistan’s cueists, who were present on the occasion, and advised them to take advantage of the home conditions and do better than what they did in the past. 

“You should try to win both these events which will give you more confidence when you play abroad in future. You have done well in the recent years. Now try to capitalize by sustaining the momentum,” he emphasized. 

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August 12, 2014

Ahsan clinch Aslam bridge title


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Ahsan, comprising of Ahsan Zahir Rizvi, Anwer Kizilbash, Shaikh Abdul Muqeet, Ziaullah Baig and Wajahat Suri, who are due to represent Pakistan in the upcoming Commonwealth Bridge Championship in Glasgow, proved its supremacy by winning the 19th edition of the Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament, held under the auspices of the Karachi Bridge Associates (KBA), at the Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium, Karachi, over the weekend. 

According to the details made available by the KBA, Ahsan claimed the trophy by having a total score of 96.07 Victory Points (VPs). Puri Real Estate ended as the runners-up with 89.60 VPs while Data Steel came third with 81.55 VPs and defending champions Bilal finished fourth with 78.71 VPs, just edging out Rainbow (76.87 VPs) to the fifth position. Kamran (56.40 VPs), Foxy (41.75 VPs) and Bridge Aces (38.05 VPs) shared the last three positions. 

The event was spread over two days, based on six rounds of Swiss movement. It was contested by eight of the top outfits of the country, five of whom were classified as the live contenders while the other three were described as the dark horses. 

The tournament, an annual feature in the bridge calendar for nearly a couple of decades now,was organized in the memory of the late Mohammad Aslam Shaikh, a former Secretary of the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), who was murdered in August 1995. The PBF and the KBA jointly instituted the event in 1996 and it has been held every year since then. 

Ahsan, the eventual champions, were in the driving seat even at the halfway stage of the proceedings with Bilal, the defending champions, marginally behind. Puri Real Estate were placed third while Rainbow, Data Steel, Kamran and Bridge Aces were fighting it out for the middle places and Foxy looking down the barrel. 

On the second day, Ahsan consolidated their position by taming Foxy in the fourth round before whipping Kamran in the next round. They were surprised by Rainbow in the penultimate round but recovered to overcome title hopeful Bilal, led by the indomitable Gulzar Bilal, in the seventh and final round to secure the trophy. 

Puri Real Estate, featuring Rashid Jaffer, Junaid Said, Khaled Mohiuddin, Tehsin Gheewala and Mubashir Puri, the youngest of them all, lost to Rainbow in the fourth round, but added 15.79 against Data Steel, added a maximum 20.00 outpointing Bridge Aces and finally outscored Kamran, 14.56 to finish runners-up with a total score of 89.60 VPs. 

Data Steel, having the services of Javed Ahmed Miran, Tahir Masood, Rashid-ul-Ghazi, Shakeel Ahmed Chandna and Tariq Rasheed Khan, made a forceful comeback on the second day of the competition. They gained near maximum points in their last couple of matches, against Foxy and Rainbow, to finish third in the points table. 

While the organizers deserved the credit for continuing to hold the tournament in the memory of one of the most eminent bridge personalities of the country, they could mobilize their resources in attracting greater number of teams to participate in its future editions.

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