DEFENDING champion Mark Hirst was one of several notable absentees at the Bradford Billiards Championship qualifiers at Cue Gardens, which leaves the competition wide open.
With only seven entries, the format of the event has been altered, and instead of group stages, full round-robin matches over two sessions was agreed by all the players, with the top two going through to contest the final at a later date.
The first session produced some very close games and some shock results.
The first of these came early on, when first-time entrant Gareth Kershaw pulled off a 170-159 victory over Princeville team-mate James Butcher, who was himself to feature in two other close finishes on the day.
The first of these was the biggest upset of the day, when, after trailing Bradford team captain Stephen Kershaw for almost the full hour, he got in front for the first time with only minutes to go and then added a break of 21 to keep his opponent away from the table at a crucial stage.
He then produced the first tied game of the tournament against another member of the Bradford team, Paul Devitt, when he was again at the table at the vital moment, to secure the three points necessary to bring the scores level at the bell.
Meanwhile, on the adjoining table, Stephen Kershaw’s woes continued, this time against his brother Trevor.
Two good early breaks put Stephen 80 points in front, and so it remained for most of the hour until back-to-back breaks of 38 and 44 put Trevor eight points in front, with the bell sounding as Stephen came back to the table.
The results so far put Trevor Kershaw and Paul Devitt in prime position to contest the final but with all of the players having two further games to play in the second session, three other players could still force their way into the final if results don’t go entirely as expected.
Paul Devitt had the highest break of the day with 70.
In the Yorkshire Inter-District League, Bradford’s billiards team head to Huddersfield No 1 on Saturday, while the No 1 snooker team are at Ossett No 1 this Sunday at St Michaels Snooker club while Bradford No 2 are at Wakefield No 1.