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Top stars for Chennai snooker


Chennai : The country’s leading cueists, led by Pankaj Advani, will be vying for honours in the VIP Matrix All-India invitational snooker tournament beginning here Saturday.

The quality field apart, the event has set a benchmark in terms of the prize-money that totals to Rs.5,20,000, including Rs.1,15,000 to the winner, making it the richest snooker tournament to be held in India.

The 24-man field, divided into eight groups for the preliminary league to decide the 16 qualifiers for the knockout rounds, also includes other top ranked players like Manan Chandra, Aditya Mehta, Kamal Chawla, Sourav Kothari and junior National champion Shahbaz Adil Khan, among the younger lot besides veterans Rupesh Shah, Geet Sethi and Alok Kumar.

The players would be arriving here fresh from the World snooker championship in Hyderabad where Chawla made it to the quarter-finals, but the attention undoubtedly would be on 24-year-old Advani who earlier this year won the Asian and World championship titles in billiards.

Advani had a patchy run in Hyderabad where he rarely hit top form before losing in the second round of the knockout phase. Though he admitted that he was feeling rather stale after a spell of near non-stop playing besides travel, Advani showed only glimpses of his class. In this context, the tournament here provides him an opportunity to close out the year on a high.

However, the player to watch would be Mehta, the 24-year-old from Mumbai, who, on his last visit to Chennai, won the Gymkhana Club event to collect a cheque for Rs 1,13,000 that was the previous highest prize-money in the country.

Also among the front-runners for the title is the 28-year-old Delhi-based Chandra who, for all his talent, has not quite lived up to expectations, but always been a dangerous opponent.

Kothari and Chawla besides former National champion Alok Kumar can all be a handful on their day and their presence adds to the mix of players.

The groupings: Group A: Pankaj Advani (PSPB), Siddhartha Rao (Tamil Nadu), IH Manudev (Karnataka). Group B: Sourav Kothari (Bengal), Vijai Nichani (Tamil Nadu), Varun Kumar (Tamil Nadu). Group C: Kamal Chawla (Railways), Dilip Kumar (PSPB), Sridhar (Andhra).

Group D: Alok Kumar (PSPB), Prem Prakash (Tamil Nadu), Jagan Williams (Tamil Nadu). Group E: Manan Chandra (Delhi), SA Saleem (Tamil Nadu), Faisal Khan (Railways). Group F: Aditya Mehta, Rafath Habib (Tamil Nadu), Imran Ganj (Tamil Nadu). Group G: Geet Sethi (Gujarat), Devendra Joshi (Mumbai), Girish Rajasekhar (Tamil Nadu). Group H: Shahbaz Adil Khan (PSPB), Rupesh Shah (PSPB), Sandeep Gulati (Delhi).