Kamal Chawla reached the title match of the National snooker championship for the first time in 12 years as he ended the splendid run of West Bengal's Brijesh Damani in the semifinals of the Manisha-National Billiards and Snooker Championship at the PYC Hindu Gymkhana, here on Friday.
Following his clear wins in the league stage, Chawla encountered tough opponents in the round of 32 (Sandeep Gulati), pre-quarterfinals (Alok Kumar) and quarterfinals (Lucky Vatnani) before getting the better of Damani, who was playing his 11th match, having come through the qualifying rounds. Damani had actually caused an upset, ousting Manan Chandra in the quarterfinals.
Chawla will meet defending champion and a reasonable achiever in the professional circuit, Aditya Mehta, in the final set to 11 frames on Saturday.
A specialist snooker player, the 32 year old from Bhopal, but representing Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), Chawla's fortunes improved in the last year when he reached a career-high ranking of No. 5 after the Chennai Nationals in August, the semifinals of the Asian 6 Red snooker Championship and also the quarterfinals of the Asian Snooker Championship at Indore.
Always a gritty player and precise in shot selection, Chawla struck form against Vatnani in the quarterfinals with impressive breaks of an unfinished 78 and 86 in the seventh and eighth frames before his semifinal run in against Damani.
Mehta, who won the title for the first time at the 78th Nationals in Chennai, raced to a 4-0 lead in a little over an hour's time before Shahbaz Adil Khan showed plenty of pluck and potting skills to pull back four frames to even out scores.
But in the end, Metha seized a chance in the final frame to slice a break of 66 and win the pulsating contest that lasted three and half hours.
Semifinals (set to nine frames): Kamal Chawla (RSPB) bt Brijesh Damani (WB) 5-2 (70-7, 19-64, 35-70, 67-32, 90-15, 103(67)-0, 70(51)-45); Aditya Mehta (PSPB) bt Shahbaz Adil Khan (PSPB) 5-4 (71-43, 75(68)-1, 105(56, 49)-7, 70-20, 30-69, 28-61, 33-71, 38-67, 86(66)-1).
Quarterfinals: Mehta bt Siddharth Parikh (RSPB) 5-0 (84-1, 67-34, 85(82)-0, 80(55)-7, 76(40)-23); Shahbaz bt Himanshu Jain (AP) 5-3 (94-33, 67-33, 29-71, 62-52, 0-69, 22-58, 70-42, 72(68)-16); Damani bt Manan Chandra (PSPB) 5-2 (90-8, 27-62, 41-84(52), 77-22, 91-18, 59-49, 58-50); Chawla (RSPB) bt Lucky Vatnani (AP) 5-3 (42-44, 66-30, 13-68, 68(63)-25, 66-60, 23-108(78*), 90(86*)-6, 56-5).