CHENNAI: The motley crowd on Thursday watched with a sense of shock and disbelief as one star player after another crashed out of the LIC-BSNL National championship here on Thursday.
Leading the disaster trail at the pre-quarterfinal stage was reigning champion Pankaj Advani of PSPB, the man who had built a mammoth 867 break on Wednesday, but who could put together only one brilliant effort (142) before biting the dust against Md. Asim of Railways.
Then followed three-times National champion Alok Kumar (PSPB), who lost narrowly to K. Venkatesam of Railways. And the man who enthralled everyone with his brilliant comeback effort, seven times champion Geet Sethi, melted away in the face of a remarkable fightback by Sourav Kothari (PSPB) - an opponent about whom the cue sports fraternity will hear for long.
Geet had entered the knock-out stage on Wednesday with a 1006-132 rout of Yasin Merchant.
What makes it a leaf from a fascinating thriller story was the nail-biting climactic stage. Pankaj missed a red in-off when just a minute remained and after he had narrowed the lead to two points. Alok tried a red and a cannon for five points, which would have helped him pip his rival but the buzzer went and he also missed the cannon.
Geet, after a brilliant 289 start and another 197 later, was comfortably placed at 544-346. Sourav responded with a 228 break to go ahead. Geet made a break of 18 and with seconds remaining he missed a red and that was it.
Ashok Shandilya and Dhruv Sitwala went ahead in style while Devendra Joshi was lucky to escape against Premprakash (TN) while Rupesh Shah edged out Arun Agarwal.
Billiards: Pre-quarterfinals: K. Venkatesam (Rlys) bt Alok Kumar (PSPB) 497-496; Dhruv Sitwala (PSPB) bt D. Lily (Pun) 810-482; Md. Asim (Rly) bt Pankaj Advani (PSPB) 627-607; Bhasker (Kar) bt Shakeel Ahmed (WB) 840-324; Sourav Kothari (PSPB) bt Geet Sethi (Guj) 577-571; Rupesh Shah (Guj) bt Arun Agarwal (Mah) 487-451; Devendra Joshi (PSPB) bt Premprakash (TN) 519-501; Ashok Shandilya (Rly) bt Mannan Chandra (PSPB) 832-496.
Snooker: league: Gr. A: Antim Singhi (Rlys) bt R.K. Pradhan (Ors) 71-8, 63-14, 73-57. Gr. B: Umar Humayun (J & K) bt Parbath (Kar) 19-60, 58-26, 64-52, 25-54, 57-10. Gr. C: John Bosco (AP) bt Kamal Chawla (Rlys) 86-30, 37-68, 76-38, 37-101, 67-42. Gr. F: Sarang Shroff (Mah) bt J. Varun Kumar (TN) 50-21, 56-51, 47-45. Gr. D: Sumeet Talwar (Chan) bt Yatheendararaj (TN) 64-38, 63-8, 62-41. Gr. E: Murthy (Kar) bt M.C. Manoj (TN) 72-32, 69-46, 45-74, 67-24. Gr. G: Lucky Vatnani (AP) bt Chetan Chabbria (Har) 71-13, 61-12, 87-10. Gr. I: Someswar Rao (AP) bt Manoj Verma (Bih) 56-52, 55-8, 19-60, 49-16. Gr. K: Shravan Mohta (Mah) bt Utup Thomas (Ker) 52-16, 60-10, 86-37. Gr L: Sandeep Gulati (Del) bt Mohan George (Ker) 10-63, 62-12, 96-9, 68-33.