Pankaj Advani, the 20-year old 2005 World billiards and 2003 World snooker champion from Bangalore, warmed up nicely by drubbing local challenger Rupesh Shah 2-0 in Group C to maintain his unbeaten run in the Reliance Industries Ltd Indian Cue Masters League 2005 tournament at the Gujarat Sports Club, in Ahmedabad, on Thursday.
In recording his third win in the preliminary league of the competition, co-sponsored by Specific Ceramics, Pankaj fired breaks of 50 apiece in billiards and snooker, to rout Shah who came away without scoring a single point.
"This was my best match of the tournament and I am getting into my rhythm," said Pankaj, sounding a warning to his opponents as he looked confidently ahead to his remaining two matches scheduled for Friday, against Geet Sethi and Saurav Kothari.
Close matches marked the day's proceedings with local qualifier Ganjan Patel pulling off a surprise 2-1 win over Chennai's Rafat Habib, the 2002 Asian Games doubles gold medallist, in Group D.
Meanwhile, veteran Yasin Merchant, a former National champion, saw off precocious junior Aditya Mehta 2-1 in an all-Mumbai clash. Mehta made a 65 break in snooker, but Merchant bounced back to win the billiards (50-up) and pool (race-to-three) contests for his fourth success in Group B and stay in contention for the knock-out phase. It was a good comeback by Merchant after having lost to Delhi's Manan Chandra 1-2 earlier in the day.
In a Group C match, Dhruv Sitwala from Mumbai cracked an unfinished break of 51 in billiards en route to a 2-0 triumph over Kolkata's Saurav Kothari for his second win in four outings.
Group A: Alok Kumar bt Balaji 2-0 (Pool 3-2; Billiards 50-40); Brijesh Damani bt Balaji 2-0 (B 52-8; Pool 3-2).
Group B: Manan Chandra bt Yasin Merchant 2-1 (B 37-51; P 3-2; S 62-40).
Group C: Pankaj Advani bt Rupesh Shah 2-0 (Snooker 93-0; B 50-0); Shah bt Dhruv Sitwala 2-1 (B 34-51; S 54-43; P 3-2); Merchant bt P V Patel 2-1 (S 29-55; P 3-0; B 52-17).
Group D: Devendra Joshi bt Neeraj Kumar 2-0 (S 79-4; B 55-38); Rafat Habib bt Neeraj Kumar 2-1 (B 49-42; S 41-51; P 3-1).
Group A: Talwar bt Balaji 2-0 (B 50-38; S 44-26); Damani bt Anuj Uppal 2-1 (P 0-3; B 52-36; S 65-32).
Group B: Harish Gandhi bt P V Patel 2-1 (S 58-49; B 28-51; P 3-0); Merchant bt Aditya Mehta 2-1 (S 38-75; B 50-37; P 3-0); Prabhat bt P V Patel 2-0 (S 41-32; P 3-1.
Group C: Sitwala bt Jain 2-0 (S 55-34; B 50-15); Talwar bt Balaji 2-0 (B 50-38; S 44-26); Geet Sethi bt Rupesh Shah 2-1 (P 0-3; S 58-39; B 50-22); Sitwala bt Saurav Kothari 2-0 (B 51-0; S 58-41).
Group D: Gulati bt Neeraj 2-0 (P 3-1; S 65-32); Gunjan Patel bt Habib 2-1 (S 76-49; P 0-3; B 50-22).