Unheralded Mohammad Asim, a 33-year old journeyman from Kolkata, authored a major upset when he ousted reigning 9-ball Pool National champion and second seed Manan Chandra of New Delhi 2-1 en route to the semi-finals of the Reliance Industries Ltd Indian Cue Masters League 2005 at the Gujarat Sports Club, in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
The Railways' cueist clinched the issue by winning the race-to-three Pool contest 3-1 with a controlled performance that won him an ovation from the crowd.
"My victory over Devendra Joshi last night boosted my confidence. But I was a bit lucky in pool as Manan gave me a few openings. Overall, I think I played better than I did in the league phase," said Asim.
In the semi-finals of the tournament, co-sponsored by Specific Ceramics, on Sunday, Asim takes on fancied Pankaj Advani, the 20-year old World and Asian billiards champion from Bangalore, who overcame former World billiards champion Ashok Shandilya of Railways 2-1 in a close match.
Shandilya virtually gifted the Pool game to Advani, but came back to take the billiards game on a 50-break only to yield ground in snooker. Advani wrapped up the tie with a run of 58.
"I was lucky in pool, but played well enough in snooker. That is the beauty of this format as it gives both players an even chance to win," said Pankaj.
Earlier, Mumbai's Yasin Merchant, the 38-year old three-time National snooker champion, blew away Rafath Habib from Chennai 2-0 with a compelling performance that saw him post breaks of 64 in snooker and an unfinished 44 in billiards.
"I got into my rhythm straightaway and perhaps, the few minutes of practice I had before the match helped me," said Merchant, 38, who is making a comeback of sorts after a break from the sport.
Merchant will take on Punjab's Alok Kumar, the 37-year old top seeded National snooker champion, in the semi-finals, slated for Sunday.
Alok, 37, ground out a 2-1 win over plucky 21-year old Saurav Kothari from Kolkata, 2-1.
The semi-final schedule is: Alok Kumar vs Yasin Merchant (3 pm); Pankaj Advani vs Md Asim (4 pm).
The final will be played from 5 pm.
Quarter-finals: Yasin Merchant (Mumbai) bt Rafath Habib (Railways) 2-0 (Snooker 84-0; Billiards 50-28). Alok Kumar (ONGC) bt Saurav Kothari (ONGC) 2-1 (B 52-13; Pool 2-3; S 54-3). Pankaj Advani (ONGC) bt Ashok Shandilya (Railways) 2-1 (P 3-1; B 4-50; S 68-9). Md Asim (Railways) bt Manan Chandra (Bharath Petroleum) 2-1 (S 37-65; B 52-29; P 3-1).
Classification for 9-12: Geet Sethi bt Sumit Talwar 2-0; Joshi bt Aditya Mehta 2-0. For 9-10 positions: Joshi bt Sethi 2-0.
Classification for 13-16: Harish Gandhi bt Sandeep Gulati 2-0; Dhruv Sitwala bt Brijesh Damani 2-0. For 13-14 positions: Sitwala bt Gandhi 2-1. For 15-16 positions: Damani bt Gulati 2-1.
Classification for 17-20: Rupesh Shah bt Anuj Uppal 2-0; Neeraj Kumar bt Prabhat 2-1. For 17-18 positions: Shah bt Neeraj 2-0. For 19-20 positions: Uppal bt Prabhat 2-0.
Classification for 21-24: Gunjan Patel bt Saviney Jain 2-1; Balaji bt P V Patel 2-0. For 21-22 positions: Balaji bt Gunjan Patel 2-1.
For 23-24 positions: Jain bt P V Patel 2-0.