THE SHANGHAI MASTERS title will be decided by a best of 19 frames final between Mark Allen and Stuart Bingham at the Grand Stage on Sunday.
Allen won a thrilling semi-final against Mark Selby, dishing up the colours to secure the decider on the black having trailed 5-2.
Bingham prevailed in a lower key match against Ding Junhui. Bingham’s 6-4 victory means he has now won his last five meetings with China’s no.1.
Aside from the Premier League, Bingham’s recent title successes have all come outside the UK. He beat Allen in the quarter-finals en route to capturing the 2011 Australian Goldfields Open and has also won three Asian Tour events. Two years ago he was runner-up in the Wuxi Classic.
John Parrott had a similarly impressive record away from home shores and what links the two is that they have both been great professionals, for whom the game is everything.
Parrott was never a fan of travelling but if anything that worked to his advantage because he concentrated only on the snooker. While some players couldn’t wait to explore the bright lights of Bangkok, JP was tucked up in bed with an English newspaper crossword, faxed over from the UK.
Bingham has always had a ‘have cue, will travel’ mentality, sniffing out tournaments big and small. For him, playing snooker is never a chore. He enjoys it.
This is not quite the case for Allen, but the Northern Irishman does enjoy big occasions and was rightly delighted by pipping Selby at the post in such dramatic fashion.
This is only his fourth full ranking tournament final. He has won two World Opens and was runner-up to Judd Trump in the 2011 UK Championship. Allen has, though, won four European Tour titles.
This season things are a little different for the 28 year-old. He is no longer part of the OnQ Promotions management stable, which means he is no longer advised by Terry Griffiths, OnQ’s director of coaching.
Sometimes, though, standing on your own two feet is no bad thing in what is after all a supremely individual sport.
Allen and Bingham haven’t always been the best of friends but the truth is any final carries an intense rivalry. Look at this season’s Wuxi Classic, where good pals Neil Robertson and Joe Perry squared off, setting aside friendship until the match was over.
After his Selby victory, Allen will start favourite but Bingham has scored really well all week. He added another five half centuries against Ding so in all likelihood the final will take some winning.
Photograph by Monique Limbos