Ricky Walden

Ricky Walden won the third world ranking title of his career by beating Mark Allen 10-7 in the final of the International Championship in Chengdu, China.

PICTURES by Tai Chengzhe


In an exciting final, there were never more than two frames between the players, until Chester’s 31-year-old Walden pulled away at the crucial moment, winning the last three frames with a barrage of heavy scoring.


World number 11 Walden captured the most prestigious title of his career to date and biggest pay-day – the £125,000 top prize is the largest of any snooker event outside the UK. His two previous ranking titles also came in China – the 2008 Shanghai Masters and 2012 Wuxi Classic.


Walden did not meet a top 16 opponent until he reached the final – knocking out Lyu Chenwei, David Morris, Zhou Yuelong, Joe Swail, Jamie Burnett and Rob Milkins. But there can be no doubting the quality of his play throughout the event, and he made it three wins out of three in ranking finals.


Walden turned pro in 2000 and took eight years to make his major breakthrough. But since capturing his maiden title in Shanghai six years ago he has become a consistent competitor at the top level and a permanent fixture among the world’s top 16. Twice a semi-finalist at the UK Championship and once at the Crucible, his next goal will surely be to win one of the ‘Triple Crown’ titles.


Northern Ireland’s Allen has been perhaps snooker’s most consistent player so far this season, winning the Paul Hunter Classic and finishing runner-up at the Riga Open and Shanghai Masters. The world number eight now has to accept another final defeat, having missed out on his third ranking title. His two previous wins also came in China – at the Haikou World Open in 2012 and 2013.


Walden took the opening frame today with a break of 59, then Allen dominated the second. A run of 64 saw Walden regain the lead and he nicked the next on the final black to lead 3-1.


Allen hit back to win four of the next five frames, compiling runs of 113 and 52, to lead 5-4 at the end of the first session.


Walden started the evening session strongly with three in a row, highlighted by a break of 85 to go 7-5 up. Once again Allen fought back, runs of 68 and 74 making it 7-7.


But Walden played his best snooker of the match when it mattered most, firing in 85, 103, 54 and 62 to win in style.


“I couldn’t be happier,” said Walden. “It was a tough first session today, and then I got better in the second session. It’s a dream come true to win this event. All three of my titles have come in China and I love playing here.


“It was a tiring tournament with long matches, but I’ve being trying to get enough rest in between, to keep myself going.


“I’ve not thought about the money. It was just so important for me to get my hands on the trophy. The money is just a bonus. My wife will find a good place for it.”


Allen, who came through a dramatic semi-final against Mark Williams by a 9-8 scoreline yesterday, said: “I didn’t come here to finish second. I’ll probably look back in a few months time and think I’ve had a great start to the season. But I’ve lost three out of four finals and that’s not good enough. It’s something I have to work on.


“I need to go back to the practice table and keep working. I’m obviously doing the right things as I have got to four finals. I just need to turn them into victories.”