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Maflin Believes Title Within Grasp

Maflin first turned pro in 2001 and has now reached eight ranking event quarter-finals

Norway’s Kurt Maflin says that his recent run to the quarter-finals of the Betfred World Championship has given him the belief to go on and clinch silverware in the upcoming campaign.

Maflin secured a fine 10-8 defeat of world number 11 David Gilbert in the opening round, before achieving a landmark 13-11 win over four-time Crucible king John Higgins.

The Scot fired in a magical maximum 147 break on his way to battling into a 11-10 lead, having trailed for the vast majority of the tie. However, Maflin showed his steel and refused to wilt inside the Crucible cauldron, claiming three on the bounce to win 13-11.

That victory specifically, has given Maflin the belief that a maiden ranking title could be within his reach.

“It’s proven to me that I am capable of winning a tournament,” said 37-year-old Maflin. “Beating John Higgins was a great achievement. Over the best of 25 frames, there aren’t many players more difficult to beat than him. It has given me confidence. I have more belief now to go on and do well really.

“It was an enormous moment for me. I’d never played a best of 25 frame match in a tournament before. He played well, it wasn’t like he was giving me lots of chances. It was a really good feeling beating someone like John, he was in the last three world finals before this. I was really proud of myself. I think a lot of people thought he had got me when I went 11-10 down, but I managed to find something from somewhere to get over the line.”

The Norwegian’s Crucible exploits attracted a lot of interest back at home, including a good luck message from World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. That came as a pleasant surprise for Maflin, who is an avid chess fan.

“It was great to get a message from him. I really want to organise a chess match against him and a follow up snooker game. I’d like to try and get that in motion, as it would be very cool. We could do something like him not having a queen and rooks and me giving him a 100-point start in the frame. He would definitely still beat me at chess but it would be a great experience.

“It’s unbelievable what he can do on a chess board. Whenever there is chess on I will watch it. I think it is just the strategy of the game I like. You are tying to think of what move they will make before they do it. There are so many moves. In snooker we think four or five shots ahead, they think 40-odd moves ahead. They need to think of every possible scenario after each move.

“The winter sports guys in Norway are like Gods, then you have guys like Carlsen and the tennis player Casper Ruud. I’d probably say I am getting into that group now which is pretty cool. There was a lot of energy on social media during the World Championship and I have since been asked on a couple of TV talk shows.”

Following his win over Higgins, Maflin then faced another Scot, Anthony McGill, in the quarter-finals. They were both aiming for a maiden appearance in the last four. However, Maflin got off to a nightmare start, trailing 7-1 after the first session. He battled back into contention, but it proved to be a bridge too far, losing out 13-10.

Despite the disappointment of spurning the opportunity to go even further, Maflin is taking the positives from his impressive Sheffield run. He now wants to carry an enhanced work ethic into the season ahead.

“We definitely both saw it as an opportunity. I was probably slight favourite coming into it, just because I’d beaten Dave and John. I started off really poorly. When you are 7-1 behind you have a mountain to climb. I gave it my best shot. I think if I’d managed to be 6-2 after the first session, I might have had a chance. However, from the position I left myself in, you have to think your opponent will probably do enough.

“I really enjoyed the whole experience. You have the two cameras on top of you all of the time, you have the guys in the commentary box. It was a bit different with the crowd not being there, but I think I would have played the same whether they were there or not. I was underdog in the first two games. I enjoy those matches. I normally play my best snooker in front of the cameras against the top players.

“It has given me a lot of confidence. I want to keep up the same work ethic I had before the World Championship. That isn’t always easy for somebody in my position. Juggling family life and snooker life in Norway. I will see how my first tournament, the European Masters, goes and I will try to get back in the same routine as I did before the World Championship.”