Scotland’s Liam Graham defeated Iulian Boiko 5-2 in the final to win the 2023 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship and earn promotion to the World Snooker Tour for the first time in his career.
Organised by the European Billiards and Snooker Association, this year’s staging was held at the Dolmen Hotel in Qawra, Malta and hosted by the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association.
A total of 96 players representing 30 different nations took part in the event, hoping to join a list of former champions stretching back to 1997 and including professional ranking event winners Mark Allen, Michael White and Luca Brecel.
Graham, an 18-year-old from Glasgow, breezed through his round robin group earlier in the week, winning all three of matches and not dropping a single frame. However, he needed to show his mettle during the knockout phase as he won the final two frames to oust 12-year-old Matvei Lagodzinschii (Ukraine) 4-3 in the last 32, before coming back from 3-1 down to deny Riley Powell (Wales) 4-3 in the last 16.
In the quarter-finals Graham dispatched Artemijs Žižins (Latvia) 4-2, and then ended the challenge of Ryan Davies (England) 4-1 in the final four with the aid of a 78 break.
Coming through the other side of the draw was former professional Boiko, who created history by becoming the first Ukrainian to reach the final of this prestigious championship.
The 17-year-old – who also eased through his group without relinquishing a frame – recovered from being behind in his opening three knockout matches before a more comfortable 4-0 success against Robbie McGuigan (Northern Ireland) in the semi-finals where he crafted runs of 79 and 75.
Having earlier deposited the opening frame of the title match, Graham also won frames three and four to go 3-1 up heading into the mid-session interval. On resumption, Boiko produced a break of 101 to reduce his arrears, but the Scottish teenager won frame six, and then potted a long pink followed by a tricky black in frame seven to secure the championship.
Graham is the third Scot to win Europe’s premier junior snooker competition, and he is set to realise his ambition of competing on the sport’s top tier with a World Snooker Tour card for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons.