2021 Scottish Open Qualifiers – Day 1

I’ll be honest, the first day at the 2021 Scottish Open qualifiers failed to enthuse me, despite some good things.

The highlight of the day was Xiao Guodong first 147

Xiao Fires In Maiden Maximum

Xiao Guodong made the first 147 break of his career at BetVictor Scottish Open qualifying in Barnsley during the deciding frame of his 4-3 win over Fraser Patrick.

World number Xiao’s previous high break was 143. Today’s contribution puts him in line for the £5,000 high break prize on offer for the event.

The magic break is the 169th official maximum in professional snooker history and the third of the season so far. It came at the perfect moment at the end of a fantastic performance from Xiao, who also compiled runs of 57 and 108 on his way to victory.

 

WST published the video of the last three minutes of the break, and the match, on their Youtube channel:

And here is WST report on what happened during the day:

Gilbert Wins With Two Tons

David Gilbert finished with back-to-back centuries as he beat Simon Lichtenberg 4-1 to qualify for the final stages of the BetVictor Scottish Open.

The qualifying round runs until Wednesday next week, with all winners going through to the televised stages in Llandudno in December.

Gilbert has dropped out of the world’s top 16, down to 18th, despite winning the recent BetVictor Championship League. But if he continues today’s form he could soon be back among the elite. After sharing the first two frames with Germany’s Lichtenberg, he won a tight third on the colours then compiled runs of 131 and 113 to secure a comfortable victory.

Xiao Guodong finished his match against Fraser Patrick in perfect fashion with a 147 in the deciding frame to win 4-3 – read more on that story here.

Fergal O’Brien top scored with 61 in a 4-2 win over David Grace – the Irishman has won all three of his qualifying matches for BetVictor Home Nations series events over the past month.

Oliver Lines made a 116 in a 4-1 win over Gerard Greene, while Gary Wilson saw off Cao Yupeng 4-1 with a top break of 86.

One match that isn’t mentioned at all is 18 years old Lei Peifan excellent 4-2 win against the more fancied Zhao Xintong.

I was hoping for a good match between Gary Wilson and Cao Yupeng but it was disappointing. Cao had a rather bad day in office and Gary, who played well, had little opposition. Cao was visibly frustrated with his own performance.

Oliver Lines seems to have finally found some good consistency.

Snooker, media, charity and Ronnie news

As we have an “empty day” before the Scottish Open qualifiers, here are some snooker related news that  attracted my attention over the last week…

Having recently won the Asian Championship, Pankaj Advani won the 6-reds IBSF World Championship in Doha. Here is the account by the Times of India:

Pankaj Advani wins his 24th world title in Doha

 

DOHA : Star Indian cueist Pankaj Advani on Tuesday grabbed his 24th world title when he triumphed at the IBSF 6-Red Snooker World Cup with a victory over Pakistan’s Babar Masih in the final.
Advani, who won his 11th Asian title last week, started the final with a comfortable 42-13 win in the opening frame.
Babar drew parity by winning the second 38-14.

In the third frame, Advani made a foul that only he knew he had committed. The 36-year-old won the third and fourth in quick succession to go 3-1 up.
The Pakistani cueist, in no mood to play second fiddle to his worthy opponent, crafted a wonderful 56 break to bridge the gap.
Advani shifted gears and then took the next three to be one frame away from getting his hands on his 24th world winner’s trophy.
Not going to go down without a fight, Babar brought the match to a precarious situation by winning the next three frames as a strong response.
At 6-5, it was touch and go. Babar had found his touch and Advani had more to lose at this point being within striking distance of the finish line. But a classy 32 break off the cue of the multiple world champion put paid to Babar’s hopes.
Pankaj ensured a clean slate of wins over the last fortnight in Qatar across two international championships – Asian Snooker and 6-red Snooker World Cup.
“I am living a dream. Being away from the table for so long, these two back-to-back triumphs assure me that my hunger and competitive skills haven’t diminished,” Advani said.
“Very fortunate to win both as I am aware there is still a lot of work to put into my game once I return. Happy to return home tomorrow with two gold medals for my country.”
Earlier, in the day, Pankaj got the better of the Asian Snooker finalist Amir Sarkhosh of Iran 6-3.

Congratulations Pankaj!

Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe had John Virgo as a special guest to their podcast.

John Virgo is always entertaining, but it was not all jokes and laugh as he revealed that the coming Word Championship at the Crucible will probably be the last for him and Dennis Taylor as BBC pundits. 

John Virgo expects next World Snooker Championship to be the last for him and Dennis Taylor

Composite image of Dennis Taylor and John Virgo
Dennis Taylor and John Virgo have been leading voices of snooker for decades (Pictures: Getty)

John Virgo believes the next World Snooker Championship will be the last for him and Dennis Taylor in the commentary box, expecting to be cut from the BBC’s coverage.

Virgo, 75, and Taylor, 72, have been voices of snooker for decades, with Virgo first commentating on the game way back in 1985 and becoming a huge television star through the ’90s thanks to gameshow Big Break.

While no decision has been confirmed by the BBC, Virgo seems sure that his next trip to the Crucible in April will be his last to work behind a microphone.

Speaking to the Talking Snooker podcast, Virgo said: ‘Listen, you never know what’s round the corner in life, but it looks like this will be my last season. Not my choice, theirs [the BBC]. Along with Dennis (Taylor) apparently.

‘Scoop or whatever it is, I don’t know, but that’s what we’re getting, that this will be our last season. I think that’s definite. The World Championship will be our last one. It’s not my decision, I love the game and everything else. But I understand, nothing lasts for ever, I understand that.’

The World Championship, played from 16 April-2 May, will likely represent the end of an era for two of the most significant commentators the sport has had, and Virgo says it will be hard to deal with when it comes around.

The former UK champion first played at the Crucible in the first year the venue hosted the World Championship in 1977 and it is a venue filled with fond memories for him.

That’s the decision they’re making, so yeah, I haven’t really felt it at the moment but I probably will do come the World Championship,’ he said.

There will be a lot of memories there, memories from when we first went there in ’77. So it will be hard, but as I say, nothing lasts forever, and I’ll give it my best shot and that will be it, yeah.

I think they’re probably looking for people who are more in touch with the modern day player. Although I think all players are the same aren’t they? They play shots, there’s not many shots that people play that I haven’t seen, you know. I’m not criticising the decision, I know nothing lasts for ever.

The BBC have been fantastic to me, in my commentary career, Big Break, if that’s the decision that’s the decision, we’ll just have to accept it and enjoy it on the telly.’

John Virgo at the World Snooker Championship
Virgo enjoyed a successful playing career in the 1970s and ’80s before moving into commentary (Picture: Getty Images)

2019 world champion Judd Trump called for broadcasters to make a change to their veteran commentary teams earlier this year, telling Metro.co.uk: ‘There’s not enough trying out new things in snooker for me at the moment, it’s all the same every season, not enough excitement, not enough different dimensions,’ he said.

Change the coverage, the commentators who have been around a long time, change the way the game is spoken about.

Asked about Trump’s comments, Virgo said: ‘I still think we’ve got something to offer.

‘I don’t think the shots have changed, I don’t think the mentality [has changed]. When somebody misses an easy shot you can put your finger on why they did it.

Day Ten at the World Snooker Championship
Judd Trump has been critical of some of the veteran voices on the BBC (Picture: Getty Images)

If someone’s in a spot of bother…Dennis is the best line-drawer in the business, if someone’s in a snooker.

Being younger, you might put an emoji on the bottom of it, but how are you going to better it?

But no, I understand. I think over the years we’ve had the experience to talk when we need to talk, to be quiet when we need to let the pictures tell the story.

‘It will change, sooner rather than later, but I won’t have any complaints because I’ve enjoyed it.’

The BBC has been approached for comment.

Well… I at least hope that the BBC will not got for the “excitement” bit. I’d absolutely hate “football style” commentary on the snooker. And indeed, their knowledge of the shots and understanding of the table situation are excellent and make for interesting commentary.

That said, I could do without the golf digressions, and discussions about “great players” from 50 years ago that most viewers never had the opportunity to watch except maybe in some blurry Youtube bit.  Also, too many times, there have been admissions that they had never seen this one or that one guy playing before. They don’t seem to watch much snooker unless it’s on the BBC. Their choice, but at least do some research.

Also, completely butchering overseas’ players names is not acceptable. I have been contacted by ITV pundits who wanted to make sure about the pronunciation of Belgian and French players’ names and I truly appreciated their efforts to get that right.

And then there is this bit about a great charity challenge initiative where Ronnie will play a very modest role:

Runners set to navigate all 315 London Underground and DLR stations on foot

Psychologist and author Dr Kevin Dutton and Great Britain rower John Collins are embarking on a brutal two-week challenge to raise crucial funds for charity

metro train at railroad station

On Sunday 19 September Dr Kevin Dutton, a psychologist and author, and Great Britain rower John Collins will embark on a unique leg-sapping challenge – navigating all 315 London Underground and DLR stations on foot, over a two-week period. But that’s not all. They’ll be sleeping rough in between legs and, on Day 15, they’ll conclude their challenge by running all 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. The pair have badged the 305-mile feat the ‘Metro Marathon Challenge’.

Combatting homelessness

So why are the pair taking on such a gruelling feat of endurance? Dutton and Collins are raising money for The Running Charity – a charity harnessing the power of running to support young people who are experiencing homelessness or managing complex needs.

The Running Charity believes that running is as good for your mind as it is for your body. Running builds resilience and self-esteem, and they use this to improve the lives of 16-25 year-olds who are homeless or at risk from homelessness.

‘The last year and a half has been tough on all of us,’ said Dutton, ‘but it’s been even tougher for those without a roof over their heads.’

Metro Marathon Challenge logistics

Dutton and Collins have called on a team of data scientists from Capgemini Engineering to help them plot the route. The data scientists have calculated the optimum start point and shortest possible route between the 315 stations, beginning in Chesham and ending in Lewisham, the station nearest to the London Marathon start line.

The pair will be sleeping rough for the entire duration of the challenge, mostly in parks along the route, but sometimes, in a friend’s garden. On Day 10, they’ll be dropping in on none other than snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan to refuel with some of his home-cooked pasta.

There will be a few other famous faces supporting Dutton and Collins on their journey, too. The pair will be started by former London Marathon winner Hugh Jones, and former SAS soldier Andy McNab will also be on hand to support them at various points along the route.

‘The Metro Marathon Challenge is eccentric, original…but genuinely bloody hard,’ said McNab. ‘It’s 50/50 in my book whether Kev and John manage to pull it off. I hope they do – it’s for a great cause. But it’s going to take a monumental effort of guts and willpower, not to mention extreme fitness.’

You can follow Dutton and Collins’ progress on Instagram here and donate to their Just Giving page here.

Ronnie left them a supporting message on his Instagram page

 

 

2021 English Open Qualifiers – Days 5 and 6

Yesterday saw the conclusion of the 2021 English Open qualifiers.

These are the reports by WST on the last two days:

Day 5

Day Denied By Battling Lu

Lu Ning came from 2-0 down to beat Ryan Day 4-3 and reach the final stages of the BetVictor English Open.

Day won the BetVictor Shoot Out in Milton Keynes last season, but he won’t be at the same venue when the BetVictor English Open world ranking event runs from November 1-7.

China’s Lu, a semi-finalist at the UK Championship last season, won three frames in a row with top breaks of 70 and 61 to go 3-2 ahead. Day took frame six and had first chance in the decider, but made only 28, and Lu took it with runs of 57 and 14.

Hossein Vafaei scored a 4-1 victory over Kurt Maflin while Martin Gould eased to a 4-0 success over Andrew Higginson.

Oliver Lines maintained his fine start to the season as he beat Zhang Anda 4-0 with top runs of 66, 59 and 71. Tian Pengfei top scored with 60 in a 4-0 defeat of Barry Pinches while Joe O’Connor saw off Pang Junxu 4-1 with a high break of 81.

Lu Ning will always battle hard up to the last ball. He proved it again in this match.

Kurt Maflin looked very rusty out there.

Day 6

Stephen Hendry won his opening match in a ranking event for the third consecutive occasion as he beat Michael White 4-1 to qualify for the final stages of the BetVictor English Open.

Hendry will face Chris Wakelin in the last 64 at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes in November.

Seven-time World Champion Hendry made his comeback earlier this year and has since scored wins over Jimmy White at the World Championship, Wakelin at the British Open and now two-time ranking event winner Michael White.

After taking a scrappy opening frame on the colours, 52-year-old Hendry compiled an excellent run of 60 to go 2-0 ahead. White pulled one back with a break of 95, but Hendry made a 46 in taking frame four and then got the better of a scrappy fifth to secure the result.

Fellow veteran Jimmy White was no match for Zhao Xintong as the Chinese ace ran out a 4-1 winner with breaks of 61, 73, 57, 74 and 57. Ken Doherty also misses out on the final stages as he lost 4-1 to Sunny Akani.

Iulian’s Boiko saw his 16th birthday celebrations dampened by a 4-0 defeat against Fergal O’Brien. England’s 17-year-old Jamie Wilson scored one of the best results of his pro career so far, beating Robert Milkins 4-0 with a top break of 62.

 

Stephen Hendry improved as the match went on. He looked vulnerable in the early frames, but Michael White couldn’t take advantage. What happened to Micheal White is hard to understand and very sad. One thing I noticed about Hendry though is that whilst playing thin on the right side of a ball (as seen on our screen) he missed it completely and that happened more than once. That’s a bit worrying as it might be a sign that his eyesight isn’t what it was. That said he knocked in quite a few good long ones.

Poor Iulian Boiko looked truly unhappy facing Fergal. The latter was his good old Ferginator self, and made it extremely hard for his young opponent. In frame three Iulian seemed to have a chance and battled really hard. The frame went to a re-spotted black (78-78) and … went the way of Fergal eventually. Tough school!

The 4-0 win by Jamie Wilson over Robert Milkins will do the young lad’s confidence a lot of good. It has to be said however that Milkins was particularly poor: he had plenty of occasions but kept missing seemingly easy balls.

As much as I like Kendo, I was happy to see Sunny get a good win. He needs it!

2021 English Open Qualifiers – Day 4

Here is the report by WST:

Un-Nooh Blitz Secures English Open Spot

Thepchaiya Un-Nooh produced a stunning display to whitewash Jamie O’Neill 4-0 and clinch a place in the final stages of the BetVictor English Open.

Un-Nooh, who is renowned as one of the fastest players on the circuit, wasted little time this afternoon. He averaged just 14.5 seconds per shot and required only 38 minutes to get over the line.

Thailand’s Un-Nooh was also in supreme break building form, firing in runs of 123, 82, 139 and 105 to secure the win. The final stages take place in Milton Keynes from November 1st to 7th.

World number 22 Ali Carter eased through with a 4-1 defeat of China’s Fan Zhengyi.

The Captain has enjoyed a strong start to the season, having made the final group of the BetVictor Championship League, reached the last 16 of the British Open and also qualified for the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open.

He continued that run of form this afternoon, securing his win in just one hour and 17 minutes, making breaks of 91 and 76 along the way.

Peter Devlin scored an impressive 4-3 defeat of former UK and Masters Champion Matthew Stevens, while Jamie Clarke sealed his place in the final stages with a 4-2 defeat of Zak Surety.

Not a word about the two last matches on the day? Hum…

Un-Nooh didn’t waste time indeed: he finished the job just 5 minutes after the Devlin v Stevens match had concluded and this is a match that had started in the previous session…

Regarding that Stevens v Devlin match, I’m not sure where to start. Stevens looked good in patches. He won the first two frames easily with fluent big breaks. Peter didn’t give up and started grinding his way back. It was not pretty. There were loads of mistakes on both sides. But Peter stuck in there. I wasn’t impressed by his snooker but I was impressed by his resilience. In frame 6, he missed a red with the rest that was effectively “match ball”. OK, he still needed a colour, but that looked like a formality. Peter’s expression after that miss was one of despair, mixed with disbelief and anger at himself. Matthew cleared to win by one point and it wasn’t an easy clearance by any means. After that, I expected Matthew to win the match: he had the momentum and his oppenent looked a bit ragged. The way Peter regrouped and fought to win deserves high praise.

The Carrigton v Miah match was a very close, hard fought one.

 

 

Farewell Alan Chamberlain

Yesterday WST shared this sad news:

Alan Chamberlain

Alan Chamberlain, one of snooker’s leading referees who took charge of a wide range of the sport’s biggest finals, has sadly passed away at the age of 78.

Chamberlain was widely respected among snooker’s top players, directors and fellow referees and will be much missed by everyone in the sport.

He first refereed on the pro tour in 1983 and enjoyed a career lasting nearly 30 years. His high point was officiating the 1997  World Championship final at the Crucible when Ken Doherty beat Stephen Hendry. He also donned the white gloves for no fewer than eight Masters finals in London, including the 1998 epic when Mark Williams beat Stephen Hendry on a respotted black in the deciding frame.

Chamberlain was also the man in the middle for seven maximum 147 breaks, and he holds the unique honour of being the only man to have refereed a break over 147 in professional competition: Jamie Burnett’s 148 during the 2004 UK Championship qualifiers.

In 2010, he became a director of snooker’s global governing body the WPBSA, and spent six years in that role. He also served as Chairman of the WPBSA Rules Committee and Chairman of World Billiards Limited (WBL).

Chamberlain retired in 2016 in order to spend more time with his wife and family.

Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear the news today about Alan. He was a lovely man, a fantastic servant to our sport for well over 30 years and made a great contribution.

“As a referee, he was one of the very best we have ever seen. His ability to take control of the biggest matches with a calm demeanour set a perfect example for the younger generation of referees who followed in his footsteps.

“Once he put away his gloves for good, he became a much-admired director, and put his vast experience and knowledge to excellent use both in snooker and billiards.

“Our sincere condolences go to Alan’s family and friends.”

I had the privilege to meet Alan during the years I was taking pictures on the main tour. On the table he was an exceptionally good referee. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but he was what a referee should be: strict, meticulous and precise. His knowledge of the rules was immense. He also expected the players to know the rules. This should be obvious, but it’s not always the case … as this famous incident proves:

The players were nonplussed but Alan was rigth there of course. The ball didn’t leave the bed of the table, and Dott “interfered” with it. So it was a foul, but not an in-off. Mark Selby thought that this was an in-off – as it would have been had Dott not blocked the white. So he picked the ball … prompting Alan to call another foul, against him this time, again for interfeering with a ball in play. Mark Selby hadn’t spotted the clue: Alan had not picked that white and had not put it close to the bottom rail, as referees always do after an in-off. You can her Alan explaining all this to the players…

Off the table, he was a soft-spoken affable man and always a pleasure to talk to.

Farewell Alan, sleep tight. We are already missing you. 

 

2021 English Open Qualifiers – Day 3

This is WST report about what happened yesterday on the baize:

Chris Wakelin trailed Michael Holt three times in the qualifying round of the BetVictor English Open, but eventually won 4-3 thanks to a century break in the deciding frame.

Wakelin was 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 down but each time fought back to square the tie, then his superb 106 in the last frame booked his place in the final stages in Milton Keynes, which will run from November 1-7.

Ricky Walden made a 126, the highest break of the tournament so far, in a 4-0 thrashing of Michael Judge. Liang Wenbo, who won this title in 2016, won’t be at the televised phase this time as he lost 4-2 to Rory McLeod.

Former World Champion Graeme Dott beat Farak Ajaib 4-2 with a top break of 86, while Mark Davis top scored with 95 in a 4-1 defeat of Lukas Kleckers. Cypriot Michael Georgiou scored an impressive 4-1 win over Elliot Slessor.

 

It was a good win for Chris Wakelin indeed. Chris has really struggled over the last years but now seems to be in a good place. I’m also pleased to see Ricky Walden playing well again after being plagued by back and neck pain for years.

Liang Wenbo, on the other hand, seems to have lost his way completely.

The match between Dotty and Farakh Ajaib was an entertaining affair. It was attacking snooker from start to finish and played at a good pace too. Really, this match is one to watch by all those who are stuck with the “Graeme Dott is slow and boring” line. They probably never watched Graeme except, maybe, in the last session of the 2006 World Final, a tense session played by two exhausted men until ungodly hours.Also, Ajaib showed huge ability but if wants to make the most of it, he will need to learn that – sometimes – a safety is the best option.

Michael Georgiou played well. This is actually the best I’ve seen him play for a long time. Maybe not having the pressure of the ranking system is helping him to produce his best.

2021 English Open Qualifiers – Day 2

This is WST report on Day 2 at the 2021 English Open Qualifiers:

Super Soheil Stuns Perry

Iran’s Soheil Vahedi scored one of his best career wins as he beat Joe Perry 4-2 to qualify for the final stages of the BetVictor English Open.

Former World Amateur Champion Vahedi dropped off the pro tour at the end of last season and is back among the amateur ranks, but will gain entry to main tour events this term having finished sixth on the Q School ranking list.

And the 32-year-old took advantage today with a fine display against world number 21 Perry. Breaks of 72 and 68 helped give Vahedi a 2-1 lead. Perry won frame four, only for his opponent to take the next two with 54 and 63. Vahedi goes through to the final stages of the world ranking event, which will run from November 1-7 in Milton Keynes.

China’s Cao Yupeng maintained his excellent start to the season as he thrashed Mitchell Mann 4-0. Breaks of 52, 60 and 125 helped Cao to an emphatic victory.

Ashley Carty scored a 4-2 win over Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown, while Chang Bingyu top scored with 111 in a 4-1 defeat of Dominic Dale.

Xu Si came from 2-1 down to beat Jamie Jones 4-2 with a top run of 67, while Gary Wilson rounded off a 4-2 win over Craig Steadman with a break of 101.

The action continues on Sunday with Liang Wenbo, Ricky Walden and Graeme Dott among the players on the baize.

I’m very happy for Soheil who had a miserable few months on the baize. Hopefully he can build on that win and get back on the main tour come May.

Soheil Vahedi
Soheil Vahedi has forged a unique path in his snooker career (Picture: Getty Images)

Three of the four Chinese players in action won their match, the exception being Bai Langning who had been called in “last minute” to replace Zhang Jiankang.

I will be supporting Michael Georgiou today … 😉