Ding and Higgins in Tibet …

I promised to talk about exhibitions, and these ones, involving Ding Junhui and John Higgins are certainly worth mentioning.

Indeed, as reported on weibo, Ding and John are in Tibet. Here is the (automatic google) translation of the article:

Lhasa Public Welfare Joy Launch Ding Junhui Shu Bao Xi Jin Sixiu Tibetan Dance

Star Online  Posted on 2018-06-30 15:01:45 Report
Number of readings: 946

Superstar Online News 2018 “Ride” Snooker “Fighting to the Peak” series of charity events was first held on the morning of June 30 in Beijing Middle School in Lhasa. The event was hosted by the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation and the Tibet Development Foundation for Assistance, the Tibet Autonomous Region Sports Bureau, China Vision Sports Entertainment Co., Ltd., the Lhasa Sports Bureau of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and Daqing Guoyu Culture Media Co., Ltd. Group Co., Ltd. provides public welfare support for snooker events; it is worth mentioning that this is a world-class snooker tournament.

At 10:00 on June 30 in the morning, Vice Chairman of China Soong Ching Ling Foundation Dunquan, Deputy Secretary-General Aid Tibet Development Foundation Songshi Zhen, Beijing State-Ju Lee Chun Holdings Ltd chairman save the country, Reid Holdings Ltd chairman Huangyu Bing, etc. Leaders and world’s leading players in the 80s, “China Dragon” Ding Junhui with 13 large ranking champions and “Wizards” with 4 world champions joined as the ambassadors to enter the city of Lhasa Beijing Middle school sports hall. The

Throughout the course of the activity, two snooker star with the same students had a very pleasant interaction: not only quiz on general knowledge of snooker, Ding Junhui and Professor Higgins also personally pitched snooker combat skills, even They also took a counter-attack against the killing. The two star players showed a completely different temperament on the playing field, playing the best of their ability, provoking children’s laughter and screaming, and the scene atmosphere was continuously pushed to a new climax. In addition to interacting, they also donated snooker tables and other billiard equipment to the school.
The students on the other side also prepared wonderful performances for the guests. There are not only fashionable modern dances but also Tibetan folk dances. Tibet is known as the “sea of ​​song and dance,” and Higgins from a foreign country was deeply attracted by this beautiful dance. He could not help but take out his mobile phone to take pictures. At the end of the event, the enthusiastic children invited guests to join in, so everyone danced in a circle and laughter filled the entire Beijing high school.
In fact, this is not the first time Ding Junhui has been to Lhasa. He joined his family and went into the nearest place to heaven a year ago. Unlike previous travels, Ding Junhui, who traveled as a public welfare ambassador, took on different responsibilities and had different hopes: “Snooker is a quiet and focused sport. With the development of billiards in Tibet We hope that more children will join this healthy sport and that they will reap the joy of growing up.”

This is probably the highest altitude ever attended Higgins snooker activity, and has 43-year-old “witch doctor” admits that for him really is not a small challenge: “Last night I could not sleep over and over again, intolerable headache But today I saw such enthusiastic children. They are fantastic. I’m proud of them.” In the last Tibetan dance, Higgins was very devoted and also jumped like a model, and he spoke with impatience: “I’m a great dancer and I’m jumping very well!” (Mr. Alex)

And there were more images shared on weibo as well.

Now, I know that the way China has treated Tibet and its people has not always been friendly and fair, far from it. Things have happened there in the past that were really atrocious, be it about the people’s rights, their living conditions, the crushing of their culture and traditions, the environmental damage and more. But I do hope that as China evolves – even if there is a lot of things that need to be done and improved yet – Tibetan people and their culture will find their right place in the country. I hope – and believe – that initiatives like this one are a sign that we are getting there, or at least closer. So, well done Ding and John.

And, just as a reminder, our European past is far from perfect: think Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, Shoah, colonialism, slavery (including massive deportation of Irish Children to English rules territories in 17th and 18th centuries), countless wars and destructions … Actually our present is far from perfect.

Post WW2 China was devastated by floods, epidemics, extreme poverty and ignorance for most of its citizens and political disarray. The challenges the country was facing were gigantic. The ones they face today are still huge. Mao Zedong revolution was brutal, caused a lot of death, suffering and injustice. But so was the French Revolution if you come to think of it. I don’t ever condone or excuse violence and hatred, but I do believe that the answer to it isn’t returning violence and hatred.  So I’m glad to see initiatives like the one above, even if it’s only a drop in the see…

Those to watch in 2018/19

The title of this post might be slightly misleading, as I don’t intend to look into those players who I expect to make a break through by winning a tournament in the 2018/19 season. Instead I want to look at what could happen ranking wise and who might break into the top 16, or be in danger to drop off the tour, early as it is to do such exercise.

The new season is about to start next week, with the Riga Masters Qualifiers in Preston. Matt Huart of course is on the ball, or should I write on the numbers, as he has published the current provisional seedings and the provisional end of season rankings .

The first thing to notice is that Alan McManus is currently holding the 64th place with 86900 points, so I expect that a player will need about 90000 points to stay on tour at the end of the season. This means that everyone in their second year from place n° 68 (Gerard Greene) and below will need to improve massively to stand any chance to keep their tour card by breaking into the top 64. Only three “second year” players currently not in the top 64 are in good position to do that, provided they keep their standard at the level of the 2017/18 season: Ken Doherty, Sunny Akani and Martin O’Donnell. All three are well inside the top 64 in the current provisional end of season rankings.

Ken Doherty is an interesting case as he’s looking to regain his professional status “proper”, not an “invitational tour card”. If he does, he will lose the right to play on the World Seniors Tour unless rules change. Ken has been a pillar figure when it comes to promoting the newly created Seniors tour so it will be interesting to see what happens there.

Looking at the ones currently in the top 64, and based upon a 90000 points target, Rory McLeod, Daniel Wells, Scott Donaldson, Fergal O’Brien, Dominic Dale, Stuart Carrington and Marco Fu are in serious danger if they don’t improve on their 2017/18 results. Marco Fu is currently n°18, but he has 239625 points to defend and, with ongoing eyesight problems, that’s a huge challenge.

Veterans Rod Lawler, Anthony Hamilton, Joe Swail and Nigel Bond are in almost desperate positions and will almost certainly drop off the tour come May 2019. I can see Joe and Rod taking on the Seniors tour though.

Looking at the young ones in their second year, for me, Alexander Ursenbacher, Xu Si and Yuan Sijun are the most likely to improve and stay on tour, if not by breaking into the top 64, at least by earning a new tour card via the one year list.

Amongst those in their first year, I believe that Luo Honghao, Elliot Slessor and Sam Craigie have the best chances to build themselves a significant “points cushion”, putting them in good position to break into the top 64 next season, or maybe even this season (Luo and Elliot in particular).

That’s for the survival battle.

What about the top 16, and qualifying by right for the Crucible 2019?

Pushing things to the extreme, I’ll say that currently only four players are guaranteed to be at the Crucible by right (provided they enter the tournament): Mark Williams, Ronnie, Mark Selby and John Higgins. All the others could mathematically fall short although it would take something very unfortunate and unexpected for Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Kyren Wilson and Shaun Murphy to find themselves outside the top 16 come April. The others are in a battle and that’s particularly true for Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham who are n°21 and n°25 respectively in the provisional EOS rankings.

The ones who are not currently in the top 16 but have a very good chance to be there come April, provided they keep the standard they had in 2017/18 are Graeme Dott, Jack Lisowski and Yan Bingtao.

 

 

 

 

Kilkenny, Ireland – 28 June 2018

Ronnie has now won the Irish Tour 2018 series against Mark Allen as he leads by 4-1 ahead of the last leg to be played in Belfast tomorrow. Here is Conor’s report on the evening.

Fifth leg in Kilkenny started off with Ronnie making a century against his amateur. The match against Mark started then and Ronnie had back to back centuries to take a 2-0 lead. Ronnie took the next to stretch the lead to 3-0 and Mark had a fantastic century clearance to reduce the deficit at the interval to just two frames at 3-1. Mark came quickest out of the blocks after the interval taking the next two frames to level at 3-3 which included a wonderful 105 break. Ronnie however got in first in the next two frames with some incredible safety and long potting to close out a 5-3 win with a 137 total clearance and a 98 in the last two frames. John Virgo had prior engagements so the great Tony Knowles stepped in as trickshot maestro and MC. Last night of this tour on Saturday night in Belfast!

And he also shared those lovely pictures with us …

Once again thank you Conor!

Cork, Ireland – 27.06.2018

Fourth night out of six, and Ronnie leads Mark Allen by 3-1 in their exhibitions tour …

Here is the organiser, Conor O’Boyle, report on yesterday night

Good night again with Ronnie winning 5-3. Four centuries in the match, two for Mark and two for Ronnie. Ronnie had a maximum attempt and just lost position on his last red which rattled in the jaws. Great crowd and atmosphere tonight and it was JV’s last night of the tour as he has other commitments but Tony Knowles is here and taking over for the last two nights! Now 3-1 to Ronnie in the series with two nights left, Kilkenny on Thursday and Belfast on Saturday 😃

And Conor also shared a few images. Thank you Conor!

And here is Ronnie’s last red miss (thanks to Rodkor for finding this!)

Also Ronnie did an interview with Gary Spike OSullivan and Kevin Byrne and this, I suppose, can only be about boxing …

Anyway, going by what he shares on his Instagram, Ronnie is loving the Irish Tour, his snooker, the interview, the interviewers, and … the food (who would have thought? lol)

 

Limerick, Ireland – 26 June 2018

Ronnie and Mark Allen were in Limerick yesterday evening for the third leg (of six) of the Irish Tour 2018.

Here is Conor O’Boyle’s report on the night. Conor is the organiser of this tour.

Great night in Limerick both players played well. Ronnie went 4-0 up with a century included. Mark came out after the interval and made back to back centuries to make it 4-2. Ronnie then made a great break to win the match 5-2. They decided to play another frame which Ronnie won with another century. It’s 2-1 to Ronnie now in the series with Cork tomorrow night!

Thank you so much Conor!

Pictures by Conor

Ronnie also found some great Thai food, to consume at the restaurant, to take away and to make us hungry by sharing on his Instagram

So it’s onto Cork tonight…

Mulligar, Ireland – 25 June 2018

Ronnie and Mark Allen resumed their Irish Tour yesterday in Mulligar.

Here is Conor O’Boyle’s account on the night. Thank you Conor.

Mark won 5-3. Mark had 3 centuries and missed a maximum attempt on 88. Mark went 3-1 up and Ronnie got back to 3-3 and Mark finished with two centuries to win 5-3. Great night and now 1-1 in the series between Ronnie and Mark.

The pictures above were shared on social media by Conor, Ronnie and a a fan.

That good old Goat debate…

Over the years I have seen fans getting at each others throat over this and, albeit in a moderate way, I’ve been guilty myself. Now Worldsnooker … 

At the age of 42, Ronnie O’Sullivan enjoyed arguably the best season of his 26-year career in 2017/18. And when it comes to the debate on who is snooker’s greatest ever player, his recent success has shifted opinion firmly in his favour.

O’Sullivan first threatened to quit snooker when he was a teenager, and has done so repeatedly ever since. As recently as January, at the Masters, he talked of missing the World Championship in order to film a TV show in Australia.

In the end the Rocket did compete in snooker’s biggest event and although his bid for the 2018 Crucible crown was derailed after an ill-tempered last 16 clash with Ali Carter, few would write off his chances of picking up a momentous sixth world title in the future.

Throughout the season, O’Sullivan appeared to enjoy snooker as much as he ever has. He held the posture of a man who has nothing to prove, with a vast array of titles under his belt. While younger men strive under the pressure of establishing themselves inside snooker’s pantheon of greatness, O’Sullivan sits untouchable at the high altar.

He may downplay his ambition to take those records he doesn’t already hold (“records mean nothing to me” is his mantra) but the pursuit of those achievements is surely, deep down, what drives the satisfaction he finds in playing well and winning. The thrill is in the chase.

And how his fans around the world were thrilled in his brilliance last season, watching a sporting talent – who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods – in full flow. The Rocket clocked up more centuries in a season than ever before, more prize money and more ranking titles.

The man O’Sullivan has – many would argue – dislodged at the top of the pantheon is Stephen Hendry. During his golden spell in the 1990s Hendry set the bar for his most treasured record very high – winning the World Championship seven times. The Scot also set the benchmark for the most ranking titles, at 36. The latter – if O’Sullivan maintains his current form – will surely be broken soon. The former might prove much more difficult to match.

Judd Trump is tipped by many as the natural heir to O’Sullivan and he is comfortably the sport’s second biggest box office draw. He doesn’t doubt O’Sullivan’s motivation.

“Ronnie wants to break every record over the next three or four years and I think he is likely to get them the way he is playing,” said Trump. “He’s getting a bit older and I think he wants to target those records and beat them before he retires. He says he’s not really bothered, but I think that’s the only aim he has left in snooker. If he does get to seven or eight world titles, that will be enough for him.”

Eurosport commentator and journalist David Hendon has seen both Hendry and O’Sullivan win world titles throughout his career working in the sport, from his role as the WPBSA Press Officer to his current job in the commentary box.

Hendon said: “You can argue who the greatest ever is until the cows come home, and people do of course. A lot of it depends on what criteria you use. On titles, notably world titles, Hendry is still ahead. However O’Sullivan has one thing Hendry did not: longevity. Stephen retired at 43 because he felt he could no longer compete at the top. Ronnie is 42 and won five ranking titles last season. He is a long way from finished and his continuing reign at the top of the sport is unprecedented.

“I suppose in this way they are snooker’s version of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Beatles did it all in a decade, the Stones are still going. The point is, they were both great, and it will take a long time before anyone threatens their status as the two greatest players ever.”

Commentator and snooker journalist Phil Yates believes that you must broaden your measures, to allow for talent and ability to be part of the conversation.

“As Hendry’s records have tumbled, so the debate has become ignited but it is all a matter of criteria,” said Yates. “Hendry has won more world titles at the Crucible and more world ranking tournaments than O’Sullivan. If you believe greatness is based purely on achievement, your vote still has to go to the Scot.

“However, if your definition of greatness is wider, incorporating other attributes such as longevity, talent, break-building, entertainment value and the way he moves the needle, it simply has to be O’Sullivan.

“He is top of the all-time century and maximum break makers list by a distance, there are over 24 years between his first and most recent ranking title and he heads the all-time prize money list. If you asked me this question five years ago, I would not have hesitated to say Hendry is the greatest. Now, I cannot be swayed from the view that O’Sullivan has surpassed him.”

Tale of the Tape
O’Sullivan v Hendry

5 World Championship Titles 7
7 Masters Titles 6
6 UK Championship Titles 5
18 Triple Crown Titles 18
33 Ranking Titles 36
948 Century Breaks 775
14 Maximum Breaks 11

Most centuries last season

Ronnie O’Sullivan 74
Judd Trump 74
John Higgins 58
Neil Robertson 57

Most ranking titles in one season

5 – Stephen Hendry 1990/91
5 – Ding Junhui 2013/14
5 – Mark Selby 2016/17
5 – Ronnie O’Sullivan 2017/18

O’Sullivan’s prize money last season

Hong Kong Masters – runner-up plus high break: £55,000
China Championship – quarter-finals: £18,000
English Open – Winner: £70,000
International Championship – Last 64: £4,000
Champion of Champions – runner-up: £50,000
Shanghai Masters – Winner plus high break: £153,000
Northern Ireland Open – last 32: £3,500
UK Championship – Winner: £170,000
Scottish Open – quarter-finals: £10,000
Masters – quarter-finals: £25,000
World Grand Prix – Winner: £100,000
Welsh Open – quarter-finals: £10,000
Players Championship – Winner plus high break: £130,000
World Championship – last 16: £27,500
Total: £852,000

So then?

Goat Debate

For me, it’s Ronnie as you might guess. Why? Well, in addition of everything mentioned above, here it is:

  • I don’t think that Hendry did have the type of opposition and challenge that Ronnie, John Higgins and Mark Williams gave each other over the course of a 25+ years career: they all three are still very much dominating the game, along with Mark Selby in recent years. Once the class of 92 came to age, Hendry sort of faded away. When he won the sixth of his World Titles, they were only 20 (Ronnie and Higgins) and 21 (Williams). Hendry only won two triple crown events after that, two out of 18, and to me it’s because those three became better than him, more complete players, they had learned from him, they had adopted his attacking ways, taken on board some of his innovating shots, but they also developed a tactical nous and a safety game that Hendry never really applied himself to.
  • And this leads me to the second point: all three of the  class of 92 have a remarkable longevity because all three were able and willing to change and to reinvent themselves. If you look at some of the great sporting figures at this moment in time, you have people like Federer and Valentino Rossi. You can’t sustain a sporting career, winning over decades, without making changes in order to cope with what the passing of time does to you: you gain experience but you suffer battle scars, you get wiser but you lose the fearlessness of youth. Hendry didn’t adapt, be it because he didn’t want to compromise or because he wasn’t able to, only he will know. But it cost him.

Don’t get me wrong, Stephen Hendry is a great, great champion, one of the all times greats most certainly. He forerver changed the way snooker is played and every player of today owes him for that. But in my eyes, he isn’t the greatest.