Qualifiers: Indian Open and European Masters 2018

Last week saw two qualifying events take place in Preston: the Indian Open 2018 qualifying round (last 128) and the European Masters 2018 qualifying round (last 128).

You can find all the Indian Open qualifiers results on snooker.org including links to the footage of the streamed matches.

This particular tournament never attracts many top players and this year edition is no exception. Relatively low prize money, long trip and a history of tourista epidemics amongst the players are probably the reasons for that. In addition, most of the entering top players have their last 128 match held-over, notably John Higgins (defending champion), Shaun Murphy, Mark Allen and Neil Robertson. So there weren’t many “shocks” at those qualifiers, but the 4-1 defeat of Anthony McGill at the hands of Thor Chuan Leong is certainly a surprise. That said Thor played well and played old-school hard match snooker to which Anthony had no answer.

The results of the European Masters 2018 can be found here, again with links to the videos of the streamed matches.

Here we had a few surprises with Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire, Michael White, Martin Gould and Ben Woollaston failing to qualify. Also Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, David Gilbert, Mark Allen and Neil Robertson all had to face a decider before going through. It’s fair to say that the combination of a qualifiers environment and a short format seems to be a bit of a leveler!

The talking point on social media however today is Rory Mc Leod win over Luckas Kleckers in a deciding frame that lasted (about) 104 minutes! It was all started by Barry Hearn reminding everyone of his intention to send letters of warning to the players with an average shot time (AST) over 30 seconds, in an attempt to make the game more entertaining. This got Peter Ebdon up in arms … and I have to say that I agree with Peter here.

Let me remind you that section IV of the rules states that taking unnecessary long time over a shot, or the conception of a shot is deemed ungentlemanly conduct and hence should be tackled by the referee, starting with a warning and going possibly as far as forfeiting the match if the situation persists. This particular part of the rule seems to be very rarely applied, and is indeed very delicate to apply as a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration: the natural pace of the player, the situation on the table, the importance and stage in the match … to name only a few. Yet, it’s in the rules, and if rules are not applied they need either to be amended – if deemed inadequate – or enforced. Anything else makes a mockery of the sport.

Occurences of breach of the section IV rules are certainly not rife in snooker, but I have seen a few, the last time happening in the last round of the World Championship 2017 qualifiers. It was blatant, and I think that everyone watching snooker regularly would have recognised the situation but the culprit got away with it and won his match at ungodly hours over a gutted opponent. This is not right BUT this is typically a situation that will NOT be identified by looking at the AST, even over the match, as it was a long match , and certainly not over a whole season.

Some players are naturally slower, and need more thinking time. It does NOT make them less entertaining. Peter Ebdon is a prime example of that (*). Some low ranked players are under such pressure that they tend to slow down in an attempt to better gather their thoughts and avoid mistakes. Who can blame them? In fact negative play is more damaging to the sport, and more likely to produce long tedious matches than slow execution of the right well thought shots. But there is nothing in the rules to prevent negative play and it would be impossible to enforce anyway.

In short, AST fines is a daft idea by Hearn and one that is bound to fail and to produce more negative play resulting in less entertaining matches rather than more entertaining ones.

(*) Yes, I know, there was THAT QF in 2005 and IMO he should have been warned then, but it’s a one-off. The 2006 World Final final was just a case of two completely exhausted players struggling to the finish line …


12 thoughts on “Qualifiers: Indian Open and European Masters 2018

  1. Here’s my new hypothesis: Ronnie has designed his schedule this year to minimize encounters with Numpties.

    It stands to reason that Ronnie would be most likely to play a Numpty in a qualifier. It looks as if Ronnie will play in no more than 2 qualifiers this season (for the International Championship and the China Open). Other than that, he’s already exempt into the 4 Home Nations events, UK, World Championship, and the Shanghai Masters, Champion of Champions, and Masters.

    As for World Grand Prix, Players Championship, and Tour Championship, he would have to qualify for those based on his performance in his other ranking events, rather than by having to play Numpties in Barnsley/Preston/Some other place Ronnie doesn’t want to go.

    Perhaps Ronnie entered the European Masters qualifier hoping to draw a good opponent that would be interesting for him to play, and perhaps he considered Eden Sharav to be too much of a Numpty for him so he withdrew…

    • Or just simply changed his mind after he entered about to play in Belgium later this year (should win l128 match).
      Hope there is no injury or any other problem.
      Would behappy to know just a tipycal Ronnie who withdraw before the tournament

      • I don’t think that who his opponent is was a factor. He probably just changed his mind. He said last season that he doesn’t want to play qualifiers unless there is a good incentive…

    • It’s probably more about having to play in qualifiers than about who he was to play. He’s just as likely to play a “numpty” in first round of one of the UK tournaments than here. All top players hate to have to qualify, especially the older ones who used to be seeded for every tournament.

      • Perhaps we can modify my hypothesis to state that Ronnie has designed his schedule this year to minimize playing in qualifiers, though that still wouldn’t explain why he would enter and then withdraw from a tournament that requires a qualifier. Until and unless we get a better explanation (which we probably won’t), I’m sticking with my idea that Ronnie is trying his best to schedule a “Numpty Free” season, and that he withdrew because he thought his opponent was too much of a Numpty…

        Ronnie can’t completely avoid Numpties without skipping every ranking event, but I think he’s more willing to tolerate them in the big events played at the actual venues than in the smaller events played in the morgue-like qualifying venues…

  2. Ebdon should stfu what he did during the 2005 World Championship. And not just against O’Sullivan.
    Legal cheat to earn some money.

    This is the rule: you have to make your choice during 30 secs.

    During the Premier League back in 2012 where he played (anyway) brilliantly somehow he was able to play shots by using 25 secs only. Ok less pressure etc etc etc BUT when you have a clean shot/pot you should make it about 20-25 secs!

    And if you use 20 secs than 40 secs your average is 30 secs.
    So what is the problem?

    Tennis starts to use the same system: 25 seconds shot clock between two points.
    Nadal and Djokovic (they are a very big names) need 27-30 secs to do it.
    BUT they have to do it during that 25 secs shot clock.
    And they will do it. To make a bit faster their serving movement.

  3. It seems like the results of SightRight can be pretty quick, but I daresay it depends on the player.

    I feel that last season was such a brutal marathon for everyone, that it’s very reasonable to expect some players to take an extended break, and to manage things very differently this season, provided they are secure in their rankings of course. For the British, it does seem that the main meat of the season begins around the time of the English Open. I wouldn’t be at all worried if Ronnie chose to play in only the Home Nations, C of C, UK, Masters, Players’, Tour, World and 2 or 3 of the Chinese ones. That’s still quite a lot! We’d all want him to have one last go at winning the World Championship.

    As for slow play sanctions, I can see a future where the vast majority of tournaments are invitationals, and players who are tedious, or have poor etiquette, just simply wouldn’t be invited. The AST figures can be used to give us an idea of who might be a candidate for sanctions, so they can be monitored, but I’d hope that only the really bloody-minded ones would have anything to be worried about.

  4. It has been a frustrating last few days, trying (but failing) to find updates on what’s happening with Ronnie. All we know for sure is that he’s skipping at least the first 6 ranking events of the year, which seems like a lot…

    • That’s probably because there is nothing to find Mark. And the only one I’m surprised he skipped is the China Championship. I’m wondering more about why he entered the European Masters in the first place than I’m surprised he withdrew from it.

      • Yes, I agree that the China Championship was the only one of the first ranking six events that I expected him to play in. But I’m hoping to get an explanation for why he not only chose to enter the European Masters instead but then withdrew almost immediately afterward. He obviously doesn’t “owe” us an explanation, but it would still be nice to have one…

        By the way: do you know enough about Sight Right to know if it would take someone like Ronnie at least a few months to adjust to, or if it is something he could adjust to right away…?

    • Don’t think is there any big problem with Ronnie.
      It’s not unusual situation when you read ‘O’Sullivan pulls out’.
      Maybe a bit frustrating but when he mentioned that Shanghai as the first event for him…
      What a surprise was to see his name at the European Masters draw

      We’ll wait until Shanghai to see which Ronnie will turn up for the season

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