Catching up with snooker news

It’s been all about the World Championship over the last month, but now it’s over and time to look forward to the new season.

Worldsnooker has published a very provisional calendar and you will find it here

As you can see there will be quite a nice break over the summer with little happening before early August. I don’t understand why the qualifiers for the Riga Masters and the “possible ranking event” have to happen so early after the Q-school. If non-UK players get through they might be unable to take part – and get behind ranking wise from the off – due to visa and administrative issues; it happens every year.

Regarding the Q-school, Worldsnooker had published the draws and format for all three events.

The draws for all three 2019 Q School events, and the format of play, are out now. The event runs from May 18 to June 4 at Robin Park Leisure Centre in Wigan.

Click here for event one draw

Click here for event two draw

Click here for event three draw

Click here for the format

The four semi-finalists in each event will earn a place on the World Snooker Tour for 2019/20 and 2020/21.

We have three women in the draw: Reanne Evans, Ng On Yee, Rebecca Kenna. It may be surprising but Rebecca Kenna is the one I fancy to have the best chance because she used to play league snooker along the men for years. She’s a hard match player. Two young promising female players who are not there are Ploychompoo Laokiatphong (Ploy) and Nutcharut Wongharuthai (Mink) from Thailand. Mink’s ambition is to compete on the main tour, she made a 147 this season – the first female player to achieve the feat – and Ploy – who is only 16 trains at the Q-House in Darlington when in the UK – showed tremendous potential last month in Leeds. I can only suppose that the cost of the Q-school is too much for them to afford.

We have also a number of very young players, several of them from mainland Europe, and even one Japanese: Aaron Hill, Ben Mertens, Robbie McGuigan (Mark Allen’s stepson), Luke Pinches (Barry Pinches’ son), Ryan Davies, Sean Maddocks, Florian Nüssle, Keishin Kamahashi. Ben Mertens from Belgium is the youngest one in this list, he’s only 14, and he’s the reigning World Open Under-16 Snooker Champion; only 13 at the time, he beat Aaron Hill in the final. For some of those players – the youngest ones from outside UK – it is doubtful that they would be able to compete on the main tour, should they earn a tour card, and this could cause some grief depending how World Snooker decides to re-allocated those tour cards. There are precedents: Yan Bingtao wasn’t given a visa allowing him to work in the UK when he first earned a tour card by winning the World Amateur Snooker Championship in 2014. So why do they enter? Well my guess is that what they aim at is to be able to gain experience by playing in the Challenge Tour. Also education is mandatory for all under-18 in most mainland Europe countries and this could also be an issue; being “home educated” is a possibility, but only under strict conditions.

I’m certain that there are some young Chinese talents in the draw as well, and if Lewis can tell us a bit more about them, I would be grateful.

3 thoughts on “Catching up with snooker news

  1. The format for Q School is too much of a lottery for my liking. The decision to award 4 extra Tour Cards was badly handled, coming after the closing date. Who knows if it might have tipped the balance for some players to decide to enter?

    Of the 23 players who dropped off the tour, 5 have decided to quit: Basem Eltahhan, Joe Swail, Li Yuan, Niu Zhuang and Ross Muir. They all have their reasons, which were well-known.

    This leaves 18: Rory McLeod, Arnie Ursenbacher, Xu Si, Zhang Yong, Peter Lines, Robin Hull, Allan Taylor, Paul Davison, Ross Muir, Billy Joe Castle, Chris Totten, Chen Zifan, Soheil Vahedi, Ashley Hugill, Hamza Akbar, Lukas Kleckers, Sandy Lam and Sean O’Sullivan looking for an immediate return. Half of them qualified through Q School in 2017. If Ursenbacher and Xu don’t get through, I’ll be upset – they are young ranking semi-finalists who clearly suffered under the pressure of trying to stay on tour, and had some bad luck.

    There are also many who were professionals recently: Adam Duffy, Ian Preece, Chen Zhe, Fang Xiongman, Chris Keogan, Jamie Curtis-Barrett, Adi Mehta, Fraser Patrick, Leo Fernandez, Alex Borg, Jamie Cope, Zak Surety, Sydney Wilson, Josh Boileau and Jamie O’Neill. Some not so recently such as Andy Hicks, Andrew Pagett, Michael Wild and Barry Pinches.

    I expect almost all of the qualifiers will come from this list, plus David Lilley, who has been a defacto professional anyway this season. There may be chances for the young Welsh duo Tyler Rees or Dylan Emery, hoping to join Jackson Page.

    Of the Asian players, teenagers Kei Kamihashi and Ka Wai Cheung (Hong Kong) have potential but lack experience. Surprisingly, Pang Junxu and He Guoqiang do not appear, although they had both announced they would (Pang was impressive in Sheffield, playing on a Q School VISA). The two 18-years olds had real chances. The best new Chinese prospects are Wu Yize (spectacular) and Lei Peifan (solid), but at 15 aren’t realistic yet – give them time. Geng Mingqi is an outsider (like Luo Honghao a talented pianist). There are no players from Thailand.

    The youngest player is actually Iulian Boiko, at 13. I don’t know what the employment laws are in Kiev, but given the brutal nature of the pro tour these days, a case could be made for child cruelty if he did qualify!

    My predictions haven’t been too good recently, so I’ll fudge it and guess that we’ll have 4 players under 25, 4 players over 40, and 2 rookies (new professionals).

    • Thank you Lewis. Iulian Boiko had escaped my attention for some reason. If I remember correctly he played in EBSA comps, already in 2016 – he was 10! – and last year Q-school. That’s quite crazy. Also there is another young one – he may be 20 at most because he was in under-18 comps in 2017 – Noel Landers of whom I know nothing. Also Ross Muir being in the draw, I guess you meant Rhys Clark being the one who did quit. He barely played at all this season. Pang and He not being there is quite surprising indeed.

      • Sorry, yes I meant Rhys Clark is not returning.

        Noel Landers will be 20 in September. There are a number of teenagers. The youngest British player is Robbie McGuigan (14). He’s the stepson Mark Allen raves about. Others are: Lewis Ullah (16), Sean Maddocks, Dean Young, Kayden Brierley, Luke Pinches and Ryan Davies (all 17). There are two promising Irish 17-years olds Aaron Hill and Ross Bulman.

        Frankly, apart from Jackson Page and Chang Bingyu (who have already qualified), I don’t think any of the teenagers will have much hope, and might be better off waiting for a year or two. I just hope they have a chance for some decent matchplay somewhere. The requirement for gain experience from the Challenge Tour does force their hand into entering Q School.

        But above all, Q School a crazy system. If they ran it as a 12-round Swiss, they would get the most suitable players, and give everyone else a fairer idea of where they stand.

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