German Masters 2020 – Qualifiers round-up

That’s it, the last “2019” balls have been potted yesterday in Barnsley as the second round of qualifying matches for the 2020 German Masters was played to a conclusion.

Again, only 7 of the top 16 qualified for the main event in Berlin: Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Mark Williams, Joe Perry, Judd Trump. This time the World Champion will be there, but the defending champion, Kyren Wilson is missing out. The biggest surprise is probably the absence of Mark Selby.

I won’t repeat what I said after the European Masters qualifiers concluded, but I haven’t changed my mind about this shambolic scheduling. If you missed the rant, it’s here.

Both the European Masters and the German Masters will provide great matches, and I’m certain that they will be very enjoyable events. But for the sponsors and organisers the outcome isn’t that great, and most European fans don’t have that many opportunities to see the top players live and many will be disappointed.

Thirteen players have qualified for both events: Mark Williams, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Ding Junhui, Gary Wilson, Graeme Dott, Scott Donaldson, Luca Brecel, Zhao Xintong, Robert Milkins, Robbie Williams, Tian Pengfei, and Jak Jones (in ranking order).

Mark Williams has finally decided to get his head down and hit the practice table. It immediately paid off. Same applies to Luca Brecel it seems and it’s good to have Graeme Dott playing well again. Tian Pengfei is turning into a very consistent “danger man”. Jak Jones, ranked n°70, had a remarkable week in Barnsley, finishing the year with the scalp of n°17, Ali Carter.


Reflecting on the decade – The Q-school

Another major initiative by Barry Hearn was to establish the Q-school as the main qualifying route to the Professional Tour.

As most of you, readers, will know the Q-school is a set of qualifying tournaments played shortly after the World Championship. They are the first events of the new season and open to amateurs, as well as to the professionals who are being relegated from the main tour at the end of the previous season (*). The format is straight knock-out. All matches are best of 7, from start to finish. The flat draw is random, without any kind of seeding. The winning Quarter finalists get a 2-years Main Tour card.

The number of qualifying events has varied over time, and in three of the last four instalments, there has been an Order of Merit awarding for additional spots.

Here you will find the outcome of the Q-school events since they were organised for the first time in 2011.


Looking at those results, it’s clear that the system has benefitted returning professionals more than amateurs who had never before be on the main tour. That’s not really surprising as those events are played under professional conditions and the returning professionals are used to them, whilst for the “pure” amateurs it’s largely uncharted territory. It can’t be helped and it’s certainly not a dig at the returning pros who only deserve praise, many of them finding the inner strength to immediately get over the disappointment of relegation and going back to work right away. At the same time, as a fan, you would want to see young players finding their way to the professional tour as they are the future.

From all those players who got on the tour via the Q-school, the only one to win a full ranking tournament, is Michael Georgiou who won… the Shoot-out. He had been a pro before returning to the main tour via the Q-school.

Also, only one player in that list above to get into the top 16 AFTER (**) qualifying via the Q-school is David Gilbert who has done very well in the last couple of seasons. He’s currently ranked 11, his highest ranking was 10.

Only two players who turned pro in or after 2011 won an individual full ranking title at a really young age: Yan Bingtao who got on the tour after winning the Amateur World Championship in 2014 at 14, and Luca Brecel who got a wildcard to the Main Tour in 2011, notably after becoming under-19 European Champion in 2009, also just 14. Both are of course extremely talented. Yan benefitted form the strong structures and circuit available to young snooker players in China. Luca was coached by Chris Henry from a very young age and played in many European and Belgian snooker events. This was only made possible by the strong support of his family and being home-schooled.

So, overall, it’s not a great record for the Q-school graduates.

It’s also not a great record for the young ones. I covered that aspect when I looked at the rankings.

The Q-school structure as it is has a number of flaws.

  • The straight knock-out system combined with a random flat draw means that some of the best amateurs possibly meet in the first round – and we know it happened more than once – automatically depriving one of them of a chance to go deeper, whilst weaker players also meet in early rounds and, with some luck progress through two or three rounds. Even if they have little chances to win, it ehances their ranking in the Order of Merit. In short, that system does not guarantee that the best players progress.
  • Unless the number of players happens to be a power of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512… etc), there are byes in the first round, and actually in the second round as well. In fact there have been a very significant number of them. The players receiving a bye, not only progress to the next round, but they get “points” in the Order of Merit as if they had won by 4-0. This is a major distortion of the Order of Merit ranking. Again, that system does not guarantee that the best players progress.
  • Players who get knocked-out early, don’t gain much experience from the tournament … and it’s a shame because it’s not cheap to enter especially if they have to travel from abroad. This is a disincentive to enter unless the players are funded in a way or another.

You will tell me that it can’t be helped. WRONG.

Actually, there is a system that would allow for a fairer reflection of the players real “value”, and that, in addition, would require less matches to “select” the required number of  main tour graduates: the “Swiss system”.

What is it? The Swiss system is a non eliminating tournament format: all players, unless they wiwdraw, play in all rounds of the tournament.

The first round “pairing” can be random, or use a seeding or rating of sorts, if available. Currently, in snooker, it would probably be random. If the number of players is odd (as opposed to even), there will be one “bye” to the next round. But just the one bye.

In the second round, the first round losers will be paired together, and the first round winners will also be paired together. Possibly there could be one match between a “winner” and a “loser” as well as one bye. The pairing method doesn’t matter, the only constraint being that players who have met in a previous round, should not meet again, and if there is a bye, it should not benefit the player(s) who already had one. The pairs play each other. At the end of this round you will have players with 0 wins (rougly 1/4 of the field), players with 1 win (roughly 1/2 of the field) and players with two wins (roughly 1/4 of the field).

In the third round, again players will be paired within their “win group” whenever possible: those with 0 win between them, those with 1 win between them, those with 2 wins between them. At the end of this round yo will have a group with 0 wins (roughly 1 in 8), a group with 1 win (roughly 3 in 8), a group with 2 wins (roughly 3 in 8) and a group with 3 wins (roughly 1 in 8)

You get the idea … depending of the size of your “population”, you can have any number of rounds, until your group of undefeated players reaches the size that suits your needs.

The most players the Q-school had was 218 … I made a “Swiss simulation” with 224 players, a realistic number of entries for next season. Here is the outcome:


One tournament, four rounds deliver 14 “graduates” to which you can add two by a predefined method of choice (most frames won, frames difference, most points won… any combination through the tournament). And you also have a natural “Order of Merit”, the group with three wins being the obvious group of candidates for the Challenge Tour in its current form.

Even if the tournament lasts longer than one current Q-school event, it’s significantly shorter than three of them. In fact it’s roughly equivalent to two of them. It’s cheaper for the players, and it’s cheaper for Worldsnooker. Indeed getting 12 “graduates” with the current system would require 660 matches (224 players straight knock out)

In addition, everyone gets to play 4 matches, gaining the maximum experience from the tournament, win or lose and, on average, the matches should be closer and more competitive whatever the players level.

Drawbacks? It’s more work to maintain/update the draw for the tournament director and their team, but then it’s just once, not three times.

More drawbacks? It may not be so attractive for the betting lot … Now, you know me by now, I won’t cry over that one!

It’s never going to work in cue sports? Well … it is used, and has been used in Pool by the English Pool Association

You like this? Please credit Lewis Pirnie who regularly comments on this blog.  His very relevant input  inspired me to have a closer look at this system and write this piece. Thank you Lewis!

(*) This is important because the entries for the Q-school close before the previous season is actually over. This to allow enough time to proper organisation of the events.
(**) Joe Swail of course was ranked as high as n°10 but that was in 2001/02

Reflecting on the decade – the PTC years

When Barry Hearn took over snooker, the sport was in a terrible state. The number of ranking tournaments in 2009/10 was just six. Obviously, except at the very top, players needed another job to be able to survive and it had become a sport of “part-timers”.

One of Barry Hearn’s priorities was to get players … to play regularly again. The Players Tour Championship was the answer. It may not be widely known, but the initial plan was to have twelve events – minor ranking events – in 2010/11: 4 would be held in the UK, 4 in Western Europe and 4 in Eastern Europe. Jason Ferguson was to organise the UK leg, Brandon Parker the Western European leg (in Belgium and Germany for a start), and Pat Mooney the Eastern European leg (*). All three – Ferguson, Parker and Mooney – were members of the new board after Barry Hearn took control. Pat Mooney was John Higgins manager and together they had previously started the “World Series”, a series of exhibitions involving top players, in mainland Europe, including Eastern Europe and former USSR in particular.

It didn’t go according to plan … During the 2010 World Championship, the News of the World infamously set up John Higgins, still the reigning World Champion, and Pat Mooney his manager. They invited them to Kiev – allegedly to discuss the organisation of events in the area – and filmed them agreeing to fix future matches, as well as agreeing to encourage other players to do the same. As a result Pat Mooney was permanently banned from any activity related to snooker. More on that in a future post (**)

The PTC project went on all the same the next season – 2010/11 – with 7 events played in the UK and 5 events played in mainland Europe (3 in Germany, 1 in Belgium, 1 in the Czech Republic). Of the 7 events played in the UK, 6 were played at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield, behind closed doors or about, the 7th was played at the SWSA in Gloucester and was technically part of the European leg.

Throughout the PTCs/EPTCs, season, an “order of merit” was kept, and the 24 best performing players were invited to compete in a PTC Grand Final, an event with full ranking status and offering decent money.

PTC series evolved through the years but was effectively an important part of the tour from 2010/11 to 2015/16.

The PTCs were in fact pro-ams, with amateurs competing in pre-qualifying rounds for the right to play pros in the last 128. All matches were best of 7.

When the PTC tour started in 2010/11 the ranking system was still based on points. Those events offered less points than full ranking events, but still a significant amount, especially considering that there were 12 of them, plus the Grand Final. Money wise though they weren’t offering much. There was £50000 in total, £10000 for the winner. For the ones played in mainland Europe, it was even worse as it was 50000€ and 10000€ for the winner and those events involved increased traveling costs for the vast majority of players. With a £100 entry fee, players basically had to reach the last 16, or even the QF sometimes just to break even.

This explains why a number of top players were extremely critical towards the series at first, claiming that they felt blackmailed to play into them to keep their ranking despite losing money (most notably Ronnie, Maguire). Other like Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy embraced it.

The series however definitely did two very positive things: it got the players playing all season long, and it brought live professional snooker to many areas, mainly in Europe, where it had been a rarity for many years. Eurosport embraced it too which was great. I have been in a lot of those events taking pictures, and, in mainland Europe, the crowds were generally excellent.

Another noticeable positive effect of the series was to bring back motivation to a generation of players who had turned into dull journeymen. All of a sudden players like Mark Davis, Barry Pinches, Rod Lawler found a new lease of sporting life, a new motivation. The quality of their snooker increased spectacularly.

As the series evolved, the prize money increased, the UK leg was reduced, the European leg grew and an Asian leg was added to the tour (2012/13). Also the Grand Final became a 32 men event.

I also went to one APTC event, in Yixing, China, in 2012. This was a completely different experience from what I knew in Europe. Let me first say this: I was made to feel extremely welcome by all the Chinese persons I met over there. I’m very grateful for the friendship and the memories. Contrary to what happened in the European events though, there was very little crowd, and the army was very present around the venue, which was very bizarre (for me at least) … not that the locals looked particularly scared, but they were there. Also, the young Chinese players involved were closely looked after by their coaches and the CBSA. I remember Lyu Haotian there: he was only 14. Every of his matches was closely monitored, videotaped and debriefed. Another legacy from those APTCs is the “partitioned” setup currently used in all qualifiers. That’s where I saw it first being used. Jason Ferguson thought that the idea was great and asked me to take some pictures so that he could later show the other members of the board how it was done…

The PTC series was abandonned in 2016, probably because Barry Hearn thought that the concept had served it’s purpose. A few chosen events were kept and “upgraded” as full ranking events. Despite the initial criticisms, the PTC brought a lot of positives to snooker. But the series had some adverse effects as well. One of them is the demise of the Paul Hunter Classic. What was the most vibrant pro-am in Europe, attracting hundreds of players and fans has been destroyed. Whilst it was a PTC, it still kept its identity to a large extend although already part of the “fun” was gone. As a full ranking event, it petered out. All that remains is a 16 men sanctioned invitational that isn’t even broadcasted any more. Also, I have heard informed opinions that the PTC tour indirectly contributed to the decline of the amateur scene: amateurs obviously have to make choices when it comes to the events they want to attend. Most have a job, or are still at school or studying. They rarely have loads of money and time. The propect of mixing with pros, and possibly playing them, proved extremely attractive to many. As a result a number of existing pro-ams, some very “old”, allegedly saw their entries decline sharply, and eventually disppeared.

Finally, from what I heard from the organisers of the PTCs in Belgium and in SWSA, despite the good crowds, those events were not really profitable for them.

(*) those informations had been shared with a small group of people, including myself, during an exhibition in GErmany held shortly before the 2010 WC
(**) it definitly wasn’t “just an exhibition and nothing happened anyway”

European Masters 2020 – Qualifiers Round-up

The European Masters 2020 Qualifiers were played in Barnsley over the last three days… and the outcome, I’m sure, will please neither the organisers, nor the European fans. Only seven of the top 16 players have come through: Ding Junhui, John Higgins, Kyren Wilson, Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins.

You can find all the detailed results on

Ronnie didn’t enter, the defending champion, Jimmy Robertson, went out in the first round, as did Judd Trump the World Champion and World n°1. Luca Brecel is the only player from mainland Europe still in the draw. There is no point awarding young European wilcards, if you are not prepared to hold their matches over to the venue. Their chances to win two rounds against pros are next to nil and everyone knows it.

It’s a disastrous outcome for the “European leg” of the tour, and what both saddens and angers me, is that it was totally predictable. This is the last week of the year, the players have been playing non stop for the last three weeks, with just one day between the final of the Scottish Open and these qualifiers. It’s the end of a long first half of the season: those who go deep in most tournament are bound to be mentally drained. The environment isn’t inspiring either. Elliott Slessor on twitter said it was freezing cold in the venue, and some tables have no seats for spectators. And… it’s every year the same story. Since the German Masters qualifiers were played in this spot in the calendar, there have been a lot of “shocks” evey time. It will probably be the same in the  coming three days again.

A tweet I posted, saying that the players are tired, and that the enviroment isn’t inspiring, triggered a whole discussion, including Barry Hearn stating that HE is not tired – good for him – and that if they aren’t able to give it their best they should not enter. Right! As if the whole system wasn’t aimed at having them to play in every tournament. Yes, they do have a choice not to enter … at a price that many can’t really afford.

And, yes, it’s a normal working week for most people … who haven’t been working for the last three weeks without a break, and haven’t travelled the world constantly for the last six months or about. Denying a fact that sits right under his nose – namely that this end-of-year scheduling is a recipe for disaster – won’t change the facts and won’t help the cause of snooker in mainland Europe. He probably doesn’t care (to say it politely).

And it’s not as if there weren’t alternatives. They could fit two groups of the Championships League Snooker here. No ranking pressure in those. Or they could put the Shootout in that spot. It wouldn’t matter much, it’s a right lottery anyway, and a bit of fun would probably suit most players.

Reflecting on the decade: the rankings

2010 is the year Barry Hearn came at the helm and started a process that has completely transformed the sport. Today, I want to look at one particular aspect: the ranking system.

In 2009/2010 the ranking system was points based and static. Players were awarded a fixed number of points for reaching a certain round in the tournament. Most ranking tournaments had an identical “tariff”, the UK Championship and  the World Championship awarding more points than the rest, especially the latter.

The tournaments “proper” – televised – featured 32 players, the top 16 that were seeded according to their ranking, and 16 qualifiers.  There were 96 players on the tour at the time. The 80 players that weren’t in the top 16, had to come through a tiered qualifying system: usually 81-96 v (seeded) 80-65, the winners v 64-49, the winners v 48-33 and finally the winners v 32-17. There was an amount of points awarded at each level and, at each level, the losing seed was still awarded points, usually the amount pertinent to the previous round. The whole “weighting” of the points was favouring consistency more than winning: as an example, usually reaching the QF stage earned a player half of the points earned by the winner. Nowadays even the losing finalist rarely gets that much. Ranking were updated once a year, after the World Championship.

This system was very static. Basically winning most of their first matches would allow a player to stay in the “ranking bracket” they had started the season in. It was also rewarding consistency rather than winning. For instance Stephen Hendry regained the n°1 spot in 2006, despite not going past the SF round – which he reached twice – and losing in the last 16 at the World Championship. In addition it meant that, over a season, the same players kept colliding into each others at a certain stage because the system was seeding based, and their seeding didn’t change over the season.

A player in form had to wait until the next season to reap the fruit of their efforts, a player going through a bad spell was “protected”, at least for the duration of the season.

Right from the start Barry Hearn vowed to make the whole system more dynamic. The first step towards that was taken right away: from the 2010/11 season on, the rolling ranking system came in operation: the rankings were updated after each tournament, whilst the seedings were updated at pre-determined cut-off points. The whole system still remained basically a tiered one for the time being.

This tiered system has drawbacks. It forced lower ranked players to play more matches than those seeded above them to win an event, which was deemed as “unfair” by many. At the time, the qualifying matches were usually played in cubicles, with only a couple of people watching, and in conditions that were completely different from those of the television stages. This meant that the lower ranked players who qualified for a main event were put at a huge disadvantage because their top 16 opponent, who they rarely played, was used to those conditions and they were not. The difference in lighting for instance is huge. So much so that Stuart Pettman, in his book, explains that he had one table installed in his club with “television lighting” hoping that it would help him to cope should he reach the last 32 stage of events. To an extend though the introduction of the PTC (Players Tour Championship) in the same 2010/11 season helped the lowest ranked players to get more used to television exposure and playing the top dogs. But the PTC story is for another post…

The tiered system however had advantages as well. It ensured that the players’ first opponent in a tournament was someone of similar level to their own. There weren’t huge mismatches. The path to the television stage was a progressive one, allowing for player’s improvement and development. This, I feel, is important especially for the rookies on the tour. Granted, to progress, you have to play against better than you, but it’s all a matter of measure. If the difference in level is too big, and if you are spending the whole match sat in your seat, it won’t teach you much. If you are savagely battered in every tournament it’s dispiriting and demotivating.

In the 2014/15 season, Barry Hearn introduced the “money list” system. This had been announced as early as October 2011 and confirmed at the Crucible in April 2012.

Here is an article by Matt Huart, analysing the impact of that radical change in the ranking system.

World Snooker Confirms Money List From 2014/15


As initially suggested as long ago as last October and confirmed by Barry Hearn at the Crucible in April, World Snooker have today announced the introduction of a switch to a money-based ranking list from 2014/15, as opposed to the points based listing currently in place. Click below for a few of my thoughts on the subject…

The Advantages

My initial reaction is really much as it was back when I first blogged about the subject last year, insofar as the advantages and disadvantages remain much as they were then.

Considering the advantages of a ranking list based on prize money earned, the argument made by Barry Hearn during one of his two press conferences during the 2012 World Championship was as follows:

“As a system, a money-based Order of Merit has two big advantages. One, it is much easier understood by the general public rather than a complicated series of points. Two, under the current system, if a younger player came in and won the World Championship in his first year, he may well not be seeded in the top 32. This is clearly ridiculous where the world champion would have such a low rating. By substituting prize money for points, I believe we show a true reflection that is mirrored in other sports, such as the golf tours and the tennis tours.”

“So starting from the new season, we will run two parallel lists. We will operate under a points system, but we will run in conjunction with that a prize money list.”

On a personal level, I have to say that I am not particularly convinced by these perceived advantages, but then as someone who has considered snooker rankings under a points-based system for far longer than I have written this blog, the current system and its various quirks comes almost as second nature to me. I don’t believe that a points-based list such as that currently in operation is difficult to understand per se, but the way that the rankings are currently presented and explained to the general public, could be improved upon significantly. This will be just as important with regard to any future Order of Merit as well because the draft list published today leaves me with more questions than it does answers.

Comparing the situation to other sports as Hearn has done, I wouldn’t profess to be an expert with golf, but I do follow tennis and am slightly bemused by the parallel drawn to a sport which actually uses a points-based system!

Having also followed darts to some degree, I can recall when there was a similar switch to a money-based Order of Merit in around 2007 and I don’t think that it made the rankings any more or less difficult to follow. Whether from the point of view of the general public such a money list is easier to follow I am not so sure. Maybe, I find that a difficult one to judge. Commercially of course there is also an argument to say that it makes the sport easier to sell to sponsors and TV companies, though again I am not the best placed to judge on whether that is in reality the case.


The effects

Turning to the issue of how it would affect players further down the rankings, it is true to say that if a lower ranked player were to win a major tournament such as the World Championship, they would rise up the rankings far quicker than they would under the current system, but is that necessarily a good thing?

In many ways it comes down to what your take is on what a ranking list should reflect. On the one hand, the World Championship is the most important and most prestigious tournament on the calendar, but on the other it is arguable that a two-year ranking list should reflect exactly that, performances over a two-year period.

Obviously on ability and on account of his performance at the Crucible, Ronnie O’Sullivan is clearly better than the 15th ranked player that he currently is, but given the fact that from September 2010-April 2011, Ronnie failed to win a match in an event carrying ranking points, should he be ranked number two in the world under a two-year system as he would be under a money list? It is an interesting one.

As explained in my previous article too, as the structure of events currently stands, I would have serious reservations as to how a money-based system can operate fairly.

This is due to the fact that at certain events, players currently have to win multiple matches in order to earn any prize money and looking at the draft money list posted by World Snooker (some figures within which look somewhat dubious at first glance), major tournament victories aside, realistically if anything it looks to be no easier for lower ranked players who are consistently winning matches without making the latter stages of venues, to climb the rankings.

With round-by-round prize money increases becoming significantly steeper as tournaments enter the latter stages (see here for example), on the face of the figures, I fear that a money list is only going to strengthen the position of those seeded through to the latter stages of events. At least under the present system, seeded losers are awarded half-points which while not indeal, does reward those who are able to win matches, but there is no such leveller in place regarding a potential money list. There was also a good point raised by David Grace earlier concerning the differences in prize money from round to round, which seem inconsistent at best.


Of course though, there are moves afoot to change the current system, with flatter draws at the Welsh and German Masters tournaments coming into play this season, as well as talk of entirely flat draws in future seasons meaning that all players will be able to come in at the same stage of tournaments and have an equal opportunity to progress and earn prize money. On a practical level I am not sure how achievable this really is, surely tournaments would have to be played over a longer period, or there will have to be qualifying rounds which involve the full compliment of 128 tour players, but time will tell. It is hard to imagine that the television broadcasters will be too happy at the prospect of the big names crashing out during pre-tv stages, though perhaps certain matches could be held over to the venue, which in itself is not necessarily fair.

It must also be said, that while I do have reservations as to the change, the current points system is far from perfect, though I would argue that rather than being a problem with points as such, the problem is that the points tariffs for events are questionable to say the least, certainly the 10,000 on offer for winning the World Championship is not a large enough amount given the amount of frames required to win the tournament in comparison to other events offering 8,000 or 7,000 points. Over the past few seasons, the previous tariffs have merely been tweaked, when in reality I believe that they would have probably benefited from a full overhaul following the introduction of PTC events and the decision to ‘upgrade’ events held in China a couple of years ago.


So what judgements can we make at this stage? For the reasons outlined, under the current system of multiple qualifying rounds, with not enough money to finance those going out in the early rounds, I find it hard to see how a money-based ranking list can operate on a fair basis. Even looking at those losing at the early rounds at the venues, the gulf in prize money on offer compared to those in the later rounds is huge and it is arguable that the gulf between those at the top and those further down is only going to widen.

However, given what Barry Hearn said at the Crucible, it looks likely that by 2014 there will be further significant changes made to the structure of both the tour and of individual events. As a result, clearly the switch to a money list has to be viewed not in isolation, but in conjunction with all of these changes, most of which we will not even be aware of yet.

While it sounds like a cop-out therefore, we will probably not be able to draw any firm conclusions until far closer to the switch in 2014…

I completely agree with Matt’s analysis and I certainly could not express it better than he did. Only thing the money list has done is to reward winners, rather than consistency, something I agree with, in principle. But with no money for those losing in the first round, and the flat draw that was made the norm around the same time it just puts even more pressure on the lower ranked players and the newcomers on the tour. And since the introduction of the Coral series, a series of ranking tournaments reserved for those already at the top in the one year list, it’s even harder for those fighting in the lower ranks.

Finally, having events with similar format, requiring the similar effort, but “rewarding” the players in completely dissimilar ways isn’t right or fair in my book. Yet it’s what happens with the current money list.

So lets put it to the test of current results …

This is the top 24 at the start of 2010/11 – the first season under Hearn

Screenshot 2019-12-18 at 10.31.53.png

Judd Trump who had just turned 21, and had turned pro in 2005/06 was ranked 30th.

This is the top 24 now…

Screenshot 2019-12-18 at 10.34.44.png

Ten years after 14 of the top 24 of 2010 are still there, Actually 10 of the 2010 top 16 are still in the elite bracket. There certainly wasn’t a big overhaul of the rankings at the top.

Judd Trump was an outstanding junior. After 5 seasons he was ranked 30, and his big moment was just around the corner: in 2010/11 he was to win his first ranking event, the China Open 2011 and reach the World Championship final. Jack Lisowski wasn’t yet a pro.

Of those who aren’t in the top 24 anymore, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Joe Swail, Dave Harold and Jamie Cope retired. Swail and Cope were forced into it by health issues that ruined their career. Both Marco Fu and Ricky Walden are still competing but have dropped because health issues, Marco needed an eye surgery, Ricky had ongoing back problems. However both are showing signs of a return to form.

Basically, the top guys from then are still the top guys from now: the whole of the class of 92 are still in the top 16 … at the age of 44. And this HAS to be a surprise, because, back then, I remember heated discussions on forums about how the top 16 would look in five years time – 2015 – and most fans weren’t giving Higgins, Williams and Ronnie much of a chance, nevermind Joe Perry.

The only teenager in this field in Yan Bingtao who won his first ranking event at the start of this season. Jack and him are the only ones under 30 and the only ones who entered the tour in 2010 or later.

There has been a lot more movement down the rankings but that’s mainly because now, every year there are many more players dropping off the tour and being replaced. But then again, the Q-school system, the main source of new players, has mainly benefitted “returning” players. That however is a story for another day…

So my feeling is that the new system hasn’t really worked. It hasn’t helped the younger players to get through, and they are the ones important for the future. Why? Well in my opinion, it’s because the current system is way too brutal and it’s made worse by the fact that the young upcoming players aren’t as ready as they used to be because of the decline of the amateur scene (*). Therefore, having them to face a top player in their first round is like throwing them to the wolves. There are some upsets, but not that many. The rookies need more winnable matches to be able to learn and gain some confidence. Surely there must be possible to find a system somehow “in between” the old one and the current one? Maybe a “mix” of flat draws and tiered events all played at the venue from round one?

Next season, there will be one tiered event with all players at the venue in Saudi Arabia… Great? It would be if …

Jason Ferguson defended the gouverning body, stating that WPBSA is a “non political” organisation… yet last year the traditional end-of-year award dinner was cancelled because the people owning the hotel where is was due to happen, are big in Brunei and, allegedly, the cancellation was in protest against human rights damaging laws recently voted in Brunei. Hum?

(*) The exceptions – to an extend – are the players from China, a country where the snooker scene is vibrant, snooker is part of the schools curriculum  and they have academies and strong structures.



Reflecting on the decade – Players of the decade.

This is the first of a series of reflection of the 2010-2019 decade on the baize. There will be two sorts of articles: themed ones, and the ones looking at a specific year. This one is a themed one: who are the “players of the decade”?

Mark Selby

Mark has won 16 ranking events since the start of 2010, more than anyone else.

  • the 2011 Shanghai Masters
  • the 2012 UK Championship
  • the 2014 World Championship
  • the 2015 German Masters
  • the 2015 China Open
  • the 2016 World Championship
  • the 2016 Paul Hunter Classic
  • the 2016 International Championship
  • the 2016 UK Championship
  • the 2017 China Open
  • the 2017 World Championship
  • the 2017 International Championship
  • the 2018 China Open
  • the 2018 China Championship
  • the 2019 English Open
  • the 2019 Scottish Open

In addition he has also won 4 invitational events

  • the 2010 Masters
  • the 2010 six-reds World Championship
  • the 2011 Wuxi Classic
  • the 2013 Masters

And 7 minor ranking events

  • the 2010 PTC event 2
  • the 2011 PTC event 4
  • the 2012 European Tour event 1
  • the 2013 European Tour event 6 (January 2013)
  • the 2013 European Tour event 7
  • the 2014 European Tour event 1
  • the 2016 European Tour event 6

That’s 27 professional events, including 7 Triple Crown events

Mark has been World n°1 for the best part of the decade: September 2011–November 2012, December 2012–February 2013, April–June 2013, May–July 2014, August–December 2014, February 2015–March 2019. The last spell lasted for over four years, which is quite extraordinary.

Mark has played 874 matches during the decade of which he won 648 (74%)

Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie has won 14 ranking events since the start of 2010, joint second (with Judd Trump) to Mark Selby

  • the 2012 German Masters
  • the 2012 World Championship
  • the 2013 World Championship
  • the 2014 Welsh Open
  • the 2014 UK Championship
  • the 2016 Welsh Open
  • the 2017 English Open
  • the 2017 Shanghai Masters
  • the 2017 UK Championship
  • the 2018 World Grand Prix
  • the 2018 Players Championship
  • the 2018 UK Championship
  • the 2019 Players Championship
  • the 2019 Tour Championship

In addition he has also won 10 invitational events

  • the 2010 Premier League
  • the 2011 Premier League
  • the 2013 Champion of Champions
  • the 2014 Masters
  • the 2014 Champion of Champions
  • the 2016 Masters
  • the 2017 Masters
  • the 2018 Shanghai Masters
  • the 2018 Champion of Champions
  • the 2019 Shanghai Masters

And  3 minor events

  • the 2011 PTC event 1
  • the 2011 PTC event 7
  • the 2013 European Tour event 4

That’s 27 professional events including 8 Triple Crown events

During the decade, Ronnie has established a number of new records: most UK Championships (7), most Masters (7), most Triple Crown events (19), and joint record (with Stephen Hendry) of ranking events 36. He also holds the record for most centuries – he scored his 1000th one in the final frame of the 2019 Players Championship final and stands currently at 1035 – and has made a record 15 competitive maximum breaks. He also scored a record 556 points without reply in the QF of the 2014 Masters.

Ronnie has played 471 matches during the decade, of which he has won 372 (79%). It’s truly remarkable that Ronnie has matched Mark Selby in the number of professional events won , despite playing singnificantly less matches over the decade. His striking rate is very high. It’s equally remarkable that, under the circumstances, he was able to regain the n°1 spot after winning the Tour Championship in 2019, at the age of 43. And, of course, he famously managed to win the 2013 World Championship after sitting out the whole 2012/13 season except for one low profile match, that he had lost, in a minor ranking event.

Those two between them have won 30 ranking events out of 130 (23%, not far from 1 in 4) over the decade. Even more significant, they have won 15 Triple Crown events out of 30 between them, wich represents 50%, 1 in 2, over the last ten years: 5 World Chamionships, 5 Masters, 5 UK Championships.

Other big hitters over the decade are

Judd Trump: 14 ranking events, including 1 UK Championship and 1 World Championship, 4 minor ranking events and 2 invitational events including 1 Master – 3 Triple Crown events

Neil Robertson: 12 ranking events, including 1 World Championshi and 2 UK Championships, 5 minor ranking events, 4 invitational events (1 Master) – 4 Triple Crown events

John Higgins: 10 ranking events, including 1 World Championship and 1 UK Championship, 3 minor events, 2 invitational events – 2 Triple Crown events.

Judd Trump of course has really come to age in the last three years and has completely dominated the last year of the decade, 2019. He is well and truly the Player of the 2019 Year, with 5 ranking events and the Masters, being the World Champion and the World n°1. This article though is about the past decade.

Between them those five players – competing on a 128 men tour (*) – have won 66 ranking events out of 130, more than 50% and 24 Triple Crown events out of 30, a whooping 80%.

(*) I don’t know how many professional players have been competing over the whole decade, but, with players dropping off and new ones qualifying every season I wouldn’t be surprised that their number exceeded 250. If this is correct it means that 2% (or less) of the players have won 50% of the titles, and 80% of the Triple Crowns. Amazing!

End of stats attack!

Note that, in counting invitational events, I didn’t take into accounts those that are/were qualifying events for another invitational event, like for instance the defunct qualifying event for the Masters or the Championship League Snooker. The format of the latter BTW is such that players may be tempted to lose some matches in order to stay in a lucrative next group rather than secure their spot in the winners group. I also did not take into account minor events that were sanctioned events, but not main tour events. Some of those in China for instance were not widely advertised and only those in the know were able to enter. Team events were not taken into account either for obvious reasons.

Scottish Open 2019 – Mark Selby is your Champion!

Congratulations Mark Selby, 2019 Scottish Open Champion


Mark Selby won the last ranking event of the decade, beating Jack Lisowski by 9-6.

Here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

First session: Mark Selby 5-3 Jack Lisowski

Mark Selby has emerged with a 5-3 advantage after the first session of his Scottish Open final with Jack Lisowski.

Selby is aiming to become the first player to win two Home Nations titles in a single season. The 16-time ranking event winner claimed the English Open title back in October, demolishing David Gilbert 9-1 to claim the Steve Davis Trophy.

Victory for Lisowski this evening would see him pick up a maiden ranking title. The Gloucester cueist is competing in his third ranking final, having lost to Neil Robertson at the 2018 Riga Masters and the 2019 China Open.

Whoever wins this evening will take home the Stephen Hendry Trophy and a top prize of £70,000. They will resume play in the best of 17 encounter at 7pm.

Lisowski started quickest this afternoon, breaks of 73 and 58 saw him take the opening frame, before adding the second to move 2-0 up.

However, three-time World Champion Selby quickly reasserted himself on proceedings by composing runs of 78 and 75 to head into the mid-session level at 2-2.

Lisowski took the first frame when they returned, but it was Selby who claimed three on the bounce, including a century break of 117, to secure his 5-3 cushion.

Second session: Mark Selby 9-6 Jack Lisowski

Mark Selby defeated Jack Lisowski 9-6 to win the Scottish Open at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.

Victory for three-time World Champion Selby makes him the first ever player to win two Home Nations events in a single season. His other title came in October at the English Open, where he thrashed David Gilbert 9-1 in the final.

Selby’s win sees him pocket a £70,000 top prize and take home the Stephen Hendry Trophy. It’s a 17th ranking title for the Jester from Leicester.

Selby, 36, has now won 14 of his last 15 ranking event finals, in a run which extends back to his maiden World Championship victory in 2014. The only loss in a final during that period came against Ding Junhui at the 2016 Shanghai Masters.

Lisowski leaves Glasgow disappointed not to have secured his maiden ranking event win. The 28-year-old fell short in his other two finals at the 2018 Riga Masters and the 2019 China Open, losing to Neil Robertson on both occasions. However, he has the consolation of a £30,000 runner-up prize.

The first session today saw Selby battle from 2-0 down to secure a 5-3 advantage heading into this evening’s finale.

Gloucester’s Lisowski came out firing with a stunning break of 119 to reduce his arrears and move within a frame at 5-4.

Selby moved another frame ahead, before a contribution of 80 saw Lisowski make it 6-5. There was then a crucial marathon frame prior to the mid-session.

With Selby leading 24-0, the pair became entrenched in a stalemate situation around the pack, which saw a period of 26 minutes without a ball being potted. Eventually the exchange moved back into open play and Selby clinched a 48-minute frame to move two clear at 7-5.

Selby made it 8-5 when they returned from the interval, but Lisowski kept his hopes alive by claiming the 14th frame.

In the end, breaks of 38 and 32 were enough to get Selby over the line and see him through to a 9-6 victory.

Selby said: “It feels amazing. I had a disappointing performance at the UK Championship, I was telling myself I might not even play in this. I thought I should just get back on the bike and go again. Here I am now holding the trophy, unbelievable really.

“I knew I had to be on my game from the word go. Jack was never going to hold back from start to finish. Even right to the end he kept going for his shots. He didn’t shy away from anything. He is probably one of the best talents I’ve seen since Ronnie O’Sullivan. He hits the ball as well as anyone. It is only a matter of time before he wins something.

“Doing well in a UK event means my wife Vikki and daughter Sophia can come to finals like this. A lot of my wins have been in China which is difficult. To have them there means the world. Even if I had lost it would have been great to be with them. To be on the winning side it is fantastic.”

Lisowski said: “It is gutting to lose the final. You have to take the positives and this is a big step forward for me. I have built some momentum and I played some of the best snooker that I think I can play. That is a positive and my concentration is getting better.

“You have to think about it rationally or you can get depressed. I have qualifiers all next week. There are so many tournaments now that it is a numbers game and consistency rather than blowing hot and cold.

“It was amazing. The people were cheering me on and I don’t know if many people would have heard of me before today. I go for my shots and I think they appreciate that.”

There isn’t much to add to these reports. It was an enthralling match. Jack played marvellous snooker all week and, I’m sure, made many new fans. The big positive in this final is that he wasn’t outplayed, which he had been in the previous two. The match was very close and Jack largely stayed with Mark in the safety department, without compromising much on his attacking style. This is the first match I can remember where at times Mark looked really frustrated and rattled.

Mark himself played really well. That’s two tournaments in a row that Ronnie koses to the winner, whilst playing very well himself ! The pundits said this in the studio: it’s almost as if playing Ronnie had focussed their mind and helped them to find an extra gear.

This was the last tournament of the decade. Starting tomorrow and in the build of the new year – and new decade – I will do a series of features, reflecting on the highs, the lows, and the important changes that occured during the last ten years.