Two “groups” of the Championship League Snooker 2020 were played earlier this week, with Anthony McGill and Judd Trump booking their spot in the Winners Group.
As usual this competition threw some strange results. For instance, Mark Williams was absolutely flying in the Group 5 round-robin stage, winning 6 matches out of 6. He then lost in the SF … and finishied 5th in Group 6. That said, it’s a lot of snooker condensed in 4 days, and players tend to treat it as a bit of paid practice.
Gao Yang from China won the 2020 WSF Junior Open in Malta
Glory For Gao at WSF Junior Open
Gao Yang has defeated Sean Maddocks 5-2 to claim the inaugural WSF Junior Open title earlier this afternoon in Malta.
The15-year-old Chinese talent becomes the first winner of the prestigious new junior event and will earn a two-year main tour ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of the 2020/21 season. The competition saw 55 of the best young snooker players in the world aged 17 or under compete over six days to become champion.
Gao, who previously competed at the WSF Championship in 2018 and recently appeared as a wildcard at the 2019 World Open in Yushan, qualified from a tough group in second place before surviving deciding-frame encounters against Scotland’s Dean Young and later his compatriot Yi Ze Wu to progress to the final.
Awaiting him in the final was England’s Maddocks, who starred in the groups dropping just one frame before reaching the title match with victories against Bradley Tyson, Antoni Kowalski, Jovan Todorovic and Irish prospect Aaron Hill.
It was Maddocks who made the stronger start to the final, taking two of the opening three frames to lead 2-1 as he looked to go one better his performance at Q School last year which saw him narrowly miss out on joining the professional ranks.
The fourth frame would however prove to be a key turning point as trailing 54-26, Gao cleared the table in two visits to draw level at the mid-session interval. This would prove to be the start of a four-frame winning run as he hit the front for the first time with a match-high break of 72 on the resumption of play, before adding the next two to secure victory.
Remarkably, there were only two Chinese players in the draw – Gao Yang and Wu Yize – and they met in the semi finals, before the winner of their match went on to win the whole event. This and the 5-2 score over Sean Maddockx, in my eyes, confirm that currently, the young best amateurs come from China and the current structure of the tour is what prevents them to dominate snooker. As I explain in my previous post, the “World” tour remains very UK centric and bias in favour of UK players.
The highest break of the tournament was a 121, made by Julien Leclercq from Belgium. Julien, 16, reached the last 16 of the tournament, narrowly losing by 3-2 to Wu Yize. This is a very good result for Julien who doesn’t benefit from as strong an amateur scene as his UK fellow juniors to play in. Julien did much better than the more fancied Ben Mertens. He’s one year older than Ben, and more mature. That matters in a tournament like this one. He will play in the “main” WSF event as well, as will Ben.
Regarding Gao, he’s only just 15, and will not been 16 yet at the start of next season. So, he may not be able to take his tour card immediately, because he may not be able to obtain a visa and a work permit in the UK until he’s 16. I read in Lewis comments that he might lose part of his prize money in this case. If this is true, it’s unfair. I would understand that a player who is in a position to take his newly earned tour card, but chooses to opt out, would get a reduced prize money, but not if it’s because of external circumstances like in Gao’s case.
Update I just spoke with Matt Huart who confirmed that half of the prize money is indeed dependent on the commitment of the player to take their tour card. Gao is determined to turn pro next season and has pulled out of the main event. Matt wasn’t sure what would happen if he was prevented to do that by circumstances beyond his control.
The “main event”, the 2020 WSF Open starts today in Malta. All results will be made available here.