Day 2 of “no Crucible” and a very good vodcast with Ronnie

For me, the highlight of the second “No Crucible” day is the vodcast that Andy Goldstein did with Ronnie.

Here is the report on this vodcast by Eurosport:

Ronnie exclusive: Trump can dominate snooker for the next 10 years

Speaking on Eurosport’s new snooker vodcast, Ronnie O’Sullivan says that Judd Trump has the potential to dominate snooker for the next decade.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Andy Goldstein about the icons and rivals who have played a part in O’Sullivan’s great career, the five-time World Championship winner said that Trump is now in a position to pick up the baton from the ‘Class of 92’ – O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and John Higgins – and forge his own era of dominance.

….

Ronnie on Judd Trump carrying the torch for the next generation

Without a doubt, he plays a different game, he plays a brilliant game, the power play. He plays shots that no one else can play. He’s got the killer instinct, he’s hungry. He’s proven that after winning the World Championships. We all knew it wasn’t a fluke but there’s people out there saying “can he back it up?” He’s come in this season and he’s won six ranking events which is more than any other player has had to do. I know there’s more ranking events now than ever but still to win six is a fantastic achievement. So, for me, he’s a complete player now. He’s just going to get stronger and stronger. It’s like when Hendry came along, and he was pretty much head and shoulders above the rest. I think that Judd is head and shoulders above everybody else at the moment.

Ronnie on Trump’s chances of winning multiple World titles

Easy. In ten years, Judd will have a problem that I’m having now. There’ll be a few young ones come up behind him and he’ll have few battle scars and they’ll keep pushing up. Eventually, if you’re not mentally up for it or you’re just a little bit off you start to lose matches. So, he’s got the next seven to ten years to dominate really. I think it was a lot harder for Trump coming through than it was for Hendry coming through because Hendry didn’t really, apart from Davis, Jimmy on his day, there wasn’t anyone there that was going to frighten him really. Whereas with Trump when he came on you still had Hendry, you’ve got Higgins, Williams, me, Ding. It was hard to come in and dominate from that point on,but I think players have developed a little bit more slowly now. So, you learn your trade and every player gets ten years at 20-30 or 30-40. Judd’s started at 30 and I think he’ll go on to 40 playing some fantastic snooker.

Ronnie on Trump’s rivals

No one, no one. Well I mean if we played five times, I might win one, twice possibly, but he’s just going to get stronger and stronger and I think the best thing to happen to Judd is his brother. If he hadn’t had his brother there maybe Judd wouldn’t have made the changes that he’s made. He owes a lot to his brother and he’ll be the best thing to happen to Judd. I’m glad his brother came along now and not 10 years ago!

Ronnie on the influence of Davis, White and Hendry

Growing up I used to look at them and think they’re the best players around. You watch Steve Davis, he was like a robot, you never thought he was going to make a mistake. Jimmy White – the most exciting player you’ll ever see and could play every shot in the book. So, they were the two yardsticks, if you like, for me growing up. But if I was to watch them playing now in some of their matches, which I do sometimes, I look at it and just think the standard really wasn’t that high. So, it’s just all about perception and people raising the game to a higher level. But at the time, that was the highest level. But then this young Scottish guy Stephen Hendry came along, and he’s probably taken the game to as high… It would be hard to say that anyone has taken the game on further than Hendry. Hendry I still think if he was in his prime, we were all in our prime, he would still be winning many, many titles. So, you look at Davis and Jimmy, yeah fantastic players, but probably not good enough to stay with the current breed of players.

Ronnie on the ‘Class of ‘92′

I knew Mark WIlliams, we used to play each other quite a lot on the Pro-Am circuit. When we were 10, 11, 12,13 we used to go to Hemsby for junior tournaments,so we knew of each other. But the first time I’d seen John Higgins he was fourteen, so I hadn’t heard of him. The first I’d heard was that this Scottish kid had nearly had a 147 in the home internationals. So that was the buzz going round. I didn’t even know what John Higgins looked like but after we heard that we had to watch him play, and watching him play I thought this kid looks super, super good. Then from that moment on, I knew John Higgins was going to be a class, class player. So that was my first encounter with John Higgins but the rivalry from that day really has been on between the three of us. There was a lot of good players around, but we were hungry, we had the desire. We loved it, we wanted it. For a lot of snooker players, it was just a bit of a lifestyle, they used to go round there and have a bit of a laugh and a joke. But we took our business seriously. But I think it helped that the three of us came through together because I think we all motivated each other to try and do better. If one of us was doing well it would always spur the other one on to do well. So, it was a healthy rivalry really.

Ronnie on the added excitement of playing Williams or Higgins

Of course, we’ve been playing each other for nigh on thirty years. It’s always nice to see Nadal play Federer or Federer play Djokovic. Their careers, and their ages, and their statistics are so evenly matched that none of us have got anything to prove and the chances are that it’s nice to see greats play each other I suppose. So, I get why it’s exciting.

Ronnie on Mark Selby

I always thought Mark was a great match player. I watched him play and I could tell he was going to be a good player. But I see a lot of his faults, I had the same faults in my game that I think he had in his game and I knew how much of a struggle it was for me to try and play with those faults. One day you thought you were great and the next you were terrible, and that up-and-down inconsistency can mentally get to you. So, while I knew he was a fantastic player I never expected him to be able to go on and be as successful as he was. At one stage I said I didn’t think he’d ever win the world title because to win the world title you really can’t afford to have a bad session. But what Mark’s been able to do is that he’s able to play bad but he’s also able to make the other player play badly. I was never able to do that. If I played badly, balls were all there ready in the open and the opponent would just hoover them up. Whereas when Mark was playing badly there’d be balls on cushions, and you’d think where do I go from here? So, he was always able to play himself and stay in the matches. So, he found a way to still be able to win when you’re playing badly, and I never thought snooker could be played like that. I know Mark doesn’t like playing like that but if you sometimes have to do that to get the result and get to the next round you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and no one in the history of the game has been better at that than Mark Selby. So, you have to take your hat off to him really.

Ronnie on his main rivals going forward

I don’t really put myself in to have a rival. You want them to be similar eras, it’s hard for me to be a rival with Ding or Trump because they’ve got 14 years on me. I just always think that I can still give Selby a game, I can still give Murphy a game, I still think I could probably give Neil Robertson a game because the age difference is not that different to me, John Higgins and Williams. But I just think when you look at the younger ones it’s a little bit harder because they’re so hungry and they’ve got so much desire. Every match that they play a John Higgins or a Mark Williams or a Shaun Murphy or a Neil Robertson, they might lose but it’s just a learning curve for them. So, it’s just making them stronger and stronger. Like me playing Hendry at the end of his career, I was getting a lot from it where it was doing him no good. I think eventually you get to the stage where it’s hard for you to keep battling away. So, for me my situation is just to keep playing for as long as I can really and hopefully, I can still win a few tournaments every now and again.

A very interesting interview. Of course, the written article puts the subject that is more likely to catch eyes first, although it’s the last one they discuss in the vodcast, but, really all are interesting.

One thing I feel listening to Ronnie out there is that he doesn’t have the hunger anymore that he had as a younger player, which, of course, is normal. However, that being the case, he will probably not win that much anymore and we, as fans, will have to accept that. Of course, he still has the desire, and the hunger might come back stronger in spells, and probably will. But he’s going to turn 45 this year, and his longevity has already been remarkable as it is. I hope, and believe, that he has more titles in him, although probably not a World title. We should just try to enjoy every match, and every victory while he is still playing, without putting too many expectations on him, and be grateful for everything he gave us over the years. It’s easier said than done… I know that only too well.

Ronnie said that he hasn’t really pot a ball for weeks. He’s not the only one. Higgins said the same. It’s hard to practice when there is no definite purpose and it’s even harder when you have been doing the job for nearly 30 years. When snooker comes back, be it in July or later, nobody will be match sharp. It could be interesting because it could well come about “how good enough is your bad/rusty game” rather than about “how good is your best game”.

Then the “Crucible Gold” on the day was about Hendry’s maximums

Incredibly, I was at the Crucible when the last one happened and I missed it because I was taking pictures on the other table. The curtain was down of course. By the time, I realised that something unusual was happening, it was too late. The “snapper box” on Hendry’s table was packed of course. I was just able to witness Hendry’s celebration on the TV screens in the media room. He was quite animated which was uncharacteristic. Of course, we came to understand Hendry’s unusual display of emotions a few days later when, heavily beaten by Stephen Maguire, he announced his retirement. He just came to the media room, sat down and quietly said: “I have played my last professional match”. For a few seconds, the media room went completely quiet, everyone was stunned. Hendry then calmly explained that he had taken the decision months before and had only spoken about it to a few chosen ones. He had given himself a season to see if he could get back near his best, he hadn’t, he didn’t want to continue to play if he wasn’t able to be a winner.

Also, this interview with Hazel Irvine was shared on social media.

It’s a short, but great piece. It was made last year just after the World Championship. Hazel is the ultimate professional, and yet, remains just very simple, friendly and approachable.

The BBC also reran the piece about Alex Higgins, “The People’s Champion”. I gave that one a miss. I understand how important the man is in the context of snooker and how he changed the perception the general public had of the game and made it popular. I can see why his daring style and swag fascinated. But, quite honestly, I can’t stand the person he was, and, sorry, mental health issues can’t the excuse for everything and anything. Reading his autobiography didn’t change my opinion. There were far too many episodes of violence, nastiness, selfishness and sheer dishonesty for my liking. He never accepted responsibility for his own faults and shortcomings, and too often spat in the face of those trying to help him.

Related to the last sentence above, there is an article by Jason Francis in the first issue of the Chalk, a new cuesports magazine, about his experience with Alex when he started the “Snooker Legends”.

 

Day 1 of “no Crucible”

Before I go on reporting on the first day of what should have been the World Championship but isn’t…

Χριστος Ανεστη! Happy Easter!

To all my friends who celebrate Orthodox Easter today. Stay safe, stay home. The good days will come back and here is hope that we will all be healthy and able to celebrate life then!

Both the BBC and Eurosport are doing their best to provide some snooker to us, deprived fans.

Eurosport experts, Neil Foulds and Jimmy White, along with Andy Goldstein, had a discussion about the greatest “Triple Crown” matches.

Here is the transcipt:

SNOOKER THE DEBATE: GREATEST TRIPLE CROWN MATCHES FEATURING JIMMY WHITE AND NEAL FOULDS

Apr 18, 2020

Jimmy White

To coincide with the period that the World Snooker Championship was set to take place, Eurosport will produce a series of snooker vodcasts guest starring some of the greatest names in the sport.

The first episode goes live today with Eurosport snooker experts Jimmy White and Neal Foulds analysing some of the best-ever Triple Crown matches.

Alex Higgins 16-15 Steve Davis – 1983 UK Champs Final

Neal Foulds:
It’s not easy is it. You play someone like Steve Davis and he hammers you (in 1982 final) and it can leave a scar. Especially when there’s an argument that Steve was a better player in ‘83 than he was previously. So, that was a great performance. We talk about the ‘85 World Final where Dennis Taylor was 8-0 down, Alex was 7-0 down in this match and looks that at that point that he’s going to get a hiding. One thing about Steve Davis, he wasn’t the sort of guy to take his foot off the break and say “Ok, I’m so far in front I’m going to win anyway”. He would have wanted to win every frame in that match. But Alex Higgins was inspired and that was a word that I think that’s a word that would describe his whole career, inspired. The crowd got behind him, things changed, and what becomes a game of playing on the table becomes something in the mind and he got to Davis. At the time, very few people had ever done that before.

Jimmy White:
He (Higgins) was an incredible ‘shotmaker’ but just reiterating what Neal said he was 7-0 down to Davis. It looked like it was going to be a good hiding again, the previous time he beat him 16-6 as Neal said. But when he was 7-0 down, Davis had played OK, but Higgins had made a lot of mistakes. I remember, I was there watching it. Then he went in the second session, he stole a few games on the colours, safety play-wise, which Davis is a master at – like Mark Selby is today. He’d win most games that were scrappy, and Higgins won quite a few of the scrappy frames in the second session and it knocked Davis off his normal game. He was always in the same sort of focus, he never looked flustered Davis. But for some reason he did, he got wound up, he lost his stride and Higgins went on to crawl over the line. An amazing victory over Davis who was the best in the world at the time.

Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-6 Mark Allen – 2008 UK Champs Final

Neal Foulds:
I’d forgotten about that (Ronnie pouring water on head). It was a strange thing to do at the end of the match, but Ronnie’s done some odd things at the end of matches. I remember when he lost in the World Championship to Graeme Dott and he just gave a kid who was sitting in the audience his cue and case – who does that? I’ve seen people give away medals every now and then… But on this occasion, he won, he must have been overheating, I guess! It was a tough game. I always thought he was going to win it, and Mark Allen played a big part in that match. But I suppose we mustn’t underestimate the fact that O’Sullivan has been around so long, with it not just another triple crown event, one that’ll take him past all records, but maybe as he’s got older it’s harder and harder to perform like that. And that was a terrific win because Mark Allen plays like a man possessed at times. He’s such a terrific player and through that tournament he played very well. O’Sullivan was too good for him; it was more relief at the end of that match than anything else than anything else for him.

Jimmy White:
It was amazing to watch him show his true emotion. All the hard work, all the years and years of trying to be the best and that was a win to take him in front on triple crown wins. The way he celebrated, he jumped on the side barrier and I thought he would have gone and kicked on from there actually. I thought that was the one that said “right, I’m in front now. I’m going to try and make it ten of each and then maybe hang my cue up.” But he hasn’t produced since that final and hopefully he’ll look back on that very soon and get his cue out and start practicing – and start playing a few more tournaments!

Paul Hunter 10-9 Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2004 Masters Final

Neal Foulds:
It’s hard to talk about Paul Hunter without getting a bit emotional because who knows how far he could have gone with his game. He won three Masters and he won them all from behind. He was one of these guys who wasn’t a very good frontrunner strangely. I looked at all those Masters wins and almost every match went to the last frame. Even an easy win would be a 6-3 or 6-4 to get him to the final. Against Ronnie he was 7-2 down; who beats Ronnie from 7-2 down? Especially at the conference centre. But you can also look at other stats in that match, there’s a very revealing one there. Paul Hunter made five centuries in that final, Ronnie didn’t make any. So that tells you this guy was not somebody from yesteryear, people speak about how much the game has moved on. Paul Hunter was a great player, a great scorer and who knows if he’s have been World Champion, I think he’d would have been had he still been alive now.

Jimmy White:
The thing I remember about that final is that they both had headbands on! It was all about Paul Hunter being the new David Beckham of snooker. As you said in his previous two matches, he was well behind in those two matches and for him to win a third one 10-9 from being 7-2 behind with Ronnie O;Sullivan was an unbelievable feat. As Neal said, we do really miss Paul Hunter and who knows how many tournaments he would have won.

Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-7 Joe Perry – 2017 Masters Final

Neal Foulds:
Ronnie was a huge favourite to beat Joe Perry, no one really thought Joe Perry would win. If you talk about the class of ‘92 he turned professional that year as well. He’s not quite gone on to the same things but he’s still a leading player, he’s in the topflight now. Ronnie struggled early on in that match, it was 4-1, Joe Perry had played well but in the back of your mind you always felt that Joe would find it hard to get that match won and Ronnie came back in the afternoon session and when you got into the evening session you kind of knew which way it was going. Typically, the London crowd got behind him at the Ally Pally – it’s quite something for crowd involvement. That’s one of the reasons, apart from what a great player he is, that Ronnie has been so successful there. But the longer that match went on, the less likely the shock seemed. I think to win all those Masters is quite an incredible achievement by Ronnie O’Sullivan. I still don’t know why he didn’t play in it this year but it’s not a question for me to answer. It’s a shame because he kind of made that venue his own and that tournament his own really.

Jimmy White:
Joe’s in the top-16 now so he’s playing some great stuff. To get to that final he was 4-1 up there and Ronnie O’Sullivan, we were in the studio, he was really struggling, and Joe should have taken advantage and really pressed on there but maybe he saw the winning line. O’Sullivan to go and win seven Masters at this standard is just a phenomenal feat – it goes down as one of the greatest matches of all time.

Judd Trump 10-4 Ronnie O’Sullivan – 2019 Masters Final

Neal Foulds:
I think that was a real indication that Trump has moved on with his game because he was a brilliant player aged 12, he was 14 winning big pro-Am’s, so he should have turned professional then but it took him years to get through. Then he got to his World Final, he won his UK Championships in 2011. But then he was almost there to be shot at after some bad performances in big events. But that first session, I don’t think anyone has played better. He took him apart and that’s almost a glimpse into the future and where we are now with Trump.  We know how great of a player he is now.

Jimmy White:
That was a stepping-stone (For Trump). Prior to that, a couple of years ago he beat Ronnie 10-9 in Romania in a ranking tournament. But the way he played in that first session was a bit like the way he played in the first session against John Higgins in the World Championships. He was just phenomenal and to take Ronnie O’Sullivan apart 7-1 like that… Ronnie didn’t really play badly; he just didn’t have a chance. Every long ball Judd went for he knocked in and made a significant break. That’s spring boarded him into the player he is today, that actual match gave him the confidence.

Alex Higgins 18-15 Ray Reardon – 1982 World Championship Final

Neal Foulds:
What we remember most of all were the celebrations afterwards, the way he brought his daughter out.  But he actually finished off with a really big break, 135 I think. It hadn’t always been a classic and it’s safe to say Ray Reardon took it very well because I don’t honestly think him and Alex had a lot in common. I don’t think they were great pals, but Ray Reardon took that defeat pretty much on the chin and it’s one of the great moments in sport.

Jimmy White:
He (Higgins) was the favourite going into that match. Even though Reardon got to the final he’d not played great stuff and there was a lot on my match (semi-final) with Higgins. The way he won that match… that clearance he did was phenomenal. He potted about five or six balls where he was a 5 to 1 shot to pot them.

Dennis Taylor 18-17 Steve Davis – 1985 World Championship Final

Neal Foulds:
If you look back on that last frame you might have thought the whole match was poor but actually… It was a terrible frame of snooker if you like. It was brilliant to watch, the drama was incredible, everyone was on the edge of their seats watching it. The standard wasn’t very good, I don’t actually think there was a century in that final. It was certainly one of the matches where there wasn’t any breaks and Steve cracked a little bit at the end. That black that he overcut to win it was not an easy shot, but he missed it by so far. It just had everyone on the edge of their seats. It’ amazing to think that Dennis won the World title that year, going into the World Championship he was clearly playing very well, he’d won his first major event the year before. But really it shows you what the game is.

Jimmy White:
As Neal said, Davis cracked but he (Taylor) also cracked because a couple of times he just hit the black at 100mph, he wouldn’t care who was watching, he was just hoping it went in somewhere. But I was delighted for Dennis Taylor, I remember where I was. It went on quite late, I think it was 1 O’clock in the morning but it was fantastic for the game to see Dennis Taylor win, we had 18.5 million viewers. Davis recovered very quickly; he talks about that now. He does a lot of tours with Dennis Taylor talking about that match and whether Davis is lying or not I don’t know but he seems to be OK with it.

Judd Trump 18-9 John Higgins – 2019 World Championship Final

Jimmy White:
It was quite incredible. Going back to that Masters where he beat O’Sullivan 10-4 and going 7-1 up that was the same sort of snooker he did against John Higgins and it didn’t matter what John Higgins threw on him and I think he had four centuries in that final John Higgins so he wasn’t playing bad stuff. He was just phenomenal Trump. Any chance of a long ball and when he was playing safe, he had John Higgins tight on the cushion and there’s just not a lot you can do. When players of that standard produce that kind of form they’re more or less impossible to beat and we saw two sessions of snooker there that we’ll probably never see again.

Neal Foulds:
I think when a player wins the World Championship for the first time you go one of two ways. When Joe Johnson won, he did get to the final the next year, but he had a pretty miserable season throughout until that final. First time champions don’t always play the same. But in Judd’s case, the way he’s gone on in the season, which is just coming to an end, to play the way he has, he’s won six ranking events. He just wants to be a winner. He realises all the hard work that goes in means that he can do it again. I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t win it again on more than one occasion. Three or four times minimum.

Favourite World Championship Match

Jimmy White:
It was a great delight to watch Higgins win the world title in ‘82. As for snooker-wise I think Trump winning this year, to see Trump go from this player that frustrated Neal quite a lot, more than me really, because he was such a great player at not producing to all of a sudden connecting all the dots, realised that he can practise. He’s got to be favourite for the World Championship this year. So, I’d have to say Judd’s final with John Higgins is the best snooker I’ve seen.

Neal Foulds:
I think the close finals. Obviously, there’s been finals that have gone down to the last frame. Jimmy has been involved in one of those, we know the ‘85 final. But the other one, that never really gets a mention, is the Peter Ebdon year – 2002 – he beat Stephen Hendry 18-17 so that’s another match that was a bit of a nail biter. Ebdon was probably one of those guys if you could pick someone to clear the colours to save your life he’s be on that list. The pressure didn’t get to him so it’s a bit of a forgotten final, but it was a classic and it was Peter Ebdon’s only title, so I’d throw that one in as well.

There are a few picks in there that surprised me – notably the 2017 Masters final – as does the fact the none of the selected matches feature Stephen Hendry. But it was an interesting discussion.

BBC reran a documentary they did more than 10 years ago (it was 2008 or 2009) about the “People’s Champions”, Alex Higgins, Jimmy White, and Ronnie who had only recently won his third World Title.

This triggered some great memories. There is one part of that Ronnie interview with Gaby Logan that is missing from the documentary and was particularly hilarious. Ronnie was trying to explain to a rather amused Gaby why and when he was choosing to play left-handed or right-handed: “My right hand is my wife, my left hand is my mistress… ”

BBC also showed an extended summary (if that makes sense) of the Tony Knowles v Steve Davis first-round match at the Crucible in 1982: Tony beat the defending champion by 10-1. It’s a match that I had never seen before and, once again, I couldn’t help to notice how poor the standard was as compared to what we see nowadays, but of course, the conditions were different as well. Davis completely cracked under pressure in that match. He was terrible. Tony had only two breaks over 50 but still completely outplayed him.

On social media, WST “aired” the first match of the “Virtual World Championship”, with “Judd Trump” beating “Yan Bingtao” by 2-1. I must confess that I’m not interested in the least.

They also showed the first episode of the “Crucible Gold” series, about Ronnie’s Crucible 147s. It was interesting because you can see an evolution in Ronnie’s approach, from sheer potting prowess to carefully constructed development of the balls. The shot he took to develop the red/pink mini-cluster in the 2008 maximum remains one of the best positional shot I have seen from anyone.

And finally, Ronnie sent this short message to Captain Tom Moore

I was happy to see Ronnie looking better, both physically and mentally than he appeared to be when he recorded that video about the coronavirus outbreak and how China handled it.

Worth noticing during the “No Crucible” 17 days …

One event that will go ahead, although in a different form is the “Disability Snooker Day” (source WST)

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has today announced that this year’s Disability Snooker Day will take place on Wednesday 22 April.

A cornerstone of WDBS activity in Sheffield during the professional World Snooker Championship in recent years, the day will be held online in 2020 following the postponement of this year’s tournament due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Aimed at raising awareness of disability snooker and encouraging people with disabilities to pick up a cue and get involved, the day will see activity throughout the day on the WDBS website and social media platforms.

As always, the event is jointly organised by World Snooker Tour and WDBS, an organising body of the 360Fizz WDBS Tour which comprises disability snooker events staged across the UK and mainland Europe since. The long-term goal for WDBS is to see snooker return to the Paralympics, at which snooker was one of its founding sports and was held most recently in 1988.

Planned Activities

Set to celebrate its fifth anniversary this summer WDBS will look back at a number of key landmarks so far including coverage from previous Disability Snooker Days and the best footage from key tournaments.

This will include a full re-run of last year’s inaugural Disability Tour Championship held at the Crucible Theatre which saw four players showcase disability snooker at the home of the sport.

The day will also several exciting announcements made including the announcement of this year’s winner of the WDBS Vic Hartley Player of the Season Award for 2019/20, succeeding previous recipient Daniel Lee.

Get Involved

WDBS is encouraging everyone who supports disability snooker to get involved on the day using social media.

Whether you are a player, official, coach or a fan of the sport, post your memories and what snooker means to you as a person with a disability, or your favourite WDBS memory.

Use the official hashtags #DisabilitySnooker and #Cue4All and help to spread the word!

Disability Snooker Day 2020 takes place on 22 April 2020 via WDBS social media platforms.

If you haven’t seen last years Disability Tour Championship, I can only urge you to watch the re-run. Those guys and gals are extraordinary and they show us that (almost) nothing is impossible if you have the will, and the passion for it.

Also, it’s only fitting that Vic Hartley’s love and dedication to the sport is honoured and remembered through the Vic Hartley award.

Vic was a warm and caring person, a great referee and teacher. He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him.

Last year WDBS did this feature about Vic

Remembering Vic Hartley

hartley

The inaugural winner of the prestigious Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season Award will be announced during Wednesday’s World Snooker Disability Day in Sheffield; an honour named in tribute to our friend and colleague who sadly passed away last month.

Vic was born on the 25th July 1931 in Shepherd’s Bush, London. He began work for a local coach company, first as a mechanic, then a driver, before commencing national service where he was based in Egypt. He discovered a passion for this way of life and later joined the Territorial Army, Royal Electrical Mechanical and Engineers Regiment. Afterwards he had a spell at the Royal Military College of Science in Shrivenham.

Loving husband to Beryl for nearly 50 years before she passed away in early 2010, the happy couple were proud of their two children, Dawn and Ann, and their three grandchildren Karl, Dean and Chloe. After feeling unwell on Thursday 28th March, Vic was taken to hospital where he passed away in the arms of his girls.

Enthusiastic about several different sports, Vic’s biggest affection was towards snooker – a pursuit that would involve him in various roles over many years.

Originally signing up for his local team, he was drawn towards the administration and running of the local league. He enjoyed crucial roles such as Treasurer and Results Secretary, and only up until last year he still had ongoing input.

His love for the sport also led him into refereeing. Vic qualified and later achieved Class 1 status – he would go on to have a long and distinguished career in officiating that would see him travel up and down the country and beyond. Away from his own baize duties he was eager to support upcoming referees too, using his years of knowledge and wisdom to tutor and mentor.

Vic represented the English Association of Snooker and Billiards impeccably, regardless of whether he was refereeing at local and national events, or further afield during major European and international competitions. One of his proudest highlights was in 2002 when he refereed at the Crucible Theatre during the World Ladies Snooker Championship.

Having gained experience refereeing disabled and wheelchair players at Stoke Mandeville earlier on in his career, Vic was very keen to be a part of, and promote, World Disability Billiards and Snooker which was established in 2015, officiating in the opening event at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

Since then the WDBS circuit has grown in strength, and a constant within that uprising success was Vic’s participation at several tournaments; even after a spell of ill-health left him sidelined for a short period, he returned to action in 2018. Only in March – a few days before his passing – Vic was at Jesters Snooker Hall in Swindon to greet players, guardians and staff during this year’s Southern Classic. He was with snooker right up until the end.

His fondness of WDBS was apparent and donations from his recent funeral were gratefully received by the organisation.

Vic was respected by all his peers and away from the table his energy and effervescent nature left us in high spirits. Whilst he leaves a hole within the sport, he will always be remembered by the snooker community.

In honour of his time, effort and commitment, his legacy will also live on through the new Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Year Award that will be presented annually after each season. As well as the distinction of this title, the winning player will also receive a luxurious bespoke cue case designed and hand crafted by Rob Reed from RR Cue Cases.

A player from each disability category has been nominated for the prize, this year’s shortlisted contenders are Daniel Lee (Groups 1 and 2), Daniel Blunn (Group 3), Mickey Chambers (Groupsa 4 and 5), Michael Farrell (Group 6A), Daniel Harwood (Group 6B), Nick Neale (Group 7) and Shabir Ahmed (Group 8).

We were friends; the first picture at the start of this article is one I took at SWSA. That was Vic in a nutshell. He had a tremendous and gentle sense of humour. Reading this piece again today, brought tears in my eyes. I’m sure that I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Snooker in the press …

Today should have been the eve of the 2020 World Championship, and it should have been the “Press Day” in Sheffield. Instead, we are in lockdown, and there is no certainty whatsoever that we will have a World Championship this year…

All the same, both BBC and Eurosport will show a lot of snooker over the next two weeks, and snooker is a hot topic in the press as well.

Judd Trump is the defending champion, but he’s not at all the main topic in the media. It’s mainly about Ronnie, Steve Davis,

Here is a short selection…

Ronnie picks out his best ever performance (metro)

Ronnie O’Sullivan picks out ‘by far the best performance’ of his snooker career

Phil Haigh – Thursday 16 Apr 2020

Reflective RonnieRonnie O’Sullivan has reflected on his peak as a snooker player (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan says his 2012 World Championship win has been by far the best performance he ever turned in as a professional snooker player.

The Rocket has plenty of highlights to choose from, having won 19 Triple Crown titles and competing with the elite of snooker for the last 25 years.

It is his 2012 Crucible triumph that stands out in his mind, though, when he swept aside the competition, beating Ali Carter 18-11 in the final.

A 13-10 victory over Neil Robertson in the quarter-finals was O’Sullivan’s sternest test that year, with no one else really getting close to him

The 44-year-old rates that World Championship win, one of his five in total, as his finest performance and credits his choice to ease off the practice beforehand, heading to Sheffield fresh and hungry for success. A philosophy he adopted from his love of running.

‘A lot of the time in snooker you feel like you have to put in six hours a day and I was doing that all the time and I’d go to tournaments and not feel excited to play,’ O’Sullivan told INTER SPORT running on Instagram Live.

‘When I started running I thought I had to run every session hard, but the guys at the track said “no, Tuesdays and Thursdays are our hard sessions, we’ll race Saturday or Sunday, the rest of it has got to be easy, and if you really have a big race coming up, the week before, really taper off.”

‘I listened to them and took the advice on board and they were right.

‘I realised that for years and years I was doing the wrong thing in snooker. I was over-playing, by the time I got to the tournament I didn’t really feel that excited to play. The way I approached the running I thought I’d do that for the snooker. It really helped.

Ronnie 2012 ChampionRonnie O’Sullivan dominated the 2012 World Championship as the number 14 seed (Picture: Getty Images)

‘When I played in the 2012 World Championship, I played a lot all season, tournaments and practicing.

‘Maybe about eight or nine days before, I had a practice session and it was so bad, the guy beat me 9-0. I thought “I’ve got to go to the World Championship next week and if I keep playing the way I’m playing I probably won’t be very optimistic about my chances.”

‘I just left my cue under the table, I didn’t come back to it the day before I had to go to Sheffield so I had eight or nine days off.

‘I went to Sheffield and I’d absolutely lost nothing but what I gained was the enthusiasm and the hunger to want to play snooker.

‘All that year of playing and practicing hadn’t gone anywhere, but the 2012 World Championship I couldn’t have played any better. I totally put that down to adopting the philosophy of tapering off.

‘Maybe before I’d have played hard during that week, got to Sheffield and thought “it’s not happening” and mentally not been in the right shape to even get through the first round.

‘Because I’d tapered off, I trusted that I’d put everything in place, 2012 was by far the best performance I put in as a professional snooker player.’

Ronnie 2012 ChampionThe Rocket claimed his fourth world title in 2012, adding his fifth the following year (Picture: Getty Images)

Many see O’Sullivan’s greatest achievement as his defence of the World Championship title 12 months later in 2013.

The Rocket had the entire season off and returned to defend his title in similarly dominant style to how he had won it the year before, making 13 centuries in the tournament.

O’Sullivan was undoubtedly the most potent force in the game at that point, which makes it all the more surprising that 2013 was the last time he lifted the World Championship trophy.

I remember that Championship vividly. Ronnie certainly wasn’t the dominant force that season. He only just avoided having to qualify for the World Championship. He had to win the 2012 German Masters and to make the semi-finals in the 2012 Welsh Open to secure his place in the top 16. Only the year before, he had withdrawn from the 2011 World Championship after a spell of nearly six months without winning a match. He only changed his mind after his then manager persuaded him to start working with Steve Peters.

His health had been poor for most of the season, and his private life was not a happy one.

On the evening before his QF match against Neil Robertson, we had a chat and he told me that he expected a very tough challenge. But he was clearly determined to try his hardest.

Having his son watching him win made this title extra special for Ronnie. 

WDSC_1763

Steve Davis would do anything to avoid to have to watch the “Black Ball Final” once again (sports mole)

Steve Davis jokes he’ll break lockdown rules to avoid re-watching 1985 final

steve-davis-dennis-taylor

© Reuters

Even long days of self-isolation will not stir Steve Davis to sit through another repeat of his defeat to Dennis Taylor as the World Snooker Championships prepare to roll back the years over the next 17 days.

The postponement of this year’s event, which was due to begin in Sheffield on Saturday, has led the BBC to fill the hole in the schedule with a series of classic re-runs, in which six-time champion Davis features prominently.

Beside his 1984 final win over Jimmy White, Davis’ final defeats to Taylor and Joe Johnson will also be revisited, and the series will begin with a repeat of his stunning 10-1 first round loss to Tony Knowles in 1982.

Davis - Taylor

But it is the prospect of once again watching the most famous frame in snooker history that has left Davis, now 62, joking about the drastic measures he may be forced into taking to avoid it.

Davis told the PA news agency: “If they are going to show the 1985 final again I’ll need to see the schedule because I’m going out – and I’ll break any rules to do it.

“I’d rather watch any other defeat of mine. In fact, you can strap me in a chair and I’ll watch ‘Steady’ Eddie Charlton playing 25 frames against Cliff Thorburn until three o’clock in the morning.”

Davis - White

Davis no longer has a snooker table in his house and has resisted the urge to return to the game in any kind of playing capacity since announcing his retirement in 2016.

“Once I stopped playing competitively my desire to play just evaporated,” added Davis. “I still appreciate the skill, but I no longer feel the need to put the balls in the pockets.”

The tournament’s postponement has robbed the sport of the traditional April date it has kept since it was first played at the Crucible in 1977.

Davis retires

For all the multiple-title winners like Davis and Stephen Hendry, it is a history propped up by a colourful cast of characters whose success may have been more fleeting, but their place in the annals of the game is assured.

Knowles now lives in the Lake District and still occasionally frequents the Crucible, while Johnson, who went on to be beaten by Davis in their second final in 1987, is a regular commentator on Eurosport.

Others, like Davis’ former world doubles team-mate Tony Meo, turned their backs on the game and have resisted all entreaties to return. “I haven’t spoken to Tony for years,” admitted Davis.

Matchroom Mob

For every member of Barry Hearn’s ‘Matchroom Mob’, and so-called bad boys like the flamboyant, white-suited Kirk Stevens, there were others whose qualifications as characters remained somewhat more tenuous.

In an era which currently offers the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump, Davis gives short shrift to suggestions that the 1980s somehow represented the halcyon days for recognisable names.

“It’s the same thing as when people say policemen are getting younger these days,” added Davis. “It’s actually the selective memory of people who are getting older.

Screenshot 2020-04-16 at 20.59.30.png

“If you name some ‘characters’ – Terry (Griffiths), Cliff – they weren’t exactly the fastest players on the planet.

“It will be nice to watch all the old stuff but it will remind us that a lot of it wasn’t that good. There was no century break in the 1985 final, and the standard of play these days has gone through the roof.

“I think we’re living in the golden age of snooker now, and we’ve got so many great players to tap into. You’ve got to be even more outrageous if you want to be a character today.”

:: The BBC’s series of classic Crucible matches starts with Davis v Knowles on Saturday April 18 at 1500.

I totally understand Steve Davis. It must be horrible for him. And frankly, it was a terrible final. The drama of the last ball has somehow obliterated the fact that the standard of this match was very low.

From Saturday on Eurosport delivers two-week celebration of snooker

This was announced by Eurosport yesterday:

Eurosport delivers two-week celebration of snooker – and brand new vodcast

By Eurosport

16 hours ago

ESBanner-Ronnie and Trump

This article gives us an idea about the kind of stuff they will cover in these vodcasts 

Ronnie: My favourite rivalry and how my dad helped me on way to greatness

1 hour agoUpdated 9 minutes ago

ESBanner-Ronnie Rivals.jpg

Can the World Championship really be held behind closed doors?

A number of reactions to yesterday’s post  indicate that a lot of fans don’t understand the implications of holding the World Championship behind closed doors. This is understandable as most of them have never been there backstage. So here goes…

The first thing to be stated is that the option of running the World Championship behind closed doors is considered, it’s because social distancing measures would still be in place, maybe not as strict as they are today, but still deemed necessary. With this in mind, let’s consider a number of logistic aspects.

The main event

1. Players have to get there, and stay somewhere

Barry hearn himself has raised the point that travel restrictions might prevent players to travel to Sheffield, and should that be the case, the tournament may need to be canceled. This was also reported by Eurosport yesterday. (excerpts)

Hearn: World Championship plans could be scrapped due to lack of players

Barry Hearn has revealed his plans to stage the World Championship in July could be scrapped due to the travel chaos caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

The World Championship was due to start on April 18 and finish on May 4, but has been postponed because of the health crisis engulfing the world.

That would see the 44th staging of the Crucible Theatre tournament in Sheffield start on Saturday July 25 and end on Monday August 10, but Hearn admits he is in the dark if those plans will ever see the light of day.

….

“The biggest problem for all sports, especially global sports like darts and snooker, is the travel restrictions don’t make it a level playing field for everybody. If someone can’t get out of their country then how the hell can they compete in a ranking system that is played, the majority of it, in Europe? “

Supposing that players are able to travel to Sheffield, they will need to find accommodations. This, in turn, means that at least some hotels must be allowed to open and offer basic services in a safe way. Even if they were to open only for WST staff, officials and the players, they still would need their own staff for housekeeping, security and basic catering. Regarding the latter, offering breakfast would probably be a minimum.

2. BBC and Eurosport.

BBC is the main broadcaster. This means that they have a big crew on-site for an event like this one: the technical crew taking care of the lighting and technical maintenance, the cameramen – each table has three cameramen (women) on the floor and there is one above as well up the scaffolding that towers over the arena – and all the crew needed for the production and post-production. That’s a lot of people.

BBC uses to have their studio in the Winter Garden, next to the cue zone, for as long as there are two tables. If social distancing is still in place, that’s not an option, unless they can have the Winter Garden closed and to themselves. The cue zone obviously would be scrapped.

Once we are at the one table set up, in recent years, they move the studio inside the arena, in a kind of big transparent “bubble”. Believe me, this space isn’t big, and they need at least one, usually two cameramen in there too. How’s that gonna work with social distancing, I’m not sure. Of course, the studio could possibly stay in the closed Winter Garden for the duration as was the case in the past.

In recent years, Eurosport also had people on site. Maybe they can still do the coverage from their studio in London.

Also, usually, a big screen is installed on Tudor square. I doubt that this would be allowed if social distancing measures are still in place: the big screen there means a crowd gathering on the square whenever the weather permits.

3. The written press and photographers

They use to share the green room with the WST press office. It’s pretty crowded in there usually. I would expect that only a handful of members of the media would get a pass this time, if any, for obvious reasons. The photographers have to operate from two little “boxes” that are located right behind the markers. They are tiny. I doubt that more than one person would be allowed in there at any time. Policing this would be a nightmare, so, the obvious solution would be to have only Tai Chengzhe – provided that he can be there – to take the pictures. Similarly the space were the post-match interviews are conducted is quite small. The WST press officer is there of course, as are the members of the media sent by the BBC (radio and written coverage). Again expect only a couple of  additional journalists to be allowed to attend, if any.

All this means that the coverage and exposure of the event are likely to be significantly reduced as compared to previous years, which in turn will impact the sponsoring, particularly for the players. 

4. The venue

Even with no crowd, the venue will need some staff on attendance: cleaners, paramedics and security are indispensable. They will need fewer people than usual, but they will need to make sure that health and security are covered.

Usually meals are provided to the WST staff, the BBC crew and the media. If the venue can’t offer the service, then external catering needs to be provided. These are long and non-stop days, especially during the first two rounds.

The stage door is where the players, their entourage, the WST staff and the media enter the venue. There is usually a good gathering of fans waiting for the players in front of it. Policing may be needed. Also, usually, just pushing a button gives anyone access to the lobby where the venue security, and a WST representative, check on people’s credential to access the venue. Again this is a very small room, usually cramped and another “entry” procedure will be needed.

The dressing rooms … are tiny! Really they are. Players’ entourage, if any is allowed, would probably be restricted to just one person.

5. Players will need and want to practice

Usually there are two or three tables at the crucible itself. It’s totally insufficient and it’s mainly there to allow the players who are actually playing in the “current” session to have a bit of practice ahead of their match or during the MSI. This means that players will need to have access to clubs or academies, with all precautions and social distancing measures in place. The said clubs and academies may need special permission to be able to open even to a “restricted” number of well-identified “customers”.

The qualifiers

All the “points” developed above apply to qualifiers as well, with even more people involved, although points 2 and 3 are definitely less of an issue at the qualifiers. Of course the venue is different. As it stands it’s EIS, that is outside the city center, which means that the players will need some means of transport to get there. It’s a real possibility that busses would have a reduced schedule and go missing completely in the late evening. Packed busses, taxis or shuttles (should WST offer the service)  should be avoided… In that respect Ponds Forge could be a better choice, as it is close to the city center and at a walking distance of many hotels. But I guess that changing the qualifiers venue would cause contractual issues…

Conclusion …

There is A LOT to consider when it comes to logistics alone… In his interview, Barry hearn was talking about setting up an event in three or for days. In normal circumstances maybe, but not this one under the current circumstances!

 

 

 

 

Barry Hearn gives an update about the World Championship plans

Barry Hearn talked to the press about the World Championship plans 

Barry Hearn issues update on Snooker World Championship: ‘It’s a fingers-crossed job’

Phil Haigh – Tuesday 14 Apr 2020 12:23

Barry Hearn is planning to put on the 2020 Snooker World Championship in July at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, but admits there can be few guarantees amid the coronavirus pandemic and it is a ‘fingers-crossed job.’

The World Championship has been tentatively rescheduled to start on 25 July, from its original start date in April.

This decision, made by WST, is yet to be confirmed by the BBC, the event’s broadcaster, and with the ever-changing situation that coronavirus presents little can be planned with certainty.

WST chairman Hearn says that the July plan is probable, even if the event has to be played behind closed doors, but will guarantee nothing.

‘We’ve got Plans A, B, C and D and there are three or four ways of looking at things and how they’re going to develop,’ Hearn told the Weekly Dartscast.

‘The biggest problem for all sports, especially global sports like darts and snooker, is the travel restrictions don’t make it a level playing field for everybody.

‘If someone can’t get out of their country then how the hell can they compete in a ranking system that is played, the majority of it, in Europe? So we have to wait and see how other countries develop as well. ‘On the snooker side, we’ve allocated the dates previously reserved for the Olympics.

‘Really it’s a fingers-crossed job. We’re gambling that by the end of July, early August we can stage the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible in Sheffield or we can stage it without a crowd.

‘One of those is more than likely to be an option, but circumstances will tell us and the government will advise us what is safe and healthy to do.

‘We’re not going to take a risk with the health and safety of our officials, staff and players. But at some stage the world has got to get back to normality. We’ve just got to make sure we’re in a position to be ready.

‘We’re geared up now to create events within a three or four day platform because the infrastructure is in place, it’s just a question when that green light shines. We can’t really give a definitive answer more than that in these circumstances.’

Hearn is working on organising the World Championship just a week after suffering a heart attack, the second of his life.

The 71-year-old insists he is respecting the instructions of doctors and is taking the rest that he was recommended.

‘It’s one of those things you’ve got to get through,’ Hearn continued. ‘I had a  heart attack 18 years ago, this one wasn’t as strong so that’s a positive. I knew what to expect.

‘They did a brilliant job on me, the NHS. Sunday night I had one night in critical care, came out, transferred to another hospital on the Monday, they operated on the Tuesday and Wednesday night I went home.

‘Now I’m under instructions which I will not completely ignore of course, because they know what they’re doing. But no gym for four weeks, gives me plenty of time to sit around, plan for the future and I’m in a state of permanent excitement, that’s how I live my life.

‘I’m in reasonable shape and I’m sure I’ll get stronger and stronger as the days proceed.’

The parts in bold have been highlighted by me.

The first “bold” part marks a welcome change as compared to the “opportunity for those who remained in the UK” previously stated. The UK bias on tour is already big for a number of reasons I have exposed before. To play the World Championship just for those who happen to be in the UK or able to travel to it would have been scandalous. The World Championship is crucial for so many players who try to stay on the tour. That many of them would be refused the opportunity to play in it because they aren’t UK based, or because they got back to their countries to take care of their families under the pandemics circumstances would be totally unfair and inexcusable.

The second bold part seems to be stating the obvious. However, it has consequences. The qualifiers need to be played before the main event and involve a much higher number of persons. It may well be the stumbling block. In a previous interview, Barry Hearn has said that it would be “easy” to respect the “two meters” distancing rule. I’m not quite sure about that. Just think about the fitters building the tables. Can they really do such a job whilst staying constantly 2 meters away from each other? The players and referees share one table and a set of balls. Will they all play with gloves? Not the kind of gloves used in cue sports, actual “full” gloves that would protect them to get direct contact with the balls and cloth? Is that even possible? And, at the tournament, there are constant interactions between the TD office, the officials, the players. Some most fans never imagine existing: Pat, for instance, spends considerable time sewing logos on players’ waistcoats, finding bow ties for those who forgot theirs, and generally looks after the players’ needs.

In short, unless the global situation improves faster than expected, which would be fantastic of course, I can’t see it happen as early as mid-July, which would be when the qualifiers need to be played if Barry Hearn schedule for the main event is to be respected.