Reflecting on the 2020 World Championship

As you would expect, about everyone has been reflecting on the 2020 quite unusual but very interesting World Championship.

WST tells the story of the Championship:

The 2020 Betfred World Championship will go down in history as one of the most gripping editions of snooker’s showpiece event, producing moments of magic, despair and ecstasy to a backdrop of both socially distant fans and an empty Crucible Theatre.

Millions of viewers around the world were transfixed by events over the last 17 days, as the Theatre of Dreams opened its doors for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Round One

Defending champion Judd Trump was welcomed by a limited Crucible crowd to kick proceedings off on day one. There was a stern early test for the Ace in the Pack, who edged through against Tom Ford 10-8.

The big story of the day came away from the baize. The tournament had been selected as a trial for the safe return of spectators at UK sporting events. However, after a successful first morning of the pilot, a midday announcement from UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, paused all trials and forced the event behind closed doors from day two onwards.

Qualifier Jamie Clarke recorded a stunning 10-8 upset win over 2018 Masters champion Mark Allen. The Llanelli cueman was staring down the barrel of tour relegation heading into the qualifying stages, but saved his place on the circuit by reaching the Crucible.

“Never in a million years could I have dreamed of this,” said the 25-year-old. “I went into the qualifiers without a lot of confidence, just hoping to win one match. After that I got on a roll. I am in shock at the moment. I went out there today to enjoy every minute and I was loving the experience.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan surged to the fastest win in Crucible history. He took just 108 minutes to demolish Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-1 with an average shot time of 14 seconds.

Round Two

Scotland’s four-time World Champion John Higgins fired in the first 147 break to be made at the Crucible, since his compatriot Stephen Hendry crafted a perfect run against Stuart Bingham in 2012.

It was the tenth 147 break of Higgins’ career and landed him a £55,000 payout. However, having reached the last three World Championship finals, Higgins was dumped out of the event after a 13-11 defeat to Norwegian qualifier Kurt Maflin.

Maflin said: “It feels brilliant. My wife and kids will be proud of the fact that I’m in the quarter-finals. It makes it worth all the sacrifices.”

Anthony McGill battled from 8-2 down to beat Jamie Clarke 13-12 in a thrilling, yet ill-tempered encounter. A flash point came in the tenth frame, when McGill confronted Clarke, claiming he was standing in his eyeline.

In the mid-session interval, Clarke took to social media, tweeting: “You want to dance, let’s dance”. That Tweet came in the middle of a run of six consecutive frames from McGill, as he levelled at 8-8 en route to the dramatic victory.


Kyren Wilson inflicted the Crucible Curse on defending champion Judd Trump, sealing a momentous 13-9 victory over the world number one.

Trump became the 18th victim to fall foul of the curse, after failing to successfully defend the crown he won for the first time last year. Wilson enhanced his already strong record over rival Trump, extending his head-to-head lead to 8-5.

Wilson said: “I take a lot of motivation from the greats like Hendry, Davis, O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams. I can imagine they’d be thinking, ‘I want to beat this guy, I want to be better than this guy’. There is no point trying to dodge them. We’d never played each other at the Crucible, it was the one place I wanted to play Judd.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan conquered Mark Williams 13-10 in an enthralling match between two of snooker’s Class of 92. The Rocket fired in five centuries on his way to victory, but he had doubted that he had it in him to turn around a four-frame deficit.

“I felt as if I was fighting, it was tough,” said 44-year-old O’Sullivan. “At 8-4 Mark was cueing well, he was ripping through the ball. I didn’t think I had it in me to turn it around.”


The last four produced gripping and scintillating drama, after both semi-finals came down to deciding frames for the first time ever.

With the scores locked at 16-16, Kyren Wilson and Anthony McGill contested a nerve shredding decider. In commentary, seven-time World Champion Stephen Hendry said: “This has been the most incredible frame ever seen at the Crucible.”

The players engaged in 61 minutes of gruelling snooker while amassing a combined total of 186 points, the highest ever for a single frame at the Crucible.

With McGill leading 52-47, Wilson laid a tricky snooker on the last red. Scotland’s McGill missed it ten times, leaving himself requiring snookers. Astonishingly, Wilson then went in-off twice to leave the frame back in the balance. Eventually Wilson fluked the green to once again leave McGill requiring snookers. Holding back the tears, the Warrior got himself over the line by the margin of 103-83.

In an emotional post-match interview, Wilson said: “I have dreamed of this moment for years but this isn’t the way I wanted it to happen with the green. It is mad what can happen on a snooker table.”

A disconsolate, but respectful McGill said: “I felt like it was stolen from me – not by Kyren, but by the snooker gods. I didn’t do much wrong there, but there has to be a loser.”

Meanwhile Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby locked horns at the Crucible for the first time since the 2014 world final, which Selby won 18-14.

Selby found himself on the verge of victory when he led 16-14. However, O’Sullivan, who adopted an all-out-attack approach, blitzed back into contention with a run of 276 unanswered points. That left him 64 ahead in the deciding frame. Selby had an opportunity to clear, but he broke down and O’Sullivan booked his spot in the final.

Awaiting both players was the return of a socially distanced Crucible audience, after a UK Government announcement restarted the pilot scheme for the safe return of audiences at sporting events.


The Final

Ronnie O’Sullivan, competing in his seventh World Championship final, went toe to toe with Kyren Wilson, who was competing in snooker’s biggest match for the first time.

After a tense opening day the outcome remained in the balance, with O’Sullivan emerging 10-7 ahead. However, the Rocket blitzed to victory on day two, claiming eight of the next nine frames to seal a historic sixth Crucible crown. That puts him level with his hero Steve Davis and former coach Ray Reardon.

The victory makes him the most prolific winner of ranking titles in history, moving him to 37 in total, one ahead of Stephen Hendry. At 44 years old, O’Sullivan becomes the oldest World Champion since Reardon lifted the famous trophy at the age of 45 in 1978. He now needs just one more world title to equal Hendry’s record of seven.

“If there was a box of achievements, there could be five or six in there, this has definitely got to be up there,” said the triumphant O’Sullivan.”To be alongside Ray Reardon and Steve Davis is amazing. There is still one fella sitting above us in Hendry. There is always someone to chase.”

The Numbers…

Tournament Centuries: 79

Most Centuries: 12 – Ronnie O’Sullivan

Highest break: 147 – John Higgins

140+ Breaks: 3

Most Centuries by one player in a match: 5 – Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Allen

Longest Frame: 61 minutes 39 seconds – Kyren Wilson vs Anthony McGill

Deciding frames: 6 – Anthony McGill 10-9 Jack Lisowski, Ding Junhui 10-9 Mark King, Anthony McGill 13-12 Jamie Clarke, Mark Selby 13-12 Noppon Saengkham, Kyren Wilson 17-16 Anthony McGill, Ronnie O’Sullivan 17-16 Mark Selby

Crucible Debutants: 5 – Elliot Slessor, Jamie Clarke, Ashley Carty, Jordan Brown, Alexander Ursenbacher

Rachel Casey, Neal Foulds and David Hendon reflect on the Championship right after the Final

This is the David Hendon and Michael McMullan podcast

davehendon · Snooker Scene Podcast episode 120 – King Ronnie

And my two cents

David Hendon’s take on the alleged Ronnie disrespect for Selby is exactly in line with what I expressed a few days ago. Selby had completely shut Neil Robertson out of their quarter-finals match, particularly in the second session, employing the same tactics  he had used to beat Ronnie in the 2014 final: killing every sort of rhythm and fluency by messing up the table and slowing down the game. He had done this to Graeme Dott as well in their 2013 Maters semi-finals and you can still read about Graeme’s reaction here. Those tactics are legit, and it’s simply a case of a player playing to their own strengths, as they should. Selby is mightily efficient at it. Neil finished the match with a AST over 30 seconds. Ronnie was determined not to be dragged into this scenario again, and he found a way to counter Mark Selby’s tactics. He got under Mark’s skin as well. David clearly stated that there was no disrespect there. Mark was praised in 2014 for finding a way to beat Ronnie, Ronnie should be praised this time for finding a way to beat Selby, and, as David said, other players should take note.  Psychologically, it’s a very important result for Ronnie. The 2014 finals’s scars may finally heal.

They also discuss Ronnie’s comments about the lower-ranked players, and state that, although it might be exagerated, there IS truth in it. There is nobody in their teens or early twenties coming through other than from Asia. They are not good enough. For me, the main factor is the shrinking of the amateur scene. Clubs have been closing, the number of amateurs’ tournaments has been plummeting, and, with the plethora of sports channels availabe on televion and the Internet, snooker’s appeal to the young has diminished. The gap between the young amateurs earning tour cards and the top guns is getting wider. In short, they aren’t ready and the brutal flat draw/money based system isn’t helping. WPBSA is putting up trememdous efforts into countering the trend via various initiatives, and they should be praised for it, but maybe something more radical is needed. Maybe this would be a good time to set up a proper 64 persons professional secondary tour, with decent earning opportunities and television/streaming exposure, whilst reducing the main tour to 96 players? (*)  This would provide a smoother development path. The problem, as always, is … finding the money. Would there be enough interest in this to attract broadcasters, sponsors, the audience? Not sure.

(*) there is also the “swiss” system of course … but I don’t think that the snooker world is ready for it.


7 thoughts on “Reflecting on the 2020 World Championship

  1. Maybe Ronnie really writes the text of his novels at least partly himself, he is very prone to this floral language and all kinds of outlandish metaphors. Of course, he had a point in his criticism, after all he was just about to play Mark Williams, another “old” guy in the QF and the only young player at the Crucible (Yan) was already out. And after making a factual statement about the worrying state of affairs, he pulls a Ronnie and runs on with it mentioning missing limbs and all the shebang. 🙂

    Neil pretty much summarized what went on playing Selby: “playing Mark I probably should have spotted the danger signs a little bit earlier and maybe opened things up more” Next time he might remember. But Selby really dug a deep hole for himself with these comments I haven’t yet found one who would agree with him. He did a real disservice to himself, he could be remembered about a fantastic and dramatic semi, even though he was on the losing side and that his game is back in order, but he will be remembered by these comments and I wonder how long it might take for him to live them down.

    But now that it is all over, I’m mighty happy that this was one of the matches Ronnie had to play (even though a loss here would have been incredibly hard to take and one also worried how much he might have left for the final after this). Any victory at the Worlds would have been fantastic, but that he could to some extent exorcise his demons in the process makes it even sweeter.

    • It happens to all of them Csilla. What we should remember is that they are interviewed literally minutes after losing. They are raw and sore. They are human. I have seen all sorts in the media room. Players not uttering a word, players swearing at the press, one player nearly coming to physical blows with two journalists (who had provoked it TBH) … this was mild by comparison.

      • I understand and that’s why I say that Selby hurt himself the most with it. Now this is everyone talks about when it comes to him, not about that he made it to the semis and had Ronnie on he ropes for quite a long time.

    • Great result and I never doubted Ronnie would win at least another world title though I wouldn’t have said precisely he would this year. (Though if you look at his record since he won his first he wins every leap year except for 2016!). The final two matches of his were his lowest standards for various reasons but every match offered something special, arguably the final itself the least though it’s hard to match what came before in his match vs Selby, obviously he and Kyren were drained and Kyren bless him was overawed somewhat with his maiden world final (At least no nosebleed from last time in his first semi crucible final!)

      So a blitz of Thepchaiyah proving he is NOT the fastest but the Rocket is (I always said he was, the shotclocks are subjective with Ronnie being an elite safety player even if it’s not his natural game and Thepchaiyah clearly not a complete player otherwise he’d be a lot more successful, so he’d be in matches where things move quicker as he doesn’t tend to make business ends of tournaments where things tighten up) but not to bash him he’s still incredibly fast. Ding I feared it would be a repeat of 2017 but Ronnie didn’t fall behind this time and put right 2017, Williams schooled Ronnie it must be said more than anyone else in the tournament, it was looking very bad for Ronnie like he’d given up (Rerun of his last QF with Ding 2nd session) but Ronnie found some fight in him and form, yeah I was concerned with Selby as we know what a negative blackhole player he is sucking people in…. He’s done it year after year, his two semi finals beating chinese players (Marco and Ding, yes Marco’s from Hong Kong he’s still chinese though….) in some very time consuming long drawn out frames of needless safety….. Ronnie started so well his longpotting was ace BUT he didn’t finish frame 8 and he landed a KO blow on the table not Selby…. Gotta say Ronnie does punch hard. Anyhow day 2 was damn painful to watch I know it was a combo of bad luck, bad table conditions NOT just Ronnie’s lack of form and fight but it could have been worse, anyhow it was all too familiar, 2017 SF, Ding led 5-3 albeit in a more positive way than Ronnie (Ding nicked a frame from Selby which hurt him) but first mini session 2nd day Selby took all 4, Ronnie also this happened and ending the day 9-7, okay not the end of the world but we know Selby, bad enough when he’s behind as he’ll claw his way back but in front he’ll not be any less awkward, it’s swimming through mud. (Muck Selby haha)

      So session 3 I had hoped Ronnie would do something inspiring and blast out of the blackhole’s grip with his Rocket boosters, no session 3 was a disaster very agonising viewing though Ronnie did very well to nick some frames back especially with how poor he was playing. 13-11 though still some hope…. Session 4 was just incredible, it was a good sign he came in smiling and laughing and the start we needed but hopes dashed Selby levelled the first mini session…. Then Ronnie went mad but then we saw the method in the madness with his incredible fightback to win, the most incredible turnaround! How he found his form when he most needed it, well for that final session… He does it time and time again but it can’t be said enough how he’s a genius in his sport! I feared Selby would clear up but Ronnie kept him too cold that session….

      As I’m honourable and as with last time they had a semi final clash back in 2018 Northern Ireland, which came down to flukes both sides in an exciting decider, I wasn’t going to begrudge Selby win or lose as it gave an incredible match and I had respect for him (Minus his negative play, a BIG minus) and on the whole he deserved to win this match looking at how badly Ronnie played in sessions 2-3 and Selby was outplaying him overall if not for the 1st and 4th session…. But Selby’s interview, which would have been icing on the cake to hear him congratulate Ronnie for his stellar performance for the Rocket’s comeback session and those last 3 frames, nothing of the sort but accusing Ronnie of being disrespectful…. ?! I always assumed he’s a nice guy off the table but not now, it just seals my dislike for him now nothing redeeming about him!

      Had Ronnie lost he’d not have blamed Selby, he’d had put blame on himself and his cue action etc and I’m sure he’d have said to look on the bright side at least there was a tournament under these difficult times and he still has his health…. Yeah I fully agree Selby came off as a little man if that out of this, worse than Trump calling players that beat him lucky or saying he himself is unlucky (Or him saying players slowed him down), very sour way to cap off what was one of the greatest final sessions of any snooker match. Had Ronnie said what Selby said I can imagine the torrent of hate he’d get. Or had Selby made the comeback in a reverse scenario people would be bending over backwards to praise his fighting spirit and if he had used Ronnie’s manic tactics they’d have PRAISED him for playing outside the box and for being daring (Opposed to his gritty play)… Had it been Shaun Murphy, I know of his emnity to Ronnie in the past but he would have been the first to praise Ronnie for such an insane comeback, he would have been gracious in defeat as he always is. In victory too, when Ronnie lost to him when he narrowly failed to force a decider for the Champion of Champions 2017, Murphy only spoke well of it saying HE didn’t want a decider and that Ronnie’s given him a hiding many times and he’s sure he will again! Selby can learn a lot from Murphy that’s for certain!

      With this victory I was very curious to how Ronnie would be if he’d go on to win the title, I was expecting a lot of self criticism of his game BUT he was overwhelmingly positive! Easily one of his best victory speeches in that it pleased everyone without any controversy, I hope Kyren goes on to win big titles, on character alone he is more deserved than Trump hands down.

      All in good a far better tournament than I expected, I thought no crowds would make it seem bland but it’s been anything but a bland tournament, I wished there were crowds for day 15 with the best two semi finals with so much drama. Admittedly before the tourney started I was not looking forward to it, seeing Ronnie has had a poor season besides threepeating Shanghai Masters but he’s the most difficult man to predict! He often exceeds and disappoints expectations! I suspected him skipping the Masters was to help prepare for the Crucible, the last time he won it he took a whole season out, when he won Masters title 6 he had an extensive break too so my take is he was trying to replicate past means that worked out, he tried 2016-18 of playing solidly, 2017-18 it paid off in many victories but he fell short on the biggest stage, last year was still very successful a season but he fell out to an amateur on stage 1! That must have been a turning point for him, by chance or will he got his 6th title and that’s what counts! (I had a sneaky feeling lockdown would benefit him too, as he’s so naturally gifted, players would be cold going into the Crucible having not the usual match sharpness but Ronnie as we saw came back from a year of hardly any competitive play and won it very convincingly, so this was sort of the same scenario though even more in his favour as everyone would be cold besides the qualifiers)….

      It is rather cruel to immediately press people after a loss I think it stinks this media commitment they have, they should have a heart! Better still they should bring back how both players go to the studio post match and they discuss the match together, with this match Mark could have said his piece and Ronnie as we saw didn’t say a bad thing back he said he gets why Selby was upset but he meant no disrespect, quite the contrary as he knows Selby is better than him at safeties… (Hehe Ronnie beat him with the final safety battle ironically…)

      Anyhow we can count this season as a happy one! It’s not felt right since 2014 for me, sure Ronnie still wins stuff but the Masters and UK are 2nd best, they’re not the main course they’re sides, dessert or starters vs the crucible, the gold medal with the other majors bronze and silver. It’s incredible how much worse the day or so felt when Ronnie ends sessions behind, particularly with both Marks. I did resign myself to Ronnie losing 17-15 as that’s the scoreline Mark’s won all his semi finals since Robertson 2014 though way things went didn’t look like Ronnie would make 15, how he shook the world with how rapidly he forced it into a decider! (Final frame maybe he should have played safe when he had a break of 64, I know Selby’s a nightmare if you don’t finish him in one visit but especially with it being a decider… Fortunate Selby wasn’t on it for the counterclearance, not that it was an easy one to pull off)

  2. Ronnie restates his ‘attack’ on young players starting at 2:32 of this interview:

    It is much more kind and balanced, and nuanced. I don’t think that anyone would object to his restatement (or revision) of his claim.

  3. Yes, but I would say Ronnie’s comments about young players are not helpful either. If he genuinely doesn’t want a new generation of players to threaten his records, then snooker could fall into such a decline that nobody even remembers his name anymore – think of what happened to billiards.

    The ‘Swiss’ system is a tournament structure, when players need to be ranked in order, rather than just to produce a single winner. I think Q School would be the only situation where I would use it, perhaps some junior events.

    What really would transform the future of snooker is a global ranking system (even a national system would help). Imagine if every player, from basic club players upwards, was on a ranking list? That would incentivise everyone to improve, and provide entry criteria for tournaments at all levels. Suddenly people would want to play in tournaments. It’s trivial to implement. Something like the NGS in bridge ( – I can play at a club in the evening, and the following morning the rankings have been updated. Needless to say, as soon as they implemented that, the standard improved as people cared about their grade! Similar things are used in online gaming.

    • In fact I was thniking of a combination of Swiss system and a global elo type rating system. But I think it would be difficult for fans and players alike to understand, at least at the start.
      Also I’m not defending Ronnie’s “attack” on the young players, and neither does Dave. The thing is that, as quite often with Ronnie, in the middle of the “outrage” there is truth. I actually believe that he would love to see young players challenging records, but it’s not happening and I know for sure that, in many cases, he blames a lack of work ethics for it. Practice with disco blaring through earpieces, and television on in the room, is not how he sees “proper” practice and I tend to agree. Surely you can’t concentrate fully that way.

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