Unsurprisingly, John Higgins and Martin Gould topped their group yesterday, although it wasn’t as straightforward as some would have expected.
John Higgins and Martin Gould, both two-time BetVictor Championship League Snooker winners, topped their respective groups on Thursday to advance to Stage Two of the ranking event, which is being staged at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes.
Higgins began his day against French youngster Brian Ochoiski, and the 21-year-old showed his talent immediately with a break of 85. He could have gone 2-0 up, but a missed red on 58 handed the initiative to Higgins, who cleared to level the match before making breaks of 90 and 107 to take all three points.
Joe O’Connor then dispatched Amine Amiri 3-0 before drawing 2-2 with Ochoiski. Higgins then also defeated Morocco’s Amiri, meaning the final match between O’Connor and the Scot would be decisive. The four-time World Champion only needed a draw and was assured of that when he went 2-0 up.
“I was happy to get a couple of wins because confidence is quite low just now,” said Higgins, who eventually drew 2-2 with O’Connor.
“Ochoiski played the wrong red when he was looking really good, and he’d have probably gone on to win the frame. I was thinking at 2-0 down you’re basically out of the tournament because you’d be doing well to come back and win the next two frames, and to get a loss you’d probably be out. I was happy to turn it around.
“I’m using a new tip and a new chalk which all the boys are using. Rob Milkins came up to me at the European and said he was using the new chalk which Neil Robertson uses. Rob likes what I like usually so since he said it to me I thought I’d give it a go and it’s been good.”
On table two, Gould advanced when Simon Lichtenberg failed to beat Igor Figueiredo in the final match of Group 26. Gould had earlier beaten the Brazilian and Kurt Maflin, but a defeat to Lichtenberg meant the German would advance with victory in the last match, but a 3-1 defeat meant he in fact finished bottom of the group.
BetVictor Championship League Snooker continues on Friday with defending champion Luca Brecel among those in action. Coverage of both tables will be available at Matchroom.Live, with UK television coverage on Freesports.
FINAL GROUP STANDINGS
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS John Higgins 3 2 1 0 8 3 5 7 Joe O’Connor 3 1 2 0 7 4 3 5 Brian Ochoiski 3 1 1 1 6 5 1 4 Amine Amiri 3 0 0 3 0 9 -9 0
P W D L FW FL +/- PTS Martin Gould 3 2 0 1 7 5 2 6 Igor Figueiredo 3 1 1 1 6 6 0 4 Kurt Maflin 3 1 1 1 6 6 0 4 Simon Lichtenberg 3 1 0 2 5 7 -2 3
Brian Ochoiski attracted huge praise from the commentators, and rightly so. He has never competed in professional events until very recently, he’s still learning. He made a some questionable shot selections yesterday and it cost him. But those errors will soon be ironed out as he will gain experience. His break-building skills are already excellent, his potting is very dependable. He goes for his shots and is very exciting to watch. As he is one of the three players who finished with 47 points at the top of the Q-school order of merit, we are likely to see him a lot this season. He should try to make the most of it as he can play without the pressure of having to earn/defend ranking points. Good luck Brian.
Amine Amiri has improved a lot, and should probably have won at least one frame against Joe O’Connor who benefitted from two massive flukes. Only against John Higgins was he outplayed. Still, Amine is not anywhere near the level required to compete as a professional. He got his tour card for winning the African Games. The competition featured only five players, three from Morrocco, two from Egypt. Neither of those countries has a strong amateur scene. All matches were best of 7. Amine won two, lost one. There are surely political and commercial reasons behind this type of nomination, but it’s very unfair on the nomitated player. They stand no chance whatsoever, and to make it worse, in Amine’s case, he can’t afford the costs to live in the UK or to travel to play in every event. It would be far better if they were awarded a one year scholarship, combined with invitations to events as a wildcard/top-up, and have their entry fees paid for the Q-school at the end of that year. It’s obvious that Amine loves his snooker, he deserves better than this.