Tony Knowles’ bid to earn a place on the pro tour for the first time since 2001 gathered pace as he scored a shock 4-0 win over Craig Steadman in round two of Q School event one.
Knowles, age 65, followed up his 4-1 first round victory Bradley Cowdroy with an even more impressive win over Steadman, who was a semi-finalist at the Shoot Out last season.
Former world number two Knowles has a high break of just 38 in those two matches, but his tactical nous is winning him frames and he took three on the colours today as he set up a third-round meeting with Raymond Fry. Four more wins would earn him a two-year tour card.
World Seniors champion David Lilley made a top break of 89 as he beat Chris Totten 4-0. Ian Burns, the top seed in the event, also won 4-0 as he beat Anton Kazakov with a top run of 78.
James Cahill top scored with 86 in a 4-0 win over Julien LeClercq. Jackson Page saw off Daan Leyssen 4-2 while former Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou beat Brian Cini 4-2 with breaks of 66, 64, 52 and 77.
Barry Pinches suffered a 4-3 defeat against Stuart Watson, while Austria’s Florian Nuessle came from 2-0 down to beat Dylan Mitchell 4-3.
Event one runs until Tuesday in Sheffield.
I have to say that Tony Knowles’ win over Craig Steadman came as a huge surprise to me.
Yesterday was the first day that saw a number of this season “relegated” professionals in action and all of them except Barry Pinches won their match. I expect this trend to continue … unfortunately. I have absolutely nothing against the relegated pros, but, fact is, that the system as it is, isn’t particularly helpful to the young aspiring players and doesn’t help injection of “new blood” into our sport.
This time, more than ever, it will be difficult for amateurs to get on the tour, especially the younger ones who have no or very little experience of the main tour conditions. Due to the pandemic, they had very little opportunities to play over the last year whislt the Main Tour essentially carried on nearly as usual.
It’s even harder for the “overseas” amateur players. Yesterday I spoke over the phone to the father of one of the young Europeans who had just lost his round two match. Amateur competitions were all canceled this season in their country. Practicing has been difficult as well. Father and son arrived in the UK ten days before the start of the Q-School. Despite being both fully vaccinated, they had to be tested, twice, and had to stay into quarantine, not leaving their hotel room for 8 days. The tests costed them about 600 Euros. Staying isolated in a room for eigth days isn’t easy at the best of times, and, needless to say, it didn’t help the young lad’s preparation. He had just two days of practice before his first match … which he managed to win. He was beaten yesterday by a relegated pro, one of the favourites to regain his tour card right away. The youngster will play in both remaining events. If he manages to go deep in the third, both father and son will have stayed in a hotel in Sheffield for nearly four weeks. That doesn’t come cheap and it adds to the travel costs, test costs and the £1,000 entry fees as well. Going home between comps isn’t an option because it would mean going through the tests and the quarantine again when coming back for the next event.
All this of course is neither WST nor WPBSA’s fault and they have made every effort this season to keep snooker going at professional level at least. They deserve every praise for this. However, even in a “normal” year, a great deal of the above remains true, and having the whole Q-School played in the UK does give UK players a non-negligible advantage. Hopefully the gouverning body comes good with their promise to have an European Q-School sooner than later.
The CBSA qualifying events run in China this year were effectively a China Q-School. However that’s not enough. For instance, there are no Thai players in the Q-School this year, despite the strength of the amateur game in the country. There is a need for an Asian Q-School, not just a China Q-School.
In the light of the above, Florian Nüßle’s (Austria) and Niel Vincent’s (France) wins yesterday deserve plaudits, Niel’s win in particular as he has never competed on the main tour before in any capacity. Niels’s is only 20.
I was also happy to see all the young “relegated” Chinese players win their first match. The last year has been extremely hard for them, living as expats away from their families.