2021 Q-School Event 2 – The Outcome

Lewis worst fears were vindicated yesterday as all four Event 2 laureates are veterans and former pros.

Here are the reports by WST:

The Last 16

Q School Event Two – The Final Eight

These are the eight players through to the quarter-finals of Q School event two in Sheffield. The four winners will earn a World Snooker Tour card for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.

Barry Pinches. Age 50 from Norwich. Played on the pro tour from 1989-97, 1998-2016 and 2019 onwards. Relegated from the tour at the end of last season. Former world number 18. Won a PTC event in 2010, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final. Reached the quarter-finals of the 2003 UK Championship and the last 16 at the World Championship in 2004.

versus

Sanderson Lam. Age 27 from Leeds. Played on the pro tour from 2015 to 2019. Reached the last 16 of the Gibraltar Open in 2017.


Hammad Miah. Age 27 from Hertford. Played on the pro tour from 2013 to 15 and 2016 to 20. Reached the last 16 of the 2018 Paul Hunter Classic.

versus

Craig Steadman. Age 38 from Farnworth. Played on the pro tour from 2009-10 and 2012-20. Reached the semi-finals of the Shoot Out last season while competing as an amateur. Played Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2015.


Michael Judge. Age 45 from Dublin. Played on the tour from 1992 to 2011. Reached the semi-finals of the Grand Prix in 2004, and the last 16 at the Crucible in 2001. Former world number 24. Runner-up in the 2011 Nations Cup for Ireland, alongside Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien. Won the UK Seniors Championship in 2019.

versus

Kuldesh Johal. Age 40 from Huddersfield. Played on the pro tour in 2008-09 and 2010-11. Won three events on the old Pontins International Open Series.


Alfie Burden. Age 44 from London. Played on the pro tour from 1994 to 2008 and 2010 to 2020. World Amateur Champion in 2009. Made a 147 at the 2016 English Open. Quarter-finalist at four ranking events. Played at the Crucible in 1998.

versus

Michael Collumb. Age 32 from Motherwell. The only potential rookie left in the field. Played as a wild card in the Scottish Open last season, losing 4-3 to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Won the Scottish National Championship for the first time in 2019.

The quarter-finals

Judge / Burden / Steadman / Pinches Regain Tour Spots

Michael Judge regained a place on the World Snooker Tour after a ten year absence by beating Kuldesh Johal 4-0 in the final round of Q School event two.

All results 

Judge, Alfie Burden, Barry Pinches and Craig Steadman all secured tour cards for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons.

Irishman Judge was a familiar face on the circuit for almost two decades from 1992 to 2011, notably reaching the semi-finals of the Grand Prix in 2004 and the last 16 at the Crucible in 2001, and spending several seasons ranked among the top 32. He enjoyed one subsequent moment in the limelight in 2019 when he won the UK Seniors Championship, beating Jimmy White in the final.

He was not at his best against Johal but breaks of 45 and 43 helped him to a comfortable win. “It feels great,” said the 45-year-old Dubliner. “After I fell off the tour ten years ago, I put the cue away and sorted out my life. I was doing a bit of work at the Q Club in Wicklow. I played on the amateur scene just for the enjoyment, and after five or six years I decided to give it another go. Then my wife had a baby boy so I put snooker on hold for a couple of years.

“During lockdown I was thinking I wouldn’t mind giving it a go, and a friend said he would back me. I started practising hard and things have fallen into place. Here I am, back on tour for more torture! I always felt I was good enough to get back on if I gave it a proper go. Whether I can hold my own, we’ll soon find out. I’m just looking forward to seeing what it brings me.

“Winning the UK seniors final against one of the all-time greats in Jimmy White in a packed arena really inspired me. That has given me the confidence that I can do it on any stage. I know I can beat anyone on my day once I get sharp. The tour will suit me because there are so many tournaments you don’t need to practise that much.”

Alfie Burden also regained his tour card, after a much shorter hiatus of 11 months. The 44-year-old Londoner recovered from the loss of the first frame to beat Michael Collumb 4-1 with a top break of 70.

Former World Amateur Champion Burden has 24 seasons as a pro behind him and has reached the quarter-finals of four ranking events. After relegation in 2020, he missed out on a return via Q School, then took time away from snooker. He admitted in this recent interview that he had missed the thrill of competition and camaraderie on the circuit so decided to give the qualifying minefield another try, this time successfully.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Burden. “I only had three weeks preparation for this so I didn’t have much expectation. I didn’t know how I would deal with the pressure. In this school my experience goes a long way. I have enjoyed being back out there. I didn’t play great, but dug in.

“During the pandemic I got very bored and missed the game, so I decided there was no harm in giving Q School another try and rolling the dice. I’m looking forward to two more years on the tour. They thought the hell-raiser was gone, but he’s back! I don’t fear anyone, I’ll just enjoy it.

“I have always been fiercely competitive, I never give up. I have always believed in my ability. I have probably under-achieved but that’s my own fault because I didn’t live in the right manner. Hopefully my son can look at me and think ‘the old man doesn’t give in, he comes back for more.’ If he carries that into his career (footballer son Lene has just signed for Bristol Rovers) when times are hard then that will be a good example for him. I’ll be doing a lot of miles to Bristol to watch him play.

“I’d like to thank my coach Alan Bell, Whetstone Snooker Club and everyone there for their support, and finally my daughter Bow who is like an angel on my shoulder, I am so lucky to be her dad.”

Craig Steadman survived some nervous moments to beat Hammad Miah 4-3. From 3-0 up, Farnworth’s Steadman lost the next three frames then trailed 34-0 in the decider. But breaks of 48 and 28 gave him victory and a place on the circuit which he had previously held from 2012 to 2020.

“I should have won 4-1, then it all went wrong,” admitted 38-year-old Steadman, who reached the semi-finals of the Shoot Out last season while competing as an amateur. “I felt very nervous at 3-1 but then in the last frame I felt quite calm. I had an unbelievable fluke in the decider so I feel for Hammad because he stuck in well from 3-0. The relief is massive, I’m stunned. There’s a lot on the line, no one wants to come back tomorrow and start it all again.

“It was nice to have a run at the Shoot Out, and that gave me the motivation to start playing again. I practised really hard for this, but as soon as I got here I felt as if I had not played a proper match for ten years. It felt really tough.

“My personal life has been fantastic over the past year as my wife had a baby and I spent four or five months helping renovate the house. So that took my mind off not playing snooker. But then I started missing it, so I’m happy now that I’ll be back playing.”

Barry Pinches got the better of a dramatic deciding frame to beat Sanderson Lam 4-3. From 2-0 down, Pinches took three frames in a row with a top break of 100, before Lam won the sixth for 3-3. Both players had chances in the decider and it came down to the colours. Lam potted the last red, brown and yellow but then missed the green and Pinches took green, brown, blue and pink to win it 63-54.

The 50-year-old from Norwich first turned pro back in 1989 and was once ranked 18th in the world. He becomes the second player aged 50 or over to come through Q School this month, joining Peter Lines who qualified through the first event.

“I have played in big matches at the Crucible and all the main venues, and the pressure just doesn’t get any bigger than that,” said Pinches. “When the next two years depend on one shot, it’s so hard. He missed an awkward green. My adrenaline was pumping but I managed to take the last few balls. I tried to fist-pump where Sanderson couldn’t see me because I was psyched. It’s pure relief.

“I have always taken the view that if you enjoy playing and you can manage financially, you should keep going. All of the guys who got through today are all older players. Snooker is not an easy game to get good at! There are so many good, hardened pros age 35, 40 or even 50. It’s so difficult for the younger players to get through Q School.

“I’d like to get back to the standard I was at in the early 2000s when I was pushing for a place in the top 16. I’m not saying I can get that high, I’d just like to get back close to that level because I haven’t done myself justice for the past two years.”

Later on Facebook, Barry Pinches came up with this:

I’m sick to the back teeth of seeing these
‘ why aren’t the young players winning through q school statuses ! ‘
I’ll tell you why .
It’s because this isn’t the 1980s or early 1990s when there were virtually no good players around aged over 30.
There is alot of very good young talent at q school it’s just that they are up against alot more tougher opposition than there was years ago .
The amateur game needs a very significant boost or the Professional tour needs to be made a tad bigger soon if not we may be in danger of losing a generation of young players .
Snooker is an extremely tough game to get very good at and it’s not easy for the young generation coming through and throwing tour wild cards at them or seeding them for upcoming amateur tours is neither fair nor the answer either in my humble opinion.

To which I answered this:

Barry above is right: one of the main issues is the severe decline of the amateur game. The young ones are not ready and the level between amateurs and pros has widened. It’s even worse this year with the coronavirus putting the amateur game to a complete stop. I know that Barry will disagree but for me part of the answer is to go back to a tiered system. Give the lower ranked players/debutants a more winnable first match, a progressive route allowing for development. There would be no protection if, no matter the round, a player losing their opening match gets 0 ranking points. On the other hand, financial pressure should be eased by paying everyone who actually plays, including the first round losers. By playing they bring value to the tournament, the sponsors, the venue management and the viewers. Paying them for a work done is only right, it’s not “rewarding mediocrity”. Playing should not cost them. And it can be easily done at no additional cost for the governing body: just make the prize money structure a bit less top heavy. It would be fairer as well. Returning to a tiered system doesn’t not need to be returning to cubicles with nobody watching in Pontins or whatever. It should be all played at the final venue, in one go, as one tournament, with a crowd, with streaming or television. There is no reason nowadays for not doing that. It’s actually already done: even at qualifiers 8 tables are currently streamed in China.

 

I can understand Barry’s frustration but at the same time it’s a big worry for the future that next to no young player is able to qualify/survive on the main tour. The current structure of the calendar leaves very little space for Pro-ams. Contractual restrictions on streaming limits the “exposure” of the few surviving. Do we really need that many pro tournaments? I’m not sure. I would gladly have fewer, maybe 12-15, with longer formats, tiered structure, proper exposure, more fairly distributed prize money,  and quality venues/hospitality for the players. I would gladly have gaps in the calendar for pro-ams, seniors and juniors events with proper exposure and fairly geographically spread. Let’s revive the true Paul Hunter Classic en August, lets get it back to what it was: a true Pro-Am, without ranking points attached, convivial, a huge snooker feast. Let’s revive the Pontins festivals, and the Pink Ribbon – even without Paul Mount – and have it moving around Europe. If possible, let’s get the General Cup back in Hong-Kong ahead of the “Asian leg” of the snooker season. Bring back some team events, with mixed gender/mixed age groups teams. Bring back some non-ranking pure fun into our sport. Enjoyment is what keeps us all going, no matter what we do for a living.

Oh … and then maybe, think about an inclusive rating system instead of a rigid, money linked, ranking system. It works for other sports.

End of rant. For now … 😉🙄

Congratulations Barry Pinches, Alfie Burden , Craig Steadman and Mick Judge!

PS: one additional concern for me is that the game is now owned by Matchroom. The new boss, Eddie Hearn, is not particularly interested in snooker, unlike his father: his big passion is boxing and if he has to set priorities, snooker will not come first.

 

12 thoughts on “2021 Q-School Event 2 – The Outcome

  1. Sorry Monique I totally disagree with any tiered system after playing in them from 1989 – 2010 .
    I have pointed out many times that the tiered system was devised by top players who were running the game in the early 1980s to protect their own ranking pure and simple !
    If a top 32 player were to win 10 1st round matches in a tiered system a rookie pro would have to win 30 matches to get the same amount of points ! It’s a total nonsense!
    The end.

    • First of all Barry, thank you for commenting. Yes, you have played in a tiered system from 1989-2010. But there are significant differences between what I have in mind and what happened then. The first one is that, the way I see it, the seed losing their first match should get no points. In the past they got half of what they would have for winning and the ranking should be adapted dynamically; back then the ranking was frozen for the whole season. Next, the current prize money system is far too top heavy. I would return to a point system that would be far more balanced and take the format of the tournament into account rather than the prize money. There is no way that the winner of a tournament should get 100 times more points than a player winning in the first round. That’s nonsense. There should be reward for being consistent as well as for winning. I would even go further: it’s perfectly conceivable to design a system where the players respective “ranking” or “rating” would be taken into consideration. I haven’t thought it through into details but here is the rough idea. Players would be divised into 8 “tiers”: T1=top 16, T2=17-32, T3=33-48, T4=49-64 etc… you get the idea. If a player say from T3 is to play someone in T5, the T5 player should get more points for winning than T3 would get if they win and if T3 loses to T5 they should actually lose ranking points as a result of the defeat. That way the lowest ranked players beating top guys would get extra reward, whilst the top players would certainly have no protection, quite the opposite.
      There are even more radical solutions: scrap the rankings alltogether and adopt an ELO type rating system across pro and amateur game. It has been done in some sports, notably table tennis. Here is an explanation about the ELO system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elo_rating_system

    • Yes, you are right. Any points-based ranking system is going to run into huge problems with flexibility and fairness, however tournaments are structured and points allocated. I just wish snooker could move beyond ‘ranking points’ and ‘ranking tournaments’. It doesn’t have to be that way!

      Anyway, congratulations on your achievement. If people are complaining, that should make you feel especially proud – what you’ve done is noteworthy!

  2. hopefully the last batch of q school will bring some fresh blood. I’m not holding my breath but fingers crossed

    • It would probably be better if they weren’t completely new blood, but perhaps young players who have been on tour just 2 years, to continue their development. There’s a danger, particularly this year, of some players qualifying and just getting annihilated.

  3. The trouble I have with expressing my exasperation is that it looks like I have a problem with the 4 players who qualified, which is (mostly) not true. Well done and good luck to them!

    Obviously, the results on Sunday and Monday were terrible from the point of view of young players and diversity (Soheil Vahedi is not a young player, but it would have been great to have him back on tour).

    However, changing the tour structure (e.g. ‘tiered’ draws) wouldn’t make much of a difference. It’s not that young players are always getting drawn against top-16 stars and being beaten up; they are losing against mid-ranked players. Any ‘ideas’ to split the tour into divisions also has the problem of funding for the lower division – it would bankrupt those players. Similarly, reducing the number of tournaments just takes prizemoney and game-time away from those who need it. All this is just a fast-track to a 64-player tour. If we look at the youngest 25% of players on tour in 2020-21, only 6 of them are in the top-64.

    What is also unhelpful is the narrative: “there are no young players except Yan Bingtao and he’s just a plodder”, “young players don’t deserve anything, because they are all lazy and spend their time partying”. The ‘growth’ WST talks about is financial expansion: tournaments in new locations with bigger prize funds. Nothing about developing the next generation of players. They don’t even have a tournament specifically for the youngest professionals (tennis has). The new format for the Home Nations banishes lesser players from main venues, possibly for a whole season. There is a HUGE incentive to keep the current elite players in place for as long as possible.

    So yes, Barry Pinches is right. He is acutely aware of the issue partly because his son Luke is one of those promising players trying to make progress. The problem is in the transition between amateur and stable professional (i.e. top-64). There are too many strong players aged 30-55 to get past. Changing the professional tour will only make a marginal difference.

    My plan for a global ranking system with federated and regional tournaments also wouldn’t solve the problem immediately, but it would boost participation massively. Imagine being on the same ranking list as Ronnie O’Sullivan? At the age of 48 and after several major eye operations, I might even get my cue out again, with a goal of reaching top-1000! It would be equally successful for the top of the game as well: invitationals such as the Masters would be ranked. It would rule out the need for qualifiers, etc.

    The trouble is, there’s a total lack of imagination, innovation and courage in snooker. I’m not just talking about WST here – players, media and fans also lack any clear vision. Moodernisation by dress code is a trivial suggestion. As I said, the status-quo appears fine the way it is: most people are only bothered about their favourite top players, or 1980’s nostalgia. That’s a terrible recipe for the future. And after yesterdays results, I am now finding it hard to see any way forward.

    • I still think that a tiered system would help because they would face opponents closer to their own level first and there would be a progression in the difficulty of the matches. All players currently at the top except Yan Bingtao came through the tiered system, including Judd Trump.

      • It would help, but only if they tier from the beginning, such as in the World Championships before 2014. I’d need to do the analysis, but I suspect it wouldn’t make all that much difference. If there is an answer, it’s not necessarily retreating to a system which worked in the past. The demographic has changed a lot in the last 10 years, as has the tournament schedule. Certainly, it cannot be fixed by focusing on professional tour alone, with 128 players. Barry Pinches alluded to that, and my analysis supports that.

        But I don’t know if there is an answer. It may well be that snooker is finished.

      • I don’t think that one element alone can solve the issue. I’m convinced that the tiered system offers a better path to progress. But I alo believe the reviving the pro-am scene is essential and the governing body should support it actively, financially and in terms of exposure. And I would be in favour of the return of a point system, so that similar efforts are rewarded the same way in terms of ranking or rating, independantly of prize money. And finally I agree with you about an “universal” rating system across categories, but I’m not sure either players or fans would understand it easily.

      • I Honestly think if you made a poll with players down the ranking and rookies, they would prefer the flat system.

        In a tier system you could play for 4 years and the only chance you had of seeing a Top player was to get a ticket to watch them. you cant buy that experience of playing your idol early and get it out of the way so you can move on with your career with a tier system you’re banging your head against a wall until you relegated and back in Q School.

        Yes its not easy if you drew against Judd, Ronnie, Selby all the time but its not impossible to beat them as Aaron Hill and Peter Devlin showed in the first event of last season. After the European Masters Aaron Hill did not play another top 16 player all season.

      • I wouldn’t be so sure Edd. Yes, in the first months, they are probably excited at the prospect of playing one of their idols. But, unless they come from a wealthy background, after that initial period, money becomes an issue, and after the first year their survival on the main tour is on the line, and when they reach that stage, I have no doubts that more often than not they would prefer to get an easier opener.

  4. I don’t blame him, Pinches. He got relegated, he went to this qualifying event (I find it hard to call it Qualifying School, because for me school implies that they teach you/you learn something there), fought hard and won and must be happy to be back on the tour and all he sees is that people are not happy for him, but say his victory is bad for the game, in fact it is just one step from saying he should not have entered, but left the place for young talents. And he has a son who also tried to qualify, so he must have a closer look at the field of young players and for sure would have liked to see Luke make it. Of course, you are right, Monique about the need for changes, and I like your ideas, but I do understand if Barry is frustrated a bit..

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