2022 Q-School Event 2 – Returning players prevail

Congratulations to Aaron Hill, Zak Surety, Sanderson Lam and Adam Duffy who have regained their tour card this afternoon.

Here is the report by WST:

Hill, Surety, Lam and Duffy Earn Tour cards

Aaron Hill, Zak Surety, Sanderson Lam and Adam Duffy came through Q School Event Two in Sheffield to earn two-year tour cards for the World Snooker Tour.

All four players now have the right to compete on the pro circuit for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons.

Ireland’s Hill bounces right back to snooker’s top table after suffering relegation at the conclusion of the recent World Championship. The 20-year-old originally earned his place on the tour after winning both the Under-18 and Under-21 titles at the 2020 European Championship. He went on to show flashes of his potential, including a sensational 5-4 win over Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2020 European Masters, but ultimately fell short of retaining his tour card.

Hill came through today’s final round with a 4-1 defeat of China’s Zhao Jianbo, top scoring with a break of 110.

Hill said: “I can’t describe my emotions. I would have stayed there all day to get over the line. I wasn’t in the best of shape during the World Championship, so to be sitting here with my tour card back is probably the biggest achievement of my life so far. It means the world to my family and all of my close friends. It is an unbelievable feeling to be back.

You can’t buy the experience I’ve gained over the last two years. I won nearly all of the little battles on the colours this week. I probably wouldn’t have won those two years ago. It is all the crafty shots I’ve picked up, I’ve learned a lot from Ken Doherty himself. I started working with PJ Nolan, as my coach after the World Championship. He showed me a few things with my technique and that helped me under pressure. Fergal O’Brien also sent me a lovely message after he got through last week. I was down at the time and that gave me a little boost. I’ve been in contact with him all of this week and the advice he has given me to deal with other situations has been unbelievable.

Zak Surety also retained his spot on the circuit with a 4-2 win over Belgian teenager Ben Mertens. Surety was a graduate of Q School in 2020, but didn’t manage to consolidate his place on the tour after two seasons. Today’s win gives him a fresh professional slate to work from.

I am feeling pure relief at the moment. That is horrible and I never want to do it again. I say that every time I play in this tournament, yet I’m here every two years,” said 30-year-old Surety.

It was tough and I cracked up a bit towards the end of last season. I withdrew from Turkey, didn’t go to Gibraltar and didn’t really want to play the worlds. I surrendered my card really. I wasn’t even going to enter this, but my mum and my brother convinced me to.”

Sanderson Lam sealed a return to the World Snooker Tour after three years as an amateur. He has been unsuccessful on his previous three Q School trips, but a nerve shredding 4-3 win over Steven Hallworth put all of that right.

Lam had led 3-1 today, but breaks of 92 and 77 from Hallworth forced a decider at 3-3. Lam dug deep to summon a gutsy contribution of 60 to get himself over the line and secure his new two-year card.

Lam said: “At 3-1 I don’t think I did that much wrong, but he started getting a bit of momentum and all of a sudden it was 3-3. He played very well and he was in first during the decider. He went in off and I made a good break somehow.

“I was so close last year and I thought that I’d been in this situation before. I’ve got through Q School before and I knew I could only do my best.

Sheffield’s Adam Duffy secured a dramatic 4-3 win over Daniel Wells to earn professional status for the first time since 2018. Duffy trailed 3-2 and was on the verge of defeat, when he potted pink and black to steal the sixth frame by a single point. He then dominated the decider to emerge with his 4-3 win.

I had about two days practising ahead of this. I work in brick laying and building, it has helped me in a way. It has taken the focus off this and coming back to it I’ve not really expected anything. I just wanted to enjoy it and that is what I’ve done,” said 33-year-old Duffy.

I want to dedicate myself for the next two years. Snooker, even when I was on the tour, didn’t feel like a job. Now I have to treat it like a job, give it my all for two years and if I get somewhere then great.

So far, eight players have come through this Q-School and all of them have been pros before, most of them recently. Even Sanderson Lam who is returning after three years has not been really away because he played quite often as a top-up.

It’s a worrying situation if “new” players can’t get through and it triggered this tweet by Joe Perry:

Joe Perry 2022 Q-School Evt 2 Tweet

In recent years, two places were allocated through the Q-School order of merit. It seems that it won’t be the case this time.

There will also be less opportunities for top-ups. Indeed Matt Huart was contacted by the snooker.org team about the situation with the order of merit and the top-ups and he observed that there will be 131 players on tour next season. In theory that even opens the possibility that we get preliminary matches. It’s unlikely, but it could happen.

In fact we have 128 “regular” players plus the three invitational tour  cards … Ken Doherty and Jimmy White will definitely enter everything. If Stephen Hendry doesn’t play in most event, I can’t see how WST could justify giving him another tour card in the future.

Also, it remains to be seen how the players coming through the Asian Q-School will fare and if they will actually be able to play a full schedule, for both logistic and financial reasons.

Coming back to Joe’s tweet, a strong Challenge  tour – or Q-Tour, or whatever name we gave to a secondary tour – needs to be developped, funded, streamed or broadcasted,  and properly promoted. Ideally it should be a professional tour and it should NOT be (almost) exclusively played in the UK. Q-school and other qualifying routes should give access to the secondary tour, with a one year tour card. I could see both tours featuring 80 players, with the top 16 of the secondary tour promoted to the main tour whilst the 16 lowest ranked main tour players would be demoted to the secondary tour. The “lower 16” of the secondary tour would be relegated, with no right to enter any qualifying route immdediately unless they were in their first three years as pros.



11 thoughts on “2022 Q-School Event 2 – Returning players prevail

  1. The idea of a secondary tour is all very well, but where would the funding come from? Who would watch it? Who would want to broadcast it? For all these reasons, I think it’s a non-starter. Add to that the fact that, if it was to be an international affair, costs automatically go up that much more.

    In principle, the idea of playing all qualifiers just before the main event seems attractive, but is it practical logistically? What would be done about, in particular, players booking hotel rooms, given that they have to do this themselves?

    Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution to any of this, although covering the expenses – at least – of first-round losers is a very obvious answer to one of the main problems with the tour as it stands.

    • I can’t see why playing the qualifier right before the event would be an issue. Booking a hotel is something they must do anyyway. Paying for it, same. At least Chinese fans would be able to watch their own live, same for the German fans. There is no perfect solution but something could be tried at least. As it is, there is a massive UK bias. The “justification” for it is that the majority of players are from the UK, so this is cheaper for them … but the whole structure makes sure it stays thay way no matter how talenled non_uk/Irish players may be. WST stands for WORLD snooker tour. It’s time that bias is broken.

      • If they get through to the main stages, is their room arranged and paid for, then?

        I agree about the UK bias, and would very much like to see the mainland European aspect of the tour expanded. But my questions about the practicality of a secondary tour remain.

      • No, they have to pay for their own accomodations, except maybe at the Chinese events. I admit that there is no easy answer to the problem of funding a secondary tour. It’s all about getting fans and sponsors intetrested. Of course there are fans who are genuinely interested in the younger players’ development and progress and they would want to attend those events. It’s probably, to a large extend, the same who go to the early stages of the World qualifiers. Lewis, who often comments on this blog is one such person. However there aren’t probably enough of such fans to make it a sustainable tour, sadly. The only way I see is for the governing body to invest part of the “main tour” profits into the secondary tour. And it would ask for a serious “promotion” effort, mainly around younger talented players.

  2. Whenever I hear ideas about secondary tours organised like clockwork: 128 players here, 80 players there, etc. I get dismayed. The problem with every system like that it that it is TOO RIGID. What is needed is flexibility. Tournaments (at all levels) need to arise organically, where there is demand. Players work their way upwards through a network of tournaments. A ‘secondary tour’ just doesn’t attract enough money – it will inevitably be a British amateur tour. Then reducing the ‘primary tour’ to 80 just kills the development of players and the diversity of tournaments. It’s a massive backward step, and one which would probably kill snooker.

    Whilst I congratulate the qualifiers and wish them well individually, this format for Q School is not producing the right set of players. The best players put themselves under too much pressure (Holt, Maflin, Akani, etc). The young players lack experience to deal with pressure. So we get steady players who can keep a reasonable level and battle through, winning frames on the colours. But that’s not going to cut it on the pro tour. Most of them will probably win a handful of matches in 2022-23, get relegated again, and then maybe qualify again via Q School 2024, or 2025, or 2030… The problem in the knockout format – it’s too brutal considering what’s at stake. And it’s also not as fair as it could be, with the draws. The Order of Merit is particulary unfair, compounded with the ‘byes’ problem. I’ve already made my proposal, which is much fairer and much cheaper.

    I don’t really know what Joe Perry means by ‘amateurs’ – perhaps he means ‘rookies’. It’s not really the issue, as the name ‘Q School’ would tend to imply a breeding ground for improving players, whether they are ex-pro, relegated pro or newbie. If we keep promoting new players, only to throw them away after 2 years, that’s a disaster. These days most young players will require at least one requalification before they establish themselves.

    • Lewis, I hear you but I have lost every hope that the governing body would go for any other type of system than the knock-out based thing we know. The round-robin based tournaments don’t attract much interest/motivation, I feel, be it from the fans or the players,. They tend to be very short formats for obvious reasons, and are in general hated by players because it always drags for too long and generates too many “dead matches”. They are also the ones that have triggered most suspicions of foul play. If a player is either already through to the next stage or out of it, their motivation to win may be low. The Grand Prix, in the days, had round-robin qualifiers. That was a tournament that triggered suspicions every year. The usual theme was Player A is through or out, they lose their next match heavily and because of that their best mate, player B progresses. Was it just lack of motivation, or was this foul play?
      An ELO type system would be hard to understand for most fans, and players – don’t tell me otherwise please, you know it’s true – and would be hard to get accepted for that reason. Also, it can only work if we can reasonably trust the conditions and refereeing across all counting competitions. I don’t think we are there at this moment in time. In chess a chess board is a chess board, no matter how battered, ultimately it doesn’t impact the players performances. In snooker, conditions are mightily important. But ultimately, the biggest hurdle to an ELO type system is that it would “dilute” the “monopoly” power the WST currently enjoys. You know that this is not going to happen any time soon. They won’t allow it to happen.
      The main reason why I believe that cutting the main tour to 80, and having a PROPER and INTERNATIONAL secondary tour would help is because it would be a more progressive route fot the newcomers. By International I mean both in its composition and where it’s played. I DO know that funding is an issue, as are promotion and exposure. It’s an “ideal world” dream.
      I would already be happy for the time being if the following changes came into force:
      – all qualifying rounds (if any) played at the main location no matter where that is, just before the main event.
      – a tiered system in at least half of the tournaments
      – a return to a points system based ranking, where “similar events” are worth the same points distribution. Also rewarding consistency more, but not as much as the pre-money list one did.
      – basic costs paid to first round losers, provided they play properly of course.
      – no player under 18 allowed on the tour. It’s not true that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. Shaun Murphy always comes up with that one, citing his own situation. What he forgets is that, he was playing in his own country nearly all the time, with his family around him, with no culture, language or time difference barrier, and with his father involved in the governing body.
      – Make the Q-Tour a “Youth Tour”, expand it, fund it, promote it, stream it. By Youth Tour I would consider “16-24”. Don’t necessarily make it a qualifying route but make it lucrative enough.
      And finally, I know you won’t agree, but I definitely would ban all players who heavily underperformed and drop off the tour, from being allowed in any qualifying event for the next season, or even the next two seasons, barring exceptional circumstances (notably health issues). Either they are not good enough or they didn’t try hard enough. I both cases they should not be given an immediate opportunity to requalify through a system that – as it is – massively favours those who have been on tour in the previous season, as the Q-school results so far amply show. They don’t deserve it and they possibly stop better players to get the opportunity. I think that if you fail to win 6 matches over two years, you may need to have a good hard look at your results and take some thinking time about your future, motivation, and actual abilities.

      • I know perfectly well WST are unlikely to consider any changes – that’s because they have a rudimentary understanding of tournament structures: they can’t even implement round-robin groups without unfair and unneccesary anomalies.

        But once again you are falling into the trap of trying to prescribe rigid tour structures, by numbers, ages and so on. It’s a practical non-starter. That sort of system is only feasible in the UK, which has enough players within travelling distance. You can’t have a ‘tour’ spread across different countries (or continents) without substantial funding. Even the pro tour can’t afford that, hence the qualifying rounds. The only way to provide competitive snooker below professional level is to have regional tournaments, with some objective way of rising through the ranks. It CAN BE DONE, but not if WST (and you) keep on dismissing it as ‘hard to understand’ (meaning: ‘unwilling to contemplate’).

        As for ‘banning’ players from Q School, that would mean Zhao Xintong, Fan Zhengyi, Jackson Page, Yuan Sijun, etc. would have been thrown out, impairing their development. We cannot afford to crush young players who might have had difficulty adjusting to the tour. I disagree that a teenager who performed terribly can be written off after 2 seasons – I was aware of Fan Zhengyi’s potential even though he couldn’t win a match for 3 years. Enhancements such as ranking cut-offs or age restrictions introduces lots of consequences. There’s a limit how much access can depend on things like age without being deemed discriminatory.

        Anyway, as you know I play a lot of bridge. They have very successfully implemented a system, covering all the clubs in England, with machine duplicated cards, electronic scoring (by mobile app), Elo ratings, Swiss tournaments, etc. Many of the players are women in their 80’s and 90’s. To write off ‘ordinary’ or ‘older’ people as incapable of understanding a clearly superior method is a little insulting, don’t you think?

      • I’m not unwilling to contemplate anything. My husband, 71, plays table tennis competitively at club league level, and their rating system is similar to the ELO system. That said, if you ask him what he needs to do in his upcoming matches to progress to a certain “level”, he wouldn’t know. To be fair he’s not overly interested in that either. I’m sure that the coaches of the top competitors do know very well what needs to be achieved to reach a certain goal, but the fans would not.
        Zhao Xintong won 17 of the 34 matches he played in his first year as a pro, Jackson Page won 9 of them, Yan Sijun won 8 of them, and Fan Zhengyi who is, by far, the one in your list who struggled the most still won 7 matches in his first two seasons. I’m asking for 6 matches over two seasons… I honestly believe that if you can’t do that, and barring exceptional circumstances (and lockdown was exceptional circumstances particularly for “expat” players) you really either aren’t good enough or not working hard enough and you shouldn’t be there. I will confess that I’m not a very “forgiving” person when it comes to certain things. Yourself admit that the Q-School favours the players who have been on tour recently, and I believe that it favours them massively. You only need to look at who comes through. It doesn’t bring the best players at the top. As for the 18 years old age limit, my motivation is to protect very promising young teenagers from being destroyed by the pressure of the tour because they don’t yet have the mental/spychological strength and stability to sustain it. We both know a few examples of players who, maybe, could have become brilliant, but were crushed by a system for which they weren’t ready because they were too young.
        Also I’m not sure why you cite “older people”, I never suggested that the failure to understand the ELO system, or any system, was an age related thing. I’m not young myself 😉.

  3. “131 players on tour next season”, I thought it was 130, but anyways, Igor Figueiredo not using his tour card frees up a space. Does Victor Sarkis from Brazil plan to play in everything? How about Ryan Thomerson from Australia? I doubt there will be a need for many, if any, preliminary matches.

    • That’s part of the issue. What’s the point giving a tour card to someone you know will not be able to compete in many tournaments for various reasons, including the cost of it. That’s why first round losers should get something. By playing they bring value to WST, the sponsors, the venue, the broacasters. It needs two to play a match. No matter how well both play, one will lose. It’s not about “rewarding mediocrity”, it’s about getting paid for a job done.

    • It’s very hard to see how 130 players are going to arrive at the start of the season. For me there’s also the question of how many of them will survive financially to the end of it… I expect quite a few top-up players will appear, even though Shaun Murphy’s diatribe had seemed to have put a stop to it.

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