WST announces a mixed-double tournament, scheduled next September!

Yes … you read it right … here is the announcement

Snooker Breaks New Ground With BetVictor World Mixed Doubles

As one of the few major sports where men and women can compete together on an equal footing, snooker will showcase its inclusivity in September with the BetVictor World Mixed Doubles.

The pioneering tournament will see the world’s top four men – Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Neil Robertson – each paired with one of the top four women – Reanne Evans, Ng On Yee, Nutcharut Wongharuthai and Rebecca Kenna.

Televised live by ITV, the invitation event will take place over the weekend of Saturday September 24 and Sunday September 25 at the Marshall Arena at MK Stadium in Milton Keynes. Ticket details will be announced soon.

The random draw will take place in advance of the event, with one man drawn to play alongside each woman. The four pairs will compete over two days in a round-robin format, followed by the final with the winning team to be crowned inaugural champion.

Each round-robin match will be four frames, with all frames to be completed. Teams will score one point for each frame. At the end of the group phase, the top two teams will go through to the final, which will be best of seven frames. The two players in a team will make alternate visits to the table (rather than alternate shots).

Session times are 1pm and 7pm on both days. Each of the first three sessions will feature two group matches, so all eight players will be in action. The final will then take place on Sunday September 25 from 7pm.

The players:

Ronnie O’Sullivan – current World Champion, world number one and crowd favourite
Judd Trump – 2019 World Champion known for his flamboyant style
Mark Selby – four time Crucible king and current world number three
Neil Robertson – the best player of the 2021/22 season, winning four titles
Reanne Evans – the most successful ever World Women’s Snooker player with 12 world titles
Ng On Yee – three-time World Champion and one of Hong Kong’s most famous sport stars
Nutcharut Wongharuthai – up-and-coming talent from Thailand who won her first world title in 2022
Rebecca Kenna – women’s world number four and multiple title winner

This will be the first televised mixed doubles snooker event since 1991 when Steve Davis and Allison Fisher joined forces to win the title in Hamburg.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “This is the first time that a mixed doubles snooker event will be broadcast live on free-to-air television so it’s a very significant moment for our sport.  We’re delighted to partner with ITV and BetVictor for this fantastic tournament.

Snooker is a game for everyone, regardless of age, gender and nationality, and we have proved this with the expansion of our tour and of the sport at grassroots level. There is no reason why men and women can’t compete together and we are thrilled to have – for the first time – four women on our professional tour in the coming season.

The BetVictor World Mixed Doubles will be an opportunity for the eight players to compete in pairs, creating a different dynamic to the usual individual formats. It will be fascinating to watch both for the live audience and television viewers.

We look forward to delivering a high quality event and we hope to make this a regular fixture on the circuit.”

Global Sponsorship manager Sam Boswell from sponsor BetVictor added: “We’re proud to be sponsoring the BetVictor World Mixed Doubles in September, it’s an event that showcases how the game is for everyone, and we look forward to growing our presence in world snooker by supporting this unique tournament.

Well that’s terrific news! I only hope that the event will also be shown on Eurosport or stremead on … because, well, ITV is very much UK only.

If snooker is for everyone, it should be for every fan as well, right? 

Which would be your dream “pairing set” then?

Here is mine:

  • Selby-Kenna – the tacticians
  • Trump-Evans – the scorers
  • Robertson-On Yee – the cautious
  • Ronnie-Mink – giggling and laugher!



2022 Ranking CLS – Day 2 – Groups 4 and 31

Zhao Xintong and Noppon Saengkham were probably the favourites to emerge from their groups ahead of yesterday’s matches and, whilst Zhao eased through Group 4, Noppon’s hopes to make it to the final week were dashed by the birthday boy … Anthony Hamilton who topped Group 31.

Happy 51 Anthony!

Here is the report shared by WST:

Zhao And Hamilton Progress

Zhao Xintong and Anthony Hamilton progressed to Winners’ Week after the second day of play at the BetVictor Championship League Snooker in Leicester

Results and Tables

Zhao started the day off in a rampant fashion as he defeated Michael Holt in a 3-1 win which included a century run of 105. The Cyclone followed that up with a 45-minute demolition of Adam Duffy.

Hammad Miah was Zhao’s main opposition for the place in the next stage. After drawing with Duffy, he scored a 3-1 defeat of Holt. That set up a deciding tie with Zhao in the last round of matches.

UK Champion Zhao only required a point, but he eased to a 3-0 win to secure his place in the next round in impressive fashion.

Zhao said: “I want to be better than last year and I want to do my best. I will try as hard as I can to win the matches and the tournament. The idea of aiming to become world number one in the future sounds good. Hopefully I can do it.

Over on table two the decisive tie was more tightly contested. Noppon Saengkham started off brightly with a 3-0 win over Steven Hallworth. The Thai cueist went on to add a second win of the day with a 3-1 defeat of Ashley Hugill, which included a high break of 90. Hamilton meanwhile had to settle for a point against Hugill, before whitewashing Hallworth. That meant only a win against Saengkham would keep his tournament hopes alive.

Former German Masters winner Hamilton came out the blocks quickly against Saengkham, with a classy clearance of 130 to lead 1-0. Saengkham got his first on the board in the second, but Hamilton took the next and then fired in a break of 114 in the last to seal a win and his spot in the next stage.

2022 BetVictor Championship League Snooker continues tomorrow with previous winner Kyren Wilson in action on Table 1 in Group 6 live on FreeSports and Matchroom.Live in the UK and networks worldwide with Zhang Anda, Michael Judge, and Luke Simmonds whilst Tom Ford leads Group 26 with Chris Wakelin, Ian Burns and Anton Kazakov live on the Matchroom Multi Sport YouTube for free. See where to watch here.

Here is the table as linked above

Ranking CLS 2022 groups 4 and 31 - table

Shaun Murphy was in commentary for most of the day and, with Phil Yates, reflected on a few interesting points.

  • Michael Holt is almost unrecognizable as a player. He seems to have been stripped of any sort of confidence and his shot selection was “erratic” yesterday, as – from what I heard – it had been during the Q-School. The commentators reflected that winning the Shoot Out was probably a “curse in disguise” (my wording) as it gave him a false sense of security and when the associated ranking points came off, he wasn’t really prepared for it. It was a shock. Of course, it was predictable, Michael “knew” that this was coming but he probably didn’t really understand how brutal the “fall” would be … until it happened. And, IMO, the same happened to Michael Georgiou. as well.
  • Whilst commenting on Hammad Miah, who played some good stuff in patches, Shaun Murphy and Phil Yates reflected on the importance and history of the “recovery blue”. Here is their discussion summarised by Phil Haigh:

Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘changed the game’ of snooker with one shot, says Shaun Murphy

Ronnie - gettyimages-1394572730
Ronnie O’Sullivan has had a huge impact on snooker in a range of ways (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘changed the game’ of snooker early in his career by taking on a shot that few players did then, but now every professional practices regularly, believes Shaun Murphy.

Sometimes called a ‘recovery blue’ because a player has strayed from ideal position, the shot in question sees the blue potted to a baulk corner pocket.

It is a common shot in the modern game, but did not used to be, as Phil Yates explained on commentary during the Championship League on FreeSports, saying: ‘One aspect of the game that has vastly improved is the recovery blue.

So many players knock it in now as if it’s simple, but we all know it’s a real examination of cueing.

Former world champion Murphy explained that it was the Rocket that turned the shot from a rarity into standard practice 30 years ago.

It was O’Sullivan, really, that started it in the early 90s,’ said the Magician. ‘He was the one that first, if he finished near the pink spot somewhere, he’d just get down and pot the blue.

Of course, Shaun, being younger than Ronnie, can’t have witnessed him playing that shot in Norbreck Castle in 1992, but Phil Yates was there and he remembers it vividly.

Today my attention will be on Anton Kazakov. He’s in a hard group. Group 26 doesn’t feature any top 16 player but Tom Ford, Chris Wakelin and Ian Burns are all very good solid players. Tom is a ferocious scorer when on form,  Ian is an expecienced “hard match player” and Chris can “mix” it. . Anton will certainly learn from the experience. Hopefully he will also enjoy it and show us what he’s capable of.

2022 Ranking CLS – Day 1 – Groups 24 & 13

And so the new season started yesterday with a rather low key event … and two rather “low key” groups.

Here is the report shared by WST:

Robert Milkins and Aaron Hill opened the 2022/23 season with respective group wins to move forward into Winners’ Week at the 2022 BetVictor Championship League.

Results and Tables

Milkins, who emotionally claimed his maiden ranking crown at the BetVictor Gibraltar Open last season, started this campaign strongly. The Milkman made 78 in the opening frame against Sanderson Lam before clinching a 3-0 win. Former Crucible semi-finalist Andy Hicks provided the sternest opposition to Milkins and scored wins of his own against Allan Taylor and Lam to sit top of the group at the break.

When play resumed, Taylor needed to beat  Milkins if he was to progress but he succumbed to a 3-1 defeat. That set up a showdown between Milkins and Hicks in the final match to settle the Group 24 winner.

Milkins and Hicks met in the final match of the day in Group 24 to settle things a the top end of the table.The tie ended as a 2-2 draw and it was enough for Milkins to progress on frame difference.

Milkins said: “I played alright today. I played well in patches. I thought I played solid in the first two matches. Overall, I am quite pleased. I have nothing to lose now. I just keep going. Even today, I felt like the weight was off my shoulders.

Hill is freshly back on tour through Q School and he made a century run of 101 in his opening match 3-0 win over Craig Steadman. Former English Amateur champion Ben Hancorn had to settle for draws against David Grace and Steadman to leave the group open going into the evening session, but it was advantage to Hill.

Into the evening session and Hill looked to be on course for Winners’ Week with a match to spare after establishing a 2-0 lead over David Grace. The Yorkshireman hit back in the following two frames to earn a 2-2 draw and leave Hill sweating.

A 2-2 draw between Hill and Hancorn took it down to the final tie. The permutations for Grace were clear in his final match with Steadman. A 3-0 win and a high break beating Hill’s 101 was required to take him through. Grace took the opener, but Steadman poured the cold water on his hopes by drawing level. Grace went on to win 3-1 but it was to no avail..

BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Event continues tomorrow with Zhao Xintong in action on Table 1 in Group 4 live on FreeSports and Matchroom.Live in the UK and networks worldwide with Hammad Miah, Adam Duffy, and Michael Holt whilst Noppon Saengkham, Ashley Hugill, Anthony Hamilton and Steven Hallworth live on the Matchroom Multi Sport YouTube for free. See where to watch here.

And here is the (above linked to ) table

Ranking CLS 2022 groups 24 and 13 - table

It wasn’t the most enthralling day of snooker and I had a bit of a discussion about that with Gary Moss on twitter. Gary said that this wasn’t the actual start of the season, rather a pre-season event. I disagreed, arguing that this was actually a good event to start the season, allowing the newcomers to settle and getting familiar with pro conditions: three matches guaranteed, a streamed table but no crowd. It’s not the first time Gary and I disagree and he felt hurt. It wasn’t my intention at all, I’m sorry he felt this way and want to apologise for making him feeling uneasy. I’m quite an upfront person and working for 35 years in IT system development hasn’t made me any “softer”: it is/was a very strongly male dominated cut-throat environment, especially when I started in the mid 70th.

Anyway, Gary and I continued our discussion by messaging and what we came to realise is that we were just looking at it from two completely different standpoints, with different “goals” in mind.

As those who read this blog regularly will know, I feel that the current “system” is far too brutal and doesn’t offer a good path for development to young players and main tour rookies. The situation is made even worse by the fact that the “gap” between the “professional level” and the “top amateur level” is widening with every passing season (*). Therefore, I was welcoming this “soft start” of the season.

Gary had something else in mind: he feels that the first event of the season should be a “flagship” event, something prestigious, driving media attention to our sport. I do see his point.  With that in mind, this event isn’t filling the bill indeed, and the timing is possibly as bad as it can be… clashing with the Wimbledon Championships 🙄

Back to yesterday’s results … Robert Milkins topping his group was to be expected.

The other group looked more open. Aaron Hill played the best snooker all day and deservedly topped it. I think we will see a very different Aaron this term and the next. He fell off the tour and immediately regained his tour card via the Q-School. It was a very tough experience and Aaron rated this achievement above beating Ronnie on his debut.

To be sitting here after getting through Q School is a much bigger achievement than beating Ronnie,”

There was much more pressure out there and I think it is probably the biggest achievement of my life. I was thrown in at the deep end on the tour and didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was. But I have got a second chance and I am determined to make the most of it.

The quote I put in bold is exactly the expression of the biggest problem in snooker nowadays. Young amateurs  arrive on tour totally unprepared for what awaits them. Some like Aaron survive it and get stronger. Others are completely destroyed by the experience and might never recover. I do have a few names in mind but will refrain to name anyone as they might feel singled out and hurt. And of course, it’s even harder for players coming from  outside UK/Ireland, having to cope with a diffrent culture, a different language, possibly administrative “hassle”, away from family and friends.


(*) This of course is a very serious, fundamental issue that need to be adressed if we want snooker to thrive in the future.

Today is the first day of the 2022/23 snooker season

Indeed the ranking 2022 Championship League Snooker starts today, with two groups of 4 players in action. None of the poster boys are “out” playing today, but Zhao Xintong will start his season tomorrow.

All matches are either televised or streamed. He is how you can watch it.

And this is how it works:

Groups are made up of four players, with players seeded according to World Rankings and one player from each seeding pool (1-32, 33-64, 65-96, 97-128) in each group.

Players will be awarded three points for a win and one point for a drawn match.

The group table standings will be determined by the following criteria, in this order:
1) Most points
2) Net frame difference
3) Result of match between the two players in question (should three or more players be tied then a mini table will be produced using the criteria above).
4) Highest break in the group.
5) If the highest break is also tied, the next highest break made by the players in question will be used.

The CLS isn’t everyone’s favourite tournament and it’s true that it “drags” a bit. It’s also not “helped” this year by “clashing” with Wimbledon…

On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for the “rookies” on tour: they are guaranteed three matches, streamed, against opponents of various strength. There are no spectators, which might actually ease the pressure on them too.

In the first “round”, the group winners get £3000, the runner-ups get £2000, the “third placed” get £1000. Only the lasts in the groups get nothing (except experience). In most tournaments it’s half the entrants who get nothing.

The “Home Page” for the event is here.

The site has been getting ready for the new season with all the currently relevant ranking and seeding lists up-to-date. Here is where you will be able to follow the 2022 ranking CLS.

As it stands, we now know 130 of the 131 2022/23 Tour professionals. Still Missing is the African Champion. This is the draw for the Group stage of the Qualifying event. To be honest, I’m not sure where we can find and follow the results of this tournament.

One player who hasn’t entered the CLS is Stephen Hendry. That’s not surprising, but, in my opinion at least, it’s a mistake. If Stephen really has any ambition to get back at the Crucible, he needs to play competitively much more than he did in the previous two years, he actually need to play in everything, no matter how unprestigious the event might feel. He got another two years invitational card and I’m not sure he deserved it, no matter his status in the history of the game. I know that Legends like him do put bums on seats … but only if they actually play. Jimmy White and Ken Doherty certainly make the most of theit invitational tour cards, and they are still extremely popular with the fans. Stephen has barely played over the last two years, and his “Tour card” could have – and maybe should have – been given to someone who actually would play at every opportunity. As I wrote this is only my opinion and I’m aware it might be a very unpopular one.

One player we are unlikely to see this season is Sunny Akani. He’s back to Thailand and still far from fully recovered from “long covid” A few days back, Sunny’s father posted on Sunny’s facebook page, explaining that this season the main goals for his son will be to get healthy and strong again and to rediscover his former “enjoyment” when playing. He added that the plan is currently for Sunny to try to regain his tour card at the end of this season via the Asia-Oceania Q-School. Good luck Sunny!

Other than Ronnie (of course) my main focus this season will be on the young players from mainland Europe.  Amongst them two Belgian teenagers: Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq. A couple of days ago WST wrote this piece about them:

Ben Mertens will be one of three Belgian players on the World Snooker Tour in 2022/23, having turned professional for the first time.

Mertens may be a familiar face to keen watchers of the sport as he made his television debut at the age of just 14 at the Shoot Out in 2019 and beat James Wattana. Later that year, he was half of the Belgian team which reached the quarter-finals of the Snooker World Cup in China, alongside Luca Brecel. Playing matches against the likes of John Higgins and Stephen Maguire provided valuable experience for Mertens.

In 2020, he became the youngest player ever to win a match in the World Championship (a record subsequently beaten by Liam Davies) with a 6-2 victory over James Cahill in the first qualifying round. Mertens came close to securing a tour card on several occasions before eventually earning his opportunity at the top table by winning this month’s European Under-21 Championship, beating Florian Nuessle 5-1 in the final.

I feel I am ready for it now,” said the 17-year-old as he looked ahead to his first pro season. “In the past I have had some tough defeats, but they have made me stronger. Looking back, it was better for me to stay amateur for a few years and wait until I was 100 per cent ready to turn pro. It’s what I have dreamed of since I started playing snooker.

In the last 16 I was 3-1 down against Ross Bulman and I managed to find another gear and win the last three frames in one visit. After that I felt very confident. I had another close match against Julian Boiko in the quarter-finals and won 4-3 with a good break in the last frame. The final wasn’t easy but after going 3-1 up I felt I was going to win.

For good measure, Mertens reached the final of the men’s European Championship, and despite defeat there against Andres Petrov, he has plenty of momentum to take into his rookie season. Joining him on that journey will be his fellow Belgian teenager Julien Leclercq, who won the WPBSA Q Tour Play-Off in May.

Julien and I started playing at the same time, we have grown up together and motivated each other to keep improving,” said Mertens, who first picked up a cue at the age of eight after spotting a mini pool table in a toy shop. “We are good friends and I’m sure we will often travel together to tournaments. It’s nice for me to have him there in my first season, going through the same experience.

Both of them are inspired by the success of Brecel, the only player from mainland Europe to win a ranking event. And there are more promising Belgian youngsters with potential to break through, such as Sybren Sokolowski, Stef Nuytkens, Mathias Van Der Meeren, Yorrit Hoes and Thijs Pauwels, who was runner-up to Mertens in this year’s Belgian Under-18 Championship.

It’s unbelievable for a small country to have three players on the tour,” said Mertens, who – like Brecel – plans to live in Belgium and commute to the UK for tournaments. He has a Star table at home and will practise regularly with both Leclercq and Brecel.

Asked to name his strengths as a player, Mertens added: “My scoring is good and I have the right mentality  – I never give up. I know the pro game will be a big step up but also it will be great to play in perfect conditions. Staying on the tour is hard enough so that will be my main ambition for the first two years.


Veel geluk, Ben! Bonne chance Julien!

Their fathers are close friends too and both families will be behind them both.

Main Tour News – 23.06.2022

Let’s start with the good news …

The venues for the Home Nations have been decided and the Scottish Open returns to Scotland … as it should.

From what I understand, a newsletter was circulated and here is Phil Haigh reporting on the main points of interest:

Snooker’s Scottish Open and Welsh Open get new homes for 2022/23 season

The Scottish Open will return to Scotland this season after a brief trip to Wales last year, while the Welsh Open moves to Llandudno for the 2022/23 campaign.

It was an unusual Scottish Open in 2021, with a contractual issue forcing a late switch from Glasgow to north Wales due to the tournament being sponsored by a bookmaker.

It returns to Scotland in 2022, but not to Glasgow which has been its home for the majority of its latest incarnation, but to Edinburgh for the event that runs from 28 November to 4 December.

World Snooker Tour confirmed the switch in their Cue News newsletter, although did not announce which venue would be used in the Scottish capital.

In a previous life, the Scottish Open was last hosted in Edinburgh in 2003 at the Royal Highland Centre, when David Gray beat Mark Selby in the final to lift the title.

The newsletter also confirmed that the Welsh Open will be making the move to Llandudno for the first time in its history.

The tournament dates back to 1992 and has either been held in Cardiff or Newport since its inception, but will move north to Llandudno in 2023 from 13-19 February.

Llandudno has become a feature on the World Snooker Tour in recent years, also hosting the Tour Championship in 2019 and ’22, but the eight-man event is set to move on this season.

Hull is expected to be announced as the new home of the Tour Championship for 2023.

Now onto the bad news …

WST published this statement yesterday:

WPBSA Statement – Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon

After careful consideration the WPBSA Board has taken the decision not to admit Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon as a Member of the WPBSA.

This decision has been taken in the best interests of the WPBSA and the sport. This means that he will be unable to take a place on the World Snooker Tour for the forthcoming season.

This is due to outstanding serious disciplinary matters from when he was last on the World Snooker Tour in 2015. ​Thanawat is cooperating fully with the WPBSA to resolve the outstanding issues.

This World Snooker Tour place will now be offered to Asjad Iqbal of Pakistan who is the next in line on the Asia-Oceania Q School Order of Merit.

So, apparently, this decision is related to this nearly seven years old statement:

The WPBSA was today alerted to unusual betting patterns regarding the match between Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon and Martin O’Donnell at the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany.

The WPBSA monitors betting on ALL professional snooker and has the most sophisticated methods available today. Working with partners worldwide and by liaising with the Gambling Commission, the WPBSA will review the available facts surrounding betting on this match. A decision will then be taken on whether any further action is necessary.

It wasn’t the first time that Thanawat had been in trouble. Already in August 2013, he had been involved in a very serious incident:

Firebomb attack on Sheffield home of snooker players in corruption probe

The Sheffield home of two Thai snooker players under investigation for possible match-fixing has been firebombed in a premeditated arson attack, The Mail on Sunday reveals.

Although the police have established no fixed motive for the arson, which resulted in two people needing medical treatment, one line of inquiry is that it could be linked to gambling on snooker.

Violent crime has been a blot on Thai snooker historically. Thailand’s best player, James Wattana, a former world No 3, once had a death threat to encourage him to lose a match, and his father was shot dead in 1992, said to be as a result of gambling debts.

Suggestions that Asian fixers could be trying to influence British snooker will send a chill through the sport – hence the complete secrecy, until now, about the arson attack.

The Mail on Sunday reveals it happened at a house in the Brinsworth area of Rotherham, near Sheffield, early on Friday August 30.

The property is owned by a snooker academy boss, Keith Warren, and two of those to have stayed there are Thai players, Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon, 19, and Passakorn Suwannawat, 27.

The attack came three weeks after snooker’s governing body, the WPBSA, announced they were investigating unusual betting patterns on matches played in Doncaster by Passakorn and Thanawat on August 7.

Money had been placed on Thanawat, the world No 75, and Passakorn, ranked No 92, to lose in a qualifying event for the Shanghai Masters. Both fell to lower-ranked opponents. Bookmakers suspended betting before the matches and the WPBSA announced immediately they would liaise with the Gambling Commission to ‘establish the available facts’.

Almost seven weeks on, the inquiry is continuing. ‘We are continuing to look at the two matches, and I can confirm there was an arson attack,’ said snooker’s head of integrity Nigel Mawer, formerly the head of the Economic and Specialist Crime Command at the Met Police. ‘Whether the matches are connected to the arson, I don’t know, but that is one of several possibilities that could be considered.

The two players were not in the house at the time of the attack, having left for Thailand three or four days earlier, and wanted to remain anonymous.

A local fire brigade spokeswoman said three fire engines attended a blaze at 2.30am and two occupants were told how to stay safe until rescued. ‘The door area of the house was on fire and the rest of the property was smoke-logged,’ said the spokeswoman. A brigade investigation found the fire was ‘deliberate’ and the police took over.

It is understood that the WPBSA were alerted that cash in Asian markets had been wagered on the Thai players’ qualifiers, and peculiar betting patterns were also seen in the UK.

Snooker is grappling with one major match-fix case already. Former world No 5 Stephen Lee, 38, was found guilty last week on seven counts of fixing games or frames in 2008-09 and faces a possible life ban.

There was also a report by Snookerbacker at the time:

Arson About at Thai Player’s Home

It’s been made public this morning that the residence in Rotherham which houses the Thai snooker players was subjected to an arson attack back in August, just three weeks after two of them fell under suspicion for match fixing.

While it has not been established if there is a concrete link between the dodgy goings-on in Doncaster which saw Passakorn Suwannawat and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon both lose in the wake of unusual betting patterns it does seem coincidental that their house, which they were not in at the time, was targeted.

If this is the case, this is a sinister twist in the story, I understand that the attack followed a visit from the police to question the players about any involvement in match fixing.

Nigel Mawer, the head of the sniffer dogs at the Integrity Unit said ‘Whether the matches are connected to the arson, I don’t know, but that is one of several possibilities that could be considered.’ He didn’t mention what the other ones were.

Thai snooker is no stranger to controversy of this kind and even a casual Google Search of James Wattana will reveal death threats and even murder linked to such things, so it’s not something that you really want to get yourself involved with if you value your health.

The fire brigade have established that the fire was started deliberately and it is now in the hands of the police to investigate who might be behind it and for what reason.

I have also received unconfirmed reports that Passakorn is unlikely to continue his professional snooker career having had his funding withdrawn and is back in Thailand unlikely to return.

Passakorn indeed didn’t return to the main tour, but Thanawhat did.

As for the threats on James Wattana, here is more information:

Snooker star in death threat

Bradford-based snooker star James Wattana received a death threat just hours before a major match in Bangkok, it was revealed today.

Wattana was told to “be prepared to die” less than three hours before he lost 5-2 to Ken Doherty in the second round of the Thailand Masters.

The call, which was taken seriously, was made to Wattana’s mobile phone from a public booth believed to be near to the venue.

He was given full police protection, but his mother, Ployrung, still pleaded with her son to withdraw, claiming it was not worth the risk to continue.

The anonymous call, which is under investigation, could well have been linked to an illegal betting ring.

Seven years ago Wattana’s father was gunned down by an assassin in Bangkok while, some 6,000 miles away in Derby, his son compiled a maximum 147 break at the British Open.

“I told James not to play,” said his mother, who was seen crying during the match. “This tournament just isn’t worth the risk. I lost my husband and I don’t want to lose my son as well.”

After the match with Doherty, Wattana joked: “It was good that the guy asked me to lose. What would I have done if he’d asked me to win? Against Ken that would have been very difficult.”

His father Kowin Phu-ob-orm, was shot dead in an argument over gambling debts. Two men suspected of the killing were later shot dead in a Bangkok street by police.

The Daily Telegraph snooker correspondent, John Dee, who is covering the tournament in Bangkok, said today: “We did not know about the death threat until after James had played.

“I spoke to him last night and he was very subdued. After the match he gave his snooker cue and case away – he was suspicious about it bringing bad luck. A lot of the players here are shocked at what happened but James will be moving onto China next week for another tournament and trying to put this behind him.”

Wattana became an adopted Bradfordian in 1989 when he moved to the city from London. He is based in Allerton and practices there at the Cuedos Snooker Club.

In December Wattana, who spends half the year in Bradford and half in Bangkok, broke down in tears at a press conference after a shock 5-1 defeat in the Asian Games in Bangkok.

After a doubles defeat where he was representing his country, Wattana said: “The pressure has been unbelievable , the worst I have ever felt. I could not see straight, walk straight or think straight….it was that bad.”

After last night’s dramatic death threat, Wattana, who was the Thai Masters Champion in 1994 and 1995, lost his match.

Now, what do I make of all this?

Well … so many things feel wrong to me here.

  1. From the moment Thanawhat entered the Asia-Oceania Q-School, there was always a real possibility that he could win it. Why take his money and allow him to compete if he wasn’t going to be allowed to join the main tour anyway?
  2. The “initial” 2015 statement is nearly 7 years old. Why hasn’t this been resolved yet? Why dig it out now?
  3. James Wattana stories and the arson show that some Thai players have been put under very serious threats by – as far as we know – the Thai betting mafia. Whilst match fixers must be punished, it seems to me that in these cases the main culprits – the betting rings – aren’t punished at all, whilst their victims – the frightened players – are put in an impossible situation. 

I do hope that WPBSA will explain their decisions further and that we will eventually understand the how and why of this mess.

30 Years Ago … Ronnie, Willo and John Higgins made their professional debuts

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the “Class of 92” debut …

To mark the day, David Hendon wrote this… 


On the 30th anniversary of the famous Class of ’92 arriving on the scene, Eurosport’s esteemed snooker writer Dave Hendon looks back on the day that saw a legendary trio begin the professional journeys that would change the sport forever. How did these three players achieve snooker immortality over the same period of time, and will this kind of era ever be seen again?


June 20th, 1992. John Major sits in Downing Street after a surprise election win. George Bush – the first one – is in the last months of his US presidency. Basic Instinct is No. 1 in the UK box office. The first-ever FA Premier League season is a few weeks from lift-off.

And in a hotel on Blackpool’s seafront, the new snooker season is getting underway. Hundreds of hopefuls are lining up, many now long forgotten. But among the new intake, three will go on to achieve snooker immortality. The star pupils of the Class of ’92 – Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams – are taking their first steps in the professional ranks.

Fast forward 30 years, and they have won a combined total of 94 ranking titles. Between them have made 2,623 centuries in competition, 29 of which have been maximums. They have amassed around £30m in prize money and been recurring characters in the ongoing narrative of professional snooker, hitting heights, experiencing lows, but always recovering, and at times, amazing fans with their performances.

But the most remarkable thing to note on this 30th anniversary is that they are all still at the top. When the new season begins at the Championship League next week, all three will be ranked inside the world’s top eight. O’Sullivan is world No. 1 and the reigning world champion. Higgins is starting a record 28th successive season in the top 16. Williams will be the defending champion at the British Open in September.

How did all of this happen?

They were born at the right time, just before the UK snooker boom and so were young boys at its height. In the mid-1980s, with snooker attracting huge audiences on all four TV channels, there was nothing unusual about a 10-year-old being interested in the game. Live football on television was scarce. There was no home internet, no social media and no streaming platforms.

Sport just about retained an innocence a few years before tides of cash started washing over it. These boys weren’t playing for money. They were playing because they found something they were good at, something they had fallen in love with.

They all owed their development to their fathers. Ronnie senior spotted his son’s potential early on and was soon arranging for leading amateurs and professionals to come and play him on the full-sized table he had installed in their home. Higgins was taken with his brother to a club at the age of nine by their dad, who could have a pint and chat to his friends while the boys were occupied on the table. Williams’ father was a miner and it was at a Christmas tournament between pitmen where young Mark first saw the game close up.

They benefited from a plethora of playing opportunities in their respective corners of the UK: O’Sullivan in south-east England, Higgins in Scotland and Williams in south Wales.

They each enjoyed success on their respective home soils before eventually colliding head-on at the junior event staged as part of the World Masters in Birmingham in January 1991. O’Sullivan was the favourite but Higgins beat him in the quarter-finals and Williams in the final. 17 months later, they all turned professional.

The big beasts of the snooker world back in 1992 did not need to worry about events in Blackpool. The likes of Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Jimmy White would be enjoying the beach or the golf course, safely seeded through to the final stages of all the major events which were still several months away.

Snooker had long been a closed shop but was opened up the previous year to anyone with a cue who could afford the entry fees. Old stagers on the way down mixed with new hopefuls. In 1992, Joe Perry and Dominic Dale were among those starting out.

At the Norbreck Castle Hotel, it was a production line, with hundreds of matches played to determine the qualifiers for the ranking events. One day it would be the UK Championship, the next the Dubai Classic. It barely mattered, the environment was the same – two rows of more than 20 tables housed in the grand ballroom while holidaymakers enjoyed the attractions outside.

Young Ronnie - 1992

This was like going to snooker university for a group of young players away from home for up to two months. Some treated it as a holiday or a prolonged stag-do. For the soon-to-be holy trinity, the fun came from winning.

Journalist and broadcaster Phil Yates covered the qualifying school back in 1992. He remembers a buzz about all three players, with O’Sullivan standing out.

They were all good lads,” he said. “John is probably the least changed of the three. He was always very approachable, down to earth. Mark was a little shy, he’s become much more of an extrovert.

When I watched John, I couldn’t believe how savvy he was at such a young age. He played all the right shots and Mark clearly had great potential too. We knew John and Mark could be champions, but Ronnie was guaranteed.

He stayed in the same hotel room for two months. He’d be playing pretty much every day and people piled in to watch him, they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was a revelation how good he was. In terms of reputation, when they turned pro he was head and shoulders above the others but that gap quickly closed.

O’Sullivan, just 16, was successful in 74 of his 76 qualifying matches. Among them was a meeting with 77-year-old Fred Davis, who had won eight world titles in the post-war era. The teenager beat him 5-1.

O’Sullivan had boundless energy, some of which he would burn off by going for long runs on Blackpool beach. One morning he got up so early to play golf that it was still getting light as he stood on the first tee.

He was clearly the best player there, ferociously talented if not yet the finished article. In his debut season, he made 29 centuries from 112 matches played. Last season he made 62 centuries from 61 matches. The furthest O’Sullivan went in a ranking event in 1992/93 was the quarter-finals of the European Open.

Ronnie and Higgins in 2005-2006

Higgins reached this stage of the British Open. He had grown up as a fan of Davis and quickly adopted the same percentage game to deadly effect. He ended up becoming world champion first, in 1998, with Williams following in 2000 and O’Sullivan in 2001.

Williams had turned professional because, at 17, he was too old for the Welsh under-16s and too young for the over-18s. He shared a bed in Blackpool with another Welsh player, Ian Sargeant, to save money. His best run that first year was to the last 16 of the European Open.

One of snooker’s great contrarians, Williams will probably feel he doesn’t belong in this article. He has said several times that he does not compare himself to his two great contemporaries, but he has done things the other two have not.

In the 2002/03 season, he emulated Davis and Hendry by winning the UK, Masters and world titles during a single campaign, a feat which would now be regarded as remarkable since the ‘triple crown’ has gained currency in recent years.

During this period of incredible consistency, Williams set a record of 48 successive first-round wins in ranking events. When his form finally dipped, O’Sullivan stepped up again, and when he fell away for a spell, Higgins enjoyed success. All three have spurred each other on. Every last hurrah they apparently enjoy is swiftly followed by another one.

One by one, O’Sullivan has come for Hendry’s records. He is top of the all-time centuries list, has won most ranking events, holds the record for most UK and Masters trophies and has equalled Hendry’s haul of seven world titles.

Last year, Higgins won the Players Championship for the loss of only four frames while Williams captured two ranking titles.

They have achieved all this while having to contend with each other, as well as champions of the previous era and newer challengers like Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Judd Trump. For a while, they did so amid troubling times for snooker’s administration – now thankfully long in the past – which saw the circuit at one point dwindle to only six ranking events.

In current times, the three-way rivalry has resembled a kind of mutually-assured destruction. It seems O’Sullivan always beats Williams but Williams has had the upper hand over Higgins, whereas Higgins enjoyed a good recent record against O’Sullivan.

Ronnie and Willo - Crucible 2008

This ended when O’Sullivan beat Higgins in the semi-finals of the World Championship earlier this year. Williams, who arguably played the best snooker for much of the tournament, just missed out on playing O’Sullivan in the final, losing 17-16 in the other semi to Trump, who had joked that he had landed in the semi-finals of the World Seniors Championship. Players of his generation must wonder when the Class of ’92 are going to finally go away and leave the field to the rest.

There’s no sign of it. All three have retained good eyesight. They don’t practise all day long anymore but put in quality time. They possess knowledge and table-craft from lengthy careers which mean they can win any type of frame, whether through heavy scoring or tactical play.

They are three remarkable characters, all very different but with individual qualities that, if combined, would produce the ultimate snooker player.

They all get on without being close friends. Away from snooker, they have their own lives and their own families, but there is a healthy respect between all three and recognition that, collectively, they are part of something special.

They could surely never have believed, back on this day 30 years ago, tasting the salty sea air in Blackpool as they arrived as teenagers, cues in hand, excited and ready for an adventure, that three decades on they would have done all that they have.

And the frightening thing is that there is very likely much more to come. It could be a long time before this class is dismissed.

30 years later they are all three in the top 8. As it stands they are all three in the top 6 of  the provisional end-of-season rankings for this (new) season 2022/23.

Ronnie is number 1 with a 331500 points cushion on Neil Robertson who is number 2. Willo is 6th with a 176000 points cushion on the number 17, Stuart Bingham. There is every chance for all three of them to still be in the top 16 at the start of next season.

Off topic… Looking at those provisional rankings, I was shocked to find out that Mark Selby finds himself as low as number 22 in that list and that Shaun Murphy is even lower as he is down to 35th. Selby is currently ranked number 3, and of course, he has the 2021 Crucible points to defend. Shaun Murphy is currently ranked number 9 … Both will need a strong season.


Africa Nomination, Ronnie News and Pictures – 20 June 2022

In just over a week from now, the 2022/23 season will start with the 2022 ranking Championship League. There is still one main tour spot to be allocated: the Africa Nominated.

Here is a letter from Jason Ferguson, explaining the qualifying process:


The 20th of June is … today. At the time of writing I’m not sure if there is a way to follow these competions and I have no clue about the format. When Amine Amiri qualified for the main tour, the format was very short, and the field very “small”. There is no way Amine was ready for the main tour and he was a lamb for the slaughter. I want to hope that, this time, there will be a bigger field and that the format will be longer.

I went with Ronnie to an exhibition in Casablanca. If my memory isn’t failing me it was at that same club. If so, the venue is nice and welcoming. Some of the amateurs Ronnie played  had a very decent level, but not high enough for the professional circuit.

About Ronnie … he’s left Singapore yesterday. He was extremely happy and thankful with the “RoSSA” experience.

Thank you to all the staff at @rossa147_ for making my first visit to Singapore a huge Success. I really enjoyed my time here. See you all soon.

The RoSSA academy shared more pictures …

I’m not sure what happened with the “Four Men Tournament”. I left a question on RoSSA’s FB page but got no answer so far.

You would expect Zhao to beat Mink and Ronnie to beat the local amateur.

In this series there are pictures of what is likely just of one frame, between Zhao and Ronnie and the sequence of pictures suggests that Zhao won it.

Big thanks to snooker155 We now have the results of the four men tournament and an explanation for the previously published video (see comment section)

Here is what was reported by Singapore media about the 4 men tournament

Snooker star Ronnie O’Sullivan emerged the winner of a four-player tournament on Saturday (18 June) to launch his snooker academy at The Grandstand.

The defeated China’s world No.6 Zhao Xintong 4-2 in the best-of-seven final. He had earlier beaten Singapore’s Jaden Ong – who is one of the scholarship recipients at the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy – while Zhao defeated Thailand’s reigning women’s world champion Nutcharut Wongharuthai to advance into the final.

And the videos shared by Gappa Gappa, including the one previously shared here but in a better quality.

24 june 2022 update …

… and now the 4-men pictures have been shared on RoSSA FB page 

Mink beat Jaden for the “third place” too