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.