Rolf Kalb reflects on the 2023 German Masters Qualifiers Fiasco

Rolf Kalb has been reflecting on the outcome of the recent German Masters qualifiers and how their outcome may possibly impact the tournament and the future of snooker in Germany.

The original text is in German but a translation is offered and here it is:


The elimination of many top players in the qualification for the German Masters caused shock waves. This leads to discussions in the snooker world. Only six players from the current top 16 in the world rankings managed to qualify. Ronnie O’Sullivan had canceled his launch; the others failed in the preliminary rounds. As a result, critical voices calling for changes increased.

OF ROLF CALF PUBLISHED 07/12/2022 AT 16:02 GMT+2

Judd Trump indicated to the portal “The Sportsman” that he might not take part in the German Masters next year. He demanded more prize money and that the top players didn’t have to play a qualifier. He also criticized that the German Masters had not developed further.

Of course, the many failures in qualifying cannot be explained away. It’s annoying for the fans. One explanation for the cancellations is that the qualification was played immediately after the UK Championship. One week on the big stage at an outstanding tournament, the other week in the prosaic qualifying environment, with practically no spectators and, above all, no atmosphere. This is worse than a cold shower. That can be demotivating. 

However, the many surprises at the subsequent Scottish Open naturally put this finding into perspective.Of course, more prize money is always great for the players. Nobody has anything against that. But the money has to come from somewhere. There’s nothing left to get from the fans. The income from TV rights cannot be increased indefinitely either. So only sponsors remain. In view of the currently very difficult economic environment, however, there are also limits in this area.

Then there is the question of qualifying the top players. Should the top 16 no longer have to qualify, that would mean 32 more matches in the Tempodrom. However, it is not possible to set up more tables in the Tempodrom (you tried it once and then rightly left it again very quickly). So the tournament would have to be extended. The Tempodrom is a great location, but unfortunately also an expensive one. I doubt that the ticket sales for Monday and/or Tuesday will cover the additional costs. 

In addition, other events usually take place in the Tempodrom on the weekend before the snooker. And the expansion for the German Masters now takes two days. So where are the extra tournament days supposed to come from? Apart from the fact that there is still the question of whether the team, which consists largely of volunteers, is able to handle it.Looking for another venue for the German Masters is also not a good idea. 

The Tempodrom in particular gives the German Masters a special status. As a result, the tournament has an extremely high recognition value. Not doing so would devalue the German Masters extremely.One suggestion was that four players only have to play one qualifying match. After that, you would first play the first qualifying round completely. The top four who have reached the second round then play their next match in Berlin. 

However, this has the disadvantage that the players who are not financially well off would have to stay for up to a week in the qualification and not just two days. They also say thank you in view of the costs incurred.

So it’s a dilemma. The only option I see right now is a staggered betting system similar to that of the World Championship or UK Championship. The top 16 would then be seeded for the final round and would definitely play in the Tempodrom. But that should raise concerns on the World Snooker Tour that this could be the beginning of the end of the flat draw.

I think Judd Trump’s suggestion to give the German Masters more event character through additional activities and attractions is very good. But you also have to consider that the foyer in the Tempodrom does not offer many spatial possibilities.But I’m sure of one thing: A cessation of the German Masters would be a disaster for snooker Germany. 

But it would also be a serious setback for the World Snooker Tour in the internationalisation of the sport.

It’s certainly no coincidence that at this moment I’m thinking about how much we miss Brandon Parker.

Best regards

Yours, Rolf Kalb

The green background has been added by me. Yes, this is indeed the only solution and by far the best format as the UK Championship has proven. I would be very happy to see the end of the flat draw for all tournaments except the British Open and the Home Nations. When/if snooker returns to China the tiered system should be the format as well.

I would however want to see that “qualifying week” systematically played just before the event and at or close to the main event location. I really want to see the end of the UK centric organisation of snooker. The dates would be known from the start of the season, with plenty of time to get the required documents (i.e VISAs) and organise the travels.

The form players would be at the main venue, instead those who were on form two months before the event. We wouldn’t have the absurd situation where young “local” players are offered a wildcard, allegedly to promote snooker “locally”, only to have to travel and lose in soulless qualifiers in the UK.

And if the calendar is planned properly, traveling can be limited by having a UK/Irish leg, a mainland Europe leg and an Asian leg. Yes, it will mean being away from home longer for the UK players, and it will be more expensive for them too. But, hey, that’s been the fate of everyone else until now, as under the current organisation, most non UK players have to live as ex-pats in the UK … Remember it’s called WORLD snooker.

9 thoughts on “Rolf Kalb reflects on the 2023 German Masters Qualifiers Fiasco

  1. I certainly find it insane that ranking is based on money earned and players get more ranking points for the same effort (number and length of matches) simply because a tournament has bigger and richer sponsors. On the other hand, Trump’s asking for more prize money is moot, because he lost anyway, unless he would like to suggest that for more money he would have won, which is ridiculous.

    It is obviously absurd that the qualifying and the actual tournament are not on consecutive weeks (to reflect some kind of form): I do understand the difficulties posed by trying to use the same venue, but if the absence of the top players counts as a “fiasco” for the tournament, then they need to do something with the draw – or just accept it.

    • And it should not count as a “fiasco” because the players still left in the event will definitely feel a bit weird about this. And also it is completely random that this happened for the German Masters, which seems to be seen as a springboard for the popularity of snooker in europe, which can be true but can’t be as well (there are critical voices from players and fans as well, that the venue is distractingly big and the seats are really miles away from the main table) and I doubt it if there had been that kind of uprise if it had been for an English Open in Crawley for example. So should lower ranked players try not so hard if it is for popular events? Obviously not.

      • there are usually more top players missing at the German Masters quite simply because it has 2 rounds of qualifiers AND the quals used to be the last thing played before the Xmas break. But this year’s edition has been even worse despite being played earlier, hence the “fiasco” wording. As for the venue, yes, it’s not perfect, especially in the early rounds. “Uneven” lighting on the side tables has been an issue. Yes the seats are not really close to the tables. But, contrary to the Crucible, you actually see well from every seat at the Tempodrom and the atmosphere is extraordinary, especially for the SFs and Final. I heard players complaining about applauses for the other tables distracting them, but isn’t that the same at the Crucible? There were also complaints of being distracted by what happened on adjacent tables when 64 players traveled to Berlin as there were more tables in the arena, and they were too close to each other, but that’s no more the case.
        But you misses Rolf’s main point. If the German Masters were to disappear it would be a massive blow for snooker in Germany, and in mainland Europe. Already there aren’t that many tournaments in the area.

    • Yes Monique, it’s called WORLD snooker tour. And it’s called PROFESSIONAL snooker tour as well. To those who constantly write about “shocks”: What’s the point in calling oneself a professional tour if players ranked from 33-128 beating players ranked from 1-32 are shocks. Then just call yourself “Professional snooker tour with 96 numpties” haha, to quote the great ROS ofc.

      • I often rebelled against the “over-use” of the word shock. Especially over the last 3-4 years. The level of the players raked 32-80 has massively improved. As for the “numpties” there are still players with no hope on the tour, but less so than a few years back.

  2. Yes we appear to be reaching a crossroads in the structures imposed by WST. They will have to keep making so many compromises in order to keep some tournaments alive, that it brings into question the whole system. This problem will only be magnified if/when the Chinese events are possible again.

    Actually, if Ronnie had played and beaten Oliver Brown and Liam Highfield to qualify, then we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion now. I can only assume that Ronnie’s late withdrawal was to allow the organisers in Berlin extra time to come up with something – the exhibitions in Bulgaria were already scheduled.

    I’ve seen all this coming for about 6 years, when I first went to the Tempodrom. I have the solution, but I also have no confidence in WST to make the necessary changes to allow the game to become global. The ‘World Snooker Tour’ rebranding was always just rhetoric, regardless of covid.

    The reason why they’ve stuck so closely to the ‘ranking tournament’ vice, is that the sponsors wanted to ensure that all 128 players (including all top players) are forced to appear in all the tournaments. But with the qualifier situation, that argument disintegrates totally – top players might lose. It’s also increasingly common for big names (Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ding Junhui) to miss some tournaments anyway, confident that their inflated prize-money position will keep them in the top-16 regardless.

    I’m not against tiered draws at all, but if all of the big events operated this way it would mean that a top-16 player would be given too much protection. They would only need to win about 40% of their matches to keep their position. That’s not a generalised argument, it’s a calculation based on the prize-money allocations that we now have, which are more top-heavy than in 2014.

    • All that is true and you probably would agree that if converting to a rating system proves too much to expect from WST, going back to a point based ranking system, were points are allocated on the basis of the tournament format (match length mainly) rather than the money list, would be somewhat better because it would not need to be so top heavy. The prize money could still be what it is. The very top heavy prize money system has only one purpose: making snooker look bigger than it actually is. “Oh look X has won over a million pounds in a year! Yeah … but the vast majority of the players can’t even make a decent living. That, of course, is denied. The old tiered system offered too much protection mainly because a losing seed still got the same points as the previous round winners. If that is removed, if losing means 0 points, no matter the round, that protection disappears.

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