News from Down Under – 8 February 2023

The “main” 2023 WSF Championship is currently underway in Mount Pritchard, Australia, and has reached the knock-out stage. You will find the knockout draw here. Such event can be a bit difficult to follow during the group stages with so many players involved, and so many matches over four days. Now however it becomes more interesting,

A number of names in this draw caught my eye, for various reasons

  • Wang Yuchen. I met Wang in 2012 in Yixing. He was part of a group of promising juniors that also comprised Lyu Haotian, Zhou Yuelong and Zhao Xintong. Lyu was the centre of all attentions at the time. Wang was different from the other boys. He was the only one who spoke English fluently and was willing to engage with me. He came across as a very intelligent and mature young teenager. He told me that his family originated from Hong Kong – I see he’s now playing under Hong Kong flag indeed – and that his father insisted that he should get a good education. Therefore he couldn’t put as much efforts in his snooker as the other boys.
  • Liam Davies from Wales. He’s been tipped as one for the future for a long time. A very solid player and a hard worker, he has to be one of the favourites here.
  • Iulian Boiko. Iulian qualified for the professional tour in 2020 by reaching the final in this very event. He was only 14, far too young to be a professional IMO. He wasn’t helped by the disruptions caused by the covid crisis, being away from home as such a young age and, certainly having to continue his formal mandatory education. He’s Ukrainian. The terrible situation in his country surely is a major worry … it might also be an inspiration.
  • Nattanapong Chaikul from Thailand. Inspired by James Wattana, snooker remains strong in Thailand. The Thai girls dominated the 2023 WWS Asia-Pacific Championship. Noppon Saengkham impresses on the main tour this season. Nattanapong Chaikul is only 17, he reached the QFs in the junior event played last week. Can he do better this week?
  • Sean Maddocks is another former pro, he’s 20. To be honest I don’t rate him at all. His results on the main tour were dire. This season, on the Q-Tour, his best result was a last 16, in Sweden. In the UK events, where the opposition was stronger he didn’t go past the last 64… He has won his first match in the knock-out phase though and will face Fergal Quinn, a 22 years old from Northern Ireland, who is also often cited as a “great prospect” but whose best result in the Q-Tour this season was only a “last 64”, again in Sweden.
  • We have two players from Latvia in the draw: Rodion Judins and Filips Kalnins. Rodion is now 25, was once seen as “one for the future” but didn’t achieve much, Filips on the other hand is only 17 and reached the semi-finals of the WSF Junior event played last week. They might play each other in the last 32 this time. Rodion is already through his first match. Filips is playing
  • Stan Moody (16 years old) already earned his Tour Card by winning the WSF Junior event last week. In the last 32, he could face Zac Cosker, 17 years old from Wales, who reached the quarter-finals in that same event. He was beaten by Filips Kalnins at that stage. Liam Pullen, who Stan beat in the final, is also competing in this event.
  • We have a very – pleasantly – surprising match in the last 64 round currently underway: Peter Geronimo is currently playing Daniel Womersley. Daniel is 31 and has been a constant presence in the PTC events in their time, his presence at this stage of the WSF event is no surprise. Peter’s achievement however is another story: indeed Peter, aged 33, is a regular on the World Disability Snooker tour where he competes in the “Group 6B” category, a group that encompasses persons with a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. autism spectrum disorder) or neurological conditions (e.g. acquired brain injury), with IQ over 75.
  • Robby Foldvari is a blast from the past. He’s 62, he’s Australian and was a Main Tour pro from 1984 to 1997. He also was World Billiards Champion twice in 1997 and 1998. He plays nine-ball pool as well. If he could go deep here it would be quite the story!
  • Gao Yang is only 18, but is a former pro. He played on the main tour in 2020-2022. He had qualified by winning the WSF Junior event in January 2020. Gao lives in the UK and practices at Ding’s academy. Interestingly, as a junior in China, his coach is/was Ju Reti. Ju Reti was – on paper – a professional in 2014-2016 but never competed outside China during those two seasons. The reasons for this are unclear … maybe he couldn’t afford it or maybe he wasn’t allowed to. He’s an Uyghur , an ethnic group that strongly keeps their traditions and beliefs (Islam) and therefore is oppressed by the Chinese authorities.
  • Also still competing is Christian Richter from Germany. I must admit that I know nothing about Christian which is maybe not that surprising … he’s only 14!
  • Finally, we also have Alfie Lee in this draw. Alfie is Stephen Lee’s son. He’s 19, he has played in all Q-Tour events this season but has not been past the last 32.

8 thoughts on “News from Down Under – 8 February 2023

  1. Ju Reti is actually one of the most extraordinary characters in snooker. His life story is quite remarkable… He did actually play one match in the UK: after winning the Zhejiagang PCT in 2013 (beating Michael Holt in the final), he qualified for the tour finals and came over to play (losing to Judd Trump). It’s unclear why he wasn’t given CBSA funding to develop his career, but he was a bit of a maverick, depended a lot on money-matches, and as an illiterate Uyghur farmer it might have been considered too risky. He actually qualified to play in the 2019 World Open (via the Chinese ranking lists), but gave his place to Gao Yang to help the boy gain experience. Three months later, Gao won the WSF Junior and turned professional. Gao shouldn’t have dropped off tour last season – he finished £500 short on the 1-year list, being overtaken by two amateurs during World Championship qualifiers, which in my view is an unfair rule. The 1-year top-up places should be for professionals only – amateurs have several other routes available to them, including these WSF tournaments.

    With only 1 place available, it’s going to be very tense. This will favour either an experienced head, or a very young player who has no scars.

    • I knew he played that match, but he wasn’t a pro at the time. I also know about the 2019 World Open and I can”t help wondering if helping Gao Yang was his sole/main motive for not competing. As for Gao, yes, it’s a shame indeed. I know I’m in a tiny minority and that my views are quite radical but for me no amateur ever should be allowed to compete on the main tour in any capacity.. Full stop. No wild cards, no top ups, nothing. If there are withdrawals give the top players a bye and don’t give “points” for walkovers no matter the round (until the ranking system changes for a better one). They didn’t qualify, they shouldn’t be there. When a player who has nothing to lose (except maybe entry fees) is pitted against a player fighting to keep their job as a professional, the situation is utterly unfair.

      • You sound like Shaun Murphy! Of course, they have to fill the draws. If I buy tickets to an event, I don’t want to see empty tables because of byes (which in fact did happen last week, but for a different reason – the suspended players weren’t suspended 2 months ago, when the qualifiers were played).

        But it does raise a question about why there were so few ex-professionals in the WSF draw this week. Surely players like Dan Wells and Ross Muir would play in the WSF tournament to try an get back on tour? Well no, because it clashed with the Germans Masters, which offered more money, with the additional chance of tour qualification via the 1-year list…

        In general, this event in Australia may just be too expensive a venture, with only 1 place available. The juniors at least get 2 chances, which is possibly why many of the players you mentioned are so young. Liu Hongyu, whilst no longer elibible for U18, is also a contender.

        I’ve mentioned before that there are many issues with the reduced Q School (only 8 places in the UK this year), and some unclear rules in other qualifiication routes. Can relegated players qualify automatically via women’s ranking lists or Chinese ranking lists? Can relegated players enter the Asia-Oceania Q School? These are very important questions, and the answers need to be FAIR.

      • Yes, I sound like Shaun Murphy on this one. It’s one of the rare subjects we agree on. They should not play on the main tour at all, except, maybe, in the Shoot Out provided it reverts to non ranking status. And there should be no qualifiers for any flat draw tournament either. Withdrawals only impact the first round in those and even with a few there should plenty of action available to watch in early stages.
        Regarding the WSF events, surely the costs and the very long flight(s) (for Europe based players) are factors. Dan Wells was in the draw, he withdrew.
        According to Nikolay on twitter – he’s usually reliable – there will be 3 cards for CBSA this time. If freshly relegated players can enter the UK Q-School I can’t see why they would not be allowed in the Asia-Oceania Q-School. I would however have them organised simultaneously. This season the Asian Q-School laureates missed several tournaments because of the timing and the administrative issues.

      • For China kids, the successful rate of going university through Unified Examination is only round 6~7%!(and considering the horrid difficulty!!!) If someone fails in education, he gonna go developing sport if he have the standard of top16 in a province.

        But it is much more different in HK, a place with higher income, considering the high admission rate of university, getting a degree is now still far from success.(and if not getting a degree almost means only almost physical jobs/sales are available…).

        Or I merely conclude in a shorter way, China is a place a with a lot potential people, if someone have a choice to avoid them to get a spot, I am sure he will.

    • In a past interview, he indicated no sponsor was his biggest difficulty (which is the same difficult position of many…. ) and he had brothers and sisters to take care with.

      For youngsters like Wang Yuchen… if a kid does not show impressive results(at least staying in the tour), parents would definitely persuade their kids continuing tertiary education(especially in HK, which is around 50%, much higher in China)… If Wang Yuchen is the one in wiki, his parents already gave him a try in the tour but failed. (similar faces but not sure. wiki indicates his sport country was China, but possible to change.)

      • Wang used to play for China as a junior and lived in China, but he told me that he was from Hong Kong descend, and as I mentioned, in that group, he was the only one fluent in English and the only one still getting formal education. Apparently his father expected him to succeed at both. He was a very good junior but not in the same league as Lyu Haotian or Zhao Xintong. f.i.

      • Yes, it’s the same Wang Yuchen. At Q School last year I saw him beat Jenson Kendrick 4-0. He’s quite a mature player, but isn’t a good enough long-potter. As Monique says, he was unfortunate to be the same age as Zhao Xintong, Lyu Haotian, Zhou Yuelong, Xu Si and several others (see – second from left, a picture taken in 2013). Despite this he still won an Asian Junior title, did reasonably well on tour as a teenager, but of course was up against very tough players. It’s extremely difficult for any young player to get into the top-64 in their first 2 years – few have done it. I don’t think anyone should be written off when still so young. They may not become ‘all-time greats’, but they do deserve a chance to make a living as a good professional.

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